Wounded Warriors--Part I - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

05/23/06

Wounded Warriors--Part I

Cpl. Jerrod Fields Cpl. Jerrod Fields

The Coastal Empire proudly welcomed home the Third Infantry earlier this year. But many soldiers came home changed by wounds suffered in Iraq. Bureau chief Dal Cannady will introduce to us some of these wounded warriors in a special series.

Those men and women who returned with permanent injuries like Cpl. Jerrod Fields say they want no pity. Considering what they faced, they consider themselves fortunate, or in Cpl. Fields' word, blessed.

When Cpl. Fields talks about driving the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, you hear the excitement in his voice.

"Its fun," he told us. "These things can take a hit. Sometimes we go to the field and back over a tree or something. The 25 mike can take out a building. It's just an awesome piece of equipment. It's an awesome rush to hear the gun go off and see whatever we aimed at get shattered."

But February 21 of last year in Iraq, his team took one of those hits that was anything but fun. He was leading a convoy of ten back to base when the roadway exploded.

"I'm sitting here in the driver's hole and IED went off and I personally didn't see the Bradley after it went off," he told us. "I looked down. My leg was on fire. I patted it out and I heard over the net, 'IED, IED.' I thought I had some shrapnel in my leg. Come to find out it was all mangled and missing parts. From that point, no panic. Had to keep going."

Straining to see through the smoke, he drove the hobbled Bradley a mile to lead the convoy to safety.

At what point did he realize what had happened to your leg? "After all the smoke cleared inside. My leg was hurting and on fire and everything. Once I looked down. I saw my leg, the heel and calf were all missing and I touched here and my hand was all bloody. I told God, 'I've still got faith if you get me out of here,' and from there I felt no pain and got a push and we got through it."

So the Bradley quit before he did. "It can't pray like I can, so that's what it was," Cpl. Fields said.

Medics rushed him from Iraq stateside to Walter Reed Army Hospital, where doctors gave him long odds to save his leg. He decided to forgo months, maybe years, of surgery and possibilities, to amputate his foot and get on the road to recovery.

"Once I got my prosthesis, I was ready, ready to run, I was ready," he said. "It was difficult putting it on and having to put all your weight on the stump."

Through it all, he remains upbeat. "I wasn't going to let somebody make a bomb and destroy my future plans or get me out of the fight, and when I get back be depressed and not want to live and him sleeping well at night and me be up tossing and turning not knowing what to do."

When many would have called it a career and gotten out of the Army or at least opted from driving a Bradley to driving a desk, Cpl. Fields would prefer to stay in one of the the fighting vehicles.

If the doctors and the Army won't let him, he already has a second choice. "I think, with me staying in the Army and dedicated to the Army, that doing physical therapy would kill two birds with one stone, so I'd like to help other soldiers.

"Somebody who's been through it and that can look back and tell them the problems and what to avoid other than a textbook answer and research and have one on one time," he said.

Why? "To see somebody that was hopeless like I was and down can be able to run on a treadmill or play basketball or go fishing and stuff like that."

Cpl. Fields attributes his positive attitude to his faith in God and regular trips to Warrior's Walk to--as he says--visit the fellas.

"One day they're eating lunch with you," he said. "The next day, they're not there. I'm just blessed and I thank God for bringing me back."

There's probably people that can't comprehend using the word blessed considering Cpl. Fields' burns and lost leg. "I know it may sound strange," Cpl. Fields said. "But the day I got hurt was probably the best day of my life, spiritually. It brought me closer to God and Jesus. I believe that he has a purpose for my life and I'm going to do my best to serve that purpose and be what he intends me to be."

Despite the personal loss he calls minor, he says he owes what he has left to his creator and the comrades memorialized in trees and flags.

"They're not here in person but in spirit, they're always here," he said.

One of the workers at Newman Gym said it best: you don't meet Jerrod Fields and walk away the same.

Coming up tomorrow, an explosion broke one sergeant's leg in two places. Doctors put it back together but the rehab would have detoured a big step in his career. So he ignored the therapists' warnings and set his own goals. You'll meet Sgt. Tim Bird tomorrow in WTOC's Wounded Warriors series.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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