My Last Conversation With Ben: Remembering a Fallen Teammate

SFC Benjamin B. Wise KIA – 15 January 2011

My Last Conversation With Ben: Remembering a Fallen Teammate

By: Kevin R. Flike

(This article has been published with the permission of Ben’s widow Traci)

It was a cold, wet and dreary morning in December when I pulled up to the 1st Special Forces Group rehabilitation center. I sat in the parking lot in silence and took a moment to mentally pump myself up. My body ached and I just wanted to get the next four hours of torture over. A few months prior I had been shot in the lower abdomen during combat operations in Afghanistan. After being medically evacuated back to the US, my day-to-day life consisted of painkillers, physical therapy and waiting for my teammates safe return. After almost ten months of combat operations the team would be home in a month’s time.

I was just about to head into the building when my cell phone rang. I had no interest in talking to anyone; however, when I noticed a strange number on the caller ID I quickly realized the call was probably from Afghanistan. In the past couple of months friends and teammates called multiple times from Afghanistan to see how I was doing and offer me encouragement. Their calls helped lift my spirits and motivate me during this dark period of my life. When I picked up the phone and heard Ben’s voice, I was ecstatic and glad I answered the phone.

Ben was one of the team’s medics, and besides being an incredible Green Beret, he was also a great teammate and the resident goof ball. Naturally, Ben started the conversation with one of his patented corny jokes. Within the first few seconds of our conversation the day seemed brighter, my aches and pains went away and a rare smile adorned my face. Ben had the innate ability to lift your spirits and he was clearly working his magic on me. After a couple of minutes of witty banter and jokes, the tone turned serious; this was the first time we had talked since the day I was wounded.

For the next 45 minutes Ben and I relived that life-altering day. The mission started out as a routine valley clearing operation and turned into a 10-hour firefight as the team pushed through the valley. During the day I was in the valley with the majority of my team and the Commandoes while Ben and the Commando snipers were on a crest overlooking the valley. Ben was the best shot on the team, so he spent a lot of time with the Commando snipers providing the team with life saving support from over watch positions.

Throughout the engagement, Ben and I never had face-to-face contact; however, we constantly talked on the radio giving each other frequent updates.  While our team fought through multiple attacks in the valley, Ben was engaged in a sniper battle with fighters that he said were “trained”. Given our proximity to Iran, neither of us was surprised at the high skill level of our opponent. Ben said that every time they lifted their heads they could hear the crack of bullets overhead. Whenever they moved positions, their element was greeted with a hail of gunfire. Learning about the battle from Ben’s vantage point was enlightening and cathartic.

As we walked through the day’s events in chronological order we finally got to the point in the engagement when I was wounded. Ben’s voice took on a tone of compassion and worry. He was in disbelief when the call came over the radio that I had just been shot. After hearing the call he started praying. He said he spent the rest of the day performing his role as a Green Beret and also praying to God to spare my life. Ben said, “I was so worried we were going to lose you,” and went on tell me how guilty he felt that he could not do more from his over watch position.  I thought he was going to cry.

After a momentary pause, Ben said, “you know we got him.” I was confused and asked him what he meant. He said, “I am pretty sure, 99.9% certain that we killed the guy that shot you.” What he meant was that he killed the guy. Ben was great at his job and remarkably humble. Whenever Ben was successful, he used the word we instead of I to deflect praise from himself to the team. Ben also never bragged or gloated about killing enemy fighters. He viewed it as a necessary evil in an unfortunate circumstance and certainly did not want to celebrate it. A few minutes later Ben closed out the conversation with a prayer. The call energized me for the day ahead and made me look forward to seeing Ben and the rest of the team soon.

A couple weeks later on January 9th I was in the hospital waiting to be seen for one of my many follow-up doctors appointments when my wife called me. She told me that Ben was hurt. I started peppering her with questions, but that was all she knew. After the appointment I got another call from the 1st Special Forces Group telling me to come into work ASAP, and that’s when I found out how dire the situation was.

Ben always fought courageously on the battlefield, but in the next week he put up the biggest fight of his life. Ben sustained multiple gunshot wounds that did horrendous damage to his internal organs. Doctors performed multiple blood transfusions and even amputated his legs to try and save his life. Ben stubbornly clung to life and was revived numerous times. However, after a week of fighting, Ben died of his wounds in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Tomorrow (January 15, 2016) marks four years since Ben was taken from us, and while it has gotten better, it is still tough.

