So I’ve been wanting to write this blog post for a while, but I haven’t because I wanted to get permission from the person I was writing it about first. He’s been a bit busy the past several months, you see. You may actually have seen his picture online or in the paper. Since a photographer snapped this picture of him and his buddy being MEDEVACed and the Pentagon chose to publish it this summer, it seems to be popping up everywhere.
Here’s something you need to know about the young man on the right before you look at this picture and go feeling sorry for him. He loves what he does. Contrary to what seems to be the unfortunate opinion of our nation’s men and women in uniform, he didn’t join the Army because he was a criminal. He didn’t join ‘cos he had nothing else to do with his life. He didn’t join it as a last resort. He’s an exceptionally bright guy who can quote Rudyard Kipling and Kurt Vonnegut better than some literature professors, has one of the sharpest tongues you’ll ever encounter, and has remained a pretty accomplished drummer despite multiple tours overseas where all he had was a pair of drumsticks and a practice pad.
If I sound like I know him pretty well, it’s because I do. I’m posting this ‘cos I want you to know him too. On June 24th, while serving as a cavalry scout (19D) with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan he stepped on a land mine rigged up to two 84 mm mortars. The blast sent him up in the air and when he came back down he was missing the bottom half of his left leg, most of the skin off his right, and had shrapnel all throughout his body. He was flown to Germany then to Walter Reed, which is where he spent the next few weeks. He is now at the Center for the Intrepid making huge strides (quite literally) every single day.
The reason I’m sharing this with you is not to make you feel bad for the guy. He certainly doesn’t want your pity. It’s to share with you his story ‘cos it’s the story of thousands of other servicemen and their families. Here’s a guy who served two 12-15 month tours to Sadr City and Ramadi (not exactly bastions of peace in Iraq for those who know) and who loved his job so much he reenlisted while in theater for four more years. Not only that, but he chose to reclass to another MOS (change his job for any non-military folks who might read this) to one that would put him about as “front line” as you can get in a war with no real front lines. Two crappy tours and only ten months at home in an almost four year span would send most guys running from the Army. He ran straight into it with a smile on his face. Not ‘cos he’s a daredevil and has a death wish, but ‘cos he loves what he does and he loves his brothers in uniform.
If you thought losing a leg on his third tour would slow him down or change his attitude you’re dead wrong. Since he got hit, he has been nothing but a beacon of positivity. Every time I’m tempted to go on Facebook and post an update about how miserable the heat is or complain about a traffic jam, I see yet another uplifting post he has left on his page, just like every other since the day he was hit. Saying he’s an inspiration is unbelievably cheezy and would probably make him mad (he’d insist it’s the guys over there and their families at home that are the real heroes), but it’s true. He makes me want to do something unbelievable with my life. ‘Cos guess what? You know what he'll say the hardest part of losing a leg is? It’s not the skin grafts or the surgeries or the rehab. The worst part is not being with his fellow scouts. More than anything, this sergeant just wants to be back with his Joes.
So America, meet SGT D. He is but one face in this war that I wish America saw more of and is someone I think you should know.