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10/30/2020 2:42:12 PM
Posted: 12/31/2003 3:06:59 AM EDT
A Soldier's Return, to a Dark and Moody World

Published: December 30, 2003

LAIRSVILLE, Pa., Dec. 24 — Jeremy Feldbusch joined the Army to travel the world. Now the only place he can go by himself is the 40 steps from his bed to the reclining chair in the living room.

Sgt. Jeremy Feldbusch, a fit, driven, highly capable Army Ranger, left home in February knowing the risks of combat. Two months later, he came home blind.

A growing number of young men and women are returning from Iraq and trying to resume lives that were interrupted by war and then minced by injury. Sergeant Feldbusch, a moody 24-year-old, is one of them, back in a little town in western Pennsylvania, in a little house overlooking trees and snow-blanketed hills he cannot see.

Since the war started, more than 2,300 American soldiers in Iraq have been hurt in combat, many by artillery shells and homemade bombs that spray shrapnel. Bulletproof vests and helmets protect vital organs. But as the insurgency continues, doctors say that severe facial injuries, along with wounds to the arms and legs, are becoming a hallmark of this war.

"There's that little area between where the helmet ends and the body armor starts," said Dr. Jeffrey Poffenbarger, an Army neurosurgeon. "And we're seeing a lot of guys getting hit right there, right in the face."

Artillery shells make a certain sound when they are coming right at you. Not a looping whistle, but a short shriek.

On April 3, Sergeant Feldbusch, a 6-foot-2-inch, thickly built mortar man, heard the shriek. He and his platoon of Rangers were guarding the Haditha Dam, a strategic point northwest of Baghdad along the Euphrates River, when a shell burst 100 feet away and a piece of red hot shrapnel hit him in the face. The last thing he remembers was eating a pouch of chicken teriyaki.

The inchlong piece of steel, part of the artillery shell's casing, sliced through his right eye, tumbled through his sinuses and lodged in the left side of his brain, severely damaging the optic nerve of his left eye and spraying bone splinters throughout his brain.

Two weeks later, at the Brooke Army Medical Center, doctors removed the shrapnel and reconstructed his face with titanium mesh and a lump of fat from his stomach in place of his missing eye, so the hole would not cave in.

For five weeks, Sergeant Feldbusch remained in a coma. When he came out, it was still black.

"I could hear my parents' voices," he said. "And I thought, What are they doing here? Am I dreaming? What the hell is going on?"

His mother knelt by his bedside and sang softly into his ear, "When I wish upon a star."

Two weeks after he came out of the coma, his parents broke the news. He was being awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. But there was very little chance he would see again.

"I thought there's no way this is happening to me, there's no way I'm going to go through life as a blind man," Sergeant Feldbusch said.

The inch-long piece of shrapnel not only took his sight and dulled his sense of taste and smell, but it took some of his brain, too. It left him quick to lose his temper and acutely sensitive to pain. When he got out of the hospital, it hurt his skin when the wind blew.

It also left him prone to seizures. Right before Christmas, he had his third.

His moods flash like the bits of color that sometimes glitter in the mine shaft he lives in. Sometimes he sees red, blue, a bright yellow. Sometimes he is angry, then sad, then suddenly playful.

Dr. Poffenbarger, who operated on Sergeant Feldbusch, explained that his personality may have been affected by damage to the brain's frontal lobe, which controls social skills and behavior.

"When you get a frontal lobe injury, you tend to be more emotionally aggressive," Dr. Poffenbarger said. "A lot of young men with these injuries seem to be angry."

He talks about going back to school and getting a master's degree. And hitting the weights again. He used to be really into that.

But the antiseizure medications make him sleepy. He naps a lot.

"Yeah, I get bored. And I miss the guys," he said. "Ever since I was 5, I was part of some team. Now I'm alone."

Sometimes that gets him into trouble. This summer he slipped off the deck. He also slammed his face into a door frame one night, nearly knocking himself out.

Once he retires and receives his medical discharge, Sergeant Feldbusch will be eligible for veterans' benefits that will most likely exceed his current $1,800-a-month paycheck.
Link Posted: 12/31/2003 3:34:50 AM EDT

Sometimes I think the wounded pay a higher price than the KIAs during times of war.

Not only did this poor young guy recieve these terrible wounds, but he was living life to the fullest beforehand, making the fall that much harder, I imagine.

SGT Feldbusch, I salute you.

Link Posted: 12/31/2003 4:00:48 AM EDT
A lot of people, don't EVEN wanna see this shit....

My heart goes out to him, and all the others, who will never regain what they've lost.

They will pay the price, every day, for the rest of their lives...

I hope it's worth it.
Link Posted: 12/31/2003 4:14:53 AM EDT
Originally Posted By AvengeR15:

Sometimes I think the wounded pay a higher price than the KIAs during times of war.

Not only did this poor young guy recieve these terrible wounds, but he was living life to the fullest beforehand, making the fall that much harder, I imagine.

SGT Feldbusch, I salute you.

View Quote

Well said.  My thoughts exactly.
Link Posted: 12/31/2003 5:17:52 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/31/2003 5:20:26 AM EDT by Happyshooter]
It has been 12 years that I know of they have been working on a face shield or goggle that offers some frag protection and laser protection. When exactly is something going to be ready?
Link Posted: 12/31/2003 5:23:12 AM EDT
There is ongoing research concerning blindness and I hope that one day very soon there are eye equivalents of coclear implants.

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