Ben’s death helped me understand that I had a second chance at life and put my situation into perspective. His memory pushed me through my recovery and gave me the courage to apply to grad school. I wanted to live every second of my life to 100% of my ability, otherwise I felt like I was letting Ben and his memory down.  However, after awhile I could not help but feel guilty for living and wondered why he died and I survived. Sometimes I had to take his memorial bracelet off because just seeing his name was too much to bear. I constantly put myself under intense pressure to succeed at everything because if I did not, then I would somehow be distorting Ben and his memory. I kept pushing myself harder and harder because I was afraid I would let him down.

It took me a while to realize that this attitude was not befitting Ben’s memory because this was not what he stood for. Ben was a man of faith, a family man and the best friend you could ask for. I now understand that putting these ideals first in my life is the way to honor Ben, not by putting an un-bearable amount of stress on myself to achieve. After realizing this I no longer feel guilty for having survived, but rather lucky to have known such a great man that set forth an example for me to live by. Ben, thank you for who you are and what you have done for me and so many others. I miss you. RIP DOL.

Learn more at:
Facebook: Wounded by War
Twitter: @woundedbywar

After graduating from Union College (BA), Kevin R. Flike served as a Special Forces Engineer assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group and deployed to the Philippines, Thailand and twice to Afghanistan. On September 25, 2011 during his second deployment to Afghanistan, he was shot in the lower abdomen and was medically retired due to his injuries. In the spring of 2016, Kevin completed dual masters degrees from the MIT Sloan School of Management (MBA) and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (MPA). Kevin is currently employed within the financial industry in Boston, MA.

23 thoughts on “My Last Conversation With Ben: Remembering a Fallen Teammate

  1. Its hard to hear of someones accomplishments partly due to anothers unfortunate death, but not you, you have obviously dealt with the unthinkable, even unimaginable! Sounds like Ben helped you to realize life is worth living, and now you have passed on that encouragement to others, like myself and I thank you for that! Its easy to fall into a common funk and just live life to get through to the next day. You’re a hero and thank you for sharing your story! I’m certain Ben is so proud and smiling because you are carrying both his and your strength to LIVE LIFE not just go through the motions! what a wonderful story.

  2. Thank you Kevin for such a beautiful story. Ben was special and so are you.
    God bless you is my eternal prayer and may you continue to be successful
    In every endeavor. Know you are loved always.

  3. Touching story. Well written. I knew Ben personally as he married my cousin , Traci. Ben in the short time I met him , touched my soul and had my deepest respect. His loss and his brother Jeremy to the Wise family was very saddening. We all continue to pray for all our brave soldiers fighting to protect our freedom. To Traci, Luke and all of Ben’s family left behind we pray for peace and comfort as always.

  4. Thank you for that wonderful memory, Kevin. I think of Ben every day and I’m so grateful for his friendship. Ben, like all of you, inspire me in the best ways, every day.

  5. Kevin,well written and certainly illuminating ,these men are special. You are a wonderful example of the spirit of the men of Special Forces and it was a pleasure for Lorie and I to meet you. Hope all is well.

  6. I have been reading about all the story’s about Ben and how he has impacted our lives. And I have come to remember the times on the aob when we were in Afghanistan and hanging out in the med shed have cool aid and talking about our faith and how much he has helped me to get back to having faith in God. After Ben was hit and brought back to the base we were on they had notified us that they needed hole blood I had felt the need to help when I found out that I was the same blood type as Ben then all I could do was sit and pray that God would be with Ben as he was in this battle I wish I could have done more but I know that Ben is with God.

  7. I knew both Ben and Jeremy as children, their mom was a friend of mine. Thank you so much for sharing this memory today, GOD BLESS YOU< and THANK YOU for your service to our country!

  8. Kevin,

    Thanks for sharing your story, though it’s not complete yet. You are still “running the race.” I have no doubt, no matter how many more years you have left here on this side, you will finish strong as Ben did.

    Godspeed Kevin and thank you for your service.

  9. Kevin, I think it took a lot of courage to write this. I know many veterans suffer from PTSD and can’t talk about a lot of things they’ve endured. I think Ben would be proud and honored by your article. You have managed to let any of us who have read this, to k ow you and get a clear image of who Ben was and what he stood for. Being a civilian, I have the utmost respect for our soldiers and veterans. My dad was in the Army in the early 50’s and raised me to respect and appreciate our military. I was a freshman in high school when the Gulf War/Desert Storm broke out. I was in band and we played for the 1461 National Guard when they left on deployment. I couldn’t play the whole time because I was crying too hard. It didn’t matter that I personally didn’t know them…it was knowing that some of the faces I was looking at might not come home. It’s something I will never forget. So I had a hard time with everyone “being patriotic” when 9/11 happened. As an American, you should be patriotic every day…not only when something happens on our soil! (Sorry, I got off track.). Your friend and brother in arms, Ben, paid the ultimate sacrifice for me and everyone else here in America. As have many men and women over the years. You were wounded but have made a statement for your fellow soldiers. My heart goes out to his widow, Traci, to you, Kevin, and to everyone else who knew Ben. I know there will never be world peace, but I will still continue to pray that it will happen so all the endless killing and blood shed will stop. Thank you again for letting me get to know you and Ben. I thank both of you and all the other soldiers, active or not, for risking your lives to protect mine and all other Americans freedom. A thank you doesn’t seem like enough but it’s all I have…besides respect and gratitude. God bless both of your families and our soldiers. May they all come home safe. I wish you the best.

