SPC Bryan Camacho on Saying Thank You by Danny Harris

Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. You can read his previous columns here.

“I knew from the age of eight that I wanted to be in the Army. I had an uncle who was in the military who I really looked up to. He said that I had to find my own motivation and couldn’t join just because of him. As I got older, I realized that there wasn’t anything else that struck my interest like the Army did. I looked at colleges, but they didn’t appeal to me.

“My senior year of high school, September 11th happened and then one of my best friends from high school, Giovanni Maria, died fighting in Afghanistan a few months later. People thought that his death might push me away from the military, but it didn’t. I remember talking to Giovanni before he passed and telling him to wait a few more months for me to graduate, so we could be over there together kicking some ass. He died before I could get over there. He was 19 and I felt like I owed it to him to join the Army. I joined at 18 and it still feels right eight years later, even after my injury. I plan to stay in for the full twenty years.

“During my third tour in Iraq, my Humvee was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) on December 21, 2007. We were out on patrol when we heard that another Company had been hit and one of my buddies, George Howell, was killed by an IED. We were on our way to help them when my truck got hit by an IED. The vehicle flipped over and I was thrown from the Humvee. I remember the explosion and the orange fire ball and then the next thing I knew I was on the ground and couldn’t sit up. I figured that when you are wearing 60 pounds of armor and you get knocked on your back, you are like a turtle who has been turned over and can’t turn back. When the other guys came over to me, they wouldn’t let me sit up because they knew that I was in trouble. They put me on a board and onto a helicopter. I blacked out and woke up in Germany. I broke my back, most of my ribs, and my right lung collapsed. Now, I am completely paralyzed and will be in this chair indefinitely. Most of the other guys in my vehicle got some rather significant injuries, too. One kid lucked out and didn’t have one scratch on him.

Continues after the jump.

“The most difficult thing about the injury was being in a hospital so far away from my buddies. Even though I was injured, I wanted to go back into the action. I kept fighting with the people who were trying to help me and telling them to send me back. They obviously didn’t for good reason. From Germany, they sent me to do my initial rehabilitation at Walter Reed and then I was transferred to the Kessler Institute in New Jersey where they specialize in spinal chord injuries.

“I just recently finished my therapy and now I am going back to work. There was a slip up in my paperwork for my first assignment after rehabilitation. I was given orders to join an infantry brigade headed to Afghanistan. I told them I would go, but obviously they couldn’t send me with my injury and assigned me to work with wounded warriors and their families at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Now, I will do what I can to help those in need.

“My one big thing that I want to tell people is to say, ‘Thank you’ to soldiers and veterans. You don’t have to like what is going on, but those two words mean more to us than you all realize. I remember lying in bed at Walter Reed and people came by to say, ‘Thank you,’ and it made me feel like people actually cared about what we do and what we go through. Sometimes people say, ‘I’m sorry’ to me because they realize that my life is difficult now, but I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I have told countless people that I am glad I took most of the physical damage rather than anyone else. Of all of the guys in the truck, I had the most combat time. Even though some of them outranked me, I still called them ‘kids’ because I had been all over that country and served three tours.

“Today, I am at Arlington Cemetery to see my friend, George Howell. I have been in-and-out of hospitals for the past two years, so this was my first chance to come and see his grave. I lost nine friends over there and I eventually want to get out to see all of their graves, too.”

Support the Wounded Warrior Project here.

22 Comment

  • Thank you for your service and for sharing your story.

  • Thank you – we truly appreciate your commitment and all that you do and have done for us.

  • I cringe when I read things like people joining the army to go kick ass. I suppose that’s the perfect attitude for a soldier, but war is not a video game.

    • He’s protecting your freedom to cringe – you should be thanking him and showing gratitude.

      • It’s just that simple for so many Americans, isn’t it? Are the wars we’re fighting actually protecting us? When we sell war as a video game and encourage 18 year olds to come kick some a-rab ass, is that right? Are we promoting the best of what America has to offer the world? I don’t think so.

        • While your opinions are valid, this is not the place to have this discussion….

          This is a profile about an individual who sacrificed his body for his country. It’s a time to be grateful for people who chose to do this.

          The place for discussions about the military’s recruitment strategies, the military industrial complex, etc. are a different post.

  • Thank you Specialist Camacho, for your service for our Country.

  • way to make me start crying at work, PoP

    Bryan, thank you!

  • I cringe when I hear that the military is “protecting our freedom.” First off, what freedoms exactly are they talking about? Iraq never was a threat to our “freedom.” Even al-quaida, in their most spectacular attack, killed only 3000 Americans, a large number for a terrorist attack, but a very very small percentage of the population. And the relatively small number of terrorists could never take away our “freedom.” It seems to me our freedoms have only been reduced by what our government has done, ie the Patriot Act etc. I prefer to say that the military is fighting for our country, not fighting for our freedom.

    • Seriously, please don’t sully a post about an individual who signed up to sacrifice his life with discussions about the appropriateness of the current war.

      This guy doesn’t get to chose the mission and this post is about him. If you want to debate rationale of war, do it at a more appropriate place.

      • Thanks for your reason and compassion Ragged Dog – with 3 nephews in the military -Iraq and Afghanistan – I’ve had a very emotional Memorial day weekend.

  • Thank you for your service.

    It makes me a little teary to ever see soldiers – especially since I was playing with my one year old nephew yesterday whose shirt said “My daddy is in Afghanistan.” We just pray he comes home in one piece.

    Wounded Warrior is a great non-profit, as is Homes for Our Troops. There is a soldier in Woodbridge who lost both legs who could use some help. Please consider donating to one or both as a thank you to all who have given their lives or their limbs or even just years of their lives.

  • To glorify soldiers who sign up to “kick ass,” and to bow down to the military and talk about soldiers in reverential tones is is to perpetuate the mindset that has gotten the US into military action almost continuously this century and last.

    • saying “thank you” to someone who signed up for protect the country in which you live – yes that IS the purpose of the military, regardless of what you think it’s actually being used for – knowing he could end up horribly injured or dead is not really bowing down to anyone, or anything. It’s being a decent human being. A kid who, in 20-something short years, has probably been through more pain and sacrifice than we will ever even imagine, and has come out of it with a good attitude, deserves nothing but reverential tones.

      You can disagree with congress and the commander in chief and whoever else makes the decision to go to war, but please don’t blame the soldiers. They have no choice and get no say as to their mission. The ones who do their job the best they can deserve our thanks and support. So please don’t come to a blog post about a wounded soldier’s life experiences with those comments. It’s disrespectful and the absolute wrongest place for that discussion.

  • Unless Anonymous 1:31 has voluntarily given up several years of his/her life in service to their country—in a position where the potential for grievous injury or death was constant, then they should stand down. This soldier was and is not responsible for the political and upper level strategic decisions about where he is deployed. Yet he and his front-line colleagues, more than anyone else in this country, bear the immediate impact of those decisions—impacts that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

    SPC Camacho—many thanks to you for your service to our country.

  • One can question our government’s decisions and actions in Iraq and Afghanistan (as I do) and simultaneously thank Specialist Camacho for his sacrifice. Thank you Specialist and best wishes for the future.

  • Specialist Camacho – You still “kick ass”! Many thanks for your service, inspiration, courage, and bravery. And thank you for sharing your story.

  • Wow, what an amazing story. Thank you to Specialist Camacho and to all of the others who have sacrificed for this country.

  • Thank you SPC Camacho and a shout to my two friends who have 2 sons and a daughter still over there.

  • Thank you SPC Camacho for your service and your personal dedication to the men and women who serve with you. It is an honor to have people like you fighting for our country.

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