Wounded Paratrooper Returns To Fight
(September 25, 2009)
Sgt. Simon Baum, an
infantry team leader with the 508th Parachute
Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, who
was wounded in an IED attack in 2007, found out
his wife was pregnant with triplets two days
before returning to Afghanistan.
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Sept. 21, 2009
just gotta laugh – even in combat. That's the attitude of Army Sgt. Simon
Baum, and one of the things his fellow infantrymen like most about him.
Two years after being severely injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan,
Baum jokes that he has returned to avenge the IED attack – for his injuries
and the death of his iPod. “I was really pissed my iPod was broken!” he
Although Baum, a sergeant and team leader with Company A, 2nd Battalion,
508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, jokes about the injuries he suffered in
Afghanistan, it would take two years, five surgeries and a possible medical
discharge before he returned to the job he loves.
Baum, of Saginaw, Mich., was driving a Humvee in a convoy in eastern
Afghanistan's Paktika province on June 5, 2007, when he was seriously
injured by a roadside bomb – but never lost his sense of humor.
The two dozen vehicles of the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat
Team, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Squadron, Troop C were escorting a group of
engineers past barren, rolling hills when suddenly, there was a violent
“We were listening to Led Zeppelin inside the truck, I will never forget
that,” Baum said. “I heard ‘Good Times, Bad Times,' and that's the last
thing I remember.”
The impact was at the front of the vehicle, and Baum took the brunt of it.
When Baum came to, he saw the truck's windshield was gone. He looked down to
make sure he still had all his limbs and saw the four-foot deep blast crater
directly below him. Covered in soot and bleeding from shrapnel cuts, he fell
as he tried to get out of the vehicle. Then he felt blood on his face and
realized he was in pain.
Spc. Ryan Greenwood, the gunner in Baum's vehicle who also was injured, and
a medic dragged Baum away from the Humvee. Baum's right wrist was severely
broken, his right fibula was fractured, he had torn cartilage in his right
knee and numerous small cuts from shrapnel. He would later be diagnosed with
mild traumatic brain injury.
Even as Baum drifted in and out of consciousness, he managed to make his
combat buddies laugh, telling his platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin
Weber who also was in the Humvee, he was sorry he hit an IED; that he didn't
hit it on purpose.
“There was a lot of laughing,” Baum said, “Man, that was crazy. I can't
believe that happened.”
“You can't do much about it but laugh,” said 1st Sgt. Matthew Parrish,
Baum's first sergeant. “You have to have a sense of humor ... because you're
Four days later, Baum was strapped to a litter in plane taking off for
Germany for treatment. No sooner did the aircraft ease into a cruise than
Baum saw a bright flash through one of the windows, and the pilot commenced
a series of gut-churning evasive maneuvers. As if it wasn't enough that they
blew him up, the Taliban were trying to shoot him out of the sky.
After multiple surgies and therapy, Baum was transferred in December 2007
from 4th Brigade to Fort Bragg's Warrior Transition Battalion. When C
Troop's paratroopers returned from their 15-month deployment in the spring
of 2008, Baum was waiting for them as they got off the plane. He later went
to the promotion board and became a noncommissioned officer.
But all was not well at the transition battalion. Baum missed being on
“I view that time as if I were out of the military. I didn't feel like I was
in.” he said.
Baum wasn't happy to be back in the rear. He spent most of his time
recuperating from a series of wrist surgeries, and his mind was always with
his fellow paratroopers, he said.
“My unit was deployed and I wasn't doing a lot.” he said. “I had an
overwhelming sense of being worthless. Here I am home, and my buddies are
After visiting a friend in the amputee ward at Walter Reed Army Medical
Center, Baum said he was humbled. His life was not so bad.
When Parrish heard that Baum was leaving the transition battalion in April
2009, he started making phone calls to get him back in his unit.
“I thought he was a solid soldier, and saw good things in him,” Parrish
said. “He cares about soldiers. To me, there's nothing more important than
that in an NCO.”
And the soldiers missed him. “He never let anything get to him,” Staff Sgt.
Aaron Best said. “Whenever I'd be in a bad mood, he'd make a joke and get me
Baum's favorite part about being an NCO is passing his knowledge and
experience down to younger troopers, he said.
“I was excited to come here and be a team leader,” Baum said. “I've got a
great group of guys.”
For all his good humor, Baum is serious when it comes to taking care of his
paratroopers, and his experience has shown him how serious his job can be.
“I've been through this before,” Baum said. “I understand the real danger of
what I'm doing.”
The 30-year old combat veteran celebrated for his sense of humor became even
more celebrated when, two days before leaving for his current deployment in
Afghanistan, he and his wife Rebecca found out that they would be having
their first child -- and their second and third.
The next time Baum returns from Afghanistan, he will not only be a leader of
soldiers, but also a father of three. He approaches the enormous task of
raising triplets with characteristic calm.
“I still don't think I've let that sink in,” he said.
photo by Army Sgt. Stephen Decatur
4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, public affairs
Special to American Forces Press Service
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