I've gotten so many "I remember that cute red-headed kid" notes from readers I figure half the town knows that Seth Pack is the soldier horribly wounded in Afghanistan I've been writing about. Now Seth, the son of a friend, has told me I can tell the other half.
I understand why he held off. Nobody wants to be the "wounded soldier poster boy" when they are one of very many. Seth's platoon had several wounded or killed; one who lost both legs and an arm is in the hospital with him.
Even without Seth's name, readers responded. As of Friday, nearly 70 of you mailed me more than $4,500 to help Operation Ward 57, a volunteer group helping Seth, his mom and other wounded soldiers and families in the orthopedic ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Seth, of Ogden, is a member of the 10th Mountain Division. He was hit by a land mine in Afghanistan on July 1. The next day, his mom (who asks to be known only as "Seth's mom") got the phone call that changed her life.
She started a blog (http://sethnewmanpack.blogspot.com) to maintain sanity and keep family and friends in the loop. I read it every day and cry. Any parent would. It is impossible to fathom the journey it describes.
Seth was very badly wounded. The bomb took his lower left leg and shattered his right. It broke his pelvis, messed up his plumbing and bunged up his left hand. Five surgical teams take turns three times a week putting Seth back together again.
Seth has several external fixators stabilizing his body. Those are high-tech Tinker-toy constructions that surround his leg and brace his pelvis. Seeing her son encased in steel rods made his mom think about how many people it takes to support one wounded soldier.
"I am thinking about the external fixators metaphorically at the moment, thinking how Seth -- and I -- can't heal on our own," she wrote. "How we need external fixators of friends, family, nurses, doctors and on and on to provide the stability and course for our healing.
"Today we had a visit from a friend from Ogden. She brought goodies for Seth (and) a hand massage, for me.
"But what I appreciated most was her time. She simply sat with us for several hours while the hospital routine waxed and waned around us. She has probably never been compared to an external fixator before, but today, to me, that's exactly what she was."
Seth's mom figures she may be able to come home in December, at the earliest.
Meanwhile, the toll adds up.
Two other soldiers from Utah were badly injured in the IED explosion that killed South Ogden soldier Raphael Arruda two weeks ago. That's two more families dealing with a son, husband, father horribly wounded. More than 44,000 have been wounded in these two wars. Caring for them costs billions.
What can we do?
I'm collecting for Operation Ward 57. It directly helps Seth, his mom and others in that ward. If you can help with that, write a check to "Operation Ward 57" and send it to:
P.O. Box 12790
Ogden, UT 84412-2790
Groups that help all soldiers include the Red Cross, the Wounded Warrior Project (www.woundedwarriorproject.org) and one called Sew Much Comfort (www.sewmuchcomfort.org), which needs volunteers to make clothes adapted to the needs of wounded soldiers.
I can't sew, but all those groups need money. Feel free to donate to any or all.
Then you, too, will be an external fixator for wounded soldiers, helping them and their families heal.