Weatherford Democrat

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January 21, 2014

A journey to healing

By SALLY SEXTON

Almost a year before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks hit, Weatherford High School graduate Jeremy “Chad” Snowden made a commitment to his country by enlisting in the U.S. Army at the age of 28.

Four years later, tragedy struck in Fallujah, Iraqwhere Snowden was a gunner on a humvee, trying to secure the streets while major attacks were going on. Snowden was hit on the left side of the forehead, just below his helmet, with an AK-47 bullet.

The bullet did extensive damage, and Snowden suffered more than 100 fractures to his skull as well as injuries to his back and lower extremities as the blast blew him out of the Humvee.

He was flown to Baghdad, where he underwent five hours of brain/neuro surgery to remove 30 percent of his frontal lobe. From there, he was flown to Landstuhl, Germany, where he spent two days in intensive care before being flown to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to receive further treatment on Nov. 20, 2004. There, his family saw him for the first time since the incident.

“When we got to Walter Reed, they warned me that he was not the same soldier as when he left,” mom Vicky Ray said. “The doctors told me that he could possibly be deaf and blind but they didn’t know, due to Chad being in an induced coma since his first main surgery.

“When I did get to see him, I cried because he had his whole head intact. I could see staples from ear to ear where they had done the surgery, but I was so thankful.”

The family received some good news shortly after — the bullet had missed Snowden’s optical nerve by millimeters, bypassing any damage to his vision. On Thanksgiving Day, 2004, Snowden awoke from his coma and expressed his desire to walk to the lunchroom to join the other wounded servicemen.

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