While thousands of Dads spent Father's Day with their children, PFC Darryl Wallace was hundreds of miles away from his 2-year-old son in McDuffie County - recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., after becoming one of the latest casualties of the war in Afghanistan.
"He's not home, yet, but he's alive," said Edna Wallace, his grandmother, who along with her husband, Gene, raised PFC Wallace. "At least we have him, and that's a lot more than a lot of military people can say about their loved ones who have been killed in the war. We're all coping because he's alive. We just thank God that he's alive."
The 23-year-old soldier, who grew up in McDuffie County and graduated from Thomson High School in 2003, was critically injured when the U.S. Army Hummer he was driving was blown up By an improvised explosive device IED By Taliban forces near Khwost on June 9. PFC Wallace, who was deployed to the war zone from Fort Bragg, N.C., lost his right leg below the knee, lost his left foot, broke his left arm, sustained a crushed pelvis and suffered a variety of stomach injuries, according to family members.
Three other soldiers inside the armored vehicle, managed to escape serious injury.
PFC Wallace, whose wife, Tiffany, has flown to Washington to be with her husband, doesn't yet know what the extent of his injuries are.
Since he still is under strong pain medication, doctors aren't expected to inform him of the extent of his injuries for a few days, said Margaret Higdon, his mother-in-law, who lives in Harlem.
"He's very strong, physically speaking," Mrs. Higdon said. "I think he'll be able to bounce back from all of this, although we all realize there are going to be some real rough days ahead. The main thing is that he is alive - that my daughter still has her husband and my grandson still has his Daddy."
PFC Wallace was undergoing more surgery on both of his legs Monday, said his mother-in-law.
"He's got to undergo several more surgeries before he's finished," said Mrs. Higdon. "We know that he's still facing surgery on his back and a hip and there may be future surgeries, too."
PFC Wallace is expected to be bestowed the Purple Heart in recognition of his bravery during a special ceremony that is expected to take place within a few weeks.
"He's our hero for sure," said Mrs. Wallace. "And now I guess others feel the same way about him. They should."
"He's my heart," said Mr. Wallace, a retiree from Augusta's Olin Chemical Company, as he choked back tears, sitting in the living room of his home on County Line Road. "When I found out what had happened, I just broke down. We're hunting and fishing buddies, and we're real close."
Aside from PFC Wallace's wife being with him, his mother, Regina Robinson, of Grovetown also is there.
"He's able to talk to them, but he's in a lot of pain from time to time," said Mrs. Wallace. "Tiffany says she doesn't care what lies ahead for her husband and herself, as long as he's alive."
One of the first things that Mrs. Higdon recalls her daughter telling her over the telephone after seeing her husband for the first time in the hospital was, "'Mama, he's beautiful."'
The couple has been married for two years. They dated about two years before deciding to marry, relatives said.
PFC Wallace's wife got the call about her husband on June 9. Soon, she had scooped up her son and headed to her husband's grandparents' home, where her mom joined the family.
"I knew something was wrong; I just didn't know what it was until I got there," recalled Mrs. Higdon.
Already, PFC Wallace's wife, who works part-time at Neal's Bar-B-Que in Thomson, had informed her husband's grandparents. She sat in the living room floor and told them the news, Mrs. Wallace said.
From Afghanistan, PFC Wallace had been taken to a hospital in Turkey. His next stop was a medical facility in Germany, before finally arriving at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on June 12. His wife and mother departed Augusta's Regional Airport on the same day to join him.
PFC Wallace, Mrs. Higdon said, had volunteered to be the driver of the armored vehicle.
"The only thing he ever expressed a concern about to Tiffany was IEDs," she pointed out.
For now, the family is bolstered By their faith, and their brothers and sisters in area congregations.
"Everybody has been so supportive of our families - we can't thank them enough," said Mrs. Wallace, who attends Raysville Baptist with her husband.
"Words can't say how proud we are of what Darryl has done for our country," added his grandmother. "We all love him and can't wait to see him."
PFC Wallace's grandparents and his mother-in-law left their homes on Tuesday to drive to Washington to be with him and his wife.
At Neal's Bar-B-Que this past Saturday, a large banner, with a purple heart at the top, PFC Wallace's full name and an American flag had been pinned to the front wall, near the counter where customers place and pay for their orders.
"We did this to honor Darryl," said Lynn Neal, who along with her husband, Mike, own the local business. "We wanted to do something for Tiffany, too, because I know how heart-broken she is. I know how much she loves him. And I know she'll stay right beside him and support him. She'll do it, because she knows that he stood By our country and defended it. Darryl is definitely a hero."
The Neals have established a fund to raise money to assist the Wallace family with various expenses at their business on the Augusta Highway in Thomson.
The banner, which Mrs. Neal plans to present to PFC Wallace when he recovers and returns home, is signed By dozens of people - most of whom don't know him - but cared enough to sign to let him know that he's in their prayers.