Kane_1  Thought you might like to read this story… I know it is one of many but I met this young man last Nov 11… My friend Alice and I visited Long Beach Veterans Hospital… As usual we visited the spinal wards and as we talked to many Vets… One of them said there were some Iraq Vets on the 1st Floor… so we headed that way… We met Rudy and he was so great to speak with… He was so positive  about himself and life… Not once did we even see or feel any thing but good thoughts and felt he had tried to do what was right…  We left him and he gave us a feeling of WOW…He sure made us proud..  We took a picture and I told him I would return by Christmas with the picture and more goodies…. My visit was on Christmas Day and I was told Rudy was home for the day and would be back later that evening… So I left a card with our picture and some Christmas goodies… So when I saw his picture and this story in our paper… I remembered what a special young man he was…

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PATH TO A PURPLE HEART

Army Cpl. Rudy Saavedra was three weeks from coming home when a bullet in Iraq paralyzed him.

By TOM BERG THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

LONG BEACH A small part of Rudy Saavedra’s dream came true Friday.

    Not the part about finding a house, getting married or having kids. And not the part about walking again someday. But the part about looking back on his life, knowing he acted with honor.

    It came during a Purple Heart ceremony for him and three other soldiers wounded in Iraq. One Army general spoke about wounded warriors, while another general spoke of the human sacrifice. There was pomp. Solemnity. And the formal pinning of Purple Hearts on men blinded by war or missing limbs or paralyzed.

    But it was something else that touched Saavedra during the ceremony at the Long Beach Veterans Administration Hospital.

    It came from people like Maryestelle Gwin of Carson, who pushed through the crowd of 250 to meet him afterward.

    “I want to thank you for everything you are,” she said.

    Another man said, “I just want to shake your hand.”

    Saavedra, 31, of Rossmoor sat bolt upright in his wheelchair, his eyes glazed, holding in the emotion.

    “To see this many people proud of what we did, it feels great,” he said. “Like I was doing the right thing.”

    Saavedra knew his path early in life. His father served in the Army, as had his father before him.

    “I wanted to grow up like every kid and be a hero, you know?” he said.

    He graduated from Burbank High School in 1993, bounced around dead-end jobs before joining the Army in 1999. He finally found purpose in the discipline and daily routine – in training, in Kosovo, and finally in Iraq.

    “My platoon sergeant was a great teacher,” he said. “He explained everything so perfect, I knew if I did everything he told me to, I could come out alive and honorable.”

    And so he did, on Aug. 28.

    His gun team had pulled truck duty, guarding a road south of Bagdad in an area called the Triangle of Death.

    “You couldn’t go more than 50 feet without seeing a hole in the ground,” he said – from buried bombs – improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

    He’d done this plenty of times before. It never got easier – 55 hours sitting in a parked Humvee, watching for insurgents planting IEDs. Every six hours, you’d climb up to the turret for a two-hour shift.

    It was the last shift, probably the last time Saavedra would pull this duty before leaving in a few weeks. He was climbing into the turret when a shot rang out.

    “It felt like someone put a bell over your ear and went tingggg!” he said. “It felt like my whole body was on fire.”

    The sniper’s bullet entered his back, hit three vertebrae and exited his stomach. He fell to the ground, blood and guts falling with him.

    “You want to cry, but you can’t,” he said. “You’re just screaming inside.”

    In that moment, he felt his life’s dream disappearing.

    “You could feel everything shutting down,” he said. “Your body leaving you. I told my buddy, ‘Tell my parents that I love them.’”

    He awoke in a hospital. Alive. But unable to move his legs. Doctors at Walter Reed Army Hospital warned his parents to prepare for the worst.

    “What I saw was worse than the worst,” his mother, Martha Saavedra of Rossmoor, said Friday. “That’s why I’m so thankful he is alive today. I feel like crying.”

