Archive for Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mothers, wives of war wounded upend their lives

December 29, 2007

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Staff Sgt. Michael Lage is assisted by his mother, Rose Lage, on Dec. 7 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Lage was the only survivor of a blast that killed four others in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Michael Lage is assisted by his mother, Rose Lage, on Dec. 7 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Lage was the only survivor of a blast that killed four others in Iraq.

— Rose Lage swears it is true: Suddenly, in the midst of a fitful night of sleep last June, she knew that her son had been injured in Iraq.

"I heard my son's voice," she recalls. "It might sound weird, but I heard him holler 'Mama!'"

In fact, Staff Sgt. Michael Lage was the only survivor of a blast that killed four others. Lage suffered third-degree burns to nearly half his body; part of his nose and ears were missing, and his face, scalp, arms and torso were seared. His left hand had to be amputated.

Rose Lage, 54, understood her son's life would change. But she didn't understand how much her own quiet life - a life spent playing with grandkids, fishing and preparing for her husband's retirement - would change, as well.

The sacrifices of injured soldiers, airmen and Marines are recognized with medals and commendations. But the mothers and wives who arrive here wide-eyed and afraid make their own sacrifices - abandoning jobs and homes and delaying retirement to help their wounded children reclaim their lives.

"The women here are the heroes, every bit the heroes as their soldiers," said Judith Markelz, who runs a 4-year-old program to aid the families of injured soldiers sent here for treatment. "These kids could not survive without their women."

The patients who arrive at Fort Sam Houston are among the worst wounded in war, suffering the kind of injuries that killed their predecessors in earlier conflicts.

So far, about 600 burn victims and 250 amputees have been sent here to recover at the Army's only burn center and at an amputee rehabilitation program set up since the start of the Iraq war.

When the injured arrive, fathers and siblings are often here for the immediate aftermath or early surgeries. But the wives and mothers most often stay, Markelz said. They quit jobs, give up health insurance and abandon homes.

The Army provides housing for families in a post hotel or at one of the Fisher Houses, family-style dorms with a living room, large kitchen and dining room.

Staff Sgt. Michael Lage had always been an independent kid. The youngest of three and the only boy, he was the first to leave home. He joined the Army at 18.

He served two full tours in Iraq, first in 2003 and again two years later. He was deployed a third time in May.

Less than a month later, his Bradley Fighting Vehicle was hit by a bomb in Baghdad. Lage was the only one who managed to crawl out or get blown free of the wreckage. He was on fire, still carrying his gun, witnesses later told his family.

Rose Lage and her husband, Larry, arrived in San Antonio to find Michael in intensive care in a medically induced coma.

Now, six months have passed since she arrived in San Antonio with one large suitcase.

Her husband stayed as long as he could, but he had to return to work after the couple tapped their retirement savings for months.

Her two daughters, too, have come to help, but they have their own homes and young children to care for.

Rose hasn't gone anywhere.

Days of housekeeping and care for grandkids have been replaced with new routines: the careful wrapping of gauze around reddened skin, vigilant adherence to medication regiments, the zipping and buttoning of Michael's clothes.

"We've given up a lot for him," Rose concedes, sitting in a hotel room where a giant flag signed by her son's unit hangs. "We'd give up a lot more for him."

A career soldier and divorced father of 8-year-old twins, he never dreamed he'd be living with or reliant on his mother at age 30. (His son and daughter live in Tennessee with their mother.)

The Lages both finally left San Antonio on Dec. 15 for a Christmas trip to see Michael's kids.

But Michael will have to return in January to face a series of surgeries to reconstruct his elbow, and eventually his amputated arm and his nose and ears. It will probably take another year of treatment.

That means Rose will be back, too.

"I will always be here for him no matter what. He can always depend on me. I will never leave him," she says, looking at Michael. "I'll be here for my other kids, too. That's what a mom's for. I would give up my life for him, and if I could give him my other hand, I would."

At that, Michael quickly brushes away a tear, and his mother adds: "He's my baby."

Comments

Richard Heckler 7 years, 3 months ago

All that for a military action that was not necessary. There are tens of thousands more we do not hear about. This a a part of the $2,000,000,000,000(trillion) war that the Christian Science Monitor brought to public attention.

lion after factoring in long-term ... face hundreds of billions of dollars in costs far into the future," he said. ... boston.com/news/.../08/economists_say_cost_of_war_could_top_2_trillion - 36k Report: Iraq war costs could top $2 trillion | csmonitor.com We can state, with some degree of confidence, that they exceed a trillion dollars. ... used government data from past wars, and included such costs as the ... www.csmonitor.com/2006/0110/dailyUpda... - 73k - Cached Nieman Watchdog > Commentary > The more-than-$2-trillion war ... spending by several billion dollars annually for war-related expenses that are ... of this war to be reflected in the costs of the most recent wars conducted by ... niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=background.view&... - 39k - Cached National Affairs: The $2 Trillion Dollar War : Rolling Stone ... invaded Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration predicted that the war would turn a profi... Home : Music News : National Affairs: The $2 Trillion Dollar War ... rollingstone.com/news/.../national_affairs_the_2_trillion_dollar_war - 26k - Cached Iraq war could cost US over $2 trillion, says Nobel prize-winning ... Iraq war could cost US over $2 trillion, says Nobel prize-winning economist ... These factors could add tens of billions of dollars. ... www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,... - 46k - Cached Cost of Iraq War Could Top $2 Trillion ... a paper estimating the cost of the Iraq War at between $1-2 trillion. ... States a minimum of nearly one trillion dollars and potentially over $2 trillion. ... www.truthout.org/cgi-bin/artman/exec/... - 12k - Cached

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