Safety Specs Save Sight, Perhaps Life of U.S. Soldier

Occupational Hazards, February 2005 | Go to article overview

Safety Specs Save Sight, Perhaps Life of U.S. Soldier


Doug Alvarez used safety glasses when he worked as a civilian with the City of Clearwater (Fla.) Public Utilities. When he was deployed to Iraq, where he served as a Navy Seabee, Alvarez took along his safety glasses--the same ones he normally wore at work.

On May 2, 2004, shortly after Alvarez and his team began a mission, the unit came under mortar attack. The second mortar landed within his group, knocking Alvarez to the ground. He sustained multiple wounds, with shrapnel in his forehead, jaw, abdomen, right thigh, shin and ankle and in both knees. One toe on his right foot was shattered and two others were wounded. That day, his unit sustained 38 casualties, including five deaths.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Alvarez was taken to Baghdad and then flown to the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md. After he returned home, Alvarez learned that one of his friends had recovered something from the mortar attack. Imagine his surprise when he opened a package containing his safety glasses. They had been blown from his face during the attack, and Alvarez was astonished to see why: they had stopped a large piece of shrapnel from penetrating his right eye. …

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