Marines Magazine

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SOUTHERN SHORSURAK, Afghanistan – Cpl. Matt Garst should be dead. Few people survive stepping on an improvised explosive device. Even fewer walk away the same day after directly absorbing the force of the blast, but Garst did just that.

Cpl. Matt Garst is unbreakable.A squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Garst was leading his squad on a patrol in Southern Shorsurak, Afghanistan, June 23 to establish a vehicle checkpoint in support of Operation New Dawn.

The men were four miles from Company L’s newly established observation post when they approached an abandoned compound close to where they needed to set up their checkpoint. It would serve well as an operating base — a place for the squad to set up communications and rotate Marines in and out of. But first, it had to be secured.

As they swept the area with a metal detector, the IED registered no warning on the device. The bomb was buried too deep and its metallic signature too weak. Two men walked over it without detonating it.

At six feet, two inches tall and 260 pounds with all his gear on, Garst is easily the heaviest man in his squad by 30 or 40 pounds — just enough extra weight to trigger the IED buried deep in hard-packed soil.

Lance Cpl. Edgar Jones, a combat engineer with the squad, found a pressure plate inside the compound and hollered to Garst, asking what he should do with it. Garst turned around to answer the Marine and stepped on the bomb.

“I can just barely remember the boom,” Garst said. “I remember the start of a loud noise and then I blacked out.”

Since Garst’s improbable run-in with the IED, his tale has spread through the rest of the battalion, and as often happens in combat units, the story mutates, becoming more and more extraordinary: He held onto his rifle the whole time … He actually landed on his feet … He remained unmoved, absorbing the impact like he was muffling a fart in a crowded elevator …

What really happened even eludes Garst. All went black after the earth uppercut him. When he came to, he was standing on his feet holding his weapon, turning to see the remnants of the blast and wondering why his squad had a look on their faces as if they’d seen a ghost.

Marines in Company L think Garst is the luckiest guy in the battalion, and while that may seem a fair assessment, it was the enemy’s shoddy work that left Garst standing. The three-liters of homemade explosive only partially detonated.

Marines who witnessed the event from inside the compound caught glimpses of Garst’s feet flailing through the air just above the other side of the building’s eight-foot walls. The explosion knocked him at least fifteen feet away where he landed on his limp head and shoulders before immediately standing back up.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh [shoot], I just hit an IED,’” he said. “Then I thought, ‘Well I’m standing. That’s good.’”
Garst’s squad stared at him in disbelief. The square-jawed Marine has a tendency to be short-tempered, and the realization that the blast was meant to kill him spiked his adrenaline and anger.

“It pissed me off,” he said. He directed his men to establish a security perimeter while letting them know in his own way that he was OK.

“[What are you looking at?]” he said. “Get on the cordon!”

Garst quickly radioed back to base, calling an explosive ordnance disposal team and quick reaction force.

“I called them and said, ‘Hey, I just got blown up. Get ready,’” he said. “The guy thought I was joking at first. ‘You got blown up? You’re not calling me. Get out of here.’”

Once EOD cleared the area, Garst led his squad the four miles back to their observation post — just hours after being ragdolled by an IED blast.

“I wasn’t going to let anybody else take my squad back after they’d been there for me,” he said. “That’s my job.”
The next day Garst awoke with a pounding headache and was as sore as he’d ever been in his life. “Just getting up from trying to sleep was painful,” he said.

But he saw no reason being sore should slow him down. He popped some ibuprofen and after a day of rest, Garst was back out on patrol, showing his Marines and the enemy that just like his resolve — Cpl. Matt Garst is unbreakable.

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35 Responses

  1. Derek says:

    He’s very lucky. Being in the military alone takes a lot of courage. I admire the guts of those on the front line. I wish Cpl. Matt Garst will drop by this post and tell me what brand of ibuprofen he took. :D

  2. Rjb0369 says:

    Marine is capitailized…Mahalo

  3. Fitzpatrickmaude says:

    thank you for all you domaude

  4. DENNIS JONES says:


  5. t.b. oWens says:


  6. Danny says:

    Semper Fidelis so is GOD He had is and on you ror some reason i hope some day you will now what that is .

  7. Danny says:

    Semper Fidelis so is GOD. He had is hands on you ror some reason. I hope some day you will know what that is . SEMPER FIDELIS

  8. Hail_Satan says:

    It was not the work of god who got him threw it and I’m sO very tired of hearing such a thing
    As it was it was bad craftsmen ship which led him to survive,that is the truth as a reserve marine
    I know that you can never look to “god” as your protected and most people do it
    Cause there afraid to face the truth!Also cause somethings go unexplained but it’s not the work of god
    And there is indeed an explanation for everything.although I believe every god exsist there all real and I worship Satan I know he would not be the reasOn for me surviving something like what this individual has faced.

  9. Gordon says:

    He may remember years from now why he can’t hear.
    Mortar round for me.

