By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – The formation of soldiers that crossed Cooper Field Thursday afternoon didn't move at its typical brisk pace.
About 300 men and women of the 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, led across the parade field by their commander, Col. Gary Volesky, walked a little slower so another soldier could join them once again.
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Armstead was at a forward operating base May 9 when an Iraqi shooter opened fire. Several were wounded or killed. Armstead took a bullet to the stomach, which hit a vital artery. His right leg had to be amputated.
The 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment tanker spent six months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center before moving to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio in October.
Armstead was fitted for a prosthetic and took his first steps with it Nov. 1. It was a rush. He hadn't stood in six months.
He made the trip across the parade Thursday with the help of crutches. A soldier pushed a wheelchair behind Armstead and another walked nearby to steady him.
Because Armstead recently received his prosthetic, what appeared to be effortless for everyone else was a long walk for him.
"I had to do it," he said.
Armstead felt like he didn't get to finish what he started because he was injured and sent back to the United States. Walking across the parade field with the soldiers he had to leave behind gave him a sense of completion.
"It felt good," he said. "It kind of gave me closure."
Armstead was an athlete before getting shot. His favorite sports were football, basketball and softball. It's been hard for him to adjust to a more inactive lifestyle, he said. He can't do everything he is accustomed to and he hates being restricted.
Armstead said he likes to push the limits, which is one of the reasons he had to walk across the parade field.
The Needville native said recovery was all about a good, positive attitude. He also attributed his fast healing to the support from his wife, Tonia; his three daughters; and a grandson.
Armstead said he didn't regret his decision to join the military. He wanted to be a soldier and it's what he's going to do until the Army say's he can't anymore, he said. He enlisted with the intention of retiring and nothing is going to keep him from achieving that goal.
Armstead plans to continue with his rehabilitation and do what he can to help the Army and its young soldiers, passing along the knowledge he's gained in more than 14 years of military service.
Armstead said he wouldn't want to do anything else.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or (254) 501-7547.