Read the below about a hero who didn’t even know at the time
he was going to be so influential to other servicemembers but down deep I bet
he knew and I bet he would bend over to help any of his fellow warriors.
Heroes, words can’t define them. Time for a C-Cgar
Derek McConnell of Parsippany turned 24 Tuesday. But the U.S. Army
sergeant, who lost both of his legs in Afghanistan after an 2011 IED
injury, wasn't there to see a gift given in his honor — to see the
kindness once shown to him paid forward.
died at in his bed at Walter Reed National Military Medical in March of
this year — leaving his family on a quest to find out why after
inconclusive medical reports. But his family carried on in his spirit
Tuesday, helping another wounded warrior.
"It just felt right to do," said Derek McConnell's mother, Siobhan Fuller-McConnell.
Fuller-McConnell was joined by her son's fiancée, Krystina Dressler, and by a service puppy named in her son's memory
as they celebrated his life at Walter Reed and gifted a
handicapped-accessible van once given to Derek to Army Staff Sgt. Sam
Shockley of Ohio.
Shockley never knew Derek McConnell — he was injured in Afghanistan
after stepping on a pressure plate and setting off a blast the day
before McConnell died.
"I'd hoped to be a little quicker getting on my (new) legs," said
Shockley, a double-amputee who was injured in an IED explosion the day
before McConnell died. "I'm hoping for the best. But I can't do anything
by myself … so I really wanted independence. I really wanted to be
able to go for a car ride by myself. To go to the store by myself.
Having her (Fuller-McConnell) donate the van — it's really going to help
Fuller-McConnell said what Shockley seeks — independence — is exactly
what the van brought her son when it was given to him about a year ago
by Help Our Military Heroes. McConnell didn't drive, but the van's wheelchair access meant Dressler (whom McConnell was set to marry after winning a dream wedding) could take him out anywhere.
"If they wanted to go to the grocery store, go out to dinner, go to
the movies, the van made it possible," Fuller-McConnell said.
McConnell wrote to the group Help Our Military Heroes at the time that he "wouldn't be able to live without this van."
"It's vital to my
every day life," he wrote. "Krystina and I want to thank Help Our Military Heroes
for blessing our life with this van."
Fuller-McConnell called Help Our Military Heroes an "amazing
organization" — one she said deserves tremendous gratitude. But after
McConnell died, she said, it didn't seem right to hold onto the van,
even though the organization made it clear the vehicle was hers to keep.
Last weekend, she said, she got a call from the group about Shockley.
The injured soldier was looking for a vehicle to help him get around —
but only for now. He hopes to become more capable with his new
prosthetic legs — he said they're extremely painful to use, but he's
still working on adapting — and eventually give the van over to another
person or group who can make use of it.
Shockley said he might eventually give the van to Operation Ward 57,
which supports wounded service members. Or he might give it to an
organization that helps other people, including civilians, with
"There are always going to be people — diabetics, people who lost
their legs in farming accidents, anything — who could use this kind of
help," he said.
It wasn't the first time the McConnell family had re-gifted a van
once given to Derek McConnell. A family from New Jersey had donated a
van to the solider — and he, in turn, gave it to a quadriplegic friend.
The McConnell family, with Shockley, Help Our Miltiary Heroes
representatives any puppy Derek alongside, celebrated the late soldier's
birthday with cake and well-wishes at Walter Reed Tuesday.
Fuller-McConnell said honoring her son's memory made the day a little
"I was able to get through the day knowing I did good for someone else," she said.
Shockley described the visit as an emotional one.
"We're celebrating the birthday of someone who passed away the day
after I got hit," he said. "But in the military, guys will tell you, we
celebrate life. It's my 'life day' the day I got hit. And we were
celebrating him as he was, as if he was standing right there beside us."
Orig story here:http://www.nj.com/morris/index.ssf/2013/10/family_of_nj_soldier_who_lost_legs_in_afghanistan_then_died_at_home_pays_kindness_forward_on_his_bir.html