Local vet returns to the battlefield to heal old wounds
By Joseph Kohut | The Times-Tribune | Published: December 16, 2012
After Earl Granville lost his leg to an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, there have been a few things he never thought that he would have the chance to do again. One of them was stepping off a CH-47 Chinook helicopter onto Afghan soil to be greeted by the men and women in uniform at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar.
While his recent experience with Operation Proper Exit allowed him to do just that, the moment when he first suited up again in Army fatigues was just as powerful.
"I thought it was amazing being able to wear the 28th Infantry Division patch on my shoulder," Mr. Granville, a retired Army staff sergeant, said after he returned home.
Operation Proper Exit brings veterans wounded in the field back to the location where they suffered their injuries for a firsthand update on the country's progress, according to information from Feherty's Troops First Foundation, the group responsible for the initiative. Earlier this month, Mr. Granville and seven others spent a week in Afghanistan.
Mr. Granville, who lost his leg in 2008, said he was amazed by the progress the country was making. Just two years ago, the Afghan government was still vying with the Taliban for dominance. On his return visit, he saw a different picture.
"I just feel like losing my leg wasn't in vain," he said, adding later, "It wasn't for nothing."
While there, he also took the opportunity to speak to the active service members about post-traumatic stress disorder.
It is a difficult subject for Mr. Granville. In December 2010, his twin brother, Staff Sgt. Joseph Granville, committed suicide four years after returning from service in Iraq. Since then, Mr. Granville has been reaching out to soldiers to tell them there is no shame in seeking help.
"That was my personal goal," Mr. Granville said, adding that the feedback he received has been highly positive.
As for the other seven veterans who joined him on the trip, the experience helped close emotional wounds caused by their physical ones.
"One soldier said he feels ... emotionally and spiritually stronger after going over there and being with them," Mr. Granville said.
Contact the writer: email@example.com, @jkohutTT on Twitter