Blinded soldier and wife deal with challenges: 'We've gotten very lucky!'
Akron Beacon Journal
AKRON, Ohio — To say this has been a challenging year for Aaron and Kelly Hale is a dramatic understatement.
Revere High School graduate Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Hale was blinded in December when an improvised explosive device went off as he approached to defuse it while in Afghanistan.
This spring while Hale, 34, was in a Veterans Affairs facility in Augusta, Ga., a nurse noticed something on the collarbone of his wife. The lesion turned out to be malignant melanoma. She was operated on that day.
Not only has Hale undergone multiple surgeries related to the incident that left him blind, but his wife has had to confront her own medical issues.
The parents of four children say they have endured all that has come their way and their spirits remain high.
“We’ve gotten very, very lucky!” said Hale, a 1996 Revere High School graduate, who is now teaching Explosive Ordnance Disposal classes at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida as he awaits an Army determination as to whether he will be medically retired.
On July 4, the Hales and two of their children spent the day with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama along with 1,300 hundred service members and 25 wounded service members.
“It was pretty nice,” said Hale of meeting the Obamas and standing next to them when the president made a Fourth of July speech.
Hale was in the Navy from 1996 to 2007 as a cook and served one tour in Afghanistan.
After leaving the Navy he entered the Army as an EOD soldier and served a tour in Iraq before he was deployed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2011.
“It’s a lofty goal for a blind instructor to totally do this school,” said Hale.
Job and home await
Hale, the son of Carol Hale of Akron and Clay Hale of Laguna Beach, Calif., said he has applied to take part in an internship with Operation War Fighter that could help him find a civilian job with a federal agency if he is medically retired.
And the family expects to move into a home in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., in November that has been given to them by a group called Building Homes for Heroes.
The former foreclosed home has been renovated as part of a joint project of Building Homes for Heroes as well as J.P. Morgan Chase.
“Aaron came very highly recommended and is a special person,” said Kim Vesey, director of military relations for Building Homes for Heroes. “When we met Kelly and Aaron, we knew they were the ones — the way they handle everything and the love they show in the worse adversity. It is remarkable what they can do together. “
Aaron Hale is to undergo surgery on Nov. 9 on his skull and brain at the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham, his wife said, to make more repairs from the bomb blast that injured him last year.
Kelly Hale said she has had five surgeries as well as chemotherapy since getting her cancer diagnosis. She said her malignant melanoma is an aggressive form of the illness.
“I am preparing for more tests and more surgeries,” said Kelly Motes Hale, 34, a native of Pace, Fla.
In spite of the medical challenges, she said, the family is holding up well.
“We are doing great together,” she said. “We are each other’s biggest support system. The children bring us much inspiration.”
She said her husband is handling his medical issues well.
“He is really taking control over being blind,” she said. “He is owning the red tipped cane — refusing to let anything bring him down.”
She said both of them have a strong determination to make it through this tough time and move on with their lives.
“I am needed so much on a daily basis with Aaron’s recovery” and attending to the children, she said.
“All I can think of is them,” she said. “I need to be healthy, I want to live to see my children grow up.”
And she said she desperately wants to help her husband.
“I can’t leave Aaron to go through this alone,” she said.
Donations to the family can be made to the Sgt. Aaron C. Hale Benevolent Fund at any FirstMerit Bank branch.