JUNE 14, 2005 - A NEW BEGINING
On June 14 2005, my life was forever changed. I saw the IED, I tasted the gun powder. No one is sure if I jumped or if I was blown from the HETT that I was riding in. Doesn't matter I guess. When I landed though, it was hard enough to crack both my clavicle and scapula bones, dislocate my shoulder along with breaking my hip all on the left side. I also broke 4 out of 5 bones in my foot. Did I mention that I was on fire. I kind of remember getting up to see where my driver was and to make sure that he was alright. The extra rounds that I had on my IBA started to cook off and somehow I managed to take it off. The KBR driver that was in the truck behind me had cooler of ice that had melted and dumped it on me to put out the fire. That's all I really remember until the middle of August.
I spent 3 months in Brooks Army Medical Center at Ft. Sam Houston, TX. Besides the breaks that I mentioned above, I also had 2nd, 3rd and deep tissue burns to 31% of the left side of my body, they had to amputate the thumb and pinky on my left hand and I'm missing the majority of the outer ear and some of the nostril opening. I have pins and plates holding my hip together, which are permanent.
The first thoughts I remember having where, "I have to get back. My soldiers need me and it's not fair to them that I'm back in the states, leaving them behind. I should have seen that damn IED sooner. I had become complacent; nothing was going to happen to me. Was I being punished? I had to get back to say I was sorry. Somehow this was my fault."
Then the guilt set in about what I did to my family. I've totally screwed that up. Look at me, no don't. I look hideous. How can I face my kids looking like this? They'll be embarrassed to be seen with me. What if they won't love me anymore? Speaking of love, my wife, oh my god. How can I expect her to stay with me. I'm not a man anymore. She's not going to want be intimate with a freak. What if I can't work, how do I support myself, my family.
I had the nightmares and couldn't sleep. I wasn't eating and was loosing weight. I didn't really care. If I didn't start eating, they where going to put the feeding tube back in. Who cares, I've totally screwed up my life anyways.
I found out just how much my wife loved me, and was given peace of mind that she wasn't going to leave me. Not only was she by my side from the moment I arrived at the hospital, but she was there for every wound dressing change no matter how grotesque it was. She learned how to change the wound dressings and help with the physical therapy even though it was very painful for me. She cried with me and for me. She reassured me everything was going to be ok. She reminded me that love came from the heart. Then she would joke that she was too old to train another husband! She wanted me to open up and talk about what's in side, but I wouldn't. I'm a guy. Guy's don't do that. We don't talk about "feelings". If you knew my wife, that didn't sit well with her, she knew that this wasn't the run of the mill stress.
She talked to the physiologist and asked him to see me. What, now I'm nuts? At first he just came in asked how I was and it was small talk. Before I knew it, he had me opening up like a book. He had one simple question that we concentrated on, "Was it my fault?" Was it my fault that I went to Iraq? Was it my fault that I went on that mission? Was it my fault that, that IED was placed in the road? He just went on, and as he did, I realized that it wasn't my fault. I did not cause any of this. That was the turning point of my emotional recovery. I was by no means healed and still had to deal with my emotions. I had to admit too that I needed medication to help me deal with the ordeal I had been through. I have made up my mind that only through a positive out look and attitude will I make it. I can't change what happened and to live with the "what if's" will get me no where.
I found that the more I talked about what happened, the easier it was to deal with. People would and still stare when they see me, but I hold my head high because I am proud to be an American Soldier. My kids are proud of me and most of all, my wife is proud of me. Not matter what I saw, what I did, or what happened to me, I was an American Soldier on a mission to protect the freedom of those who need it!