Veteran injured in Afghanistan shares story of struggle and triumph

Retired Sgt. Maj. Doug Reed and his wife, Jana, shared their story of strength and survival at Nationwide Children's Hospital on Thursday. (Photo courtesy: Reed family)

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Retired Sgt. Major Doug Reed is quick to joke about his injuries these days.

He talks about not being able to flip the bird after losing his middle finger and having to shave the inside of his mouth because part of the outside of his cheek is now the inside of his cheek.

The self-jabs were quick to draw laughs from the lunchtime crowd gathered at Nationwide Children's Hospital on Thursday. It was the 6th Annual Veterans Day celebration, organized by the Military Veterans Employee Resource Group at NCH.

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"We really wanted to honor his service, as well as his wife's service to our country, and so, many times, we hear heroic acts, like Sgt. Major's, but we also get to hear what his wife was doing in support of his recovery and the struggles that she went through as well, so we're really excited and blessed to have them here at our hospital," said William Parker, a quality improvement consultant at Nationwide.

Reed's wife, Jana, joined him on stage, as she often does. The two are a package deal, they were quick to inform the crowd.

Reed talked about his devastating injury years ago in Afghanistan. On April 11, 2010, Reed was injured by an RPG. He lost a finger and nearly half his face.

"There was a struggle for my soul that day," Reed said. "Satan was trying to kill me, and Jesus said, 'I'm not done with him yet.'"

To this day, Reed cannot remember what happened that day, and he endured 55 days of amnesia following his injury.

But his wife's memory more than makes up for it.

"Doug did not even see the RPG coming, he doesn't even remember what happened," Jana Reed told the crowd. "But, you know, the one person who did know, he did see it coming and who was there the whole time was God. It didn't surprise God, God knew all along that he was going to get through this."

Now, after more than 30 years of military service, more than 30 surgeries and more than 30 years of marriage, the Reeds are stronger than ever and sharing their strength with everyone they can.

"We just want to help anybody that we can because it's not so bad," Jana Reed said. "Life is good after a traumatic illness or an injury, and it can be."

And life is pretty good for the Reeds these days. They share seven children and four grandchildren. And they have plenty of ups and downs they hope will inspire others.

"That's what we hope to do is encourage people to keep moving forward," Reed said. "It's easy to go in reverse if you let yourself. It's harder to move forward, but moving forward is the way to go."