  10. Kevin, just read your story. I am the EOD guy that was with you when you were wounded. I remember Ben from that deployment, and while I am sure you have fonder memories of him than I do. I remember him as an extremely nice guy who was always looking out for those around him. I remember hearing about his death ( I was also stateside) while out for diner with my wife. We had to end the date early. I agree fully with your statement. We who survived should honor the fallen by living our lives to the fullest in honor of them. I am glad you are doing so and wish you the best.

  11. This is a great story about a group of great young men. I have never served in the Army. I did serve over 20 years in the AF with 17 of those years in AF Special Operations. I had the opportunity to work with SF many times. I always had great respect for these warriors as well as the other Tier 1 units. Everyone of you were always professional to the core. While I served years ago, things never change. Brave, good young men and women sacrifice so much. Unfortunately, many Americans have no idea just HOW much sacrifice is required, even during peacetime.

    Kevin, thank you for sharing this story. Rest assured, this old warrior appreciates Ben, you and all of SF.. The world is a much better and safer place because of Ben, you, and your peers. I will add all of you to my prayer list beside all the men and women still in harm’s way.

  12. SFC Ben Wise RIP. Thanks to Traci and Kevin for allowing your story to be retold. Even in death you are helping people. After reading this article today, I was uplifted and pledged anew to push through my medical problems and shake off my depressed attitude for at least one day. I am printing this article so it will be a daily reminder to me to challenge myself each day and not accept my limitations without a fight. Thank you for reminding me I’m not allowed to slack off and that there are many others in worse situations than I am. God bless you both – Ben and Kevin – and God bless your families.

  13. This short story brings a lot of my own memories back into view. I wish I could have met Ben. He sounds like a outstanding all around individual. I feel for his family and his friends. I don’t really know what else to say. I will do my best so that he and others like him are not forgotten.

  14. I knew Ben, Jeremy, and actually the whole family during our time in Arkansas . Heather was one of my daughter’s best friends, and their devastating experience just shook our family. Mary and I spent times praying over our children and families, but who could imagine what was ahead of them? I knew immediately that they would be stronger than anyone could imagine, and would be sharing sooner than later that God was in control and had a plan for all of them. Thank you for sharing this story with us about Ben…he was one of God’s finest.

  15. I knew the Wise family and worked with dr wise in surgery. This is well written. My heart goes out to the family.

    1. I knew the Wise family. I got to know the boys as they grew up, worked with Dr. Wise and saw them frequently come into the office. and also went to church with them. They were a blessing to so many people. Thank you Ben, Jeremy and anyone serving our county. Prayers are going out for all of our military and their families.

  16. My neighbor, Brian Cramp, was a Green Beret. Unfortunately, I did not know this until after he passed a few months ago. One of the best men I have ever known. Selfless, giving, humble. I wish I could have thanked him for his service. Brian passed from pancreatic cancer…quietly and without much recognition. I would like to think he is with your friend Ben now.

    Such great men. Such great loss. Such pride.

  17. Kevin, thank you for sharing your story. Your willingness to be open and honest about your feelings and experienes are not only theraputic, but bring hope and encouragement to countless veterans from around the globe. As a fellow veteran, I understand the unbreakable bond between soldiers. I commend you for carrying forward the love, joy, and peace that Ben lived for and brought to you and so many others. On this Memorial Day, my thoughts and prayers are with you, Ben’s family, and all of our brothers and sisters in arms that sre deployed around the globe protecting our way of life.
    May our heavenly Father continue to bless you, keep you safe, and strengthen you now and always.
    Scott Heider

  18. Thank you, Kevin, for this heartfelt tribute to a fellow soldier, wonderful husband and Dad, and a true friend. Although we met once while my wife and I were at Lewis visiting our son, Corey, you, Ben, Johnny and Deuce will always be remembered as a part of our extended family. Thank you for your service and hope you are well.

  19. I used to hate seeing Ben on the mat. Rolling with Ben was like rolling with a piece of iron. Thanks Kevin.

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