PATROL BASE DETROIT, Afghanistan — Every day Marines put on their protective gear and put their lives in danger. They wear a heavy flak jacket, Kevlar helmet and fire retardant clothing. With temperatures reaching more than 130 degrees Fahrenheit, patrolling with all their gear can become tiresome, but there is one Marine who will not hear complaining about the extra weight.
Lance Cpl. Jacob Noremberg, pointman, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, was hit with a bullet when running between compounds, July 28.
“There was probably about 100 meters of open field between the two compounds,” explained Noremberg, from Merrill, Wis. “The bullet hit on my right side. When it hit me, it knocked the wind out of me. I kind of stumbled.”
The bullet impacted into Noremberg’s side Small Arms Protective Insert plate, stopping the projectile and surprising him. Noremberg said he felt the woosh of air rushing out of his flak jacket.
“After that, I sprinted as fast as I possibly could to the next compound,” Noremberg said. “It didn’t matter how tired I was.”
Lance Cpl. Robert Owens II, team leader with Noremberg’s company, was posting security in the next compound and witnessed his friend get shot.
“He stumbled a little and then continued running to cover,” Owens said. “He got inside the compound, laid down and told me he thought he was shot.”
Immediately, Owens and other squad members looked Noremberg over. He was not bleeding and did not have any broken bones.
After being checked out by Seaman Casey Patterson, corpsman with the company, Noremberg took a deep breath and posted security.
Noremberg and the rest of his platoon went back to their patrol base, where Noremberg got the chance to fully assess the damage.
“I was really curious (to see) the damage to my plate carrier,” Noremberg said. “I took my gear off, and there it was, a hole, right in the top of my SAPI carrier.”
If the bullet hit a few inches higher, it would have missed the plate and hit Noremberg.
Owens, from New Lenox, Ill., said he could not believe Noremberg’s luck.
“Afterward, I realized just how close I was to being shot,” Noremberg added.
Noremberg had a circular red mark on his rib cage for a week after being shot but sustained no serious injuries. The incident served as a reminder of the importance of wearing correct personal protective equipment.
“Before Noremberg got shot, a lot of the guys would complain about the PPE,” Owens said. “Now, no one complains about wearing side SAPIs.”
The incident taught Noremberg a valuable lesson as well, a lesson he intends to pass on to other Marines.
“We joke now about when I’m on a range (at Camp Pendleton) and I see a (new Marine) not wearing side SAPIs that I’ll (yell at them),” Noremberg said. “Realistically though, the side SAPI probably saved my life.”
Noremberg hesitated to tell his family and friends about the incident. He said he did not want to make them worry. Now with his deployment ending soon, Noremberg plans on letting them know about his stroke of luck.
“He’s pretty humble about the whole thing,” Owens said. “It’s usually me telling people that he got shot. He’s not big about bragging. I think he’s waiting until he’s home safe.”
Noremberg’s main concern with being shot was not himself, but how it would have hindered the Marines in his platoon. He was afraid if he had been shot his friends would have been in more danger.
“I actually talked to my (platoon commander) about it a week ago,” Noremberg. “In my head, I was putting other people in danger. He assured me that he had planned a landing zone and had the situation covered if someone had been shot.”
Noremberg said he worried the next couple times he went out on patrol after the near incident. Even though he was worried, he understood he had a job to do and did not let his concern hinder accomplishing his mission.
Now Noremberg is able to look back and laugh. He sees himself as a walking reminder of the importance of wearing personal protective equipment.
When asked if he had anything to say about the incident, Noremberg had one thing.
“Wear your PPE,” Noremberg stated with a grin.