By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Pfc. Jeremiah Wright, 22, has been released from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, but continues to receive daily treatments at the hospital while living in barracks designed for injured and disabled soldiers.
Wright, a member of the Port Angeles High School Class of 2009, was the roof gunner on an RG-31 Nyala armored truck in Afghanistan on Aug. 26 when an improvised explosive device, or IED, detonated under the vehicle.
On Thursday, Wright recounted the bombing and its aftermath.
“I'm a combat engineer, which means my job is to go look for IEDs. That day, the IED found me,” he told the Peninsula Daily News.
While on patrol — with Wright seated on the roof of the vehicle — the truck hit an estimated 550 pounds of homemade explosives and rolled more than 50 feet.
“I was hanging from my harness. I was left outside the vehicle as it rolled,” he said.
As the truck came to a rest, Wright lost consciousness for a few moments. When he came to, there was blood everywhere, and his right arm wouldn't work to take off the helmet that had shifted to block his vision.
Wright took stock of his injuries: Clearly his right arm was shattered, with the bone protruding, as was his left leg, and he was losing blood. The other arm and leg also seemed to be broken, he thought.
Other soldiers reached the truck, and Wright, with others who were in the truck, was evacuated, first to a field hospital in Afghanistan, then to Texas.
Two of the soldiers in the truck that day died in the wreck, Wright said, and two others were severely injured.
“One has a broken back. He's still recovering,” he said.
Both of Wright's arms were broken, and his left leg was shattered with compound fractures.
He was given 10 pints of blood before he was stabilized.
Somehow, his right leg was not broken.
“I'm thankful it was not as bad as it could have been,” he said.
He said he was grateful for the support from his hometown, shown by the cards and letters that arrived at the hospital and were sent online.
“My job now is to recover,” he said.
With just a bit more than a year left in his initial enlistment, Wright said he will know in about 10 months whether the Army will let him stay, depending on the results of his rehabilitation.
“I would definitely stay,” he said.
Wright is the son of Morris Wright and Lisa Bokamper, both of Port Angeles. His fiancee, Ashley Ferguson, also lives in Port Angeles.
Ferguson is staying in San Antonio to provide support and assistance for Wright, but the pair is having difficulty getting around, he said.
The Army provides buses for injured soldiers to travel from the barracks to the hospital for treatment, but it has been difficult for the couple to go shopping or other places because of Wright's physical limitations.
Wright and Ferguson both own cars suited to transporting the injured soldier, but they are in Port Angeles, he said.
They are looking for a way to transport one of the vehicles to San Antonio for their use.
Wright is expected to be allowed to visit his family in Port Angeles for two weeks in December and said he hopes he will be healthy enough to drive the car back to Texas then.
During that visit, Wright said, he would like to visit Port Angeles High's Roughrider NJROTC unit, which he was a member of for two years.
Wright said he did not graduate from Port Angeles High with his class but earned a General Educational Development, or GED, certificate and later attended college before deciding to join the Army.
He is a member of the 35th Engineer Brigade, based in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and was stationed at the Army's Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, before his deployment.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.