The following story that appeared in the Austin American Statesman
is about one of the soldiers injured in last week's mortar attack
. I do not know the soldier, but based on his comments in the article I admire his tenacity. I have added emphasis to a couple of his quotes that caught my attention. As I have said many times before...it's all a matter of perspective.Wounded in Iraq, Austinite unbowedParamedic grateful to be alive, keeps focus on helping others.
By Katie Humphrey
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Patrick Phillips has shrapnel wounds on his legs, ankles and shoulders, and it looks as if somebody took a bite out of his right hand below his pinky finger. He has had multiple surgeries to clean the sand and shrapnel out of his wounds and reconstruct the tendons in his hand.
But the paramedic with Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical Services, who was serving a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard, is grateful."I've been probably in the best mood in my life," he said, summing up his feelings since a mortar exploded near him in southern Iraq on Saturday. "I'm such a happy person because the opportunity for my life to be gone was there and it didn't happen."
Phillips is one of about three dozen Austin-area public safety workers who are serving active tours of duty in the U.S. military.
That makes for some shuffling around at home, with some public safety employees, such as firefighters, traveling to different stations or working overtime to cover shifts for active military members, said Todd Pomroy, a captain with the Austin Fire Department.
Fifteen staff members from the Travis County sheriff's office are serving in the military, along with nine people from the Austin Police Department, five from the Austin Fire Department and six from Austin/Travis County EMS.
"It hurts, but we just double our efforts and keep on going," said Roger Wade, spokesman for the Travis County sheriff's office.
Phillips and his unit, the Fort Hood-based 142nd Infantry, were doing some maintenance on a Humvee when insurgents launched a surprise mortar attack. As he and a colleague ran toward a bunker, Phillips saw a flash of light.
He dove into the bunker, screaming, he said. Another member of his unit called the medics when he saw that Phillips was covered in wounds. Phillips was evacuated to a hospital in Baghdad and later transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for more surgery.
By Monday, Phillips, who had once been listed in critical condition, was on his feet and wandering around the hospital, chatting with other patients and going for walks.
"He had surgery that morning and a few hours later was trying to push another soldier to the Internet cafe with his injured hand," said his wife, Heather Phillips, who is also a paramedic. "I got onto him a little bit, and I threatened to call the nurses' station and have his shoes taken away from him."
Patrick Phillips' attitude doesn't surprise his co-workers at Austin/Travis County EMS, who said he has done nothing but downplay the severity of his injuries to assuage the fears of loved ones and reach out to others who are in worse shape than he is.
"He tried to make light of injuries so his wife wouldn't be worried," said Jason Martin, senior district commander over operations at Austin/Travis County EMS. "Even when he's hurt, he's helping people."
Heather Phillips said she expects her husband of one year to be back in the United States by the end of the week. He will have to spend a week or two in a military hospital to have surgeries to repair his right hand. Then he will be able to come home to continue rehabilitation at the house Heather bought while he was overseas.
"The first day he called me, Saturday morning, he said, 'You know, I'm going to be fine. The good news is that I'm getting a Purple Heart, so we don't ever have to pay for vehicle registration anymore,'
" Heather Phillips said, laughing.