    Saavedra was given a 50-50 chance of regaining the use of his legs. Then a small miracle happened. A sensation. A tingling, first in his left, then his right leg. Now he can feel pain in both legs – pain that never felt so good. “I know I’ll walk again,” he said. “Something inside of me knows.” While in the Army, he took the Civil Service exam to become a mailman – the idea of walking everyday, out in the fresh air, appealed to him. “I just want to live a normal life, you know?” he said. “Have a house, a wife and kids. And walk again.” If he can’t, he’ll have a reminder – a small Purple Heart – that he acted with honor. “If I had to do it again and I knew what was going to happen, I’d do it all over again,” he said. “I know in my heart I’ve done a good job – with honor and dignity.”

Comments

  1. Reading about this young hero leaves a lump in the throat, tears in the old eyes and an overwhelming pride in our military. They are the best, the bravest and are heroes each and every one. Prayers go out to Cpl. Rudy Saavedra on a successful recovery. God bless you!!

  2. My eyes glazed as I read. I find myself saying this over and over, but it is so true: Where do we find these men? Next time you and Alice visit him, PLEASE shake this HERO’S hand extend me and my family’s deepest gratitude for his sacrifice and service.

  3. After ceremony, so glad people said hello, shook his hand, expressed their appreciation; all things right and good. Felt so pleased Cpl Saavedra has been honored, has been remembered. Ongoing, it’s then (each of) our turns (me too) to remember, to respect, to find ways to express it and even… hmmm… to dare to.

  4. Major P… Thanks for posting Rudy’s story… It was great but so his he..
    Today, Alice and I visited with the Vet’s at our Long Beach Veterans Hospital.. We gave out special Valentine cards made by students in Houston, TX to many… But truth be known Rudy was the highlight of our trip. We hadn’t seen him since we had been there last Nov on Veterans Day… He hadn’t changed… same positive attitude…same special get up and go.. same special smile.
    We talked for awhile and he is so anxious to be up and about and get on with his life… He is most definitelyis not the sit on his duff type…He needs to keep busy and make things happen… Said he gets that from his Mom who instilled in him early in life a wonderful work ethic…(and her smile) To that I say kudos to both Mom and Rudy.. He stated also that he would really like to get well enough to help the Army with any thing he would be capable of doing.. I will say it again and again .. an awesome young man who has made us so very proud. We passed along all the good words of thanks, love and support from many of you through out the country… What a wonderful way to spend Valentine’s Day….. with the few who gave so much!
    Please keep Rudy and all our wounded in your prayers!
    Peggy K

  5. Major, thought I might mention, for those who don’t know, that the lady in the photo with Rudy is none other than The Great Peggy Kane, one of AnySoldier and Operation Dreamseed’s biggest supporters, and a “mom” and friend to many a Marine and Soldier. She won’t tell you, but I will… Peggy was named Woman of the Year by her California State Senator for her faithful work in her community and the wonderful things she does for our troops. She frequently visits the guys at the VA hospital, sends literally tons of packages to our guys, and is a good friend to all. No one deserves this honor more than she! If I ever grow up, I want to be just like Miss Peggy!!

  6. You guys keep pushing on to victory! Thanks for the inspiration, Rudy. Peggy Kane, it is good to see your smiling face next to Rudy. Thank you for all you are doing to support troops as you did for me while in the sandbox for OIF II. My prayers are ascending!

  7. Thank you Majaor Pain for this riveting story by Rudy. He is a true hero and his optimism is so contagious! The true heroes are those who fulfill their mission, and don’t bring attention to themselves- what would our country look like without our heroes, and what would Iraq and Afghanistan look like without them as well?

  8. I served with Cpl. Saavedra in Cco 2-327IN, he was my first team leader. He was always quick with a smile and always joking. He is a good man and we could use more men like him. Rudy, if you read this I havent forgotten.
    Latimer

  9. Thanks for sharing your story, it’s pretty interesting to know about heroes that fight at terrible warriors, in fact my olest brother it’s a soldier and he has passed lots of wars… I’m proud of him.

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