ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A hometown hero, serving in the Navy Nurse Corps in Afghanistan, is featured in USA Today for his role in a dangerous procedure, helping remove a rocket propelled grenade from a Marine’s leg.
Lt. Commander James Gennari, a Fleet Marine Specialist, says it happened in January, when the wounded Marine arrived on a gurney from the battlefront and had to be operated on outside the hospital for fear the device might explode.
Gennari spoke with KMOX about the experience.
“What was going through my mind really, I honestly thought if the grenade was going to blow up, it was going to blow up,” Gennari said, “And there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I promised this kid that was there all by himself that I wouldn’t leave him. I think he was 21.”
About seven minutes later, when the explosives ordinance removal technician arrived, Gennari says the surgeon ruled out cutting into the Marine’s leg. Gennari gave the patient some more pain killer and it was time to give it a try.
“The technician pulled on it three times, and when he pulled it out, I tightened the tourniquet and called for stretcher bearers, as the technician took the ordinance away and disposed of it. We blew it up.”
The Marine survived. And Gennari is now back in the states with his wife and young daughter.A Navy man for 28 years, Gennari served the past six months with a shock trauma platoon deployed to a mobile emergency unit within three miles of the front. Its personnel are trained by the Federal Health care Center in north Chicago, Illinois.
“We set up so when the patient gets a combat injury, they can come to us,” Gennari said, “We focus on what’s known in trauma as the golden hour. I mean, we got this guy (with the grenade in his leg) fifteen minutes after he got hurt. We give blood, do emergency surgery, plug the holes and send them to a bigger hospital.”
Gennari grew up in Webster Groves, Mo. Third oldest child of a family of nine raised by Gil and Eileen Gennari, he attended Webster Groves High School and graduated from DeSmet High, class of 1978.