“I remember smoke and stuff flying at me and my truck commander yelling, ‘Is everybody all right?’ My gunner yelled down that he was all right. And I yelled that I was all right because I thought I was. Then I took two steps and hit the ground." - Matthew Braddock on being wounded in Iraq
Occasionally, I get email from folks who ask me why I am such a supporter of Soldiers' Angels. Read this, and, if you don't know why at the end, you never will understand.
Back in early November, I wrote about Willie Aufmkolk as Someone You Should Know. Willie is a great lady with a heart of gold. She is a German citizen who (with the help of her husband and friends) has been taking care of our wounded troops as they are brought into Germany before making the trip back to the states (Walter Reed, Bethesda, etc.). She's part of the Germany contingent of Soldiers' Angels.
Here's just one story about how Willie connected with a wounded American soldier...
On January 13th, Specialist Matt Braddock, a Cavalry Scout with the 116th Brigade Combat Team, was driving a humvee near Kirkuk, Iraq, when an IED was set off near his vehicle.
The left side of his body bore the brunt of the explosion - severed artery in his left arm, shrapnel lodged in his left knee, mangled his lower leg, both feet were crushed.
Three fellow soldiers rushed to his aid, saving his life - Specialist Josiah Jurich, Sergeant Charles Jordan and Staff Sergeant Marvin Albert (click the link to read about these heroes that you should know).
Matt's mother, Rhetta, picks up the story from here (via email):
Matt was laying on a stretcher in a bus at Landstahl waiting to be put on a transport to the US. He was pretty much miserable, cold and in need of a pillow. All of a sudden a lady with a German accent appears out of nowhere, knowing his name, gives him a pillow and a quilt and a backpack with essential personal items. Before he can get her name, she's gone. He said it was like an angel had just appeared!Willie is a German citizen and a volunteer Soldier's Angel who puts together backpacks for soldiers and distributes them in Landstahl. She drives 150 miles from her home to the hospital to do this.Kay Fristad of the Oregon Army National Guard public affairs office called her and asked if she could check on Matt. After going to ICU and being sent to the ward and then sent to the buses, she found him on the 2rd bus, 5 minutes before they closed it up to leave.Once Matt got to Madigan Army Medical Center at Ft Lewis, he told me the story and I started going through his stuff. I found a card with Willie's name and email address in the very bottom and we started to correspond.Through all this time she has continued to support Matt with mail and gifts. She went a step farther and showed up to attend his Purple Heart Ceremony!As a recognition for all Willie and two other Angels present have done for him and other soldiers he presented them with stained glass angels. And to watch over while her husband is in Iraq he gave one to Laura Albert, as well.
Matt would lose his left leg and have a miracle worker surgeon, Dr. Roman Hayda (Brooke Army Hospital, San Antonio, Texas?), put his right foot back together. Matt is doing well, recovering quickly, and wants to get back to Iraq. And, if he can't be a Cavalry Scout, he wants to be a mechanic (where do we find these guys?).
So here are some pictures of the ceremony where over 200 people, including Willie Aufmkolk, came to see Matthew Braddock receive his Purple Heart in Oregon. There were two other Angels that were recognized by Specialist Braddock - Kathy Gregory of Fisher House and MaryAnn, an American Soldiers' Angel in Germany.