Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Gitto was less than two weeks removed from his 20th birthday when a Taliban sniper hit him two times at a checkpoint in Marja, Afghanistan, in April 2010. One round grazed his left hand and lodged in his shoulder, while the second buried into his lung, collapsing it.
Six days later, Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, then the head of U.S. Joint Forces Command, was standing at the end of his hospital bed in Bethesda, Md., talking quietly with Gitto’s mother, JoAnn. Gitto, now 26 and a sheriff’s officer in New Jersey, doesn’t remember much of his drug-addled 14-day hospital stay, but he recalls Mattis visiting and giving him a signed copy of a Steven Pressfield novel, “Gates of Fire.”
“He didn’t treat me like a guy who’s been shot,” Gitto said. “He talked to me like we’ve known each other for years. He shook my hand, looked me in the eye and told me heal back up and head back. And that’s what I did.”
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