Angela McCoy Meads cries when she recalls the first time she saw her husband after a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.
As they loaded Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Byron “Mac” Meads into an ambulance June 25, he looked at her and said, “Hey baby, I love you.”
“Those were the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard,” Angela Meads said by phone Friday from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Her husband, a Westside High School graduate and the pilot of an OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, received broken legs and spinal injuries in the June 21 crash. He was about two miles from his forward operating base when the engine malfunctioned in the light, single-engine helicopter, largely used for reconnaissance missions because of its speed and low profile.
Meads, who deployed to Afghanistan in September, doesn’t remember much about the crash, but his co-pilot told his wife there was a loud explosion just before the impact.
He said the Army is still investigating whether mechanical failure or enemy fire caused the crash.
Meads’ co-pilot was paralyzed in the crash. The incident took place the day after the couple’s 14th wedding anniversary. Angela Meads, formerly of Augusta, had an uneasy feeling beforehand.
“Sometimes as Army wives we make ourselves worry, but Mac and I are so connected, I just knew something wasn’t right,” she said.
She was waiting at the airport when her husband arrived stateside. She said she was caught in a feeling between gratitude at seeing he was alive and anguish at seeing the pain he was in.
“There’s nothing worse in this world that I can fathom than having the person you love more than yourself hurt,” Meads said.
The past week has been difficult for Meads, who is still finding her way around the hospital and coping with shock. Adding to the experience was meeting President Obama, who presented Meads with an official presidential coin.
“To have a president thank him personally was a humbling experience for both of us,” Meads said.
It will be three to four months before Meads is transferred to another medical facility. His wife plans to take their children, Tristen, 12, and Scarlett, 10, to Maryland when school starts. Until then, she is keeping a solo vigil by her husband’s bedside.
“After here, my job will only get harder. But that doesn’t matter to me,” she said. “I have my husband.”