Sunday, June 11, 2006

Some injured GIs decide to stay in Iraq - Yahoo! News

MAHMOUDIYA, Iraq - Parallel scars running down 1st Sgt. Rick Skidis' calf tell the story of how he nearly lost his leg when a roadside bomb blew through the door of his armored Humvee[snip]

The blast shredded muscle, ligament and tendon, leaving Skidis in a daze as medics and fellow soldiers rushed to help him. Skidis remembers little of that day last November except someone warning him that when he woke, his foot might be gone.

After five months and six surgeries, the foot remains intact but causes Skidis haunting numbness and searing pain caused by nerve damage.

Skidis, 36, of Sullivan, Ill., fought through the surgeries and therapy to return in April to Iraq, conducting the same type of patrols that nearly killed him.

He is not an exception.

Some injured GIs decide to stay in Iraq - Yahoo! News

Yet there are others who can't go back and can't reconnect to their friends, the pople they have known as family for a year and someone they've shed blood and sweat and tears with.

Some are injured in the line of duty. For them, the war is not over yet. It shouldn't be over for us either. They do the hard job every day for the same pay as working at Wal-marts. When they come back injured, their entire life is changed. They are different. The thing they know how to do, be a soldier, sailor or marine, is no longer theirs to do. They can no longer be part of the mission, working with their friends and comrades with boots on the ground. They need a way to re-connect and stay connected, even when they can't walk, can't see, and can't type.

In fact, for Sergeant Elijah Allen, 25, getting a Valour-IT laptop was exactly like giving sight to the blind.

A civil affairs reservist involved in building infrastructure, he was injured during combat operations in southern Iraq and nearly lost his vision.

His left retina was torn and his right retina was detached, leaving him with some ability to see light and motion but little else in the way of sight.

He, too, ended up at Walter Reed, where he had operation after operation to restore his sight.

Patti Bader got in touch after his fourth time under the scalpel.

"When she told me about the laptop, all I could say was: 'You're fricking awesome! That's great!' ," he said.

"I couldn't see or read, but I could always log into Yahoo or IM. I was so surprised there was a programme that existed for this."

He used his Valour-IT laptop for everything from keeping in touch with his family to daily Bible readings.

But, what he wanted most was to get back in the fight, however he could. To be with his men, his unit, however possible, and he did:

'Accomplish the mission'

And he was able to reconnect with his unit and his mission.

"I remember an Air Force optometrist as I was being medevacked saying 'Your fight here is over'.

"I felt like I hadn't accomplished what I set out to accomplish. When you leave the theatre so quickly, you want to know if somebody has picked up your job."

So he got in touch with the sergeant who replaced him, and quickly became a pain with all the advice he sent.

Project VALOUR-IT provides voice activated laptops to injured troops who cannot use or have difficulty using conventional computers and keyboards. Men and women with amputations, severe soft tissue damage, nerve damage, shattered bones, spinal injuries, head injuries and, like Sgt. Elijah Allen, eye damage. It's a fantastic organization. It has supplied over 400 laptops to injured troops in just under a year.

Unfortunately, the war goes on and so do the number of wounded soldiers that need these laptops. Re-connecting these soldiers with laptops and special voice activated laptops is not just an effort to bring entertainment to them, though these laptops do offer the ability to watch DVDs or listen to music. Like Sgt Elijah Allen, many use it to stay in contact with friends, family and comrades; a network of support that helps injured soldiers heal, both physically and mentally. After long days of rehabilitation, in a hospital far away from everyone and everything you know, connections give encouragement when times are hard, reminds them they are still part of the network they once gave most of their time and life to, and gives them a chance for a new beginning. Some injured soldiers use it just like anyone else; they pay bills, go to college, handle business.

Here is a sample of just some of those who are waiting for a laptop :

Army SGT injured last month by VBIED: shrapnel damage to legs and right hand.

Army SGT injured in February: multiple gunshot wounds through right leg, ribs/lungs, forearm and shoulder.

Recently-injured Army SGT (cavalry scout) who experienced several IED explosions: I want to obtain a laptop so I can take online courses, and start college when I separate from the army. Thank you.

Army CPT injured last year who has received three purple hearts in 3 years and is being medically retired: needs computer for college study

In today's world, not being able to use a computer is like not driving, not writing a check or not reading.

Soldier's Angels is sending out an SOS. They have a backlog of 11 soldiers in need of voice activated laptops. We need to raise $7000 immediately and work to establish another cushion to handle incoming troops with needs. On top of that, it's spring and in this war, it means spring time operations by the enemy that results in even more injured.

In the soldier's world, their first job is to complete the mission. The second job is to bring everyone home. If someone is hurt or in need, fellow soldiers come to the rescue. They live by the creed, "No soldier left behind." Where did they learn such important concepts? They are our citizens, serving in our armed forces and they represent us; they are in our image. Now it is time for us to "be like Mike". It's our turn to make sure there is "no soldier left behind".

Please help our injured men and women. Become part of the fight. Join the Fighting Fusileers and make a donation to Soldiers' Angels VALOUR-IT project. Help a soldier, sailor or marine by clicking on the fighting fusileer and make a donation today!

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