LTC Tim Karcher
Lieutenant Colonel Tim Karcher was shot in the shoulder in Iraq back in 2006. After just 5 months of healing at home that included 7 surgeries, he chose to go back to war.
“My unit was over there, they were taking casualties. It felt terrible to be here, it felt wrong,” he said.
Reunited with his troops, Karcher was in Baghdad last summer for the historic transfer of power from the U.S. to the Iraqis.
But 10 days after that historic day, Karcher’s vehicle was bombed and he lost both of his legs in the explosion.
“I’m very proud of him, he’s fought for his life, he fought the whole summer to stay alive and he’s taking it and running with it, he’s so positive,” said Alesia Karcher, Tim’s wife.
Karcher says the tragedy of losing his legs made him realize what he still had including a wife and three children who need him.
“I could sit around and have a pity party everyday, but it’s not going to grow my legs back,” he said. “Life kicks you in the teeth every now and again, you get to decide how you react to it.”
“…At the Center for the Intrepid, amputees work out in often unorthodox ways to strengthen their bodies and stop boredom. A modified rock wall, a wave pool and creative exercises throw some diversity in to break up the monotony of physical therapy.
The wounded warriors have devised a hierarchy of injuries. There are jokes and laughs, and many of them come from Campbell.
“The last thing we want is sympathy,” Karcher said.
He doesn’t want people tip-toeing around him.
“People stare, they point,” Campbell said. “We make fun of them [and] treat them like they’re in a normal unit.”
Good-natured teasing can be motivating as well as bonding.
“From the outside, it can look odd,” Campbell admitted.
Karcher said he finds it motivating to see those with injuries similar to his who are farther along. “Morale here is great,” he said. “Everybody wants to get better. You just need to use good judgment on where you are.”
Every case is different. While some are happy to sit back and just let things happen, others work harder to reach their goals. Seeing buddies get better is motivating for everyone, Karcher said.
“There’s a total atmosphere here of seeing everybody excel, everybody getting back to where they want to be,” he said. “The only thing that limits us is ourselves.”
In addition to the young soldiers he sees daily, a special child has been an inspiration to the battalion commander. Karcher met 8-year-old Cody McCaslund on Sept. 17. Cody also is a bilateral transfemoral amputee. Born without knees and missing several bones in both legs, he lost his legs as an infant. But don’t tell Cody he is any different.
“That kid is a ball of fire,” Karcher said. “He is just an awesome kid.”
Cody offered to show Karcher how to use his new legs when he gets them. Through Cody, he said, he saw that the loss of legs does not mean the loss of a normal life.
“You realize he’s as normal as any kid,” he said. “You see a little kid doing [what Cody does], and you’ve got to stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
Karcher is quick to laugh and sees no sense in having a pity party about his injury. “It’s a waste of your time,” he said. “It’s not going to change anything.”
He said he knows his injury will limit him in some ways, but that the Center for the Intrepid staff is around to help the wounded figure out ways to do the things they want to do.
“There shouldn’t be things we can’t do,” he said. For example, he said, he wants to stand more than six feet tall again — because he doesn’t want to have to buy new pants.
Amputees can change their height, Campbell said, but they want to be careful not to become unbalanced. “Body image is a big deal for a lot of these guys,” Campbell said. Expectations are different for each person, but the wounded warriors all seem to have some in common. “Walking is an expectation. Sports are an expectation,” he said.
Life Goes On
Karcher said he expects to continue his journey with humor and with his family by his side. And throughout his recovery, the soldiers of his regiment have been consistently on his mind and in his heart.
He keeps in contact with his Black Knight soldiers via e-mails, and many have visited him. Karcher said he always wants to know how his battle buddies are doing, and the fact that they are still in harm’s way is never far from his mind.
“It feels rotten,” he said.
Meanwhile, as his soldiers are completing their mission in Iraq, Karcher is focused on his mission at home: recovering. And one of his biggest goals is to be standing on Cooper Field at Fort Hood to welcome home his troops.
“I’m just wondering what is next,” he said. “Right now, I am focusing on the here and now.”
He wants to stay in the Army.
“I am hoping to stay in,” he said. “I’ve been in 20 years, and this is the only thing I want to do.” …”
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These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived
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