On Aug. 21, 2012, Sgt. Roger Daniels should have died. On his first ever combat patrol, Daniels, 22, was hit in the head by a bullet fired during an ambush of his intelligence unit by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. But instead of killing him, the bullet was deflected by his helmet, leaving Daniels with a concussion and a sore head, but alive.
Friday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Daniels was presented with the helmet that saved his life in a ceremony held by fellow soldiers of the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade. "This is my first time seeing it actually since it happened," Daniels told reporters as he inspected the helmet.
Daniels said he and fellow members of his unit were gathering intelligence in the area when they were warned they were about to be ambushed from three sides. The area was pelted with automatic-weapons fire as Daniels and other members of his team took up defensive positions. He felt a round hit him, saying it felt like being hit in the head with a baseball bat. "I thought it was in my head, actually," said Daniels. "I thought there was a bullet in my head until I took it (the helmet) off and actually looked at it."
The round had made a direct 90-degree strike on the Kevlar headgear and should have penetrated, killing or seriously wounding Daniels. Instead it traveled around his head and exited.
The Army's Program Executive Office, a division that evaluates field gear for soldiers, had the helmet sent to its headquarters in Fort Belvoir, Va., to examine it and determine why it saved Daniels' life. "We wanted to see how this round actually came through that helmet and triggered it and went around the back side and out," said Master Sgt. Benjamin Owens of the PEO.
Daniels intends to remain in the Army and will soon be stationed in Italy.