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Family Matters Blog: Soldier Finds Strength in Family

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2010 – I spoke with a veteran the other day whose inspiring story epitomizes the importance of family and peer support.

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Retired Army Maj. Ed Pulido poses with his wife, Karen, and daughters, Kaitlin and Kinsley. Courtesy photo
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Army Maj. Ed Pulido was wounded in Iraq in August 2004 while driving into an area of Iraq known as “IED Alley.” The sport utility vehicle he was driving hit a bomb lodged in the asphalt and exploded, causing severe damage to his leg.

The moment he pushed aside the air bag and saw the injury is one he’ll never forget.

“I’ve had dreams about it all the time,” Maj. Pulido told me. “The night sweats and terrors -- it was that moment right there when I put the air bag aside and saw the blood.”

Maj.Pulido’s leg was broken in three places and partially on fire, but he felt no pain. He wasn’t concerned for himself, he said, but for his fellow soldiers and his family. “How will my family live without a father?” he asked himself.

Maj. Pulido was flown to Baghdad then on to the United States, where he underwent more than 18 surgeries. Struggling with infections, Maj. Pulido and his family made the tough decision to amputate his leg.

Maj. Pulido felt a tremendous sense of loss that caused him to spiral into depression, he said.

He worried about how he was going to live without a limb, how he was going to learn to walk again. “I thought, ‘Why don’t I just pull the plug on this thing?’” he said.

He drifted into sleep and woke up hoping it was all just a dream. “But it wasn’t,” he said. “It was a dark time.”

His wife, Karen, and his mother tried to encourage him to think positively. He leaned on them and on chaplains and other wounded servicemembers who came to visit him and slowly fought his way back.

Unknown to him at the time, his wife, mother and daughter, who was 2 at the time, were visiting other wounded warriors in the hospital, a memory that still stirs emotion in him. “I was in my deathbed, and they were taking time to visit other servicemembers and families,” he said. “My little girl still has that gift of giving.”

Maj. Pulido medically retired from the military and now dedicates himself to helping others. He’s passionate about his work for the Folds of Honor Foundation, which offers scholarships to spouses and children of fallen and wounded servicemembers, as well as information on counseling and benefits.

He also found healing in his participation in the “Real Warriors” campaign. The Real Warriors campaign is sponsored by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, and features stories of servicemembers who sought psychological treatment and continued successful military and civilian careers. Maj. Pulido is the first veteran to participate.

Just the other day, Maj. Pulido put a new flagpole up in front of his new house. And when he looks at it, he no longer feels that cavernous feeling of loss, he said.

“I lost my leg on that day, but I don’t know if I’d want my life the way it was before,” he said. “It opened up a world and life that is different. I may have changed, but what I’ve changed to is a challenge that can be overcome with support.”

For more on Maj. Pulido, read my American Forces Press Service article “‘Real Warrior’ Loses Leg, Gains New Perspective.”

To comment on this blog, visit the Family Matters site.

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