It's been a long summer for Marietta resident Patty Spencer.
She's spent a lot of time since May in Washington, D.C., where her son, 21-year-old Cpl. Brennan Holshu, has been recuperating at Walter Reed Medical Center from injuries he received while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.
"He's a gunner and was knocked off the top of an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) truck in Northern Baghdad," said Spencer, 43. "We don't know whether his unit was on a mission or not, but I've been told this truck is 14 feet high from the tires to the top."
Spencer said the muscles of her son's right thigh were peeled back from the impact and his diaphragm and intestinal tract were also damaged.
Holshu's 16-year-old sister, Lakin Perine, and her mother spoke by phone from the medical center on Tuesday.
"(Brennan) had been in Iraq for eight months, and was hurt in February. He wasn't transferred here until May," Perine said. "But he's doing a lot better now."
U.S. Army Cpl. Brennan Holshu
- Age: 21.
- Enlisted: 2006.
- Hometown: Marietta.
- Graduate: Frontier High School and Washington County Career Center.
- Two daughters: Jarrahlynn, 6, and Kyleigh, 5.
Spencer said initially her son thought his body had just been stoved-up from the fall, so he was treated with rest and medication. When his condition didn't improve, doctors did a more thorough examination and discovered Holshu's injuries were much more severe.
"He was in surgery every day at first to prevent infections, and they had to replace the muscle in his thigh, then they applied skin grafts," Spencer said. "He also has two exposed bones in his back and will have to see a plastic surgeon to cover that area, which should take away a lot of his pain."
She said Holshu is improving daily, and can now walk a little.
"But his stamina is not great and he's still pretty weak; he also lost about 100 pounds," Spencer said, adding that Holshu is starting physical therapy to get back into shape.
A graduate of Frontier High School, Holshu took a masonry course at the Washington County Career Center before enlisting for a four-year term with the Army in July, 2006.
"There were no jobs, nothing here for him, and he knew he needed something to support his family," Spencer said. "He has two daughters, Jarrahlynn, 6, and Kyleigh, 5, who start school this fall. It's been a year since they've seen him, so they miss him a lot."
Spencer hopes her son can be approved for a short leave from the hospital so he'll be able to see his children soon.
An employee with Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5108 on Pike Street, Spencer was especially thankful that the post is holding her job until she can get back to work.
"She's a really nice lady," said Sarah Rutter, Spencer's co-worker.
"Brennan and I are close to the same age, and our kids go to Harmar Elementary together," she said. "So I decided to hold a benefit dinner for him on July 31."
As for future plans, Spencer said Holshu now wants to go to college and study for a medical career after spending so much time at Walter Reed.
"He said when he gets out he'll do everything he can to support this place - he knows these people have saved his life several times over," she said.
Spencer noted that the Walter Reed facility has received some bad press in the past after a congressional investigation revealed poor conditions at the hospital a couple of years ago.
"But there's no place where I'd rather have my son now; this place is so awesome," Spencer said. "Doctors and nurses all remember him and often stop us in the hall to ask how he's doing. And the camaraderie among the families of the soldiers here is special. We sit and talk a lot - it's great."