I hope everyone is enjoying a peaceful and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. And tomorrow ... I just hope we all remember and honor.
One of the soldiers I'll be thinking of is Corporal Matt Wheeler - known as Hot Wheels in the Kaboom universe - a Gravedigger critically injured in a 2008 fire during our deployment to Iraq. Still at the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas, where he's preparing to receive his honorable discharge, Wheels was kind enough to answer some questions for the interwebz.
The last many readers heard from you, was June 2008, after you got hurt. Walk us through your recovery process since then - where have you been, who have you worked with, and how has the experience gone for you?
Well, I've been at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio since then. I mainly worked with physical and occupational therapists that specialize in burn rehabilition. In the beginning, I would also see the burn clinic for routine check ups on my burns. The beginning was hard, since everything you did caused you pain. It would be frustating because you often wouldn't see results immediately. Learning to walk again was probably the hardest, each day you just try for one more step then you did the day before. But you drive on and continue the mission and now I'm back up to running 2 miles.
That's fantastic news. When I visited you in San Antonio this past summer, you mentioned how humbling it was to be at BAMC, because of some of the other soldiers you've met. Could you explain in more detail what you meant by that?
Being at BAMC is a truly humbling place. Everywhere you turn there is an injured soldier, some with similar injuries, some with worse. You see people who are terrifyingly maimed and disfigured, but when you talk with them, all you hear is how thankful they are for everything they still have.
What do you miss the most from Iraq? And what do you miss the least from Iraq?
As bad as Iraq sucked, everything over there was a lot ... simpler then it is here. You put on your boots, picked up your weapon and did your job. Thats it, there's no worrying about whose going to pick up the kids, what are we going to do for dinner, or anything like that. You just did what you where told and drove on... simple. What i miss the least, well that's easy. The port o crappers and the millions of flies that came along with them.
Hah. Good call, it's easy to forget just how disgusting those things were. On a much more civilized note, your mother's CaringBridge website, where she updated people on your road to recovery, proved very inspirational for many people. How'd you feel about that outpouring of support from family, friends, and complete strangers?
The support that my family and I recieved with my mother's CaringBridge website was truly outstanding. I know my mother having that outlet was definitely a blessing.
What's next for Matt Wheeler?
It has been a long recovery, but I'm finished with all surgeries and therapy. I should be out of the Army in mid-June. I recently recieved my acceptance letter to Mississippi State University where i am planning to major in agribusiness. I'm really just looking forward to getting on with life!
I know I couldn't be happier for Matt, and his resolve and dedication to duty remains an inspiration to all of his brothers-in-arms. (Even if he was an infantryman surrounded by Cavalry scouts). Give those books, brews, and broads hell next year, bud! And not always in that order.