Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
“My senior year of high school, September 11th happened and then one of my best friends from high school, Giovanni Maria, died fighting in Afghanistan a few months later. People thought that his death might push me away from the military, but it didn’t. I remember talking to Giovanni before he passed and telling him to wait a few more months for me to graduate, so we could be over there together kicking some ass. He died before I could get over there. He was 19 and I felt like I owed it to him to join the Army. I joined at 18 and it still feels right eight years later, even after my injury. I plan to stay in for the full twenty.
“The most difficult thing about the injury was being in a hospital so far away from my buddies. Even though I was injured, I wanted to go back into the action. I kept fighting with the people who were trying to help me and telling them to send me back. They obviously didn’t for good reason. From Germany, they sent me to do my initial rehabilitation at Walter Reed and then I was transferred to the Kessler Institute in New Jersey where they specialize in spinal chord injuries.
“I just recently finished my therapy and now I am going back to work. There was a slip up in my paperwork for my first assignment after rehabilitation. I was given orders to join an infantry brigade headed to Afghanistan. I told them I would go, but obviously they couldn’t send me with my injury and assigned me to work with wounded warriors and their families at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Now, I will do what I can to help those in need.
“My one big thing that I want to tell people is to say, ‘Thank you’ to soldiers and veterans. You don’t have to like what is going on, but those two words mean more to us than you all realize. I remember lying in bed at Walter Reed and people came by to say, ‘Thank you,’ and it made me feel like people actually cared about what we do and what we go through. Sometimes people say, ‘I’m sorry’ to me because they realize that my life is difficult now, but I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I have told countless people that I am glad I took most of the physical damage rather than anyone else. Of all of the guys in the truck, I had the most combat time. Even though some of them outranked me, I still called them ‘kids’ because I had been all over that country and served three tours.
“Today, I am at Arlington Cemetery to see my friend, George Howell. I have been in-and-out of hospitals for the past two years, so this was my first chance to come and see his grave. I lost nine friends over there and I eventually want to get out to see their graves, too.”
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