What do you say to a person lying flat on his back in a hospital in Baghdad after getting hit by a roadside bomb? I was reporting for NPR when I first met Corporal William Congleton in the Green Zone hospital. He was wondering whether he’d have to lose a leg. Or two.
I told him he looked great (that sounds really cheerleadery, but it was true), and I told him it seemed he was in good hands. He told me what happened — he said he never blacked out, and it all seemed pretty vivid in his mind. Then I asked him where he was from. (You have to get this basic info, trite as it seems at the time.) He said Oregon, and listening back to the tape from that interview I can hear the sort of silly delight of connection in my voice. “Me too!” I said. “Whereabouts?”
That was four years ago. I wonder what happened to many people I met in Iraq, and he always stayed in my mind as someone I could actually find again. So last week I did.
William Congleton will join us to tell us more about that day that changed his life in Iraq and what has happened since. He has been through a lot of physical and emotional pain, he got married (choosing the day his convoy was hit as his wedding date), and he lost one foot after working to avoid any amputations.
We’ll hear also from Mandy Martin, another Oregon vet who came back from a year of service: not physically injured, but a whole new person her family didn’t recognize… or like very much.
It’s an hour about remembering, recovery, and reintegration.
More Think Out Loud
OPB | Sept. 22, 2016