While his brothers in arms prepare to return to Iraq, one soldier will be heading to the VA hospital in Augusta. Today he got a surprise send-off. A falling tree may have broken this soldier's spine, but not his spirit.
Staff Sgt. John Weinburgh knew a few people were coming to say goodbye. But his tears told the true story. "It was a little more than I thought it would be," John said. "It got me when I wasn't looking, you know."
One by one, members of John's Apache Company from Fort Stewart came up and said hello, some offering hugs. It's been more than a month since they have seen John. Today, he is confined to a special motorized wheelchair, his neck in a brace. His body, mostly paralyzed.
February 28, during a training exercise on Fort Stewart, the Bradley John was aboard hit a tree. "I stood up and out cause I would feel really guilty is someone got hurt. As the tree fell, it hit another tree and a dead branch clipped the back of my neck and broke my neck.
30-year-old John, a husband, a father of three young children and a soldier at heart, is dealing with a new role in life.
"I'm supposed to be quadriplegic, but I'm stubborn," he said. "They say I am not going to be able to walk again, but they say if I am quadriplegic, I'm not supposed to be able to do this." John started waving his hands and arms, but his fingers do not function. Yet.
John was awarded a special plaque, a gift as he heads to Augusta's VA hospital for rehab. Meanwhile, his company will soon be headed for Iraq, where John's two younger brothers are already deployed.
"I'm slightly upset I can't go back," John said as tears welled up in his eyes. "My brothers are there and it's a family tradition."
John spoke to his visitors. "I love you guys and I'm sorry I can't be there with you guys, but I will be there in spirit," he said to his fellow soldiers.
John has his own long battle waiting. "I got my wife here putting her boot up my butt, saying let's go, don't quit," he said. "If it wasn't for her, I probably wouldn't be as far as I am."
His spirit won't allow the soldier to go away. John still wants to go to Iraq, and still has his sense of humor. "Take me as I am," he said. "I'll just watch the door. No big deal."
But, he has a something else he has his mind on too. "I'll be walking again. It'll be a few years, but I'll be walking again," John said.
He has a whole company rooting him on.
John will spend 4 to 6 months in Augusta and then plans on transferring to a VA hospital in Iowa so he can be close to his family.