Zachary Boyd, 19, was asleep when enemy fighters attacked his base in the Korengal Valley in Kunar province Afghanistan.
He had enough time to put on his helmet and body armor but had to dispense with his uniform before joining his comrades in manning their bunker.
Unfortunately, the resulting unorthodox approach to battle camouflage – pink “I Love NY” underwear and a bright red T-shirt – was captured by an Associated Press photographer.
Army Specialist Boyd phoned home to warn his family in Texas that the photo was about to appear on the front page of the New York Times.
“It was typical. He has always been an interesting little character,” said his mother, Sheree.
“He said: ‘I hear the Times is what they put on the president’s desk’,” she said.
“Then he told us: ‘I may not have a job anymore after the president has seen me out of uniform’.”