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.
Morrissey described the shooting incident in detail.
He said he and his fellow soldiers were conducting a 24-hour surveillance shift of a Main Supply Route, or major road, in his unit's operations area.
The soldiers had received a call from their base regarding several Afghans walking on the road after cutting through the concertina wire. Troops had installed the wire along the edges of the road to secure the Main Supply Route.
Morrissey was traveling in an M-ATV, an all-terrain vehicle armored against land mines, with two other soldiers.
They encountered a farmer and two children on the road, which cut through an agricultural region.
Morrissey got out of his vehicle and went up to the man and the children and was speaking with them when their attention suddenly shifted away from him to activity taking place behind him.
The sergeant turned around and spotted an armed insurgent in a nearby vineyard.
"As soon as I spun around, he was 30 meters away from my position and shot me," Morrissey recalled.
He said the impact of the rounds was "like a really quick jab, or a sucker punch to the abdomen."
Morrissey shot back at the insurgent, who was using the mud walls of the vineyard "to his advantage."
He got back to his vehicle, but could not "confirm or deny" if he hit the insurgent; he said the farmer and the children were able to get away safely.
He was not knocked down after being shot.
"I was actually able to maintain my balance throughout the entire exchange [with the insurgent]," Morrissey said.
The sergeant said he traveled back to his base after the shooting, received a new plate and went back out on patrol.
Army medical staff later examined him to ensure he had no internal injuries, and the plate involved in the shooting was taken for testing.
"Within a few days, I was right back down the line with my men and we were able to continue the mission," Morrissey said.
He thanked the staff of PEO Soldier, which conducted a "forensic engineering analysis" of the armor plate, according to a press release.