01 January 2010

Wounded warrior's goal: Return to duty

"If me and everyone else were to say, 'OK, this is hard, I'm going to quit,' how many people would they have serving in the military?"

- Sgt. Robert Samuel, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division

Robert Samuel struggles to regain his strength at Walter Reed Army Medical Center after an IED in Afghanistan blew his left leg off. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT.

Soldier badly wounded in Afghanistan wants to return to duty
By Lesley Clark | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Army Sgt. Robert Samuel knew that he'd lost much of his leg almost as soon as the improvised explosive device went off beneath his Stryker armored vehicle. Bloodied and dazed, he asked his buddies to grab what was left of him as they yanked him out of the wrecked vehicle.

One just shook his head.

"The medic said he didn't think I'd make it," Samuel, 29, a soft-spoken Miami native, said of the injuries he sustained during the attack in November in the desert outside Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. "He figured I'd lost too much blood." ...

"I have buddies I carried over my shoulder," he said, sitting in a wheelchair after a workout in the rehabilitation center at Walter Reed. He rolled up his sleeve to show two tattooed tributes to fellow soldiers, comrades who died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. "There's so many sacrifices others have given, and I'm going to keep on, for a lot of my friends.

"If me and everyone else were to say, 'OK, this is hard, I'm going to quit,' how many people would they have serving in the military?"

Samuel was about five months into his second tour of duty in Afghanistan when he and his 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Wash., were sent on a raid.

A squad leader, Samuel was in the driver's seat in the eight-wheeled, 19-ton Stryker. He said his unit was short-staffed because so many soldiers had been wounded. There were five men in the vehicle, bumping down a dusty desert path that several other Army vehicles already had traversed, when the homemade bomb went off.

It was about 5:30 a.m. The bomb tore open the vehicle's hatch, and Samuel took the brunt of the explosion.

"I was like, 'Are you guys all right in the back?'" Samuel said. No one else was hurt.

He was rushed out of the vehicle, patched up and helicoptered to base before being flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, the treatment center for seriously wounded U.S. service members and civilians serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He panicked only when physicians there told him that his mother was on the phone from Miami. Raspy from a ventilation tube, he told his doctors, "Just make sure my mom doesn't know what happened."

A month later, Samuel works daily with his physical therapist at Walter Reed's state-of-the-art rehabilitation center, pushing himself to the limit.

There's much more about this hero at the link. Go read the rest.

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