Wyoming soldier earns Bronze Star for valor

By JOAN BARRON

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Army Col. David McKimmey didn't realize his leg had been broken until he tried to stand up.

He didn't find out until later that he had other fractures and burns to his face and hands.

He patted himself down, checking for bleeding. He found none.

McKimmey crawled to the burning Humvee and tried unsuccessfully to save another soldier inside.

He continued providing first aid to two other soldiers until the evacuation team arrived.

It was Sept. 5, 2007, on a road north of Balad, Iraq.

An improved explosive device buried in the road had exploded when McKimmey's Humvee, one of a three-vehicle convoy, drove over it.

Of the four men in the vehicle, only McKimmey and another soldier survived.

The crew was nearing the end of its 15-month deployment in Iraq.

On Thursday, McKimmey received the Bronze Star for valor for his actions that day.

U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., pinned the medal on the 27-year-old Torrington resident during ceremonies in his office in Cheyenne.

Col. Kevin Dunlop of the Pentagon flew in from Washington, D.C., with the medal and documents for the ceremony.

Also attending were McKimmey's 2-year-old daughter, Peyton, and his fiancee; Kassy, his parents and other family members.

The awarding of the medal had taken so long because of a communications snarl between two entities — the Wounded Transition Battalion, a special unit at the San Antonio medical center for returning wounded soldiers, and the First Cavalry Division, McKimmey's unit.

McKimmey was treated at the WTB for nearly a year, first as an inpatient, then as an outpatient.

He is back home in Torrington now with a medical retirement from the Army.

"It's been a long road," he said Thursday after the ceremony.

A native of Scottsbluff, Neb., McKimmey's family moved to Torrington when he was about 12.

He graduated from high school at 18, then worked in construction and other jobs for two years. At 20, he enlisted in the Army.

After basic and infantry training, he was sent to Iraq in 2006 and served in the personal security detail for the 3rd Battalion, 8th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

On the day of the attack, McKimmey's convoy was returning from transporting supplies to a southern checkpoint near its base.

"We were on the same road we came in on," McKimmey said. "Apparently, someone watched us take the road in and came in and armed it and left it before we could see them."

After he was evacuated, medics found that in addition to his broken left leg, McKimmey had a broken elbow, spinal fractures and second- and third-degree burns to his hands and lower face.

His leg was put in a cast that had to be removed later because of complications. Surgeons performed a skin graft to cover an open wound that developed on the leg.

They also wanted to do skin grafts on his face and hands. He refused because the procedure was so painful he didn't want it repeated.

The surgeons warned him he would have scars.

But when surgeons removed the bandages from his face and hands, they were surprised.

"They said I was a miracle kid, and I looked like I had a severe sunburn," he said.

McKimmey is enduring a long recovery from back surgery in January. He is about to undergo another surgery on his left ankle.

He grew a beard, partly to cover the scars and partly because he was tired of shaving.

The nightmares aren't as frequent as they were.

"I just take it one day at a time and try not to over-exert myself," McKimmey said. "I'm kind of an impatient guy, so I like to be out and doing things and it's hard for me to always take it easy, but I do my best."

McKimmey said he leans on his family for support.

In December, he purchased a home and a few head of livestock in Torrington, where he lives with Kassy and his daughter.

McKimmey said the other soldier who survived the explosion is attending school in Ohio. He lost his left hand and received severe burns to his face, arm and head.

McKimmey said he could go back to school, too.

"But at this point I don't know what I would go back to school for," he added.

Right now he wants to work at home and on his hobby farm, look after his daughter and get healthy.

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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