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Family returns from visiting injured soldier

With every passing hour, it seems as though U.S. Army PFC Darryl Wallace gets just a little stronger.

Monday was no exception.

The 23-year-old McDuffie County man was critically injured - losing his right leg from the knee down and his left foot - when his Hummer was blown up by an improvised explosive device on June 9 in Afghanistan. Since then, he's gone through numerous surgeries.

His latest surgery was on Monday and like the previous ones, PFC Wallace came through it "surprisingly well," according to family members.

That particular surgery, which was performed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., involved removing a rod from his pelvis, said his wife, Tiffany, who has been with her husband since he was flown to the United States from Germany.

"He went through the surgery just fine," said Mrs. Wallace by telephone. "He's getting better and better each day."

PFC Wallace was even able to eat about half of a six-inch sub-sandwich, said his mother-in-law, Margaret Higdon of Harlem.

"Tiffany had to smash the sandwich flat, but he ate about half of it and that was good, seeing as how he can't open his mouth wide because of an injury to his jaw," she said.

Mrs. Higdon and PFC Wallace's 2-year-old son, Chase, as well as his paternal grandparents, Gene and Edna Wallace, who raised him, and his maternal grandparents, Betty and Harvey Smith, just returned from spending several days with their loved one in the nation's capital.

"He's made a lot of progress already, but he's still got a long way to go," said Mr. Wallace.

Despite the fact many more surgeries await PFC Wallace, as well as hundreds of hours of physical therapy, he already is longing for the day when he can work and support his family again.

Mr. Wallace asked his grandfather, whom he calls "Poppey," if he had spoken to any of his buddies down at the Olin Corp., where Mr. Wallace used to work before retiring.

"'Have you talked to anyone about a job for me, because I'm going to need a job when I get out of here,"' Mr. Wallace recalled his grandson asking him.

"'I don't want to just sit around and not work. I want to work to buy Tiffany a bigger trailer,"' added Mrs. Higdon.

Right now, the couple lives in a small mobile home, which sits in the backyard of PFC Wallace's grandparents' home.

PFC Wallace recently was moved to the fifth floor of Walter Reed Army Medical Center - a floor where many amputee soldiers are taken for treatment.

"He is being treated excellently there," said Mr. Wallace. "I'd say Darryl is in the greatest hospital in America."

While visiting with PFC Wallace in the hospital last week, family members learned more about what actually happened and how he made it out alive.

After the hummer he was driving hit the IED, it exploded and then burst into flames. Three other soldiers riding in the vehicle managed to escape serious injury. PFC Wallace wasn't as fortunate, however. He had to be rescued by a medic.

"We got all that information from Darryl's sergeant," said Mrs. Higdon.

The flames were so intense following the explosion that a 50-caliber machine gun literally melted, the sergeant said.

"The medic pulled Darryl out of the vehicle before it blew up," said Edna Wallace. "We're so thankful for what he did for Darryl. We're going to try find out his name, because we want to thank him. We thank God for him being there at the time."

Family members are coping as best they can with the events that have unfolded in their lives the past couple of weeks.

"The Lord is looking after all of us, just as He looked after Darryl over in Afghanistan," said Mrs. Edna Wallace.

A community fund is being set up this week at Regions Bank in Thomson for those wishing to donate to PFC Wallace and his family. Details were still being worked out on Tuesday.

"I can't tell you how much we appreciate the generosity that has been shown to us and the prayers that have been said on our behalf," said Tiffany Wallace. "It means so much to us."

However, the family says PFC Wallace and his wife can receive donations, letters and cards in Washington, D.C.

The address to write is: PFC Darryl and Tiffany Wallace, C/O The Mologne House Hotel, 6900 Georgia Avenue, N.W. Building 20, Room 432, Washington, D.C. 20307-5001.

Web posted on Thursday, June 28, 2007

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