By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 3, 2006 – When insurgents attacked Army Sgt. Tommy Rieman's reconnaissance squad near the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq Dec. 3, 2003, Rieman acted on his instincts as a leader.
With the convoy under heavy fire from rocket-propelled grenades, improvised explosive devices, and small arms, Rieman used his own body as a shield to protect his gunner and returned fire. The Humvees the squad was traveling in did not have doors, so Rieman suffered two bullet wounds and 11 shrapnel wounds, and a soldier in the rear vehicle lost his right leg.
Rieman directed the convoy off the road, out of the kill zone, only to be attacked by another, smaller group of insurgents. Rieman led his men to return fire, and the enemy's weapons were silenced. Rieman then called for a medical evacuation helicopter.
For his actions that day, Rieman was awarded a Silver Star in August 2004 at Fort Bragg, N.C. But now, two years later, Rieman, who is now an administrative assistant for the Army personnel office in the Pentagon, is being honored in another, unique way. He will soon be appearing on video game screens and in toy boxes around the country.
Rieman is among the first participants in the "America's Army: Real Heroes" program, which aims to honor soldiers who have shown heroism in the war on terror. Participants will have their lives and military stories recounted in "America's Army," the Army's video game for personal computers and console systems. The soldiers' likenesses are also being made into plastic action figures.
"I think it's a great project," Rieman said. "It lets people know exactly what we're doing, and they can relate to that, because it's their sons and daughters and family and friends that are being deployed and doing these things every single day. And it's cool on my end, because I get to become an action figure and be put in a video game. Who can say that?"
The America's Army video game launched in 2002, and the Real Heroes participants are being added as extra characters in the game. Rieman said his character will probably be an instructor at a weapons range or a recruiter showing off the Army's Class A uniform. The game will also recount Rieman's military history and his life.
The game isn't designed to allow people to recreate the Real Heroes soldiers' experiences in combat, Rieman said, but will tell their stories with the hope of inspiring others to greatness. The game has Army values and morals instilled, and is useful as a tool for young people trying to decide whether to join the military, he said.
"It's a developmental tool for kids in that decision-making age process," he said. "It's out there to educate them."
The action figures will be four to seven inches tall and will recreate each soldier's uniform and gear the day he earned his award in combat, Rieman said.
Rieman and the other soldiers recently traveled to Los Angeles, where their bodies were scanned and a rough mold of the action figures were made. Sculptors are finalizing the figures, which are due out at the end of June, along with the revamped version of America's Army, Rieman said.
Rieman, who has a 7-month-old son and another child on the way, said he looks forward to the day he sees his son playing with his action figure.
"The coolest thing, for me, is to know that my son is going to look up at me in that figure," he said. "How many sons can look at their father and say, 'My dad's an action figure?'"
Rieman, who is approaching his seven-year mark in the Army, said he is unsure about how much longer he'll stay in, but he plans on promoting the Real Heroes program for a long time.
"There's no project out there that honors a soldier better than this, I don't think," he said. "Just to tell my story -- to tell people, 'This is what this soldier has done,' inspires people. People join the Army because of that. It's very honorable. In a sense, I will be part of the Army forever."