Alisha Reif, cradles 2-month-old daughter, Elena, as Sergeant Reif's mom, Carrie, proudly clutches a portrait of her warrior son.
GRAYTOWN, Ohio - The call from Afghanistan on Monday was the kind that every family with a loved one serving there dreads.
It was from a military nurse with news about Army Staff Sgt. Justin Reif: He had been riding in a Humvee that was destroyed by an improvised explosive device.
That was the bad news. The good news was that he was relatively unscathed for having been through such a horrific blast, suffering broken ribs and a broken back.
Walking is painful, and he'll be in a brace for 12 weeks. The three other soldiers who were in the Humvee also survived, although with more serious injuries.
There's more good news: Sergeant Reif, now in a hospital in Ramstein, Germany, will be flying to Fort Bragg, N.C., home to his unit, the 82nd Airborne Division, Friday or Sunday.
His wife, Alisha, 2-month-old daughter, Elena, and parents, Carrie and Brad Reif, will join him.
"You think all the time that something like this could happen," Alisha Reif said of her husband's brush with death. "All I want to do is see his face. When I do, everything will be better."
Army Staff Sgt. Justin Reif had his sights set on being a soldier from a young age, according to his mother, Carrie Reif.
She said she talked to her husband Wednesday and he sounded much better than earlier in the week. "I think because he's getting closer to coming home, his spirits are getting better," she said.
Sergeant Reif, 26, enlisted in the Army 10 days after graduating from Oak Harbor High School, Carrie Reif, said. "His father and I signed for him because he wasn't 18 yet," she recalled.
Mrs. Reif said her son had his sights set on being a soldier from the time he was a little boy.
After enlisting, he would serve in two of the Army's most-storied divisions - the 101st and, later, the 82nd, to which he transferred when he qualified for jump school at Fort Benning, Ga.
He served a four-year enlistment and re-upped for three more years. He was deployed to Iraq as an engineer doing demolitions and installing barricades in Baghdad.
In Afghanistan this week, he was clearing roads of explosives in Asadabad, a mountainous area near the Pakistan border, when one very nearly killed him.
Sergeant Reif will be discharged in June. His wife said she's looking forward to her husband's rejoining the civilian ranks. "I like the military life, but not the deployments. I don't want him to re-enlist," she said. "The hardest job in the Army is being a wife."
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