It’s been a year since Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (FMF) Benny Flores was thrown from the back of a pickup truck in southwest Afghanistan by a suicide-bomb blast. Since then, he’s had some time to reflect on what followed — about 20 minutes of chaos, during which his valor under enemy fire earned him a Silver Star.
But his reflection on the April 2012 attack in Zaranj, the capital of Nimruz province, centers around one man.
“The one Marine we lost,” Flores said.
Master Sgt. Scott Pruitt died from injuries received in the attack; he was riding in the same pickup as Flores, seated on the passenger side and taking the brunt of the explosion.
The blast set off a firefight. Flores first treated another Marine who’d been thrown from the truck, then returned to the vehicle to check on the Afghan driver and Pruitt, who already had no pulse, was not breathing and had suffered siginificant blood loss, according to a May 2012 Defense Department news article on the incident. Flores applied a tourniquet and Pruitt was removed from the vehicle, but it was too late.
“I’m always asking my self if there was anything else I could have done,” Flores said, adding that those he talks to about the incident “always tell me the same thing — that you did all you could have done.”
Flores did much more during the firefight, running into the road — and into enemy fire — four times to help Marines and their Afghan allies, according to his award citation. He suffered shrapnel wounds to his back and arms, refusing treatment until the gunfire ceased.
“I wasn’t paying attention” to the enemy, Flores, 30, said. “We had Marines there, I trusted them to protect me.”
Flores was scheduled to receive his Silver Star in a Friday ceremony at Camp Pendleton, Calif., with his family in attendance. He said he’s always dreamed of being on the medical staff of a professional sports team, but for now is focused on his Navy service. His most recent enlistement will take him to the 16-year-mark, said Flores, who enlisted in 2001.
“I’m a lifer,” he said.