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Home from the war

Betty and Robert Baxter Betty and Robert Baxter
Robert Baxter Robert Baxter

June 26, 2003

Cairo-- A solider is home from the war in Iraq, but he's not quite the same as when he left.

On Friday the 13th a missle struck the Humvee that 22-year-old Robert Baxter was in, but that day known for superstition and bad luck might have been the luckiest day of his life.

Private Robert Baxter has been home for 36 hours. "Same old family, same old people, same old town," he said. "Everybody's a little nicer but that's about it."

One thing is not the same though- 22-year-old Baxter will probably never have feeling in his right leg again. "We all should have been dead when it hit, there's no other way we wouldn't be alive if everyone wasn't praying for us."

While Baxter was in Iraq, he took more than a dozen rolls of film, many of them pictures of grateful, smiling Iraqis. His company, the 3rd Infantry, 2nd Bridage from Fort Stewart, was among the first American soliders to storm Bagdad.

"There was a lot of fighting when we first when in, about the first few days was pretty rough." But rather quickly the Iraqis armed with weapons became armed with food.

Baxter remembers one retired Iraqi captain inviting his company for dinner. "We told him we couldn't so he brought food a lot of food to the blocking position we were at and told us too eat, please eat, and that we were family now."

That spirit did not last. When his company was moved to Fulusia, about 30 milies northwest of Bagdad, he was greeted with missile fire. "Out of nowhere shots hit Humvee and we heard a loud ungodly bomb. We got hit by a missile and I got shrapnel in the leg pretty good."

The shrapnel caused permanent nerve damage, but it could have been much worse. The missile manlfunctioned, it didn't explode.  "It could have blew the whole thing up. It went in and blew shrapnel but didn't explode. It went out the other side like a needle. They still don't know why it didn't blow the whole car up, and why it blew pieces of the humvee everywhere."

Baxter thinks his mother Betty's prayers saved his life. And that makes this homecoming even sweeter for her. "It's the happiest day of my life, other than the day he was born. So you compare it to the day he was born. Its a rebirth, seeing him come home."

After Private Baxter was injured, he tried to go back to his company. But severe nerve damage prevented that.

He's due back at Fort Stewart in July, and he hopes his hurt leg will heal with physical therapy and he can go back to his company.

posted at 5:05PM by dave.miller@walb.com

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