CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq (Nov. 1, 2004) -- A rifle-mounted scope designed to enhance enemy visibility on the battlefield saved the life of a Marine during a Sept. 17 firefight on the outskirts of Fallujah, but not the way intended.
Sgt. Todd B. Bowers, a member of the 4th Civil Affairs Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, spotted enemy snipers during a security patrol outside the restive town of Fallujah. While returning fire, a sniper-fired round hit Bowers’ advanced combat optical gun site, mounted on his M-16A2 service rifle. Fragmentation from both the ACOG and the bullet were peppered across the left side of Bowers’ face.
“It was about a four-hour firefight. Bullets were flying everywhere, and as I returned fire, it felt like my weapon blew up,” said Bowers, 25, a native of Washington, D.C.
A Navy corpsman removed a piece of fragmentation and applied a pressure dressing to his left cheek.
As the corpsman began calling for a medical evacuation, Bowers refused and kept on fighting alongside his fellow Marines.
“After he was cleaned up, I knew he would be okay, but I was surprised that he didn’t want to leave on a medical evacuation,” said Sgt. Jung Kil Yoo, a member of 4th CAG.
Small pieces of fragmentation can still be seen on the left side of his face.
“Luckily, I had my ballistic goggles on to protect my eyes, without them I probably would not be able to see out of my left eye,” said Bowers.
He can still see the bullet lodged in his scope, which was given to him by his father, John Bowers, two days before leaving to Iraq.
“The last time I saw my dad was the day he handed me the scope,” said Bowers.
His dad was a former sergeant in the Marine Corps, who didn’t want to see his son go into combat without a useful piece of gear.
“The ACOG was the best purchase I have ever made in my life,” said John to his son during a phone conversation.
Bowers’ heroism and loyalty to his unit impressed even those who knew him well.
“I knew he was a good Marine,” said Yoo, 28, a native of Neptune, N.J. “Where some would freeze up, he stood his ground and continued to press forward.”
“Sgt. Bowers was able to keep a cool head about the whole situation,” said Lance Cpl. James J. Vooris, 20, a native of Albany, N.Y., and a combat photographer with Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 1.
With all that was going on around him, Bowers did not have time to stop and think about what happened.
“I didn’t realize how lucky I was till later that day when I sat down to think about it,” said Bowers.
As a constant reminder of how the scope possibly saved his life, Bowers plans to keep the scope and mount it on his mantel when he returns home.
“It’s (the bullet) there and I am glad it stayed there,” said Bowers as he pointed to his ACOG still mounted to his weapon.
Bowers, who has been in Iraq since August, is currently serving a seven-month deployment, his second tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.