Saturday, August 11, 2007

Perspective: 'My kids shouldn't have to bear these wounds'

Above: Nick Bennett's 12-year-old daughter washes his arm after a painting project. Left: Portray Woods.

When Portray Woods finally stirred and opened his eyes after two months in a coma, it was to the sweetest greeting. His 4-year-old daughter Dameir held his hand. She was singing their song, the song he had taught her: "You Are My Sunshine."

Dameir climbed into Woods' bed and hugged him. Family members ringed his room at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

Welcome home, Portray; but it was a rude awakening, too.

Woods couldn't join in song. He couldn't speak, and beyond that his right arm and left thumb were gone. Much of the left, front quadrant of his skull had been blown away. He was blind in his left eye. He was paralyzed on his right side. He couldn't walk.

"I ain't going to lie. I was scared," said Woods, 35, a now-retired Army sergeant first class who was savaged by a roadside bomb in Baghdad in the spring of 2004. "It hurt me. I couldn't do nothing. Everything was scrambled."

Nick Bennett has been there, too. Through two hazy, painful months at the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md. Through 27 surgical procedures. Through septic shock and infection. Through the agony and joy of homecoming, including a highlight almost identical to Woods': 11-year-old daughter Amber climbing into bed with him.

"When I stepped off that plane," Bennett recalled, "my kids were looking at me: 'How can I hug you? You're different.'

"That's where the guilt comes in. They didn't sign up for this. My kids shouldn't have to bear these wounds."

Read the rest at the Indianapolis Star