By Emily Baker
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – Spc. Dadran T. Bryant opened his eyes and saw nothing but dust all around him.
The explosion happened so quickly. He patted himself down "to make sure everything was still there." Bryant's foot was all but destroyed by the roadside bomb he encountered in Iraq on July 1. But he's still not quite sure what happened.
"It happened so fast," Bryant said Tuesday after receiving the Purple Heart medal for being wounded in combat. "I can't really explain it."
Eleven soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division received the medal in a ceremony Tuesday at Fort Hood's Catering and Conference Center. For many of the recipients, explaining what happened was difficult because they didn't expect it to happen and because they have been concentrating on recuperating since they were injured.
Spc. Jeffrey J. Seckinger of the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, is thankful his arm was big enough to absorb the "L"-shaped piece of shrapnel that lodged itself near a critical bundle of nerves on the upper portion of his right triceps. Sgt. William Luciano of the 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, hopes he'll be able to run again some day after his heel bone, which was split apart from the concussion of a roadside bomb blast, fuses together again.
"I still can't put pressure on it," said Luciano, who uses crutches to get around and relies on his wife, Ivelisse, to help with his daily chores. "I'm taking it day by day."
Luciano is scheduled to travel to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio for an appointment May 5 to find out if his foot has healed enough for him to walk on it.
In the meantime, Luciano and his family struggle with consequences other than physical ones from being wounded in action. Communications have been bad from the start, Ivelisse Luciano said, explaining that the Army gave her information about the wrong patient, one with an arm injury, and the family has trouble paying for gas for trips between Fort Hood and San Antonio for doctor's appointments.
"I can complain all I want, but he's property of the U.S. Army," Ivelisse Luciano said. "That's how they see it."
Seckinger said he was pleased with how he has been treated. He was impressed with how quickly he was moved from hospital to hospital until he arrived back at Fort Hood with his family less than a week after he was injured.
He didn't know he had shrapnel in his arm at first. But, surgeons removed it, and he has kept the chunk of metal, which still has a piece of his shirt, he guesses, stuck on it.
None of the soldiers expected they would receive the Purple Heart.
"It's a medal nobody tries to get," Seckinger said. "If you do, you're crazy."
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the 1st Cavalry Division's assistant commander for support who presented the medals during the ceremony, said the medal and the crutches, casts, bandages and scars borne by the soldiers who received them are poignant reminders of "the sacrifice of men and women willing to put themselves in harm's way."
Also receiving the Purple Heart on Tuesday were Pvt. Calvin J. Davis Jr. and Spc. James M. Lewis of the 1st Brigade Combat Team; Spc. Talaelei Faaloua and Spc. Charles R. Scarce of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team; and Cpl. Michael A. Potter, Sgt. Justin J. Farrar, 1st Lt. Amadeo Villanueva, Staff Sgt. Michael A. Vandersloot and Spc. Le Dang Nguyen of the 4th Brigade Combat Team.
The 4th Infantry has awarded nearly 500 Purple Heart medals since the deployment began late last year, said Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, the division's commander, in a taped message from Baghdad. About 750 soldiers have been injured during the deployment, and more than 580 have returned to duty, he said. Nearly 80 of the division's soldiers have been killed.
Also at the ceremony, several volunteers were recognized:
Angel Lopez, Peggy Markey and Leslie Joliat of the 1st Brigade Combat Team; Lisa Ramsey, Rita Alaniz and Analeight Caddock of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team; Kathy Beech, Teena Adler, Lisa Fierro and Valarie Jacobs of the 4th Brigade Combat Team; Cindy Wayne, Laura Shortt and Shelly Kay of the Combat Aviation Brigade.
Also, Angela Childers, Misty Washburn and PJ Braswell of the Fires Brigade; Susan Perna, Tracy Murphy, Debora Chappelle and Caroline Dalton of the Sustainment Brigade; Nancy Brough, Barbara Shidlovsky and Kelly Withington of the Special Troops Battalion; Jennifer Mortimer of the 502nd Personnel Services Battalion; and Melissa Hinkley of the 230th Finance Battalion.
Contact Emily Baker at email@example.com