CAMP NATHAN SMITH, Afghanistan — After hours of digging, a 3-year-old boy is safe in Afghanistan, thanks to the help of a soldier from Utah.
Spc. Thomas Wirthlin, a Murray man serving in Afghanistan, was one of the soldiers called to help rescue the boy Sunday, along with soldiers from the Courage Company, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment.
The boy had fallen 30 feet down a well. Afghan soldiers first noticed something was wrong when a large group of civilians congregated around the well.
"That trust between us is already in place, which is good," said Capt. Matthew Burton, commander of Courage Company in a military release. "We have a good working partnership and the Afghan soldiers were aware we had construction equipment which could help get the boy out faster."
We were going to dig until he was out safe, no matter how many days it took.
–Spc. Thomas Wirthlin
The soldiers first tried to fish the boy from the well, but the well had only a 20 inch diameter that narrowed with the well's depth. When that didn't work, they started digging a vertical hole close to the well so they could tunnel into the cavity where the boy was located.
"Once you dig about seven inches down, it is like digging through cement, but we did not care," Wirthlin said in the military release. "We were going to dig until he was out safe, no matter how many days it took."
The rescue effort went late into the night, and the boy was finally pulled from the well after six hours of digging. He was examined and found to have sustained no injuries.
Wirthlin called his family after the rescue to share the story. His sister, Stephanie Wirthlin, said her brother shied away from taking credit for the rescue, but praised his team instead.
Because Thomas Wirthlin is an infantryman, his role is usually very different and rescue efforts like this aren't the norm.
"This is something, I think, that's rewarding for them, when they can help and feel like they're actually making a difference and it's not just always about the fight that's going on over there," she told the Deseret News.
Thomas Wirthlin has always been interested in serving in the army and enlisted three years ago. He was married in November, deployed a month later and is expected to be deployed until the fall.
The rescue effort hit home for Thomas Wirthlin and said anyone would have done it. He related the situation to him and his teammates' own nieces and nephews of about the same age.
"It was our pleasure to go out and help the locals face to face," he said. "It is great getting face time this way instead of just asking questions about the Taliban. We are all the same."