Sgt. Liam Dwyer of Southbury, Conn. visited the village in Afghanistan three times before.
"When we first got to the compound, no one was there," he said. "It was like going to a house where there's supposed to be people there but it's empty. All the 'is this right or wrong?' sensors started going off."
Dwyer was taking other soldiers through the compound in May 2011.
"Walking out of the same path we walked in, I thought to myself, 'this would be a really good spot for an IED [improvised explosive device] because it's the same way we came in'."
The other soldiers walking in front of Dwyer navigated their way through. Dwyer stepped on the IED.
"Next thing you know, I'm waking up in Bethesda," he said, referring to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.
Dwyer suffered severe injuries to his legs and arms. His left leg was amputated above the knee. In the past year, he underwent more than 30 surgeries.
"The blast crushed my entire right knee," he said. "The doctors tried to get it to heal right on its own. They actually had to cut out my knee and replace it with a metal knee. That didn't work, so they had to replace it again."
Dwyer is right handed and cannot feel much in his right hand.
"I feel tingles," he said.
His situation is far from ideal but he still maintains a positive attitude and is grateful for the new medical advances that occur each year.
"When I just think back to three years ago, if it had happened then, I'd be missing all my limbs," he said.
First Ever Sgt. Liam Dwyer Golf Tournament
A golf tournament to benefit Dwyer and the Wounded Warrior Project will take place on Monday, July 16, at Heritage Village Country Club in Southbury. The event will take place rain or shine.
The Wounded Warrior Project provides programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members, according to the Wounded Warrior Project website.
Mike Pille, a friend of the Dwyer family and tournament chairman, said the cutoff date for golfers to sign up is Thursday, July 5.
Additional event information is featured at the bottom of the article. The PDF attached to the article features the sign-up form for golfers and may be printed out and sent in with a check.
Interested in Middlebury and Woodbury's news, events, community bulletins, blogs and businesses? Sign up for the free Woodbury-Middlebury Patch daily newsletter, "like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
The Ups and Downs
The past year has certainly not been an easy one for Dwyer. He maintains a fighting spirit and positive attitude because he grew up that way, he said.
"I've got a good family around me," said Dwyer. "For the most part, my whole life, I've had a positive attitude."
As the oldest child in the family, he wants to set the tone.
"I have two younger siblings — how would it look if I were upset all the time?" said Dwyer.
His brother Matt is 20 and sister Mikaela is 14. Dwyer is 30 years old.
The Day to Day Challenges
Dwyer was quick to say that the most challenging aspect of his injuries is being unable to use his hands the way he once could.
"I can't just reach out and grab something," he said. "There is so much you do with your hands. I would give up my right leg to have two working hands."
Walking with a prosthetic leg is an ongoing process.
"I have to live through the rest of my life with my leg shrinking," he said, explaining that getting a socket to fit properly is a battle when the size of the leg changes.
Walking from a hardwood floor to a carpet is one of the actions most people take for granted. Dwyer explained that he struggles with that due to the prosthetic leg.
"Those height differences are immensely difficult with prosthetic legs," he said. "My body doesn't auto-stabilize."
But there are shining moments too, that make the frustrating moments a little less trying.
"When I stood up for the first time in August or September of 2011," Dwyer said. "A week later, I took my first step. That was very rewarding."
At , Dwyer was the grand marshal and stepped up to the podium to give a speech. He used a walker and said he definitely is not where he wants to be in the healing process.
"Don't worry, I am going to get there," he said.
Bill Dwyer, Liam's father, said he is still learning what the road ahead will be like.
"People can't comprehend the length of time it takes to heal," he said. "I'm still learning it. He's not a medical patient like people think. It's all rehab now."
Bill said he hopes the community comes out to support a good cause — caring for one's neighbor.
"Some people get into it and say, 'we shouldn't have spent the money on the war'," he said. "Well tough, we did. Now we need to take care of our soldiers."
At some point, Liam's father said there will come a point when Liam has to make a decision about where to live and what job to seek.
The golf tournament will help his son with expenses like adjustments to a home and car in the future, his father said.
Dywer said he does not yet know what he will do. He said there is a Wounded Warrior Project program in Maryland that helps veterans find jobs.
"But, my family is here," he said.
Gratitude and Positivity
Dwyer's friends and family have kept him gracious this past year.
"I appreciate everyone's support, from when I got injured until now and in the future," he said. "I can never say 'thank you' enough."
That Fighting Spirit
Despite Dwyer's recent physical limitations, he never stops pushing and stretching and engaging in activity. He mowed his father's lawn on the sit-down mower and was already coming up with plans for doctoring up a different machine so he can use it left-handed.
"I was thinking," he said to his dad. "I could work that quad."
- 10 a.m. Registration
- 11 a.m. Tee-off
- Entry fees for golfers: $175 per player, lunch and dinner included
- Deadline to Register: Monday, July 9
- Non-golfers for dinner only: $45
- Sponsorship opportunities: $25, $50, hole sponsors at $250 and golf sponsorship at $1,000. Golf sponsorships include four entry fees, hole sponsorship and a mention at the awards presentation.
- Hole-in-One Prizes: Chrysler 200 donated by Crowley Chrysler and Hyundai donated by Devino's Brass City Hyundai
Contact: Tournament Chairman Mike Pille, P.O. Box 842, Middlebury, CT 06762; 203-206-6111; firstname.lastname@example.org
Donations: Those interested in sending donations may send a check made out to "Sgt. Liam Dwyer/Wounded Warrior Program" to the above address.