By Tania Meireles, WTC Stratcom
While traveling with four Americans and some Afghani Army support in Afghanistan on July 23, 2006, AW2 Soldier SFC Stewart Kuehl’s Land Cruiser was hit by multiple remotely-detonated improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“It’s been four years since the Taliban won a very small skirmish in the hills around Djadrain Valley,” said Kuehl.
Kuehl sustained traumatic brain injuries (TBIs); shattered bones in his skull, arm, and leg; and a fractured back. He doesn’t remember what happened after the injury, but reports state that he was stabilized and evacuated to an Army base and then to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The medical staff did not think he was going to make it and his Family was flown to Germany to see him.
“I did make it,” he said with a chuckle. “It is a lot tougher for the spouses during this time than the wounded Soldier. Spouses get the phone call that they may be losing their loved one. They have to make the decisions about medical care.”
He then went to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and then to The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.
“I received phenomenal care at Walter Reed and Minneapolis. And I mean phenomenal. Thanks from the bottom of my heart to all the Family, friends, and support personnel that gave selfless service and contributed to my recovery.”
The injuries resulted in the loss of his right eye, memory loss, and impaired cognitive brain functions and mobility.
“I can walk with a cane, but I can’t run. I have problems keeping up with medications and remembering some things.”
He utilizes a blackberry and laptop to keep him grounded. His wife, Linda, is always there as well to help him and makes sure he doesn’t double-book appointments.
“My wife puts it all together for me.”
After his injury, Kuehl was working for a satellite dish company, but he found the work too stressful for him and decided to retire in July 2009.
“Quality of life is great, it’s a pleasure to wake up every day and not be in a hospital bed,” he said. “Again thank you to everyone involved!”
July is also the month that “another Kuehl will enter the conflict and serve the interests of our country.” Kuehl’s daughter has deployed.
“She knows firsthand the realities of war, because she visited Walter Reed every day of my recovery there. She’s a true representative of what America is based on—selfless service to protect the freedoms of our nation. No one can be more proud than I am of her commitment to serving our country.”
“I’m overwhelmed with emotion for numerous reasons. The biggest is being able to say thank you to Linda, my daughters, my Family, and to send good thoughts to Leah so that she will have a safe and positive tour of duty.