News: Wounded warriors return to Afghanistan
Story by Sgt. Antony Lee
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Staff Sgt. Mike Church and Sgt. Quinn Rogan were serving together in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, when, on Dec. 2, 2012, they were ambushed by several insurgents at their forward operating base.
The attack resulted in a firefight that lasted nearly three hours between the insurgents and coalition forces at the base, including the Rhode Island National Guard unit Church and Rogan belonged to. Both Church and Rogan were wounded from a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device during the attack.
More than a year later, Church and Rogan were again in Afghanistan – this time as a part of Operation Proper Exit, a program that enables wounded warriors to return to theater and exit on their own terms, helping with the healing process. They flew over the site where they received their life-changing injuries and looked down at the base they served at and protected.
Church, Rogan and three others – retired service members - Staff Sgt. Bobby Henline, Sgt. Mike Stafford, and Cpl. Jesse Murphree – were visiting Afghanistan with Operation Proper Exit.
The wounded warriors also visited Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 21, before flying to Forward Operating Base Walton to meet with deployed troops.
At a FOB Walton chapel, each of the five wounded warriors told their stories to those in attendance – mostly soldiers with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment based at Walton.
“It’s an honor to be back here. It’s cool to be back here to prove people wrong,” Rogan said, adding that doctors had told him he would never be able to return to Afghanistan. “You’ve just got to keep trucking. Everything happens for a reason.”
Murphree, who was injured on Dec. 27, 2007 in Korengal Valley, talked to the soldiers about his life since receiving injuries and going through the difficult recovery process.
“I’m at the best point ever in my life right now,” Murphree said.
He also talked about Operation Proper Exit and what the trip meant to him.
“This is where I really want to finish it and get it all behind me,” Murphree said. “That’s why I’m here.”
Stafford, who also appreciated the opportunity to come to Afghanistan, said that “Coming back to theater and seeing you guys has motivated me.”
“I can’t wait to get home and tell everybody,” he said. “I’m proud to be an American and I love this place.”
Henline, who served on four deployments and is a burn survivor, has a unique story in that he is now a stand-up comedian. He joked with the soldiers in attendance that when he starts a comedy routine, instead of pumping up the crowd, as most comedians do, he goes out and stares at them for a while.
“I want the audience to be awkward,” Henline said as the service members laughed.
Henline, who said his family played a huge part in his recovery process, even joked openly about his injuries. Although his injuries are serious, he showed the service members in attendance that recovery is possible and that wounds sustained on the battlefield do not have to ruin the rest of your life.