ANCHORAGE (AP) Two Army corporals from Fairbanks are hospitalized in Washington D.C. with significant leg injuries sustained in Iraq.
Ricky Nelson and Allan Doyle, both 31, met by chance when they were booked into the same room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
''We were just talking, and he said his mother was coming in from Alaska, and I said 'Hey, that's where I'm from,''' Nelson said.
Doyle's left leg was amputated below the knee after a concrete block crushed his foot April 27. Nelson was injured during a May 5 ambush as he and his unit were guarding a Baghdad bank.
''I was trying to return fire and move out of the way of the rounds,'' he said.
A bullet ricocheted off the building and went through his leg from behind, destroying his knee. He said he dragged himself along the ground for 150 yards to get around the building and out of the line of fire.
The men shooting at him weren't in uniform, but they had military boots, beards and turbans, he said.
Later, he saw that his protective gear had shielded him from several bullets to the chest and one to the back.
Nelson has had several surgeries and expects more. It'll be months before he'll find out if the bolts and plates surgeons plan to install will give him a working knee, he said.
A father of five, Nelson has lived in Alaska off and on since he was 13 and has grandparents in Anchorage. He went to Lathrop High School in Fairbanks in 1987.
Doyle, who attended West Valley High School, was injured in Tikrit, northwest of Baghdad. He and his military intelligence unit were set up at the presidential parade grounds, listening for enemy radio signals.
''After three or four days we decided we needed a little shade,'' said Doyle, a fourth-generation Alaskan.
So he scaled a 13-foot wall to rig up a tarp. A cement block on the top was loose. He fell, and the block fell on his leg. There was too much nerve damage to save the foot, he said.
His mother, Patricia Morgan of Fairbanks, said she at first didn't know the severity of his injury.
''When I actually found out the nature of it, at that point I was just elated that he was still alive,'' Morgan told the Anchorage Daily News. ''We're very blessed. We're very grateful.''
Monday, Doyle was zooming around on crutches faster than a lot of people walk. His physical therapist, Barbara Birnesser, said he's strong and easily whips through the exercises she gives him. Once he gets his prosthetic lower leg, he'll be walking without a crutch in a couple of weeks, she said.
Birnesser, whose patients are mostly war amputees, also said he is one of the cheerier guys she's seen.
''It's, I guess, my defense mechanism,'' Doyle said, ''to grin and bear it.''
Nelson wasn't brooding about his sacrifice either.
''If they call me to go again, I'll go,'' he said. ''It's just a matter of getting up on my feet first.''
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.