Wounded Soldier recognized for sacrifice, choice

ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. Aca,!" Bonds of fellowship forged in combat, a desire to lead, and eagerness to continue serving despite tremendous odds, give Spc. Christopher York an inner strength to endure much hardship. He has the strength of character and push that defines Army Strong.

On Dec. 15, 2007, York and several of his platoon members were on a patrol in Iraq when an explosively formed projectile tore through his Humvee and changed his life forever. Two fellow 1st Infantry Division Soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were also wounded.

Aca,!A"The round went through my lower, left back and out the left side of my rib cage,Aca,!A? said York, who was standing in the gunnerAca,!a,,cs hatch that day. Aca,!A"I lost my twelfth rib, left kidney, my spleen, part of my colon and stomach, while suffering extensive nerve damage throughout my lower back and legs. I had a hernia in my abdominals and a twisted vertebra.Aca,!A?

The other Soldiers in the truck sustained wounds ranging from cuts and bruises to concussions. The Iraqi interpreter, who still works with US forces in Iraq, suffered severe facial injuries and had several cuts on his hands.

YorkAca,!a,,cs journey to recovery from his wounds began with a medical evacuation to Joint Base Balad in Iraq, on to Landstuhl, Germany, and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, D.C. After spending four days in a drug-induced coma, York spent six weeks in bed, unable to stand or walk.

Aca,!A"I lost 42 pounds in those six weeks,Aca,!A? said York. Aca,!A"I weighed 118 pounds when I was finally able to stand on a scale.Aca,!A?

Living at the hospital from February to July 2008, York spent his recovery learning to control his legs and to walk again. After release, York continued his recovery in his hometown of Rock Island Ill., as a member of the Community Based Warriors in Transition Unit and working in the US Army Sustainment CommandAca,!a,,cs Provost Marshal Office.

The CBWTU is an Army program for Soldiers who are so severely injured, a lengthy recovery is required. For many, the possibility of becoming medically fit for continued duty is slim. Assigning Soldiers to a CBWTU near their homes enables families to play a role in transition and recovery while also arranging necessary medical care.

With the possibility of being removed from active duty because of his injuries looming over him, York pushed himself even harder.

Aca,!A"I was told that active-duty Soldiers that are sent to a CBTWU are about 90 percent likely to be released from duty,Aca,!A? said York. Aca,!A"At first, I thought that was the right thing to do, but after healing as quickly as I have, I see no reason to get out now.Aca,!A?

Aca,!A"York, and many Soldiers like him, are a testament to not only the strength and resolve of a Soldier, but the human spirit as well,Aca,!A? said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Crawford, the ASC Provost sergeant and YorkAca,!a,,cs supervisor. Aca,!A"As he continues to heal, I hope nothing but the best for him.Aca,!A?

Crawford speaks highly of York and his dedication.

Aca,!A"Although York sees his sacrifice as important,Aca,!A? said Crawford, Aca,!A"he views himself as just part of a team of Soldiers who sacrifice every day for their country in many different ways.Aca,!A?

YorkAca,!a,,cs career had its beginnings at the doors of Rock Island High School, sending him on a journey that led him to the plains of Kansas, the deserts of Iraq, and ultimately, back to the hills and rivers of Rock Island.

Aca,!A"It feels good to be home,Aca,!A? said York. Aca,!A"It is good to be around my family and all of my friends from school. They were all at the airport when I first returned from Walter Reed and that was awesome to see all the support they had to give.Aca,!A?

While it seems YorkAca,!a,,cs time in the Army has been brief, he said he just wants to get back in the fight Aca,!" despite his injuries.

Aca,!A"IAca,!a,,cd like to go back as a team leader,Aca,!A? said York. Aca,!A"It would be like if I did get deployed, and had two Soldiers of my own, neither one of them could look at me and tell me they were scared to go out on a mission knowing my story and the fact that I was willing to do it again.Aca,!A?

Nearly a year after his life-altering experience in Iraq, York was flown to Fort Riley and honored in a Dec. 2 ceremony during which the 1st Inf. Div. commander, Brig. Gen. Perry L. Wiggins and Command Sgt. Maj. James B. Champagne, along with YorkAca,!a,,cs former battalion commander and sergeant major, presented the wounded warrior with the Purple Heart. The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the president of the United States to those who have been wounded or killed in combat while serving with the US military.

Looking at the Soldier, you know he is humbled and honored to be recognized for his service, but look deeper and you can see in his eyes a desire to return to the reason he enlisted; to serve the country he loves.

Aca,!A"I just donAca,!a,,ct want anyone thinking that because I was wounded that IAca,!a,,cm no good anymore,Aca,!A? said York.