Vet Returns to Guantanamo Bay

By Liesse, Eric | Soldiers Magazine, March 2009 | Go to article overview

Vet Returns to Guantanamo Bay


Liesse, Eric, Soldiers Magazine


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

WITHIN U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba's community, scuba diving is a wildly popular activity. The Bay offers many unique opportunities for first-time and advanced divers. That is why the Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba Diving Program, a non-profit organization out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, came to Guantanamo--to get wounded veterans in the water.

The program, a chapter of Wounded Warriors and Disabled Sports Project, teaches disabled and wounded recovering veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom how to scuba dive, or helps them get certified on more advanced programs such as rescue diving.

One former Soldier, recovering from severe injuries sustained in Iraq, joined the program and came to Guantanamo with a special connection to the base: he used to live there.

"My mom is the banker, and my stepdad is a contractor," said Charles James Shaffer, a former private first class who was with the 1st Infantry Division in Mosul, Iraq, when he was wounded.

On Sept. 1, 2008, Shaffer was in Mosul conducting route clearance in a procession of tactical vehicles.

"There a kid was with a shape charge," Shaffer said. "He detonated it on our vehicle, injuring (the four of us) in our vehicle. Then we were hit by a cratering explosive while we were decelerating."

The attack mangled and severed Shaffer's right leg and his lungs were badly burned.

After treatment in Germany, he was admitted to Walter Reed, Sept. 5, and regained consciousness a few days later.

"My first question was, 'How many died?'" Shaffer said. "My second question was, 'Am I paralyzed?'"

He was happy to learn he still had use of his remaining limbs, though he knew the recovery would not be quick. …

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