When I walked into his room, his mother and his sister Katherine were with him. His dad, who is a doctor in Spartanburg, S.C., and two younger siblings, Courtney and Will, were all en route to spend Christmas with their badly battered Marine.
But for all the cards, posters, banners, Christmas stockings, lights, photos and flags, the room would have looked like a scene from a science fiction movie. Monitors, electronic devices, compressors, pumps and assorted tubes, wires and bags of colored fluids surrounded the bed -- all connected to Andrew Kinard. Tiny flecks of shrapnel were still visible on the side of his face. He had no legs. His abdomen was an open hole. And he was smiling. "God is good," he said in greeting.
During the next 11 months of hospitalization, Andrew Kinard was living proof of that statement. When I asked him or his family how I could help, the inevitable response would be, "Just pray for recovery." And so he also became evidence of the power of prayer.
In April 2007, he flew to Camp Lejeune, N.C., to meet his Marines when they returned from Iraq. Wearing his Marine utility uniform for the first time since being wounded, he greeted his comrades in a special "all-terrain" wheelchair.
Asked by a reporter to recollect the day he was wounded, he acknowledged that his memory of the attack had been dulled by shock and pain. Then he said: "A man asks himself: 'If something happens to me when I go into battle, how will I react? Will I be brave?'"
As they arrived home, the members of "Alpha" Company made it clear: Andrew Kinard was, without a doubt, their hero.
On Oct. 29, 2007, exactly a year after he was wounded, the indomitable young officer came home. Dignitaries and thousands of well-wishers were on hand to welcome Andrew at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg. The following Sunday, he spoke at all three services, thanking all for their unfailing prayers.
His recovery will continue for years to come. But on one of my visits to him in the hospital, the man who once played rugby at the Naval Academy said: "I don't need legs. I have my arms. I learned discipline at the Naval Academy. I have my faith and a desire to serve. Maybe I'll go to law school."
Andrew has all of that and more. He also has a great sense of humor. He has a T-shirt with the words "Marine For Sale" printed on the front. On the back, it reads, "40 Percent Off -- Some Assembly Required."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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