Lance Corporal Eli Tice USMC
Eli Tice grew up around Charlestown, West Virginia. His grandfather was a Marine, his Dad and older brother are Marines, so there was no doubt in Eli’s mind, he was going to be a Marine. At 17, with the permission of his parents, he signed up. September 7th 2008, he was off to Paris Island to join the family legacy of patriots by becoming a Marine. After boot camp, he went to infantry school in Jacksonville, North Carolina; pre deployment in Yuma Arizona and 29 Palms California before joining First Battalion Second Marines in Afghanistan. He advanced himself, becoming a Team Leader, Third Squad, Third Platoon of A Company. He was just where he wanted to be, at the pointy end of America’s sword, doing the job of an infantryman.
The mission of the Marines in Helmand Province was to provide security for the locals. Eli knew the Marines were not necessarily liked, but they were respected if they could provide the peace the tribesmen wanted after three generations of war making. After the Soviet occupation, they did not relish the thought of American occupiers. And, those who became too close to Americans, their families became targets of the Taliban. Improvised explosive devices (IED) were always a threat to the Marines and the locals that smiled at you today might have been the ones shooting at you last night. Nowzad, Helmand Province was a dangerous place.
May 24th, Eli was coming back as a member of a dismounted patrol. They had shoved off early, 2 a.m., and it had been a long night. They called it “going fishing”. About 8 in the morning, Eli was second in Ranger File entering a compound behind an engineer with a metal detector when he stepped on the press plate of an IED.
In his own words, Eli tells how he was injured. “It suddenly got dark, and I knew right away I had lost something. I had seen this before, now it was happening to me. I struggled to open my eyes as they were covered with dirt from the blast. I saw only one boot, my right wrist was hanging 180 degrees from normal, it was like I could scratch my elbow with my hand on the same arm. My left hand looked like it had been cut up with a meat cleaver. After checking for security of the area, my buddies dragged me out and the corpsman applied tourniquets and gauze. The guys in my squad put me in the chopper to Camp Bastion and jokingly told me not to eat all of the ice-cream there. Then they shot me up with crazy drugs and the next couple of days are kind of bleary. They shipped me to Landstuhl, Germany for two or three days to stabilize me then I arrived at Andrews AFB where I was met by my parents. We were pretty glad to see each other. They transported me to Bethesda where I had more than 20 surgeries. I was there about a month and then I began physical therapy at Walter Reed. I stayed at the Malone House with other amputees. There was a challenging locker room spirit there, lots of competition. Who was going to be the first to walk, who was best in the gym, no one felt sorry for themselves. You could always find someone worse off than you and it was embarrassing when he was he was in a better mood than you. A triple amputee laughed at me one day and said I had a paper cut. It was tough there, but we supported each other.
About two years into recovery, I had the opportunity to go to Las Vegas as a guest of a hotel. There I met a double amputee who was a demonstration parachute jumper from the Army’s elite parachute team, The Golden Knights. He was hurt in a parachuting accident. He was also a pilot. I realized, if he could fly, so can I. When the liaison officer asked if anyone wanted to go to the Martinsburg Air Show, I raised my hand. There, I met Pat Marsh from Warrior Aviation. He took me flying in his black jet (L-39). Shortly after that, he asked me if I wanted to learn to fly. Through him I met Kevin and Ann Rychlik and they provided a half hour demonstration in a helicopter. After that, I knew I wanted to be a Helicopter pilot and Ann and Kevin provided a scholarship for initial pilot training. Today I work at American Helicopters, and I am working on my A & P (airplane mechanic’s) license. I am using my GI bill to get my instrument rating and after that I am going to be a commercial pilot.”
Talking to Eli, I was struck by several things that defined him. He is straight forward, goal orientated, and totally without self pity or hate. He leaves no doubt that he can achieve the difficult goals he set for himself in spite of what war has taken from him. He is not looking back regretting his injuries. He is totally focused on the future and contributing to his own success, realizing his dreams and being respected for what he has contributed and accomplished. The Freedom Museum Salutes Eli Tice: distinguished American Veteran and Patriot.