The Critical Part of the Story: Remembering Rory Patrick Hamill

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of people are reeling from the loss of Rory. It is very evident now just how long his reach was. In the wake of his suicide, I felt it was important to share a quick story about him. First, I need to be clear; this is not a case of postmortem idol-worship. We tend to immortalize the dead, and this is especially true in the military. The ones who don't make it slowly grow to be bigger than giants when we retell their stories, their character flaws get tossed aside, and their heroic deeds become their only legacy. Overall this is a good thing, however deep down, we all know that sometimes the deceased wasn't "a Marine's Marine" or the "epitome of a good soldier." Sometimes people just die. Heroes and otherwise. Rory really did talk the talk and walk the walk. 

Rory and I certainly didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things. And we weren't close friends. We did serve together in the same squad and we stayed in touch via social media. No deep conversations, just maintained a line of communication. But for all the people who know him from his social media presence and his post-military work in mental health, I want to tell you about the day he was injured, because it highlights who Rory was, even at his most vulnerable.

In the winter of 2011, we found ourselves in Trek Nawa, Afghanistan. We had been in our area of operations for less than two weeks, and Rory was one of 3 experienced Team Leaders in an otherwise inexperienced Marine Rifle Squad. As we were on patrol the morning of February 13, we received some info that an IED had been emplaced in a nearby compound. Without getting into too many details or writing about what should or shouldn't have happened, Rory ultimately took a minesweeper from a junior Marine and began to clear the compound. He stepped on a low metallic pressure plate and detonated ten pounds of HME. The blast severed his right leg at the thigh, and left his remaining leg and ass riddled with shrapnel and deep lacerations. The explosion sounded relatively muffled because the ground was wet mud, but it was strong enough that his foot traveled over the compound walls and landed in an adjacent field.

Memories are strange and unreliable, but I know that in the next moments, in some order, Marines applied tourniquets and dressings to his wounds, cleared the compound, made a landing zone, and called a MEDEVAC. The critical part of this story is how Rory conducted himself in the few minutes he waited to be evacuated. To those injured and those rendering aid, the moments spent waiting for a MEDEVAC to arrive feel closer to eternity.

Once the Corpsman stabilized Rory, and that eternity began, Rory calmly asked for a cigarette. He lit the cigarette and joked with the Marines and Sailor huddled around him. Fully aware that one leg was gone, the other was severely damaged, and his life was in the balance. I don't know of any circumstances when losing one's composure would have been more acceptable. However, Rory maintained a calm demeanor and continued to lead by example. He kept absolute control over his emotions in front of his Marines, less than two weeks into their first combat deployment- a time when stoicism is crucial.

Photo Credit: Paul AlkobyIn 2011 there was a viral video going around with some Australian guy with a big mustache telling people they needed to "harden the fuck up!" Rory fittingly had a patch of this Aussie's face on his flak. When one of his younger Marine's seemed upset by the gravity of the situation we were in, Rory smiled, removed the patch, and slapped it into the palm of the young Marine.

Soon after, Rory was evacuated, flatlining several times on his way to the field hospital. He made it to Germany, then to Walter Reed, and eventually made a full physical recovery. Rory was there to greet every subsequent Marine from our Battalion who lost limbs and began the long road at Walter Reed. Not yet able to walk, Rory even made it to our Battalion's homecoming in North Carolina.

Rory went on to test new technology in prosthetics and become a mental health advocate using his massive social media presence. Tragically, Rory lost his battle with depression and took his own life with on April 30, 2020. Rory left behind children, siblings, friends, and comrades. He also leaves behind a legacy of kindness and perseverance. He dedicated the last decade of his life to helping others and became a pathfinder for those struggling with mental illness.

I wish I had something profound to say or knew how to ensure his death was not in vain. All I can say is we need to check up on one another. Don't leave any text or call from a friend, no matter how small or meaningless, go unanswered. In addition to helping each other, we need to help ourselves. If you are struggling, remind yourself of the rougher places you've been and the difficult tasks you have accomplished. Be proactive and seek help. And like Rory said-


Harden the fuck up.

 

-Mac


8 comments

  • “The Critical Part of the Story”~ an exceptional piece. Thank you for sharing. I only knew of this great man very recently, yet was so moved by his loss. It was at that time that I located your organization. I find huge purpose in the work that you do and the strength in support that you offer. I have personally never served, but am the descendant of an Army officer. For nearly 32 years I have found great personal pride of accomplishment as a DoD civilian, supporting the military entity of the ultimate nation. As unpopular as it seems to the left, the U.S. would never have reached its power without its fighting forces- those who accepted the oath to carry the load. One cannot ignore the dedication & selfless sacrifice committed by every member. In my tenure of service, I have been blessed to encounter countess leaders – both in and outside my chain of command, proud veterans- both as subordinate staff and peer leaders, as well as impassioned customers striving to educate partners and responsibly manage their portion of the DoD budget, business and operating systems. All of what we collaboratively accomplish is in service to the warfighter, ensuring readiness plus care of active duty, veterans and family alike. I comment in tribute to you as the writer, this organization for its purpose, and all whom it touches. I also comment in memorial of a man who I never had the pleasure of meeting but did derive benefit from inspiration. Your article further confirmed the enormous respect and admiration that I hold for he & everyone impacted by military life. I look forward to future articles and engagement- always in service & support 🙌
    Respectfully🙏

    Alice
  • I am sorry for your loss. I am a civilian, the son of a sailor who has founded a nonprofit called Outdoor iImmersion. We do Outdoor Adventure, Recreation and fitness for veterans from a faith-based perspective. One of my buddies, a Marine by the name of Brian Leek, posted this on his FB wall. I’m sorry for your loss and I thank you for writing his story. I am compelled to reach out to another friend who does adaptive kayaking to collaborate with him and put together a program that will allow our Warriors who have lost limbs to enjoy time on the water in a boat. There is a healing aspect to what we do and I thank you for sharing the story and thank you for your service and welcome home.
    Godspeed, Warriors.
    Jim Skal

    Jim Skal
  • Thank you for this story I worked with Rory but didn’t really know him other than who he was, but your story gave me an insight into a man a Marine that I barely knew and gave me a glimpse to the person he truly was. I’m sorry for all Rorys family friends and former Marines who lost him and I’m also sorry for myself because I never really got to know him. Semper Fi Rory

    Michelle Bower
  • Thank you for this story I worked with Rory but didn’t really know him other than who he was, but your story gave me an insight into a man a Marine that I barely knew and gave me a glimpse to the person he truly was. I’m sorry for all Rorys family friends and former Marines who lost him and I’m also sorry for myself because I never really got to know him. Semper Fi Rory

    Michelle Bower
  • It was a true honor to know you and call you friend and our AMERICAN HERO!! 🇺🇸🇺🇸
    Your legacy will continue to inspire others
    and you will never be forgotten.

    Carol Hes

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