By Sgt. Lindsey Bradford, United States Forces-Iraq Public Affairs OfficeJanuary 31, 2010
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq (Feb. 1, 2010) -- Rick Kell, executive director of the Troops First Foundation, has done it again: Six wounded warriors arrived in Baghdad in C-130 Hercules, Jan. 31, and took their first steps in Iraq after being severely wounded the last time they were here.
This is the fourth time Kell, with support from the USO, has returned wounded servicemembers to Iraq as part of "Operation Proper Exit," a program aimed at helping the warriors find emotional closure after being injured.
Although this is the fourth trip, this set of Soldiers differs from previous groups, as all six are retired.
Capt. Ferris Butler was serving with 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, in Yusufiyah, Iraq, when he was struck by an improvised explosive device Dec. 21, 2006. Butler, a Port Tobacco, Md. native, suffered a bi-lateral amputation below the knee. Currently, Butler works as the executive assistant for Ekistics Development Firm based out of Baltimore, Md., is on the board of advisors for Kell's Troops First Foundation and is an Amputee Coalition of America peer mentor. He is a ninth-generation servicemember and has a brother serving in Afghanistan.
While serving in Ramadi, Iraqi, with the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Capt. Lonnie Moore was struck by a rocket propelled grenade. Moore underwent an above-the-knee amputation after the April 6, 2004, attack. A program analyst for the Army Warrior Transition Command, the Chula Vista, Calif., native is also a board member on the National Council on Disability and a chairman for Operation Homefront - Southern California.
The 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry, was deployed to Ramadi in 2005 when Master Sgt. Tom Carpenter was injured in an explosion. The "First Rock" Soldier suffered an above-the-knee amputation, in addition to a left foot amputation. Carpenter was originally scheduled to join Soldiers on Operation Proper Exit III, but severe weather in his hometown of Hastings, Mich., prevented him from leaving. Carpenter is enrolled in school and hoping to finish college in the future, while enjoying the company of his children and grandchildren.
Sgt. Omar Avila, a Brownsville, Texas, native, was serving in Adhamiyah, Iraq, when he was injured May 14, 2007, by a 200-pound, deeply-buried IED. The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Soldier sustained burns to 75 percent of his body and a foot amputation. Since retiring, Avila has started college again, coaches a basketball team for young children and speaks at local schools in the area.
About one month later, on June 26, 2007, fellow 1-26 Inf. Soldier Sgt. Jay Fain was struck by an explosively formed penetrator on the side of the road. In addition to sustaining internal injuries and burns and scars to his body, Fain, of Columbia, S.C., suffered a right leg amputation. He is currently an active member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.
Cpl. Charles Dominguez was serving with the 501st Military Police Company, Special Troops Battalion, with the 1st Armored Division, when he was attacked by a suicide bomber Aug. 22, 2006, in Ramadi. Dominguez sustained second and third degree burns to his face, back and hands. The Ontario, Calif., native is currently the building manager of the Warrior and Family Support Center at Brooke Army Medical Center, which houses the Army's Burn Unit.
Also returning in the role of military mentors are Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Olson and Sgt. 1st Class Michael Schlitz. This is the third Operation Proper Exit trip for Olson, who had his entire right leg amputated in 2006 after being struck by a RPG. Schlitz, on his second Operation Proper Exit tour, sustained burns to 85 percent of his body and lost both hands when his vehicle hit an IED in 2007.
The Soldiers will travel throughout Iraq for the next week with Command Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Wilson, United States Forces-Iraq command sergeant major. Wilson has worked with Kell for nearly a year to continue to bring troops back to the places that had changed their lives forever.
"We welcome these warriors. This is going to be a great trip for these guys, and we thank everyone for their support in getting them to his point," he told a crowd of servicemembers gathered to welcome the warriors.