Badly burned soldier seeks to serve again - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Badly burned soldier seeks to serve again

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It's been better than six months now that Bobby Bernier has been back from Afghanistan.

These days, he's no longer unleashing rounds from "a triple 7" howitzer.
"We were hot.  They were firing.  We were firing.  It was a fight.  I got lots of them before they got me," said Bernier.

These days, the soft-spoken soldier from Florence, South Carolina is waging a much different, very personal kind of fight, both outside and within the burn unit of the Army's Institute of Surgical Research.

Bernier was badly wounded in action while serving in Nangarhar Province.

"Felt like I got hit by Ray Lewis.  You know what I'm saying?"

Within a matter of seconds, Bobby was hit not just once, but twice by Taliban 120mm mortar rounds.

"It set me and my friend Reeves on fire and killed one of my good friends, two of my good friends got killed," recalled Bernier.

Bobby remembered helping the surviving members of his crew reach an aid station.  His own body was still smoking

"They all turned around and looked at me.  I thought they were looking at a monster or something.  I touched my face and heard it crackle.  I didn't feel anything," said Bernier.

Bernier's skull was torn by shrapnel and a full 40 percent of his body was scorched.

"It's nothing short of a miracle that I'm here because my buddy standing right next to me, he isn't."

Like other burned warriors, the price of living and healing has been relentless, excruciating pain.  In the burn unit's therapy room, skilled caregivers stretch deeply scarred flesh, much of it grafted to replace skin charred by explosive flame.

There is no other way to get better.

"Pain killers long stopped working," said Bernier.

For Bobby the wages of the grueling rehabilitation work on his badly burned hands has been the return of 70 percent of his grip.

"All I have to do is get back in shape, I can move."

Bobby's not kidding.  Despite his own horrendous suffering, despite the loss of friends, despite seeing what war has done to his wounded buddies, his goal is an eventual return to duty.

"Because I ain't no quitter," said Bernier with a smile.  "I'm not going back to be a hero or any of that nonsense. It's my job and I love my country."

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