When Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Hale arrived in Augusta, blind and broken from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, it was his wife that he turned to for support.
Without her, “I would have crumbled like wet origami,” Hale said.
But any notion that the worst was behind this family of six quickly fell apart when Kelly Hale was diagnosed with skin cancer just days after her husband was admitted to the uptown Department of Veterans hospital for rehabilitation.
Flash forward three months and Hale is ready to slip on her sneakers for Saturday’s Miles4Melanoma 5K run at Lake Olmstead, beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Her melanoma, a discolored spot on her collarbone, was removed with surgery and she’s currently in remission. But the emotional roller coaster that started rolling Dec. 8 with her husband’s injury is still fresh on her mind.
“We just took it one day at time,” Hale said. “There are very few words to describe the experience.”
The Hales, both 34, met in 2007 at Eglin Air Force base in Florida. His training in explosives and ordnance disposal took their family to Fort Drum, N.Y., and Hale twice to Afghanistan and once to Iraq. His responsibility overseas was to collect and study roadside bombs for distinguishing marks and to determine their origin.
On Dec. 8, he was about 30 feet from a bomb when it exploded, sending shrapnel skyward. Hale’s injuries were mostly above his neck and he eventually lost both eyes.
He was quickly shipped to Bagram Air Force Base for treatment, then Germany and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. His rehabilitation is expected to end mid-May and the family will travel again to Eglin Air Force Base where Hale will go through the medical boards to determine his fitness for duty.
Looking back, Hale recognizes that her husband’s injury was in a sense providence. She would still be wrapped up against the cold of upstate New York and a fellow resident at the Fisher House on the VA campus wouldn’t have seen the melanoma and advised she see a doctor.
“I don’t know if I would have survived this if not for Aaron’s injury,” she said.