In 2008 I graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor's degree in business and a minor in film production. In the fall of 2009 I joined the Army. I come from a large and proud military/police family, and serving the country through combat has always been, to me, the most significant service that can be offered. I enlisted with a seat in Officer Candidate School, leaving for basic training in early 2010. I completed Officer Candidate School that summer, and then completed BOLC-B (Artillery Officer School) in 2011. While serving as a platoon leader at Ft. Sill with 1-17 Fires Brigade, I volunteered for a deployment to Afghanistan with 214 Fires Brigade. I was selected for it, trained with the new unit, and deployed in early 2012.
On 20 May 2012, my unit was attacked by a suicide bomber. A few soldiers were wounded, including myself. The attack killed several Afghans, including two kids, and two American Army officers: CPT Jesse Ozbat and 2LT Tobias Alexander. They were fantastic Soldiers. In honor of them, a monument was built next to the museum at Ft. Sill in Oklahoma. It will be used in the future to honor the other Soldiers from Ft. Sill that are lost in combat.
I lost consciousness before leaving Afghanistan, woke first after 12 days at Walter Reed in the USA, and regained meaningful consciousness over a period of around two months. My injuries were substantial. Several ball bearings went into or through my body. I've lost my left leg below the knee, have a ball bearing in contact with my spine, and have several in my arms and legs. A ball bearing also flew straight through my brain, entering from my left and stopping after hitting the interior of the right side of my skull.
Recovery began before I can remember it, and continues today. Part of my skull was removed to allow my brain to swell. It was replaced with metal in November 2012, which returned my assertiveness immediately. Beyond that surgery, it is impossible to identify exactly how one specific type of therapy has helped me (or not). I do think that early speech therapy and, more recently, learning to play the piano have had easily recognizable and beneficial impacts on my brain. I highly recommend learning to play an instrument. Old brains CAN learn new tricks.
I have been blessed with many great people that helped me through the roughest phases. Kelby, my wife, was my girlfriend when I deployed. Upon hearing of my injury, she left the life she knew behind her to help me. We married in March 2013. My parents, Greg and Diane, were with me through the worst of it as well, and currently they are taking great care of the little dog that Kelby and I own, Nemo. Beyond that, I have a long list of family members and friends to thank for their help and support.
In October 2013, we removed a ball bearing from my left bicep. It was >97% iron, 0.4% manganese, and 0.2% aluminum, with so little of the remaining metals that they could not be identified. It is assumed that the other ball bearings in my body were made in the same way. This would be good, since these metals are not toxic. The ball bearings seem to represent no immediate risk, particularly since I have lived with them since May 2012 with no changes to my health beyond their entries. This said, we know almost nothing about what the ball bearings are likely to do over time. None of the doctors I've spoken with have ever seen a study done on this. These weapons are relatively new. This has left me with only a stack of risks associated with surgically removing the ball bearings, and no associated, substantial benefit. I have decided to not remove the ball bearings at this time. I am confident that more relevant data, tools, and techniques will improve over time. If you know of any relevant research, please send it my way!
I have begun the medical board, and am seeking medical retirement. Kelby and I will be moving to Austin, Texas, after the medical board ends. We are confident that Austin is the right choice for us, and are looking forward to what God has planned for us.
I know, now, that the people who go to war can never wholly return from it. The importance of war cannot be satisfactorily confessed. It is difficult to communicate, but always deeply felt while approaching the line upon which you and the Soldiers beside you will risk limbs and lives for a better future. ... (See More)
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