Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Interview by CHRIS DUNNE



WHEN it comes to stories with which to regale any future grandchildren, it certainly takes some beating.
Adrian Hennessy (pictured above with his family) can tell of the day he was shot by the Taliban in Afghanistan and lived to tell the tale.
And if the grandchildren doubt his story, the father-of-two from Ballymacoda in East Cork can simply lift up his shirt and show them the bullet still lodged in his collarbone.
In truth, Adrian is lucky to be alive after his frightening brush with death while he was working in the war-torn country last November.
Now safely back home with his family, Adrian relives the day when he came under fire while doing his job as a civilian project manager for the U.S military.
He takes out a map of Afghanistan and points out to me the town of Gereshk in the south-west of the country, in the embattled Helmand province. “I got shot just under the ‘r’ in Gereshk,” he says.
The fateful day was November 22, 2012, six months into his short-term contract in the country.
“I was heading towards Gereshk to get supplies, travelling by taxi without an escort,” he explains. “I had made friends with the Afghan guards and they let me through the checkpoints with minimum paperwork.
“We had stopped at a checkpoint when a white car side-swiped us and glanced off the taxi. Suddenly there was a hail of gunfire and the taxi man pressed down on the accelerator.
“The glass in all the windows shattered and flew inside the interior of the cab. We were sure it was a Taliban attack.
“The driver made for the nearest USA military camp 15 minutes away. I felt some- thing hit me like a sledgehammer and I put my hand back and felt the blood.
“I was shell-shocked, but the adrenaline was flowing. When the taxi-man could drive no further as we reached the garrisons, we hugged, shook hands and parted. He had saved my life.
“I walked the last 300 yards to the military camp. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. My arm hung limp.
“I was dressed like a native and wearing the native headgear, I was also very dark from the sun and when I answered the call in the native language from the look-out  guard, they thought I was Afghan.
“I looked at the U.S guard’s name tag which said ‘O’Flynn’. ‘I’m Irish,’ I said. ‘The same as you’.”
Then it was all systems go to the hospital, where Adrian was hailed as ‘the million dollar man’ as so few people survive a gun attack by the Taliban.
Even while undergoing treatment for the  wound in his back, Adrian’s mind struggled to cope with the shock. “I am the youngest of six brothers,” he says. “I remember through my haze thinking what a great story I’d have to tell them when I got back home!
“I was shot by the Taliban. How about that? That should impress them!”
When the wound had been dressed and Adrian had had a morphine injection he rang his wife Amanda in Cork. It is a phone call she will never forget.
“I was sitting at home on the bed,” recalls Amanda. “We spoke about the children and what I was doing in the house.
“Then Adrian said ‘Are you on your own?’ When I replied that I was, he said ‘I’ve been shot’. Amanda says: “I got a terrible fright. The blood left my body.
“I deliberately  never watched the news so that I didn’t know about the dangers in Afghanistan, I wanted to be removed from it. I just couldn’t deal with it. I thanked God he was all right. And that he was coming home to us.”
Adrian was flown home and taken to CUH, but it was clear that the bullet had lodged in an awkward place and it would be very risky to remove it. A few more centimetres either way could have been fatal.

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