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Local soldier critically injured in Iraq – Spc. Chad Johson undertakes a new bat

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By LPR Staff

Editor/POST-REGISTER

More than seven months ago, a young soldier from Lockhart was assigned to a tour of duty in Iraq. Today, back in the United States, he faces new challenges as he learns to live with the injuries he suffered after a series of car-bombings.

On Sept. 28, Spc. Chad Johnson, 21, accompanied his unit to the grand opening o

f a sewage plant. The team set up speakers and invited the Iraqi nationals to attend the opening, hoping to win the hearts of the people. The day, which started joyfully for Johnson”s unit, ended in tragedy.

“We completed the ceremony and talked to the press about our plans for cleaning up the neighborhoods,” Johnson said. “We began to pack up and get ready to roll out. When we were completing this mission, we were ambushed.”

According to BBC reports, the attacks, which came while American soldiers were passing treats including candy and toys to Iraqi children, killed more than 50 people, including 30 children, and injured some 200 more.

“During the… ambush, my five-ton was struck with a car bomb, head-on on the right-front side,” Johnson said. “… I suffered minor injuries, as well as the other two soldiers with me.”

Johnson”s nightmare tale continued as he and his companions pulled themselves to safety, treating themselves for critical wounds. Johnson went for a medic to render help and was injured by the second bomb.

“I was thrown through the air a couple of feet and I noticed my left leg was missing,” he said. Before being moved to cover by his NCO, Johnson received a gunshot wound to his right buttock.

Johnson returned to the United States and is undergoing medical treatment in Washington, D.C. His injuries include his left leg, which was amputated below the knee, a dislocated right heel, a shattered foot, a broken tibia, a left-eye corneal abrasion and shrapnel embedded in his left frontal lobe. The severity of his injuries required him to undergo thirteen surgeries, he said. Recently, he was diagnosed with pneumonia, which is common for patients forced to lie prone for an extended period.

“It”s better,” Johnson said of the pneumonia on Monday. “I started my physical therapy again today. I started off fast, but slowed down at the end.” Johnson, though cordial, was understandably exhausted during his interview.

Johnson, a Lockhart High School graduate who played football during his high school career, is the eldest of five children. His mother, Tammy Cunningham, has traveled to Washington to be with her son, while his stepfather, Calvin, is home with his siblings.

“The family has been a two-income family and still live payday-to-payday, as many do nowadays,” said Lockhart city council member Jimmy Bertram, who has been in close contact with Johnson and his family since learning of his injuries. In an effort to ease the family”s financial struggle, Bertram opened an account at American National Bank in Lockhart on the Cunningham”s behalf.

“From all of the folks I have talked to about him, he”s an all-around good guy,” Bertram said.

Johnson is enthusiastic about his recovery. His doctors at Walter Reed Medical Center indicated that he might have to remain in Washington for a year.

“I think it will be more like four or six months,” Johnson said. He is looking forward to returning home to Lockhart when he is released from Walter Reed.

Support from his community will be central to Johnson”s recover, both before and after his release from Walter Reed.

“With all the extensive injuries this young man has, his biggest problem is that he has not heard from anybody, when all the soldiers around him were receiving mail and packages every day,” Bertram said. “He thought that his sacrifices were in vain and not appreciated by his country or his community. Whatever we can do for this young man and his family is well-deserved.”

Those who wish to lend moral support to Johnson can send mail to: Walter Reed Medical Center, Attn: Spc. Chad Johnson, 6900 Georgia Ave. NW, Ward No. 57 Room 62 Bed 2, Washington, D.C., 20307-5001 or to Malone House, Attn: Tammy Cunningham, 6900 Georgia Ave. NW, Bldg. 20 Room 364, Washington, D.C., 20307-5001. Any email sent to , with the subject line “Spc. Chad Johnson” will be forwarded to his attention.

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