Homebound angel track

 

“There’s nothing to be bitter about.

It’s war,” he said. “I didn’t sign up to get into the underwater basket-weaving program. You know the dangers.”

Dunagan
and his team were about to enter an Afghan village when one of his men
stepped on a land mine that triggered an improvised explosive device
(IED). The force of the explosion threw Dunagan 30 meters into a nearby
creek full of toxic water. Dunagan was a U.S.

Army sergeant at the time of the accident.

The
bomb ripped Dunagan’s legs and left arm from his body, but that wasn’t
all. With obvious open wounds, the toxic water filled the soldier’s body
with infection.

“I had so much stuff, they (his doctors) didn’t know what it was,” he recalled.

To
avoid possibly deadly medical shock, doctors placed the triple amputee
into a medically induced coma for a week. After he was transported from
Afghanistan to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, doctors
there spent 10 1/2 hours stabilizing Dunagan.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” he said, sitting in a wheelchair in his Edmond rental home.

Deployed to Afghanistan in August 2010, Dunagan said he was “biding [his] time” and knew that injury or death was imminent.

“I was there seven weeks, and we had one wounded man per day. In the first month, we lost 23 guys,” he recalled.

During his first deployment to Iraq in 2008 and 2009, Dunagan said he lost 16 friends.

New life
Now
retired as a staff sergeant, Dunagan, his wife, Angie, and their five
children will soon embark on a new life when they become owners of a
new, handicappedaccessible home built through a partnership between the
Gary Sinise Foundation and the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers
Foundation.

Sinise, an award-winning actor who co-starred as Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 film Forrest Gump, has
been a longtime advocate for servicemen and their families. A plethora
of alliances and partnerships with the Sinise Foundation provide a
multitude of services for veterans past and present. One is Restoring
Independence and Supporting Empowerment (RISE). The program helps
severely wounded soldiers and their families adjust to life challenges
created by the injuries incurred while serving their country.

On
March 11, Sinise will join Dunagan and his family at a fundraising
reception and dinner at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage
Museum, 1700 NE 63rd St. Proceeds will be used to build custom Smart
Homes for severely injured war heroes, including Dunagan.

The
home, scheduled for construction in the Deer Creek area, will be the
27th built by Sinise’s foundation. It will be equipped with countertops
that fit Dunagan’s needs, wider hallways and bathrooms, pocket doors,
adjustable kitchen shelves, an adjustable stove and possibly a heated
driveway, organizers said.

Future focus
Dunagan, 33, doesn’t feel sorry for himself, despite his physical challenges.

“Other
than having three limbs missing, I’m as healthy as an 18-yearold,” he
said. “We’re moving on. We’re living life. When something like this
happens, you have a choice. You can lay there, or you can get up and
participate in life.”

Amber
Wolanski, a representative of Warriors for Freedom, a co-sponsor of the
March 11 fundraiser, said the organization helps injured soldiers get
involved with their favorite activities.

Dunagan likes to hunt and grill and wants to appear in an episode of BBQ Pitmasters, a reality TV series that airs on Destination America.

“I want to go zip-lining, whitewater rafting, and I want to go skydiving on my birthday,” he said.

Angie Dunagan said the injuries have not changed the couple’s plans.

“To
me, he’s the same old Rusty.” For information about donations or
sponsorships for the March 11 fundraising event call 818-432-8961 or
contact RBrown@garysinisefoundation.org.

INSPIRATION
TO ACTION FUNDRAISER

5:30 P.M.
RECEPTION, 6 P.M. DINNER
NATIONAL COWBOY & WESTERN HERITAGE MUSEUM
1700 NE
63RD ST.
514-0514
INDIVIDUAL TICKETS $100

Jennifer Chancellor

Jennifer is editor-in-chief of Oklahoma Gazette. Her journalistic work includes news, breaking news, music, feature and news feature reporting, investigative journalism, news photography, videography, blogging, page design and marketing spanning more than two decades in Oklahoma. Twitter: @JenChancellor

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