A 21-year-old American soldier, Ezra Maes, had to cut his own leg in order to save his colleagues during Exercise Atlantic Resolve in 2018. .
Maes and two other soldiers had fallen asleep in their tank after a week-long training exercise in Europe. They woke up to find the tank speeding down a hill.
“I called out to the driver, ‘Step on the brakes!’” Maes said. “But he shouted back that it wasn’t him.” There was a hydraulic leak in the tank and it was going about 90 miles per hour. .
The tank later crashed into an embankment, throwing Maes across the vehicle. His leg caught in the turret gear. Gunner Sgt. Aechere Crump was bleeding badly from a cut on her thigh, and driver Pfc. Victor Alamo suffered a broken back.
But Maes was determined to help, so he amputated his own leg. “I pushed and pulled at my leg as hard as I could to get loose and felt a sharp tear,” Maes said. .
He was losing blood fast. He used his own belt to form a makeshift tourniquet and began shock procedures on himself, forcing himself to remain calm and his heart rate down.
“All I could think about was no one knows we’re down here. Either I step up or we all die.” While radio communications were down, Maes was able to text for help using the only phone that survived the crash.