American HERO – Aaron Coates
The word HERO has been thrown around pretty freely in the “media” lately. So much so, that it has lost part of it’s meaning. Then you hear one story that reminds you of what a true hero is. Please read the article below written by the very proud parents of a remarkable man and Real American Hero – Aaron Coates.
August 30, 2003 – It was a very hot day as summer days are in Northern Iraq. Specialist Aaron Coates, 173rd Airborne, United States Army, was driving his beloved 5- ton fuel truck in a resupply convoy heading toward a forward operating base near Mosul, Iraq.
Unknown to the unit, a small group of insurgents laid in wait alongside the road. The first indication of the impending catastrophe was when an improvised explosive device (IED) was triggered late as the lead gun truck passed their position. Next came a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) which struck the undercarriage of the 5- ton fuel truck.
Immediately, Specialist Aaron Coates ordered his co-driver to jump for it as the rear of the truck exploded into flames. He downshifted, and drove the truck off the road, away from the others in the convoy. Shortly thereafter, another RPG struck the truck, this time hitting the fuel tank, which contained over 1,000 gallons of JP8 fuel. By this time, the fire ball reached the cab of the truck and as Aaron drove the truck further out into the desert, the steering wheel was melting in his hands.
He believed he was dead anyway, so he stayed with the truck until it had safely reached the point where he felt that if the truck did explode, it would not endanger the others in his convoy.
When Aaron regained consciousness, he was lying in the desert and realized that he had somehow been blown clear of the truck. When Aaron was finally located by members of his unit, he could tell by the looks on their faces that he was in very bad shape.
He was subsequently airlifted to Germany where a US Air Force C-17 flew him non-stop to the Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas for treatment of the 3rd and 4th degree burns over 30 percent of his upper body. The medical staff believed Aaron would not survive his injuries but his indomitable spirit prevailed.
After approximately 30 surgeries, with the loss of the fingers on his right hand, and 50 percent loss of his left hand, he was finally able to come home on leave.
While Aaron was on leave, he went to Visalia, California to visit with his brother, Ryan. Ryan was the proud owner of a 5.0 powered Fox body Mustang. Aaron had been told that since his right hand was so badly damaged he would never be able to shift gears, much less drive ever again. Ryan put him in the driver’s seat of that Mustang and Aaron drove it until his hands were bleeding.
Thus, this began the Mustang inspired recovery! In late 2005, Aaron purchased a 2006 Roush Mustang. Aaron, who by this time had been medically retired from the Army, has personally modified, raced, and shown the Roush at numerous car events, much to the surprise of the doctors who believed Aaron would not ever be able to hold a tool ever again!
This article means so much to all the people that know and love Aaron. I personally had not heard the story of Aaron’s injuries until John sent me the copy to put in this article. Isn’t that something?
Aaron and his wife, Amber, are a very big part of the Mustang Club in Bakersfield, California – The Golden Empire Mustangs, and yet, like all true Heroes, Aaron does not brag or boast about his heroism. In fact, like all true Heroes, Aaron would be the last person to sing his own praises.
Obviously, there is much more to the story of Aaron Coates and his love for Mustangs, so this will serve as Article 1, to be followed up with several more, which will include Aaron’s rehabilitation therapy, which included working on cars and helping establish a program that has helped hundreds of veterans returning from the battlefield with injuries.
If you appreciate this article, please let us know in the comments section.
Article Written by John Coates – Aaron’s father.
Photo of Aaron with his Roush Mustang by Amber Coates