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GUARDWOUNDS

Staff Sgt. Michael McNaughton (far left)  poses for a photo at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., along with Staff Sgt. David Silva (center). They were both visited by Gen. Roger Schultz (far right), Army National Guard Director, and Command Sgt. Maj. A. Frank Lever III, Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major, who spoke with other injured soldiers at Walter Reed.
Louisiana Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Michael McNaughton (far left) of Denham Springs, La., who recently lost his right leg to an anti-personnel mine while serving in Afghanistan with the 769th Engineer Battalion, poses for a photo opportunity at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C., along with Staff Sgt. David Silva of Baton Rouge, La., (center). They were both visited by Gen. Roger Schultz (far right), Army National Guard Director, and Command Sgt. Maj. A. Frank Lever III, Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major, who spoke with other injured soldiers at Walter Reed.
Between doctor’s rounds and physical therapy sessions, Army National Guard soldiers hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. enjoyed a visit in mid-January from the top leaders of the Army National Guard.

Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, Army National Guard Director, and Command Sgt. Maj. A. Frank Lever III, Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major, spoke with six Guard soldiers during the morning visit. Four of the soldiers came to the U.S. Army’s premier medical treatment center after suffering injuries while serving in Afghanistan or Bosnia. A Louisiana Army National Guard member, Staff Sgt. Michael McNaughton of Denham Springs, La., was the most recently admitted citizen-soldier. In early January, he lost his right leg to an anti-personnel mine.

McNaughton, a member of the 769th Engineer Battalion, was clearing mines at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan when he stepped on the mine. He was medically evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany before being flown to Walter Reed for follow-on treatment.

“I was very proud to serve in Afghanistan and with the 769th,” he said. “People in that unit are very professional and very close, like a big family.”

McNaughton has some of his family with him at Walter Reed; his wife, mother and father flew to D.C. from Louisiana. Also, standing by his bedside and wearing a desert camouflage uniform, is McNaughton’s comrade-in-arms, Staff Sgt. David Silva of Baton Rouge, La.

Besides serving in the 769th together, McNaughton and Silva are close friends back home in the Pelican State. Their commander ordered Silva to stay by McNaughton’s side while McNaughton was medically evacuated from Afghanistan to the United States.

“It was so I had a friendly face with me at all times,” McNaughton said. “We both know each other after attending school together, and our children play together back home.”

McNaughton still must undergo follow-up surgeries to his right leg and right hand and to other parts of his body injured in the blast. “I’m getting excellent medical care here,” he said.

Two other troops at Walter Reed, 19th Special Forces Group Sgt. 1st Class Michael Lyons and Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Martin, both serve with the California Army National Guard. Both men suffered shrapnel wounds in mid-December, when someone tossed a grenade into their truck as the soldiers left a crowded market in Kabul, Afghanistan. An Afghan interpreter sitting in the back of the truck was also injured.

Lyons nearly bled to death after shrapnel nicked an artery in his leg. Martin suffered a head wound and shrapnel lodged behind his eyelid. Both citizen-soldiers can expect a full recovery, officials said.

A trained medic, Lyons told Schultz and Lever that, although his early prognosis seemed bleak, quick and effective medical attention saved his life. An initial medical report said both soldiers’ protective vests were “riddled with shrapnel” and probably saved their lives.

“I initially took five units of blood. I was leaking from holes all over the place,” Lyons said.

Doctors have opted to leave some of the shrapnel inside Lyons’ body, since the fragments are lodged near vital tissues.

“It’s going to be fun going through metal detectors at the airports now,” Lyons quipped.

Even though they are recuperating on the East Coast, Martin and Lyons said they have received a lot of support from their families and National Guard friends back in California.

Schultz and Lever haven’t been their only celebrity visitors, either.

Gen. Richard Meyer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stopped by earlier in the day to visit with the troops recovering at Walter Reed.

“I’m a bit overwhelmed,” Martin said.

Martin and Lyons aren’t the first casualties suffered by the 19th Special Forces Group in Afghanistan. Last April, Colorado Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Romero became the first Army Guard soldier to die in Afghanistan when he was killed, along with four other U.S. troops, during the destruction of a weapons cache. Also in April, West Virginia Army National Guard Sgt. Gene Arden Jr. died in action in eastern Afghanistan.

The soldiers at Walter Reed show no bitterness or discouragement. They all said they want to thank everyone across the country for their support. And McNaughton offers this advice to National Guard troops deploying to trouble spots at home and overseas: “Just stay motivated.”

During the visit, Schultz and Lever also met Spc. Crystal Terrell-Young of the Virginia Army National Guard, who was injured in a vehicle accident in Bosnia; Staff Sgt. John Merrill of the Maine Army National Guard and Capt. Leslie Smith of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. Schultz said he was impressed with the morale of the Army National Guard soldiers at Walter Reed. “We’ve got some troops out there who have really shown some courage, and they possess positive attitudes,” Schultz said to Lever. “That’s what it’s all about, Sergeant Major. We’ve got a team that wants to follow us, and they’re good.”

Fast Fact
 41% of the Army's Combat Engineers are in the Army National Guard.

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