Newfound Heroes

Newfound Heroes

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

Newfound Heroes

No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.

~Althea Gibson

In September 2003 my husband Bill left for Iraq. This deployment was to be different: he was heading to a war zone where our soldiers were being killed and injured. I tried to calm us all by telling the children and myself that he would be okay. He was an excellent soldier. He was part of a well-trained unit with a good command group. He would be fine. The children were scared, they missed him terribly, but we were managing.

On April 14, 2004, that all changed. The telephone rang, and I heard Bill’s voice. He was asking me what I was doing, as if it was a normal call home. I could hear in his voice that something was wrong, and asked him if he was okay. He told me that he had been shot, but that everything would be all right. I felt my stomach drop and my blood run cold, one of my worst fears becoming a reality. He had been hit in the left side, the bullet exiting the right side. When he called, he had just arrived at a Baghdad hospital and been stabilized. Some wonderful individual had given him a satellite phone to call me. He was able to talk for a few precious moments and then had to go. He was being flown out to Landstuhl Hospital in Germany.

As I hung up the phone, a deep sense of panic set in. I had so many questions that I had not thought to ask while he was on the phone; I didn’t know when I would hear from him again and didn’t know what to do. I have never felt so helpless in my life. I wanted to be by his side; however, that was not possible. The waiting began.

The next day, there was still no word from him. After an hour of inquiries, transfers and wrong rooms, I was finally connected to his room in Germany. He was doing well, in a lot of pain, but alive. The bullet had missed all his major organs. There were shattered bones along the spinal cord, broken ribs and fragments throughout his lower back. It was a bad injury, but he was still able to walk. At that moment, I realized how blessed we were, how miraculous it was that he was able to talk to me at all on the phone.

He arrived home on April 21. The doctors told us that this was going to be a very long recovery but that they believed he would make a full recovery. They also told us how incredibly lucky we were that he was in this condition. The fact that the bullet missed any vital organs was an absolute miracle, and we counted ourselves extremely lucky.

My husband has always been a hero to me, but even more so now — he came home to me. I also found a new set of heroes that day: the soldiers who fought beside him. There was a soldier who lost his own life in that battle. There were others who were wounded beside him. There was the wonderful man who pulled my husband to safety amidst a barrage of bullets. There was the medic who worked on him, keeping him alive until help could arrive. And there were the medical personnel who evacuated him and kept him alive until he could be treated. All these people were heroes to me before, in spirit; however, after this day, they became so in reality. I will never meet them all, will never know most of the men who helped to save his life, but they are my heroes all the same.

~Carol Howard

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