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Published: Friday, 6/6/2003

Wounded officer yearns for return to duty

BY RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Capt. Greg Holden discusses his recovery at the Huron County Veterans Services Office in Norwalk, Ohio. Capt. Greg Holden discusses his recovery at the Huron County Veterans Services Office in Norwalk, Ohio.
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NORWALK, Ohio - With a sign on his wheelchair that says, “My other car is a BMW,” Army Capt. Greg Holden is rolling toward the future.

“It was a tragic incident, it happened, and I need to move forward. I'm expected to make a full recovery,” he said. “I want to be playing golf by the end of the summer.”

Captain Holden, 30, spent the last two months recovering at an Army hospital in Washington. On March 23, while he was sleeping at a camp in Kuwait, a grenade blasted shrapnel into his body and shattered one of his shin bones.

A U.S. soldier, Sgt. Hasan K. Akbar, is charged with the grenade attack, which killed two soldiers and hurt 14 others.

Captain Holden could be called to testify in the case, so he is not allowed to discuss the incident. But he chatted yesterday about his recovery, his smiling blue eyes mirroring the twilight shade on the American flag behind him.

Dozens of tiny handprints decorate the flag, a gift to Captain Holden from Pleasant Street Elementary School in Norwalk. Captain Holden, who grew up in Huron, Ohio, said people around the area and the country have been very supportive.

“I received thousands of cards,” he said. “I wish I could write everybody back and thank them.”

Captain Holden is staying with his parents in Vermilion, Ohio, until the end of the month, when he likely will return to Washington for further medical care. He already endured 11 surgeries in a span of less than three weeks.

He still wears a metal device on his left leg that can be adjusted to make sure his splintered bone is mending properly. Both legs are covered with shrapnel wounds, but body armor protected most of his upper body.

Twice a day, Captain Holden takes morphine tablets that dull most of the pain. He is able to drive, and is swiftly rebuilding muscle he lost lying in a hospital bed.

“I can't stand to just sit around,” he said. “I always want to get up and do something.”

Captain Holden, who served with the Army's 101st Airborne Division, said the most difficult part of dealing with his injuries is knowing fellow soldiers continue fighting without him. His unit is now just north of Baghdad, and his girlfriend is also serving with the Army in Iraq.

“I was hoping I'd get healed fast enough to go back there,” he said. “I will definitely work out 20 hours a day if that's what it takes to get back in and get a job in the field.”

When he was a child, Captain Holden loved stomping through the woods in camouflage, pretending he was a soldier. He joined a ROTC program when he was at the University of Cincinnati, and entered the Army about eight years ago.

He served twice in Bosnia, and hopes to continue serving in the Army “until they kick me out.”

Captain Holden said he mourned for the two soldiers killed in the grenade attack, but he is trying to move on. He uses his commitment to his job and wry sense of humor to carry him forward.

“A positive attitude gets you through 90 percent of the difficulties you face in life,” he said. “I hate quitters. Don't ever say you can't.”



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