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Wednesday, March 17

Grenade victim looks back, keeps walking

By Matthew Cox | Army Times

Capt. Greg Holden thinks about that March 23 every time he looks at the scars on his left leg.

Holden lost eight pints of blood and nearly lost his left leg early that morning at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait after another soldier with the 101st Airborne Division allegedly attacked with M67 fragmentation grenades and small-arms fire.

``You can't go through a day without thinking about it,'' said the 31-year-old Holden.

Sgt. Hasan Akbar, a combat engineer, is accused of killing two officers in an attack that wounded 14 other troops that night.

At his Article 32 hearing last summer, witnesses said Akbar switched off the lights in the tent area, plunging it into almost total darkness, then tossed the grenades and fired his M4 at soldiers running out of the tents under the mistaken impression that the enemy had attacked.

Capt. Christopher Scott Seifert died at the scene. Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone died two days later from shrapnel that pierced his neck.

If convicted, Akbar could face lethal injection, making him the first soldier to face the death penalty in a court-martial since 1998.

The attack occurred about 1:30 a.m. Holden remembers trying to get out of his tent after the first grenade went off. That's when the second grenade - it landed about three feet away - blew him off his feet.

``It launched me through the air. I landed on the top of my left shoulder,'' Holden recalled in a March 3 telephone interview from Fort Campbell, Ky. ``I remember trying to get up and walk, but my left leg just did not work.''

He didn't realize it at the time, but the grenade had fractured his lower left tibia in 15 places, blown away joints of the fourth and fifth metatarsals of his left foot, blown away part of his left heel and split open his left leg from the ankle to the knee.

Holden's fellow soldiers rushed to his aid and tried to reassure him as they struggled to control his bleeding.

``They were doing their best, but at the same time they were saying, `My God, we can't stop the bleeding,''' he said.

After several attempts at using pressure bandages failed, soldiers treating Holden had no choice but to put a tourniquet on the leg just below the crotch.

``I was completely devastated to be taken out at this point. We still thought it was the enemy,'' Holden said. ``The other thing sinking in was you're kind of like scared to death, and you have a tourniquet on ... you know it's bad - if you are going to lose your leg, you are losing it right there.''

The other thing that weighed heavily on his mind was his soldiers.

``I stopped worrying about whether I was going to live and started to focus on my soldiers,'' Holden said. ``The whole time you are laying there, you are seeing more and more come into the aid station.''

Twelve surgeries later, Holden is walking on his own, having spent 59 days in the hospital.

He took his first steps Sept. 23.

``They told me it would take a year to walk again, and I took my first steps in six months,'' said Holden, who is working as 1st Brigade's assistant intelligence officer at Fort Campbell.

Col. Ben Hodges, commander of 1st Brigade, took some grenade fragments to his right forearm in the attack, but he said the pain he suffered from the attack was mostly mental.

``The fact that that would occur in my unit was really painful,'' Hodges said in a March 2 interview.

Despite similar feelings, Holden said he's determined to get on with his life.

``There is no sense in looking back on why, why, why. ... You can't change what happened to you,'' said Holden, who now goes to physical therapy three times a week.

``They told me I would never run again. ... I like when someone tells me I can't do it. Tell me I can't, and I'll do it.''