Despite injuries, soldier and family feel luck

(Published August 18, 2006, 8:48 a.m.)

By Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

From his hospital room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Specialist Raymond Hubbard, 28, of Allen's Grove, says he feels "lucky, very lucky."

"There were too many close calls, too many things that happened that could've gone one way and didn't," he said.

Hubbard, a Darien native, was critically wounded on July 4 near Baghdad, Iraq. He is a member of the 126th Field Artillery of the Wisconsin Army National Guard based in Whitewater.

"The blast was about 25 feet away from me," he told The Week in a telephone interview this week. It happened while he was on guard duty.

He and his fellow soldiers built a makeshift shelter, insulated it with Styrofoam and installed an air conditioner to ward off the intense heat. Were it not for that shelter, Hubbard wouldn't be here today.

"When the blast occurred it took down three of the walls of the guard shack and the one wall that would've killed me stayed up, so that was good," he said understatedly.

"Captain Clutter--the man that saved my life--was the doc that I worked with. My carotid artery was split and that was pumping out a lot of blood. He came over in a matter of seconds stuck his hand in there and stopped the bleeding."

A nearby mobile triage truck saw the explosion and was there within minutes, he said. "I was awake for most of it, but I had my eyes closed. The captain said they couldn't even feel my pulse and the only way he knew I was alive was keeping me talking asking, 'Are you OK?' and me saying, 'Yea, I'm OK.' over and over."

Hubbard lost his left leg below the knee, his right elbow was shattered and shrapnel damaged his carotid artery, left shoulder, stomach and both legs.

"I got a phone call that he had a neck injury," recalls his wife Sarah. "Honestly, I sat there for 45 minutes. I didn't even move.

"Then I got another one 45 minutes later and all they talked about how they had to amputate his leg.

"That's when I started making phone calls to people. I couldn't do anything. I didn't want to leave the phone. I finally felt better about two or three days later when I knew he was going to DC and I could go see him. Then I could get up, eat something and leave the house."

Now what matters is healing and getting home.

"Things are definitely looking up," Sarah said. "Ray has such a positive attitude. He just impresses me beyond belief."

"I'm doing pretty good. My PT (physical therapy) is pretty strenuous, but the elbow's not looking too good," he said. The doctors say they need to wait before deciding if more surgery will be needed.

"And I had all of the stitches in my left shoulder, right elbow and right lower calf taken out. The shrapnel took a big chunk of meat and muscle out of my calf. The majority (of the stitches) are on the residual of my left leg below the knee, and above the knee are at least 90-100 more."

His left leg has to heal before a prosthetic can be fit. Then he'll need to learn to walk on it before coming home to stay.

"The boys are excited about his new leg," Sarah said. "I think they're picturing a robot leg or something." The boys are Hubbard's sons Riley, 8 and Brady, 9.

Once he's home, Hubbard hopes to finish his contract with the military, he said. He enlisted in 2003 and his contract will be fulfilled in 2009.

In the meantime, the Hubbards are counting their blessings.

"I was just so thankful he was alive, and this leg thing-big deal, we'll be fine," Sarah said. "And I knew it was true especially when I saw him. These injuries will heal. He's still him.

"I'm definitely am more thankful for every day. You loose that. A lot of people do," she said, her voice breaking. "People loose what's important."

"I know that this is going to be the hardest fight that I'm going to have in my life. I'll never be 100 percent again, I won't, but I'm going to do everything I can to get to 100 percent."

Those who know Raymond, and those who don't, think he already is 100 percent.

You can help: Family and friends have organized a donation site and fund-raising event for the Raymond Hubbard Family Benefit. Proceeds will be used for renovations and improvements needed to Raymond's home preceding his return. Donations can be sent to, or dropped, at Chase Bank, 28 N. Washington St., Elkhorn. The fund-raising event, which Raymond is strong-bent on attending, will be held on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11 at Supers Z's Starlight Banquet Hall, 5574 Highway 50, Delavan, 6-11 p.m. There will be a DJ, karaoke, raffles, a pig roast, brats and kraut and a cash bar. They already have non-profit status, so all donations are 100 percent tax deductible.

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