  10. Sue Balke says:

    So over the top for our guys who work for our freedom. I am so proud of our Marines, Army, Air Force & Navy men & women. My son flew with AWACS for 11 years. He was just like you. God blessed you that day. You are a leader among leaders and a lucky charm for your men. I thank you daily in our prayers for your dedication and love of our country. Semper Fi

  11. OLDJARHEAD says:

    Well living is better than dying, i will go with that much, but there are enough stories,just wait, take it from an old %$@#% who went and came back.

  12. Sandy Gayle Rauch Sluder says:

    Cpl. Matt Garst Thank YOU for your service, dedication to your duty, country and fellow brother Marines. It is reassuring knowing guys like you out there, that can still take charge and have your guys toe the line in the middle of being freaked out, is a tribute to your character. I know you will probably face many days ahead with pain from the blast, know that you are not alone and always reach out and believe there are people there to listen. Semper Fi Marine ~ Mrs. Sandy Gayle Sluder (U.S. Marine Wife :-)

  13. J.f. Stenger says:

    What’s most amazing to me about this story is Cpl. Garst’s first words after the IED exploded, “Get on the cordon!” This is a testament to how, in a chaotic environment, training really does take over and you rely on muscle memory to get the job done. Semper Fidelis.

  14. Justin Jacobs says:

    What an amazing story. Thank God that things turned out the way that they did. Thanks to physical fitness and keeping your body prepared that things probably turned out the way that they did. Someone not in physical shape would have undoubtedly been in more pain and either not been able to move the next day and recover they way this Marine did. This just goes to show the dedication of our service members to their individual units and drive for accomplishing the mission with their men and women in arms.

  15. Justin Jacobs says:

    What an amazing story. Thank God that things turned out the way that they did. Thanks to physical fitness and keeping your body prepared that things probably turned out the way that they did. Someone not in physical shape would have undoubtedly been in more pain and either not been able to move the next day or recover they way this Marine did. This just goes to show the dedication of our countries service members and their personal connection to their respective units! Semper Fidelis

  16. Hollie Rawl says:

    Truely unbelievable..Cpl Garst is one lucky man. A friend of mine just did the same..he’s also a Marine over in Afghanistan and stepped on an IED just a couple months back, but he wasn’t so lucky – still alive, but lost both his legs and his hand.

  17. Tonya Falk says:

    God still has important work for you to do Cpl. Garst, and He wasn’t about to let an IED stop you from the greatness that He still has ahead for you……….you are truly blessed and a walking testimony to the unique destiny that lives within each of us. God Bless you………Thank you for your dedication ….Tonya (a mother of two U.S. Marines)

  18. James Jones says:


  19. Stephen Davis says:

    OOOORAH, Marine! Awesome story. Wish there were a lot more of these stories! – “Doc” Davis

  20. Dickensj1 says:

    That is amazing! God just wasn’t ready for him yet.

  21. Ohhhdear says:

    If an experience like this doesn’t push a person into being grateful, nothing will. God has a plan for Matt Garst’s life.

  22. Ronda says:

    No one dies with out God’s permission. God has a purpose for Cpl. Matt Garst to still be here. I pray he seeks and fulfills that purpose. God will bless him for it. And may God bless all of our men and women serving to protect our freedom to be able to pray. Amen Thank you will never be enough for what they do.

  23. Nemnich says:

    Wow, thats an awesome story. I’m glad it had a happy ending.

  24. Paulaw821 says:

    Unbeleiveable… Story…Thank you for yor service and protecting us here at make me feel so proud and humble .God bless you and your family .

  25. elwanda l. iskenderian says:

    God bless this precious man ! And I know God is with him, other wise he would be dead, after stepping on that land mine. Sir, I will be praying for you and all your men !!!!!

  26. Marthal says:

    God has something much better planned for Cpl. Garst and couldn’t let a little ol’ IED interfere!

  27. Michele says:

    Amazing! There are few who survive all odds to go on to further greatness! I can’t wait to hear the tales….

  28. Lanna says:

    Thank you for your service Cpl. Garst. What a great ending to this story. I appreciate all the brave men and women of the military for defending our freedoms. God bless you all and keep you safe.

  29. LCpl RL Forbes says:

    YUT!!!!! Thats true motivation right there!

  30. Bypolarbitch69 says:

    wow you go marine :) !!!!!

  31. Dan12469 says:

    Small Miracles…the saying I’d rather be lucky then good says an awful lot, and someone up theres looking out for Matt

  32. DevilDoc1707 says:

    I hope the bad guys were watching from a distance so they can go and tell the story of the U.S. Marine who walks through IED’s. Semper Fi Devil Dog!!!!

  33. Hreyes98 says:

    Freaking hardcharger! Give’em one, KILL!!!

  34. Jmaxey1952 says:

    Wow! How amazing! Prayers were with him then and now. I’m so proud of our men and women in the military. Semper Fi!

  35. Scott Bodkin says:

    That is simply amazing! Semper Fi, War Dog! I’ve seen IEDs shred up-armored hummers. Best of luck to you and your battalion!

    Echo 5 Bravo, -Out!