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Schermerhorn sped away, the humvee's flat tire flapping crazily. Whiteside climbed out of the turret and began trying to resuscitate the lieutenant. Colgan made a gurgling sound. He has a wife and kids, Whiteside thought. We've got to keep him alive. Buxton grabbed the radio handset. "This is Tomb Raider 6-3 Delta," he said. "Lieutenant Colgan is down."
Colgan's eyes were open when the three soldiers carried him into the aid station inside the palace compound. Two special-forces medics began to stabilize him. They asked Colgan his name. "Ben," he said. "What happened?" The medics performed a tracheotomy to help him breathe. Colgan's face was covered in blood, and his eye was protruding out of its socket, but his pulse was stable. A medevac helicopter took Colgan to the 28th Combat Support Hospital in central Baghdad. When Lieutenant Ilardi returned from his patrol, he rushed to talk to Grimes. She told him Colgan was responsive and that his eye had been damaged but it might be salvageable. "I've seen crazier things," she said.
What Grimes did not know was that shrapnel had penetrated all the way to the back of Colgan's head. By the time the chopper reached the hospital, Colgan was brain-dead. He was kept alive by a respirator while Rabena, who had driven to the hospital with Ilardi, completed paperwork that promoted him to first lieutenant and gave him a "medical retirement"--a step that allows his family to receive more generous benefits. Ilardi kissed Colgan on the chest. "We won't give up the chase," he said.
When Whiteside woke up the next morning, his fingernails were still stained with dried blood. Before the platoon went to bed, Grimes had told them Colgan was in stable condition. "I thought he'd be just fine," Whiteside remembers. At 8:30 a.m., the platoon was told to fall into the horseshoe formation that commanders use to disclose personal information to troops. Captain Mike Kielpinski, the Tomb Raiders' battery commander, sobbed as he broke the news of Colgan's death. Talimeliyor ran back to his cot, disconsolate. "I didn't read my Bible," he remembers. "I didn't wash my clothes. I just wanted to lay in my bed." Whiteside recalls, "I cried for the first day and a half." The rest of the platoon went numb. Says Beverly: "Everything just died. All sounds stopped."
Rabena ordered that the platoon not be assigned patrols for four days. Schermerhorn acknowledges that he needed time to overcome his rage. "I wanted to be the first one to kick down a door. I wanted to find the mother____ers. But the one thing we can do is honor his memory. He'd rather we do that than go on a bloodthirsty rampage." A few days after the battalion's memorial service for Colgan, Rabena gathered Whiteside, Schermerhorn and Buxton and phoned Colgan's wife Jill. She asked them about her husband's final hours. Buxton gave her straight answers but omitted gruesome details, telling her that Colgan had been conscious and looking around but not that he had lost an eye. Jill started to break down, then paused and regained her composure. Whiteside told her, "I never liked officers, but I liked your husband." Jill laughed.