Seth Pack came home to Ogden on Sunday night, and I can finally tell you who his mom is.
Seth, 20, is the Ogden soldier horribly wounded in Afghanistan on July 1. Much of his left leg was blown off when he stepped on a mine, and he has spent the last five months undergoing multiple surgeries and therapy.
Through every minute, his mom, Sylvia Newman, has been by his side. Seth's three weeks' leave is the first time he has been home since he was wounded, and a welcome chance for Sylvia to come home as well.
I visited them both Monday. Seth looks well. The part of his leg that's missing has been replaced by a prosthetic, and he walks on that fine. He hobbles on the leg the bomb merely broke, because it's still got external steel girders bracing the bone.
Seth is thin and quiet. He sat on a sofa next to his mom, both legs propped up on the coffee table, and smiled a lot, trying to think of something to tell the journalist.
He and his mom are a team, though, and together they handled me well.
It's impossible to say how much I admire Seth's mom.
Sylvia is a professor of English at Weber State University. She didn't want to be named in previous columns about Seth because she didn't want to take away from his struggle or the struggle of soldiers like him.
Being "Seth's mom" was honor enough, she said, but when soldiers are hurt, their whole family is hurt. Seth and his mom have shared this struggle.
When Sylvia got word Seth had been injured, she left her husband, Robert Fudge, to fend for himself at home and flew to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Every minute since, with just five days' break, she has been Seth's primary attendant, advocate and health monitor.
Talk about hard duty.
No mother should have to read the words "traumatic amputation" about her child. The blast removed Seth's left leg below the knee, broke his pelvis, broke his hand, left an open wound up the back of what was left of his left leg and scrambled his insides.
Sylvia had to stare down the sight of her son, her baby, shattered and torn. She did that, and more, for five months in a strange city 2,000 miles from her own support groups.
Sylvia is not the only mother, father, wife, sister or brother with a soldier in the hospital. The military encourages family members to stay with their wounded soldiers, and even helps them financially. Family is a key part of healing.
Sylvia kept her sanity with a blog on the Internet. She posted daily updates, messages and pleas for prayer. There are pictures of Seth shattered, looking merely awful and learning to walk. You can read it at http://sethnewmanpack.blogspot.com.
She kept working. WSU let her teach Internet-based classes. Thank you, WSU, for supporting the troops.
Watching war-wounded soldiers heal is daunting.
"When you go to the physical therapy room for the first time, you can't not be emotionally overwhelmed," Sylvia said. "You see all these double and triple amputees," struggling to function again.
"But then it becomes kind of an inspirational place."
Even inspiration can get old. Maybe she's getting tired, Sylvia said, but the unending stream of new wounded has started to wear her down.
"I just don't want anyone else to receive that phone call" that their soldier has been hurt, she said.
Seth does remember the day he got hurt.
It was a "pretty standard foot patrol. Lots of agriculture, lots of fields. We were walking through grape fields, poppy fields."
The soldiers knew there were land mines, so they walked single file, following the guy with the metal detector.
"I was the guy with the metal detector," Seth said, but it failed to detect the bomb he stepped on.
Seth isn't sure what he wants to do next. He signed up for four years but can get a medical discharge if he wants to. He may. There are many things a one-legged soldier can do, but infantry isn't one, and that's all he wants.
Yes, even now.
"It seems like it's the most rewarding job you can do," he said. "Mainly because it's so hard. When you make it through your mission, it's rewarding."
He could go teach, but is unsure what. "He's thought about teaching English, of all things," Sylvia said.
But first, more medical care. He's got at least two more surgeries just for his wounds.
In Utah, he'll catch up with his friends, maybe do a little outdoor stuff. Hiking? Skiing?
OK, maybe not skiing.
"I could go sledding, but getting to the top of the hill might be a problem," Seth said.
"Make your friends pull you up," Sylvia said.
Mostly, Sylvia said, it's nice to be in Ogden for a bit "before we go home."
"Before we go back," Seth corrected her.
"We are home."
Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can call him at 801-625-4232 or email email@example.com. He also blogs at www.standard.net.