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Brandon Lingle's work has appeared in various publications including The American Scholar, Guernica, The Normal School, The North American Review, and New York Times At War. He edits nonfiction for War, Literature, and the Arts. Views are his own. "Tourniquet" was a notable in The Best American Essays 2016.


Lingle's nonfiction, “Tourniquet,” was originally published in The Southeast Review Volume 33.2.



The Iraqi boy beside me

reaches down to slide his fingertip in Retro Colonial Blue,

an interior latex, before writing

T, for Tourniquet, on my forehead.

—Brian Turner, “At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center”

Pre-deployment training, Camp Bullis, Texas:

During the block on combat first aid, or Care Under Fire, our instructor pulled out a new tourniquet—a candy-bar shape vacuum- sealed in clear plastic—and called for a volunteer. The instructor handed our classmate the package and yelled, “BOOM! Your right arm’s blown off! Get the tourniquet on! You’re bleeding out.” The simulated casualty, a righty, wrestled the wrapped tourniquet, bit and pulled at the plastic with his left hand. The instructor counted time with a Southern twang, “ten, eleven, twelve seconds.” Now, the student—a flat-topped NCO—bit at the tourniquet and pulled at the Velcro. “Twenty, twenty-one seconds, twenty-two, twenty-three.” He balanced the strap on his right biceps, reached under his arm to grab the end, but it fell. “Thirty-eight, thirty- nine, forty.” He tried again, the strap dropped again. Along with sixty others, I watch as the man struggled against the black strap in a pretend battle for his life. He frowned, his face reddened, sweat clung just below the hairline on his crinkled forehead. The instructor slapped the desk, said, “Stop, you’re dead.” He continued, “Learn this here. Learn this now, dammit. Keep your tourniquets ready. I know the supply guys tell you not to open your first aid kits unless you need ’em, but I’m telling you different. When you need ’em it’s too late.”

Despite all the training and preparation, the mind runs wild in the days before deployment. I always think of the different ways my commander could explain my death to my wife and children. No matter the circumstance that story will always positively portray the fallen. Siegfried Sassoon wrote in “The Hero” that an officer told a dead soldier’s mother “some gallant lies / That would nourish all her days no doubt.” I didn’t want anyone to be forced to concoct a story about me. I paid attention in training because my life depended on it, and I knew that all the training and equipment in the world couldn’t stop a bomb or bullet meant for me.


This is a single use product. The use of any tourniquet is A LAST RESORT and should only be employed when bleeding cannot be stopped and the situation is life threatening.

Instructions for Use: Two-handed Application

  1. Apply tourniquet proximal to the bleeding site. Route the band around the limb and pass the tip through inside slit of the buckle. Pull the band tight.

  2. Pass the tip through the outside slit of the buckle. The friction buckle will lock the band in place.

  3. Pull the band very tight and securely fasten the band back on itself.

  4. Twist the rod until bright red bleeding has stopped and the distal pulse is eliminated.

  5. Place the rod inside the clip, locking it in place. Check for bleeding and distal pulse. If bleeding is not controlled, consider additional tightening or applying a second tourniquet proximal side by side to the first and reassess.

  6. Secure the rod inside the clip with the strap. Prepare the patient for transport and reassess. Record the time of application.

In ’04, before the Battle of Fallujah, Marines wore tourniquets wrapped loosely around their biceps and thig