An Infantryman's Inspiring Recovery
August 30, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq (Army News Service, Aug. 30, 2007) - An injured infantryman is inspiring the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team here with his rapid recovery and his determination to become a better, stronger Soldier.
Spc. Saul Martinez, a gunner with Headquarters Troop, 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, was the only survivor of an attack May 8 that left two other Soldiers dead.
"When we pulled up to the vehicle, it was one of the worst things I've ever seen in my whole life," said Staff Sgt. Michael Henderson, Spc. Martinez's section sergeant. "I thought for sure everyone in the vehicle was dead."
"When I put my hand under his body armor vest, I was praying that he was breathing," said combat medic Pfc. Stephanie McCulley. "I was worried about a million things. I was trying to keep him talking so he wouldn't go unconscious again. In the back of my mind, I was worried he would lose his legs, but I focused on what I was doing."
Spc. Martinez's legs were both severely damaged by multiple lacerations and shrapnel wounds. Heavily sedated for nine days after the incident while doctors removed one leg, he can't remember his medical evacuations to Baghdad or Germany. He does remember most of the incident itself, especially Staff Sgt. Henderson and Pfc. McCulley.
"They were my two angels," Spc. Martinez said. "I remember lying there asking God to help me, and they were there.
"I woke up and my wife Sarah was next to me at Walter Reed," he added. "The doctors told me I was on the verge of dying every hour of every day. I was really close to not being here."
Two days after regaining consciousness, Spc. Martinez had to decide whether to keep his other leg or have it amputated.
"I would not be able to roll my heel, move my toes or walk on it. I told the doctors I would rather be up walking with my wife on two fake legs than limping through life. It really wasn't that hard a decision," he said.
"I felt terrible for him," said Pfc. McCulley. "It wasn't until I talked to him that I felt better. He told me, 'I made the decision to walk again. I can heal now.' He helped me realize it was the best decision for him."
Spc. Martinez said his recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was a good experience and has nothing but good things to say of his care.
"If I'd gone anywhere else in the world, I would have died," he said.
Soon after his last surgery, Spc. Martinez was transferred to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Calif., to begin his physical therapy, which consists of three hours of strength training every day. After only four months, he is already walking on his new legs.
"I didn't think he would be walking in four months," Staff Sgt. Henderson said. "It shows you how strong-willed he is. He is walking because he wants to. His determination has made that happen. I think that says a lot about him."
Spc. Martinez wants to do more than walk, however. He wants to stay on active duty and become a better, stronger Soldier.
"He's a Soldier," Pfc. McCulley said. "He's always been a Soldier. He still believes in what he does after everything he's been through. That is motivating and the Army needs motivating people."
"I want to be able to do my job and show everyone that everything is okay," said Spc. Martinez. "If I could motivate one Soldier, I would be happy. There is life, no matter what happens. I was hurt doing something I was proud to do, and I'm looking forward to coming back. I want to carry an 80-pound ruck on a 20 kilometer march. I want to run in the brigade run. I can be a better infantryman than I was before."
(Spc. Ben Hutto works for the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)