VENADO MACHO" WOUNDED HERO

                        2016-2017 SEASON 

                     ANTHONY LEWIS 

I joined the Army in December of 2000. I was a hold over because of the MOS I chose so I didn't ship out until February of '01. I chose to be a Patriot Missile Operator. I finished basic training at Fort Sill, OK., as an honor graduate and received my first promotion. My first duty station and site for AIT was Fort Bliss, TX. I was assigned to Echo Btry. 2-43 ADA 108th Bgde. I received orders to take part in OIF/OEF on December 26th 2002. I left home on January 17th 2003. My unit built the 1st Patriot site at Camp Doha, Kuwait. On March 20th 2003 Echo Btry. became the 1st unit in history to have a PAC 3 interception. We knocked down the first 2 SCUD missiles fired on the first day of the war. I ran the EPP or electronic power plant that ran the entire system. The next day we were replaced by a unit from Germany because everybody wanted to get a chance at firing a missile. Echo Btry. was then assigned to bound with a part of the 1st Marine Division and the British Royal Marines. After my tour I returned in July of 2003. After being reduced in capacity by multiple injuries I was medically separated in 2005. I went kicking and screaming but still was released.  

I sustained my first injury before combat. In April 2002 I broke and dislocated my left ankle and leg during Air Assault training. I fell from the ropes course and required emergency surgery. With reconstruction and some hardware I deployed to Iraq. Next injury was a "mild TBI" from falling into a bunker from the Patriot back blast. Being a lookie-loo and celebrating our first action I got a little too close for comfort. The rest of my injuries are from good ol' wear and tear during the deployment and after returning home. PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, all the things throughout my body that pop up (arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis), spinal disc degradation, and 3 bulging discs round out, what I refer to as, my boo boos.  

I went through my MEB in February of 2005. I was a Specialist and was laterally promoted to Corporal in my final month. I couldn't attend PLDC because I had a permanent profile for my ankle and back. My ankle required 3 surgeries. I went to Iraq with hardware in my leg that should've been taken out 6 months before. My second surgery entailed breaking my leg to remove the hardware and overgrowth. The third was to repair the sub par work done on my inner ankle. In April of 2015 I was diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy. Doctors cannot find rhyme or reason as to why I now have this but it'll be just another test of my family and I's resolve. I'm new to the heart health world but I've been doing much better after getting the proper care (away from the VA). I went from having 19% function to 60%. almost normal. I've had ups and downs during that time also. I sometimes get an irregular heartbeat and have to be  shocked back to rhythm. I won't let this stop me from living and I can accept that it will be a test.  

All my injuries hurt physically and mentally. I was once a PT stud and maxed the PT test. I was reduced to walking when I once loved to run. Doing the job I signed up for was now out of reach. I was planning to be a lifer in the Army and plans were cut short. My dreams became Nightmares literally and figuratively. I now had to adjust to the civilian world and fight the VA at the same time. I had 9 injuries and scars and the VA said it amounted to 20%. Heart failure reduced me to having the heart of an 88 year old man after a heart attack. That's the description my doctor gave me when I finally arrived in Houston. I was at my worst and in the hospital for almost 3 months. I could only walk about three steps before exhaustion. I was carrying 75 pounds of extra water weight and swollen everywhere. Luckily my team of docs found the right cocktail of meds to save me. I was able to be moved off the transplant list and given a lot more time to live. Thank God. It took 7 years of fighting, psychs, destroying my family, stress, and various hospitals before I was recognized as 100% disabled or handi-capable. It took one year before the VA decided to help with my heart failure. Another layer of stress but manageable. Like many of my brothers and sisters in arms we have to traverse a long tunnel of Darkness before we can feel the warm light hit our faces. By the grace of God, the love of my wife Nelida, Veteran groups, and Veteran outreach services like Venado Macho have I been able to get through the tunnel. I will never be the man I was before the Army or combat but I'd do it all again with a smile.

Thank you for your consideration and generosity. Being a new member of the family makes my family and I so happy. I'm glad to have met your family. Thanks all around.

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Anthony & Nelita.
Venado Macho's 1st Soldier Brad Thomas and Family with This Year's Soldier Anthony Lewis and Mike Levee.