This story was told a couple of years ago, and the picture became famous as a symbol of Marine defiance toward insurgents who tried to kill him. Gunny Burghardt’s job was ordnance disposal, and his specialty was IEDs. In September of 2005, “he was in Ramadiâ€™s wild Tammim neighborhood as part of a team of bomb technicians responding to the scene of a chaotic ambush in which four U.S. personnel were killed.” (Stars and Stripes)
“Burghardt, who was looking to clear an evacuation route for the vehicles, hopped into what he thought was a recent bomb crater. He said he saw an interesting piece of shrapnel in the 4Â½-foot- deep hole and wanted to investigate. As he took a closer look, the shattered gravel beneath his foot suddenly shifted, revealing a package wrapped in orange plastic and a cordless telephone base station.
“Realizing that he had just stumbled onto a primed explosive, Burghardt stuck his knife in the dirt and dredged up a red detonating cord that led to a pair of 122 mm artillery shells. He cut the cord with scissors and told the rest of his team to stay back.
â€œ’I thought I had done good,’ Burghardt said.
“But what he didnâ€™t realize was that a second detonating cord ran from the base station to a third artillery shell buried behind him. The triggerman, figuring perhaps that he wouldnâ€™t lure anyone else into the trap that day, placed a telephone call to the base station.
â€œ’Thatâ€™s when I heard the distinct crack of that artillery shell,’ Burghardt said.” (Excerpt from Stars and Stripes)
He was blown into the air, but miraculously only suffered wounds to his lower body, none of which were bad enough to keep him from refusing a ride on a stretcher. Instead, he stood up and walked away, giving one last gesture to his would-be assassin.
Jeff Bundy got the shot, and C. David Kotok, an embedded reporter from the Omaha World-Herald was there to get the story. Burghardt told him that with, “two new young Marines in his ordnance disposal unit – and the insurgent attackers undoubtedly looking on – ‘I didn’t want them to see the team leader carried away on a stretcher.'” (Omaha World-Herald)
After only a month of treatment, the Gunny was back at it. Gunnery Sergeant Michael Burghardt is our hero of the week.
Omaha World-Herald article
Stars and Stripes article
Omaha World-Herald follow-up article