Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Three Kings

I went to Walter Reed again on Wednesday. I’m now scheduled for surgery #34 on the 9th of February. They’re going to do another skin graft into my left hand, hopefully to increase the web space in my left hand, and also a Z-Plasty (imagine Zorro carving his mark betwixt your thumb and forefinger.) Lovely. Although that was the purpose of my visit, the true highlight was meeting three young men who were spending Christmas (and New Years, and probably Easter) on ward 57. I spent some time with each one, heard their stories, and shared my experiences with them. I tried, at best to give them hope, and at least to prepare them for what is coming.

They all agreed to let me publish their pictures and addresses with their story. Folks, these guys (and their families) are going to spend one of the greatest holidays in the worst places—because they served you and kept you safe. Please, take a little time this week and remember them, give thanks for them, and maybe even send them a card or a small gift. (It’s okay that it won’t reach them by Christmas, as long as it does reach them.)

I’ve got the laptops on the way (wow. From My Position… On the way! A self-fulfilling prophecy!) Patti and Lynnette are (still, as always) wonderful. With out further blathering on by me, here are the stories of our three kings, back from the Orient (Southwest Asia, that is.)

The first man I met reminded me of, well, me. First Lieutenant Ross Stadklev only arrived from Iraq a few days prior, and (thankfully) was MUCH less hurt than I was at that time. He reminded me of me after the first six weeks. Arms and hands all bandaged, being fed like a baby, but generally in positive spirits.

Ross was An Infantry Platoon Leader for 2nd platoon, A company, 2nd Battalion 12th Infantry regiment, and his platoon was responding to a tip from the Iraqi National Police on the whereabouts of a known shithead. As they searched a marketplace in Baghdad for this guy (they had a good description) they came across a body dressed according to the description they had. A smart and savvy counter-insurgency warrior, Ross had his platoon run through the battle-drill checklist to clear the body (from a distance) for IEDs. Finding nothing, Ross walked up to the body for a closer inspection. (That whole putting yourself in danger before your men thing.) That’s when the world exploded. The worst part of the experience (and I sympathize with him) was the trip to the combat support hospital in Baghdad. They put him in a HMMWV and hauled ass to the CSH. Not exactly a smooth ride.

Ross is now looking at spending the next year in the hospital, and the outlook is grim for the use of his left arm. He has wounds to both arms and hands, his face, and legs. His first concern: his men, and when he can return to them. (He realizes that he may be out for the duration of this deployment.) His second concern: he has always wanted to try out for Special Forces, and is worried that this injury will limit that option. How many people do you know would get so badly injured and still want to become a Green Beret?

I offered him help through soldier’s angels, explained VALOUR-IT to him, got on the phone with Patti Bader and Lynnette, and he should receive his laptop sometime today (if he hasn’t already.) The software may take a few more days.

Ross’s brother is there helping care for him; he doesn’t have a Mrs. or “girl back home” (although I can’t imagine why not—he’s almost as good looking as me!)

He didn’t ask for anything specific, but I’m sure you’ll think of something.

Ross’s address at Walter Reed is:

1LT Ross Stadsklev

Room 5761 Ward 57

Walter Reed Amy Medical Center

6900 Georgia Ave. NW

Washington DC 20307

Ross is a graduate of North Dakota State University, and hails from Minneapolis, MN.

Our second King was injured when his right arm was crushed by a vehicle. Private First Class Stephen Hopkins is a medic in the Maryland National Guard. He was attached to the 324th Military Police Company. He was really tired when we met, and pretty feisty when it came to accepting any charity. He countered my offer of a Valour-IT Laptop with a question: “What if someone needs it more than me? I still have one good hand.” “Can I give it to someone else when I am done using it?” He simply didn’t want to accept help, because it could place others at risk of not getting help. Selfless service, indeed.

I met his mom and girlfriend, his mom seemed to be coping and his girlfriend looked like a combination of exhausted and shell-shocked. His mom pulled me aside and thanked me; I told her I understood his aversion to charity. I also told her it would be too bad, since he was going to get help whether he wanted it or not. She smiled and thanked me, gave me a hug—I think she needed one too—and I told her help was on the way.

He may be getting discharged to the Mologne House soon—his skin grafts are doing better. Don’t worry; your mail will catch up to him.

PFC Stephen Hopkins

Room 5717 Ward 57

Walter Reed Amy Medical Center

6900 Georgia Ave. NW

Washington DC 20307

Finally, I met with Specialist Bruce Dunlap. Bruce is assigned to 1st platoon, A Battery, 1st Battalion 125th Field Artillery Strike out of Combat Support Center Scania.

He was hit by an IED while on a route clearance mission. This particular IED was a “Hezbollah IED,” a type of IED designed to produce an explosively shaped projectile; much like the High-Explosive Anti-Tank rounds on the Abrams Tank. These are particularly nasty, and designed to defeat armored vehicles. They get their name because they first appeared in Israel, attacking the IDF. They are becoming more frequent, despite the fact that the often don’t kill the occupants of the up-armored-HMMWV’s.

Bruce had both arms and legs wrapped from digits to trunk. He was pretty excited about the Valour-IT laptops, and really excited about this post and picture, because as he put it: “I hope the enemy does read your blog. They’ll see me and it’ll be a great big “up yours! You missed, you failed, I’m still here!”

Wounded, bedridden, and still trying to take the fight to the enemy.

Bruce even asked me to publish an essay he wrote about the first time he was hit by an IED. As soon as I get it, you’ll see it here.

His address is

SPC Bruce Dunlap

Ward 57

Walter Reed Amy Medical Center

6900 Georgia Ave. NW

Washington DC 20307

As others have said, Where do we get such men? I am proud to lead them, to stand beside them, to be counted among their ranks.

Lynnette tells me that we can get the laptops for Stephen and Bruce delivered by the 6th. Thank you all for your support during the last fundraiser. As you can see, we put the money to good use, and there’s always a need.

Thank you for your help.


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