The company had landed by helicopter in the predawn dark on Saturday, launching a major coalition offensive to take Marjah from the Taliban.
The Marines set up an outpost in a former drug lab and roadside-bomb factory and soon found themselves under near-constant attack.
Lance Cpl. Koenig, a lanky 21-year-old with jug-handle ears and a burr of sandy hair, is a designated marksman. His job is to hit the elusive Taliban fighters hiding in the tightly packed neighborhood near the base.
The insurgent sniper hit him first. The Casper, Wyo., native was kneeling on the roof of the one-story outpost, looking for targets.
He was reaching back to his left for his rifle when the sniper’s round slammed into his helmet.
The impact knocked him onto his back.
“I’m hit,” he yelled to his buddy, Lance Cpl. Scott Gabrian, a 21-year-old from St. Louis.
Lance Cpl. Gabrian belly-crawled along the rooftop to his friend’s side. He patted Lance Cpl. Koenig’s body, looking for wounds.
Then he noticed that the plate that usually secures night-vision goggles to the front of Lance Cpl. Koenig’s helmet was missing. In its place was a thumb-deep dent in the hard Kevlar shell.
Lance Cpl. Gabrian slid his hands under his friend’s helmet, looking for an entry wound. “You’re not bleeding,” he assured Lance Cpl. Koenig. “You’re going to be OK.”
Lance Cpl. Koenig climbed down the metal ladder and walked to the company aid station to see the Navy corpsman.
Note to President Obama: That last word is pronounced CORE-man, not CORPSE-man.
The only injury: A small, numb red welt on his forehead, just above his right eye.
He had spent 15 minutes with Doc, as the Marines call the medics, when an insurgent’s rocket-propelled grenade exploded on the rooftop, next to Lance Cpl. Gabrian.
The shock wave left him with a concussion and hearing loss.
He joined Lance Cpl. Koenig at the aid station, where the two friends embraced, their eyes welling.
Absolutely remarkable. Nothing to add, except for heartfelt thanks and appreciation for everything Lance Cpl. Koenig and all of our fighting men and women are doing overseas. Let’s get them home soon, huh?