When Andrew Harriman first became involved with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP), he says he was intrigued by the concept of “the wounded helping the wounded.”
Perhaps Andrew’s military occupation specialty – rifleman and medic – seems like a contradiction. Until you get to know the man who has now helped injured service members before and after his own injuries.
“Sometimes the best medical care you can give is to return fire. It’s hard to help someone when you’re both being shot at,” Andrew says.
It’s an ironic combination of the two things he wanted to be as a kid growing up in Largo, Florida.
“Up until age 14, I wanted to be a cop,” he says. “You get a gun and a siren and you get to run around and do fun stuff. As I got older, I wanted to be in the medical profession – just like my mom and dad were. So I guess I ended up with the best of both worlds.”
Prior to joining the Army in 2002, Andrew served as an emergency medical technician. He also served as a volunteer at an emergency room in Largo, Florida and with an ambulance service.
Then came 9/11.
“I like to be in the center of the action, and I remember thinking there would be a high need for medics if there would be a war coming. And it would be a reason to finally join the military.”
It wasn’t until August 2006 when Andrew deployed to Iraq. The Diyala Province was a hotbed of activity, keeping Andrew and his platoon constantly busy with border security and combat patrols. It got pretty nasty, and at one point two captains were killed in less than 24 hours. During the deployment, 22 warriors from Andrew’s 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry were killed, and 98 were injured.
“None of the warriors I treated died from their injuries,” says Andrew. “Knowing there are people alive today because of my help – or my luck – is an amazing feeling.”
And then in March 2007, Andrew became one of the wounded.
“I was shot multiple times in the lower left leg from about three feet with a 7.62 M240B machine gun. It was a freak accident from the Chinook crew chief’s weapon – so that literally added insult to injury.”
The four rounds shattered bone, ripped through arteries, and damaged soft tissue of Andrew’s leg.
“It hurt like hell, and I could feel the blood quickly draining. I immediately placed a tourniquet on my left thigh and tightened it until I thought the bleeding might have stopped.”
Medevac got Andrew out of there, and he eventually spent more than a month at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. That’s where he initially came into contact with WWP.
“They’ve helped me immensely – getting me out with other warriors who have been hurt. They’ve helped me with filing paperwork and offered resources for finding a job through the Warriors to Work™ program.
Warriors to Work helps Wounded Warriors transition back into the civilian workforce by providing career counseling services and job placement assistance. Through individual counseling, resume assistance, and career guidance, warriors’ skills and experience are matched to hiring employers’ needs.
“Wounded Warrior Project has all the aspects covered,” Andrew says.
Andrew retired in November 2009 as one of the most decorated medics in the history of the 82nd Airborne, including the Silver Star, Bronze Star with valor, Army Commendation Medal with valor, and the Purple Heart.
Andrew finished paramedic school in 2012. He plans to continue on to medical school and is still thinking about a career in federal law enforcement.
“As I think back on my military career, I remember saving a friend who should have died given his injuries. Every time I see his name appear on my phone or email it takes me back to that night and makes me smile.”