Every Marine regiment is rightfully proud of their history and tradition, as well as past and present successes. There can be, however, no clearer example of the sacrifice and valor of the Marine Corps’ 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment – the Darkhorse Marines – than the fact that we proudly announce our 6th JCS Hero, and second Darkhorse, Corporal Tyler Huffman, USMC. Joining fellow Darkhorse, Cpl. Justin McLoud, we could not be more humbled and honored to welcome Cpl. Huffman to the JCS family.
A graduate of Fulton High School, Cpl. Huffman always knew he wanted to go into the military – following the several generations of men in his family who served in the Marine Corps. As an 8th grader, watching the events of 9/11 unfold on his television, Cpl. Huffman and two buddies decided then and there that they were going to enlist and take the fight to the enemy overseas.
Shortly before Tyler’s second deployment, his son Matthew was born. Still basking in the glow of fatherhood, Cpl. Huffman deployed to Afghanistan with the Darkhorse Marines in mid-September, 2010 to clean up Helmand Province, where the British had only been able to fight the Taliban to a bloody standstill. Indeed, in the first 48 hours after Darkhorse arrived, seven Marines were killed.
Step by step, and house by house, Darkhorse began to make progress in the most dangerous place in Afghanistan. But, because the Taliban had been able to fortify their positions for years, Taliban snipers had access to hundreds of “murder holes” – small openings chiseled into a wall of family or village compounds with pre-determined fields of fire.
Such was the situation Cpl. Huffman and his buddies found themselves in on December 3, 2010 after having been tasked with a house-clearing mission in the Sangin district of Helmand Province, literally fighting the Taliban face to face. As he and his fellow Marines were completing their mission, Cpl. Huffman suddenly felt like he was punched in the chest twice, and was thrown backwards onto the ground. Immediately assuming he had been struck by an IED, Cpl. Huffman looked down and saw his feet, thankful that he had not stepped on an explosive. That is when it dawned on him…he had been shot.
Through instincts and training, Tyler began undoing his gear, knowing medical personnel were going to have to work on him. A fellow corporal got to him first, followed by a hospital corpsman. His buddies quickly move him to a trailer attached to a Humvee and positioned him atop of another corpsman. The next hour was a torturous ride to the battalion triage, while the corpsman under Tyler held him tight, acting simultaneously as a cushion, back stabilizer, and bandage. Another Marine who had also been shot, but less seriously injured, held Tyler’s hand during the bone-jarring ride. Tyler was glad to be alive (indeed, would go back and fight today if he could), and was extremely grateful to have these guys as his buddies.
Taliban snipers often get to fight another day – they know that the “Rules of Engagement” placed upon the Marines require that fire can only be returned, or a building leveled, after it is confirmed that no civilians are inside. On this day, though, Tyler’s friends found the sniper, and killed him.
Tyler’s life had, however, been changed forever. Two sniper bullets had ricocheted off major organs, collapsed a lung, and then exited his back, but only after shattering a vertebra at the base of his spine. His spinal cord had been severely bruised. When he arrived at a hospital in Germany, he received the word he feared the most – he was paralyzed from mid-thigh down.
You will never hear one word of regret, however, from Tyler. He is, quite simply, a man on a mission. He has spent hours in rehabilitation learning how to get out of and back into his wheelchair, how to navigate curbs and other obstacles, among other skills. Tyler is adamant that he will be able to get on the floor and play with, or otherwise follow around, his son, Matthew.
Tyler is also thankful to JCS, and a variety of other groups, who have come together to build Tyler a smart home that will enable him to better deal with his injuries. Tyler’s home will feature a variety of technologies targeted at making Tyler’s life as convenient and comfortable as possible. Thanks to your generous support, JCS was able to make a significant donation toward the building of the Huffman’s home, and will continue to support Tyler, Mauricia, and Matthew by paying for their utility bills at their home – bills that will certainly be elevated in light of all the technology being utilized to make their lives easier.
Cpl. Huffman, we are humbled that you have agreed to become part of the JCS family and we look forward to supporting you and your family as a demonstration of our gratitude to you for your service and sacrifice.