Tattoos are as old as war. Lots of soldiers get them, with military motifs, girlfriend’s names, or various guns, skulls or dragons adorning their skin. Some get something less ornate. Private First Class Kyle Hockenberry had For those I love I will sacrifice stitched into his flesh. He had no idea how prescient he was.
A member of the 1st Infantry Division, Hockenberry’s world changed June 15. He was on a foot patrol just outside Haji Ramuddin, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device detonated nearby. In this photograph, by Laura Rauch for the military’s Stars and Stripes newspaper, flight medic Corporal Amanda Mosher is tending to Hockenberry’s wounds aboard a medevac helicopter minutes after the explosion.
Kyle Hockenberry, 19, lost both legs and his left arm in the blast.
He joined the service last October, four months after graduating from Frontier High School outside Marietta, Ohio. A member of the National Honor Society, he loves motorcycles and hunting. After completing basic training, he returned home and spoke to local schoolchildren about the military. He shipped out to Afghanistan in February for a year-long tour with the 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Combat Brigade, from Fort Riley, Kansas.
After the blast, Hockenberry traveled from Afghanistan to Germany to San Antonio in nine days, where he is undergoing additional surgeries and rehabilitation. “Kyle is doing very well,” his mother, Kathy, told Battleland on Thursday. “He continues to do rehab. Hopefully soon will start working for his prosthetics. He is still in the hospital, not sure for how long.” She praises the “truly amazing” staff at the Brooke Army Medical Center. The family keeps relatives, friends and strangers apprised of Kyle’s progress on the Praying for Kyle Hockenberry Facebook page. “He can not wait to get out of the hospital,” Kathy posted Monday. “He is eating everything that don’t eat him first. Haha. Thanks everyone for your thoughts and prayers. Just keep them coming.”
Hockenberry’s uncle, Jim Hall, told the Marietta Times last month that doctors have sought to preserve Hockenberry’s tattoo as they conduct multiple surgeries and skin grafts around it. “His tattoo really sums it all up,” Hall said. “He really doesn’t like the word ‘hero.’ So we call him – he’s our miracle.”