Welcome Home, Sergeant
This Saturday, Marine Sergeant William R. MacKenzie, of Brewster, will be returning home after he was severely injured while leading a patrol in Afghanistan in September. Friends, family, and local supporters will be gathering in the early evening along Route 6 in Brewster, between 684 and Dingle Ridge Road, to greet MacKenzie as his father drives him home.
MacKenzie, who joined the Marine Corps two weeks after graduating high school in 2007, was struck by a 50 pound improvised explosive device in Helmand province September 4. “Everything looked out of the ordinary, but mainly there were no tire tracks through a dark patch of dirt in the road,” MacKenzie told the Courier. “That is usually a tell-tale sign that they buried something there. I walked up and took a knee and was trying to see what was going on. The second I knelt down, that’s when the guy blew it.”
After the explosion, the unit Navy Corpsman ran up to MacKenzie, ripped off his clothes, and tried to stop the bleeding while administering morphine and calling in a Huey helicopter to Medevac him.
The injuries were severe, as MacKenzie took a heavy amount of shrapnel, causing severe nerve damage, a collapsed lung, kidney damage, a blown ear drum, and damage to his spleen, lower intestines, and liver.
At first, doctors did not know how MacKenzie would recover. But despite all of the injuries, he is up and moving around. “I’m able to walk on my own, with a supporting cane type of thing, and I wear a brace on my right foot,” MacKenzie said. “I can pretty much do most things on my own.”
He anticipates it will take a couple years before he will be fully recovered, but right now he just wants his friends, who are still on deployment, to come home.
Prior to the explosion, MacKenzie, whose obligation to the Corps will be completed in July, was considering extending his time of service. However, the injuries he sustained have made his decision for him. “With the kind of injuries I have, I won’t be allowed to stay in the infantry,” he said. “So I’m going to be getting out and pursue college once I am out … I’m pretty optimistic … This has been a good stepping stone for my life I think. And I am eager to get a move on things because I’ve just been lying around for a while now.”
MacKenzie is extremely grateful to the Corps, the National Naval Medical Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland and the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia. “The care has been exceptional,” he said. “Both of my parents had to leave their jobs to come be with me and the Corps has paid for their hotels and anything they needed.”
The Semper Fi fund, a non-profit set up to provide immediate financial support for injured members of the Armed Forces and their families, helped pay for the MacKenzies to be with their son.
MacKenzie was serving as a squad leader in a combined arms platoon as part of Weapons Company in 2nd Battalion 6th Marines, based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Initially trained to carry the TOW, an anti-tank missile, MacKenzie learned the heavy machine gun trade since the Taliban typically does not have armored weapons.
While MacKenzie was in the hospital, General James Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, presented him with a Purple Heart.