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Fort Bragg training explosion still under investigation while 2 soldiers recover

Two Fort Bragg soldiers injured on base earlier this year have settled into the routine of recovery.

Sgt. Cory Muzzy and Spc. Scott Yeates were seriously injured in an artillery training accident on Feb. 21 that killed one member of their unit and slightly wounded five more.

Both have encountered multiple surgeries and will continue to have more as they recover from amputations and brain injury, among other medical issues.

Muzzy, 24, was transferred to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, nearly two months ago. He is staying at the VA Polytrauma Center, which he described as a half-hospital, half-rehabilitation facility.

"My duty right now is to just get better," Muzzy said of his new assignment.

Meanwhile, Yeates, who is 30, spent most of his time recovering from his injuries at Fort Bragg's Womack Army Medical Center but is now home.

An investigation into the cause of the blast is ongoing, with teams from the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, the Combat Readiness/Safety Center at Fort Rucker and the 82nd Airborne Division reviewing the incident.

Only the team from Criminal Investigation Command has finished its report, said Lt. Col. Virginia McCabe, spokeswoman for the 82nd Airborne. Vickie Hendrix, freedom of information officer for the Combat Readiness/Safety Center, said she expected the safety report to be released in the fall or winter.

Muzzy and Yeates are cannon crew members with Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment.

During the accident, Muzzy suffered injuries that resulted in the amputation of his right leg above the knee and left leg below the knee. He's lost some vision in both eyes and sustained a broken vertebrae in his neck, a broken right arm and a brain bleed.

Muzzy said he doesn't remember much from the accident and is overwhelmed with the support he's received from friends and family.

"I'm doing fantastic," Muzzy said in a phone interview from San Antonio. "I'm always in high spirits."

Muzzy spends most of his days doing various therapies to improve his strength and hone his senses.

Soon he'll be able to transition to the Center for the Intrepid, where he'll be an outpatient.

Muzzy said doctors haven't told him how long his recovery is expected to take.

"It's basically just how well I do, how well I heal, and how fast I can get through rehab," he said.

Recovery hasn't been easy, but Muzzy said he's set the bar high and continues to push himself. Five weeks after his second amputation - which he opted for to speed his recovery and limit the pain of trying to repair his damaged left foot - he was up and walking on a prosthetic, he said.

"I tend to adapt rather quickly," he said.

Muzzy, who estimates he's had at least 20 surgeries since February, underwent another procedure Thursday to help restore the cornea in his left eye.

"Both eyes have a great chance of recovering some eyesight," he said. "It's never going to be as good as it was, but it'll be better than nothing."

Yeates also has undergone numerous operations. The blast from the accident essentially crushed all the bones in Yeates' face and knocked out most of his teeth. He also sustained a traumatic brain injury, lacerations to his eyes and bruised lungs.

In March, Yeates' injuries took him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for 10 days, where doctors determined the care he needed could be provided at Womack Army Medical Center. After more than a month of hospitalization, his wife said, Yeates was released into her care at their home.

"We've got things down to a science, taking medicine, understanding his limits," Joy Yeates said.

Scott Yeates is able to speak but can be hard to understand because of his injuries, Joy Yeates said. He's still eating through a feeding tube.

Outside of the daily routine of care, the Yeates family has grown accustomed to the cycle of Scott's surgeries.

"It's like a surgery, do some healing, a surgery, get some healing done," Joy Yeates said.

Joy Yeates said her husband is still healing from a surgery on May 13 to reconstruct his lower jaw. His last major surgery is expected to be July 7, when doctors will use bone, blood vessels and skin from his lower leg to reconstruct his upper jaw.

Even after that, doctors expect about another year of surgeries to refine the reconstruction of his face. He may be able to get dental implants at the first of the year, Joy Yeates said.

"We just still take every day that we're lucky, that we're grateful, and we'll get through this," Joy Yeates said. "It's going to be a hard year, but it will be OK at the other side."

rentzp@fayobserver.com

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