August 1999 - April 2001

When I entered the Army I left from the recruiting center in my hometown in Pace, Florida. I was sent to Ft Leonard Wood, Missouri (That's “Fort Lost in the Woods, MISERY” ) For Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training, to become a 12B (Combat Engineer). Upon my completion and based on my PT scores from AIT, I was selected to go to AIRBORNE School.  Next stop, FT Benning, Georgia. What a rush!!!!! I knew this was going to be the experience of a lifetime. Jumping out of perfectly shitty airplanes. Trust me more jumps get scratched because of the airplanes than any other reason. Now I'm an AIRBORNE Combat Engineer. My orders come in and I have found out that I am going to the most elite Airborne Unit in the Army, The 82nd Airborne, in Ft Bragg, North Carolina.

My new home,“C” Charlie Company, 307th Combat Engineer Battalion Of the 82nd All-American Division. It was when I arrived there that I found out what the REAL Army is. HOOAH! We spent allot of time training and I learned how to utilize my MOS. I was making rank pretty fast and was selected to go to France to jump and get my French Airborne Wings. It was in France that my life made a drastic change that will be with me forever!

I'm not completely sure of the details, the last memory I truly have is being in France and what we had been doing up till the day of July 11, 2000. We had not been able to jump because the weather had not been favorable so we were involved with allot of training and drills with the French. On July 13th 2000, I fell 2 ½ stories and suffered a massive brain injury, better known as a TBI closed head injury. I went immediately into a deep coma, and was air lifted to the hospital in Montabon, France then flown to the civilian hospital in Toulouse, France. The hospital in Toulouse has a neurological intensive care unit and I received wonderful care there. My unit kept soldiers posted outside my room for days and my Mom arrived a couple days after my fall. I have been told that it was touch and go for a while but I'm here to tell you this story ! I spent 24 days in a deep coma, on life support. When I was removed from the respirator and breathing on my own it was decided to try and get me back to the states.

On August 8th the US Air Force flew in to France to take me to Germany. I spent one night in Germany at the US Army Base and then was flown to Walter Reed Army Hospital in DC. Still in a semi comatose state for another 21 days (RANCHO level 2-3) and suffering paralysis of my left side, I was not able to speak, walk, eat, dress or ANYTHING without assistance. I also had lost about a third of my body weight, I went from 180 to 126! My mom says she knew I could hear but didn't know for a while if I could see! After the doctors decided it was time, the therapists started trying to help me. I do not remember much during this time at Walter Reed but I do remember First Sergeant Westover and Sergeant Bazara, from my unit coming to see me, they brought me a challenge coin and a new barret’ from my unit.
After two weeks at Walter Reed, arrangements were made for me to go to the James A. Haley VA Hospital in Tampa Fl., where I would undergo intensive therapy, in the Veterans Head Injury Program.

We arrived in Tampa on August 23rd 2000. My Mom says it was the most horrible feeling in the world, the VA hospital was full of older people and she had the feeling that I was being warehoused! It turned out to be a wonderful place for me and helped me get on the road to recovery. It was there in the Tampa VA, that I fully “woke up”out of coma. (it's not like you see in the movies!) My Dad, Brother, other family members, and friends finally got to come and see me in Tampa, they have all told me that they imagined how bad it was going to be but were still shocked at my condition. The therapists really had their hands full! Stephanie my Physical Therapist had to teach me first; what center was, I had NO sense of balance! Then I had to relearn how to stand and finally she got me to takes steps and walk. It seems so easy, BUT trust me, IT'S NOT!  Karyn my speech therapist helped me communicate. All I could do at first was shake my head yes or no, and she realized that the part of my brain that gets your language started was having problems, and after much work I was talking. My voice didn't sound like me, a matter of fact it was VERY flat and monotone, kind of like a robot! I had NO pragmatics, procity or intonation, those are all things that give your voice expression and interest. Karyn also helped with cognitive problems. Amazingly, even though my short term memory has some problems, my long term is very good. I also had occupational, recreational, pool and vocational therapy; another words ALLOT of therapy. I met many wonderful veterans while at the VA hospital, most retired from the service many years ago, and some will remain in my heart and be friends forever! On October 10th 2000 I left the VA hospital, I walked out the door, with a cane, but I WALKED!!

I returned to Walter Reed Hospital for continued therapy for an additional 5 weeks, this time I got to stay at The Fisher House on post with my mom. I was finally considered an outpatient. Pictured here are just some of the Doctors, Nurses, Therapists and friends that helped in my recovery. On November 15th I got to go home to Pace for the first time since before my accident, I would have to return to Washington by the 15th of January but I was able to spend My Birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family and friends.

My trip back up to Washington in January 2001 had a stop along the way, Mom and I went to Ft. Bragg to spend time with my unit and attend the ALL RANKS BALL. The day before the ball, I was awarded the Army Achievement Medal at a luncheon held in my honor. My First Sergeant gave me a dedicated print from my unit that I will cherish my whole life. I could not believe how many soldiers and officers came to the luncheon. It was hard to imagine that they were talking about ME, with some of the words and stories that they told. “PFC Lynch’s sheer determination has been an inspiration for all; after sustaining a severe head injury during the French RUE he has fought and made a near complete recovery. His willingness and dedication to rehabilitate himself and the seemingly endless positive attitude is an inspiration to all.” I gave a small speech thanking them all for not leaving me, a fallen comrade behind, I know that the continued support of my unit had given me the encouragement to not give up! Leaving Ft Bragg and heading back to Washington DC the afternoon of the 13th of January was so hard, I knew that my days in the Army were numbered, I was going back to Walter Reed Hospital to finish the paperwork for my Medical Board and my Retirement from the Army. I so badly want to be back at Bragg with my unit!

Arriving at Walter Reed for the last time, I thought we would be there for just a couple weeks! HA HA! L-O-N-G story, and anyone who thinks military paperwork is quick better get ready for the REAL deal. (We could write a whole book about Medical Board Proceedings). Mom and I once again got to stay at The Fisher House. We both gained new friends and a sense of family with the others who were staying there. A special Thanks to All of You! You are in my heart and prayers everyday! I had a nice surprise, a friend of mine from my hometown Tanyr, came to visit. I also had a visit with General Timbo, General of the Hospital and the Command Sergeant Major of the Army. I was presented challenge coins from both of them! I spent my weekdays doing more therapy, Mom spent hers going CRAZY with paperwork. and our weekends were spent sight seeing.

On April 12th 2001 we left Washington, after 9 months of being on the road we were heading home for good. I am temporarily retired from the Army and will be re-evaluated in the future to see if I can return to service. While I'm retired I plan to attend college and work towards getting my life back! I will not presume to know what the full outcome of my recovery will be, I still suffer from lasting effects from my head injury. I do know that I am motivated, dedicated, and damn sure obligated to get better.

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