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

05/24/06

Wounded Warriors--Part II

Sgt. Tim Bird Sgt. Tim Bird
Sgt. Bird's vehicle after the bombing. Sgt. Bird's vehicle after the bombing.
Sgt. Bird's overstuffed wallet. Sgt. Bird's overstuffed wallet.

When it comes to war, the timing of an injury can be as harmful as the injury itself. A roadside bomb could have cost one Fort Stewart soldier the chance at training and advancement.

Sgt. Tim Bird of the 3rd Forward Support Battalion spent his time in Iraq turning his platoon of mechanics into a top-notch security team. They escorted convoys all across the country.

"I'm telling you it was rough," he said. "Think about it, Baghdad north, we traveled that daily."

They were protecting 35 military and civilian trucks on the way to Kirkuk the night of November 13. They could see the city when Bird saw something else.

"What I saw was four or five tumbleweeds staggered on the side of the road. Immediately, when I saw that, I told my driver slow down, slow down, slow down. But it was too late and we got hit by an IED. Come to find out, we got hit by three IEDs. One hit on the front, one on the driver's side and one on my side. It blew us off the road. Our vehicle was disabled. We had a dead stick until we finished rolling to a ditch on the side of the road to a full stop.

"I assessed that my driver and my gunner had some shrapnel injuries and I had a broken leg. I called back to the rest of the convoy.

"I knew I was hurt, but I had a responsibility of my whole convoy 35 people. I wasn't killed, so I had to get those people out of there."

He got every one of them to safety before he sought medical help for a leg broken in two places. "I thought, 'Okay, I've got a broken leg. They can set that and I can go back to work.' But the doctor said they'd have to do surgery to put screws and plates in there to put the tib and fib back together.

"They told me the minimum for rehab was going to be six months. But while I was in Iraq, I'd applied for Officer Candidate School and got selected and was to go to school in March. Which was upsetting to me when I got injured because, even though I was thankful to be alive, but I knew I had another goal to go to officer candidate school."

So Sgt. Bird pushed himself harder than any doctor would, and finished six months of rehab in three.

Since March, he told us, "I've taken the Army physical fitness test and passed that, and done the four-mile run and the eight-mile road march, so yes, there is pain there, but I'm adapted over that."

He'll leave for school in a month.

He says the injuries would have been worse, except for a coverall suit that made him move his wallet. "When I wear that suit, I keep my wallet down at my ankle right here, and lucky me this wallet took shrapnel. It nailed my wallet, went through my IDs. I still have them taped together. I was lucky that this stopped the shrapnel and I didn't lose my leg and my wallet took the impact. That impact broke my tibia and fibula."

We observed the wallet was packed fuller than most with cards, pictures, and papers. "I'm never taking anything out and I'm never getting another wallet," he told us.

While wallets can be replaced, haunting memories aren't as easy to lose.

"Since returning, I'm still having nightmares," Sgt. Bird told us. "I mean I'm able to function and do my job, but I'm still having nightmares and it's off the wall. It's just stuff you can't explain. It scares you. Either somebody's trying to kill you or you're trying to kill somebody. Those are the kind of dreams I'm having. And I know I'm not the only one. There's plenty of soldiers having the same thing.

"I know I'm over with on the injury as far as recovering. But it's always there to remind me of what happened. The nightmares, I'm hoping those will go away."

He keeps pictures of his destroyed vehicle with pride to remember how fortunate he was. "Out of the year there, we got hit by seven IEDs and no loss of life and I'm the worst injury that came out of it for 3rd FSB, I'm thankful."

Considering what he went through to get his opportunities, he promises to make the most of them.

"That's one thing I didn't ask for was no Purple Heart," he said. "That's something nobody wanted to get."

Sgt. Bird says his security team was hit nine times by IEDs and his was present for seven of them. To live through that was fortunate, wallet or no wallet.

Coming up tomorrow, we meet another soldier as he receives his purple heart. We'll hear about the tragic day that cost him comrades and possibly his own military career. Wounded Warriors concludes tomorrow night during THE News at 6.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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