Body armor saves life on battlefield

Sgt. Joe Morrissey holds the body armor plate that saved his life while serving in Afghanistan in 2012. He is with his wife, Nikki, during a recent ceremony at Ft. Belvoir, Va. (Photo courtesy of Doug Cuddihy, The Aegis / September 25, 2013)

Were it not for the plate in his body armor, Army Sgt. Joe Morrissey would never have been married, and his daughter would not be ready to enter the world in a matter of weeks.

The reality of the situation was not lost on his wife, Nikki, a Harford County native, who is seven months pregnant with their daughter, Harper, due in November.

"It's pretty amazing how much was able to happen just because of a piece of equipment," Nikki Morrissey said.

Joe Morrissey, a native of Florida, survived being shot in the abdomen by an insurgent on Aug. 9, 2012 during his second deployment to Afghanistan, protected by the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI, plate in his body armor.

The plate is made by Ceradyne Inc., headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Nikki Morrissey traveled to Ft. Belvoir, Va., with her husband, and father Bob Cole, last week for a ceremony, during which Morrissey received the damaged plate from representatives of Program Executive Officer Soldier, an Army agency tasked with coordinating with defense contractors to design and manufacture soldiers' clothing and equipment, including their body armor.

Nikki and Joe were married on Oct. 6, 2012, about two years after they met. He returned to the U.S. from his second deployment to Afghanistan in September 2012; he had also been deployed in 2010.

He wasn't injured in the shooting other than some bruises, and said he plans to re-enlist and make a career out of the Army.

He is assigned to Bravo Troop, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, a RSTA (Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition) unit with the 82nd Airborne Division, headquartered in Ft. Bragg, N.C.

He and his wife live in Raeford, N.C., about 25 miles from Ft. Bragg.

She, her father and her husband spoke by telephone from Ft. Belvoir after the ceremony last Wednesday.

"We're thrilled that his body armor did its job; he took a direct shot," Bob Cole, who grew up in Joppatowne and now lives in Fork, said of Joe Morrissey.

He is the owner of Cole Concrete Inc., a concrete contracting firm headquartered in Kingsville.

"We're just thrilled, very proud of him," he said of his son-in-law.

Cole described the turnout for the ceremony as "overwhelming," with Army officers and various news crews.

A PEO Soldier spokesman said about 40 to 50 people attended the ceremony, including a member of Morrissey's fire team with Charlie Troop of the 4-73 Cavalry.

Morrissey was assigned to Charlie Troop when he was serving in Afghanistan.

The soldier, Spc. Sam Walley, had lost an arm and a leg in an IED explosion in June 2012, two months before Morrissey was shot.

The spokesman said Morrissey had been helping Walley with his recovery in the U.S.

Still traumatic