Ypsilanti soldier injured in Afghanistan expects to return to duty
Shannon Jackson doesn’t get many phone calls from her son William Barnett when he’s on an overseas military deployment.
So she was surprised when she answered the phone Wednesday and heard his voice on the other end.
“Hi Mom. It’s your son,” he said. It’s what he always says when he calls. Then he told her why he was calling: He had been injured by an improvised explosive devise in Afghanistan and had just had surgery.
“I immediately started crying,” Jackson said, “and I asked him if he was OK. I kept saying ‘oh my God, oh my God' over and over.”
Barnett, of Ypsilanti, assured her that he was OK — at least as OK as one can be after being injured by a makeshift bomb and having surgery to remove shrapnel.
“He assured me that he had both hands and both feet,” she said. That was the first thing he checked after the surgery.
Barnett, known by his family as Andy, was seriously injured Wednesday while on a foot patrol near Salim Aka in Afghanistan. Someone in his group (Barnett is not sure who) stepped on the IED, and it detonated.
The explosion killed 25-year-old Spc. Kyle McClain of Shelby Township instantly. Staff Sgt. Robert Drebenstedt, 29, of Charlevoix; Spec. Steven Nelson, 26, of Dollar Bay; and Pvt. Joshua Colon, 20, of Grand Rapids, were also injured.
Jackson said her son has been doing well, although he has been in pain and has abrasions all over his body, including on his face. Jackson said the Army told her Saturday that his condition is no longer considered serious and he has been moved to a recovery center in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he is expected to spend two to three weeks.
Jackson said Barnett, a specialist in the Army National Guard, is expected to return to active duty in Afghanistan after his recovery, and he's is happy about that. “He said he wasn’t ready to come home yet. He said he wanted to go back.”
She said Barnett volunteered for this assignment and for one in Iraq during 2009 and 2010.
Although the past few days have been hard, Jackson said she’s proud of her son and supports his decision to serve his country even though it puts him in harm’s way.
“We come from a military family,” she said. “It’s in my bones.” Her father was in the military, and Jackson said she also served in the Army National Guard and in the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve.
“I worry because it’s a war zone and bad things can happen,” she said. Still, “it’s better that he can be returned to duty than that he has to be sent home.”
Barnett is serving in Afghanistan with the 1433rd Engineer Company out of Augusta. Barnett’s normal unit is the 1436th out of Marketview, Mich., but because he volunteered to go to Afghanistan, he was attached to the 1433rd for this assignment.
The 1433rd Company has 90 soldiers and has been in Afghanistan for a full month, beginning in July. The company's yearlong tour started in May with training. The Michigan Army National Guard has about 1,500 soldiers currently deployed in Afghanistan.
Jackson said it’s important for Americans to remember that men and women in the military are putting their lives on the line for their country.
“Regardless of whether we believe we should be over there or not, our soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice and we have to support them. That’s just the most important thing.”