Landstuhl patients put injuries on hold for the holiday
LANDSTUHL, Germany — Hobbling around on crutches, his left femur shattered from an insurgent’s bullet that’s now lodged in that leg, Army Staff Sgt. Josué Valles still counted his blessings on Thanksgiving.
“I’m alive and I’m with my parents,” said Valles, with Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173 Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based in Vicenza, Italy.
The paratrooper was sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center shortly after he was injured in a battle with insurgent forces Oct. 25 near the volatile Korengal Valley in northeastern Afghanistan.
Valles’ parents flew from Sahuarita, Ariz., days later to help their son recover. Since then, the family has been living at the Fisher House, special quarters for Landstuhl patients and their families on the hospital’s grounds.
“It helps the healing process because you’re with your family,” said Valles, 27, who was on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan when he was wounded.
For Army Pfc. Josh Young, 25, and his wife, Lisa, the Fisher House has provided a home away from home, especially on Thanksgiving.
“Today I feel like I’m with family,” Lisa Young said. “They’ve made us feel so comfortable and loved that if we can’t be with our family on Thanksgiving, we’re so grateful to be here.”
It’s the newlyweds’ first Thanksgiving together — an unexpected twist of fate that came about after Josh Young, also with the 173rd out of Vicenza, was injured in Afghanistan in August.
He severely injured his knee when he fell from an observation post while trying to avoid small-arms fire near Bagram. Young also is suffering from traumatic brain injury as a result of the fall and post-traumatic stress disorder.
But the injuries were put on hold, at least for the day, as the couple hung up festive holiday decorations in anticipation of the feast that was provided by the 5-6 Club from Ramstein Air Base.
The noncommissioned officers’ club and other junior volunteers prepared and served a turkey dinner for the Fisher House guests Thursday afternoon.
“You can sit home and watch football in the States any Thanksgiving, but I thought since I’m here why not help out those who need it,” said Senior Airman Amber Haney, with the 435th Medical Support Squadron at Ramstein.
Food, good cheer and gratitude also was in abundance at the hospital as employees and patients happily waited in line for the traditional Thanksgiving meal at the dining facility.
“It’s nothing like home,” said Sgt. Clive Morton, with the Virgin Islands Army National Guard, based in St. Croix, who arrived at Landstuhl less than a week ago with non life-threatening injuries. “But you make the best of it.”
Morton was one of a handful of people who ate lunch with famed boxing promoter Don King, who was on hand to visit wounded soldiers.
“I love this place,” said King, who visited Landstuhl two years ago. “There’s no better cause than to be with people who put themselves in harm’s way for our freedom and liberty. … We should all be thankful for that.”