Hero Story: Army Staff Sergeant Aaron Hale
In December of 2011, Kelly Hale received a horrifying late night knock on her door; the one that every spouse of a deployed soldier dreads. Her husband had been severely wounded, and his prognosis was uncertain. The men in uniform who informed her of her husband's incident stayed by Kelly's side for hours and she waited for updates on SSG Aaron Hale's condition. She was unsure whether or not her husband would survive. The lives of the family had suddenly changed forever.
SSG Hale, of the 760th EOD (explosive ordinance disposal), had approached an IED, which he had worked on from a distance using a robotic device. He was about 30 feet away when it exploded, sending shrapnel everywhere. Every bone in his face was broken, and he had severe burns to his face and upper thighs. His right eye was ripped out in the blast, his right eye lids were fused together from the severity of the burns, his left eye exploded leaving half in the socket, and his left eye lids were torn.
Exploratory eye surgery to remove shrapnel and assess the extent of his injuries concluded that he is completely blind. SSG Hale's skull was cracked and leaking spinal fluid, his carotid artery was nearly severed with shrapnel piercing it, both eardrums were completely blown out, his sinuses were crushed, and his nostrils were torn. Despite suffering severe injuries and being left sightless, SSG Hale, who landed on his hands and knees after being sent airborne, felt to see if all his limbs were intact, and then got up and tried to find his way back to his unit. A medevac unit arrived 10 minutes later, and SSG Hale passed out.
When his wife first saw him, he was unrecognizable. His face and head were swollen beyond belief, he was bloodied, and the cuts and burns were horrendous. Thankfully, SSG Hale's long-term prognosis was good. After a month at Walter Reed, and two weeks at the Veterans Hospital in Tampa, he was sent to the to a VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia which specializes in blind rehabilitation.
Just when it appeared that the worst was over, Kelly's life took an unexpected turn as she settled her family in at The Augusta CNVAMC Fisher House, a home away from home for families of military service members. A resident at the Fisher House noticed a lesion on Kelly's collarbone and insisted she get it checked out. Before she knew it, she was being told by doctors that surgery would be performed hours later. The result was melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Her cancer was at Stage II.
Kelly was numb. Her thoughts immediately went to her husband and her four children. Her youngest child hasn't reached the age of two. Three surgeries later, Kelly is in remission, but she still faces numerous tests and may need additional surgical procedures.
She sees her husband's injury as an example of divine direction. If not for SSG Hale being severely injured in Afghanistan, she would have been dressed for the brutal winter at Fort Drum, NY, just miles from the border of Canada, and her lesion would not have been seen.
SSG Hale, Kelly, and their children, Sheldon, Bailey, McKenzie, and Cameron have been gifted a home in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.