An insurgent shot MacPherson in the chest, a wound any Ranger would consider life-threatening.
Staff Sgt. Jonah Herd called out and asked MacPherson where he’d been hit.
In the leg, MacPherson said, indicating he had a serious but less urgent wound.
Herd is convinced MacPherson lied to keep their Ranger platoon focused on returning fire in their nighttime attack on an enemy position. MacPherson did not want others exposing themselves to treat him.
“He knew we were still engaged in a heavy firefight, and he wanted me to stay engaged,” Herd said.
Herd later asked doctors whether MacPherson had any wounds to his legs. He did not.
MacPherson, 26, died Oct. 12 on his fifth combat deployment with Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
The Special Forces battalion recently completed that mission, and gathered Friday to place his name on a granite memorial for fallen Rangers in its headquarters.
The ceremony was the battalion’s first for a fallen soldier since it unveiled an elaborate monument that pays homage to its roots fighting on the European front of World War II.
An obelisk stands at its center, listing the names of Rangers who have died in combat or in training since the unit was activated at Fort Lewis in 1974. MacPherson’s name joined that list.
He “once again stands with us in our formation and joins the ranks of Rangers who have fallen since World War II,” said battalion commander Lt. Col. Gregory Anderson.
MacPherson’s memorial unfolded outdoors on a cold afternoon. His wife, Claudia MacPherson of Tacoma, appeared to shiver as she walked across the tiles of the Ranger monument to a lectern where she gave her own tribute to her husband.
Her breath hung in the air as she started to cry.
The soldier left her behind with their young son, Brayden.
“It may appear our family of three is now a family of two,” she said. “But, sweet Tommy, our family has never been bigger.”
Claudia MacPherson said friends from the Ranger battalion have comforted her to relay stories about her husband and to describe the mission that took his life.
“You kept it from (Herd) that you had been wounded in the chest to keep him from coming to you, to keep him out of harm’s way,” she said, addressing her tribute to her husband.
“You showed what unconditional love looks like,” she said.
Rangers also wanted to share stories about MacPherson’s lighter side. He had been a quiet man who did not say much to unfamiliar people.
But when he was around guys he knew well, “he was known to wreak some havoc,” Herd said.
Staff Sgt. Tom Sare remembered MacPherson both as a natural leader whom soldiers wanted to follow, and as a prankster in their platoon.
One day, Sare woke up on a deployment to find the door to his housing unit completely taped over. MacPherson had layered set mouse traps underneath the tape.
“I had slept late, and he was trying to get me,” Sare said.
Sgt. 1st Class Steven Galvez said the assignments the Ranger battalion handed to MacPherson showed its respect for the sergeant from Long Beach, Calif. MacPherson led the patrol on the night of his last mission.
“This job is pretty demanding,” Galvez said. “To be up front at any time, that’s saying something when we say you’re going to take us there and back.”
One day, MacPherson’s friends plan to share some of those stories with his son.
“I want (Brayden) to know his daddy was not only a man of immense bravery, but also immense kindness,” Claudia MacPherson said.Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 adam.ashton@ thenewstribune.com