May 14, 2013
Calvin Todd, a 2010 College of Wooster graduate, engages in physical therapy at Walter Reed Bethesda National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., after an improvised explosive device (IED) severed the lower portion of his left leg in Afghanastan last October.
WOOSTER, Ohio — Victims of last month’s Boston Marathon bombing might find solace and inspiration from Calvin Todd, a 2010 College of Wooster graduate, who lost his left leg below the knee six months earlier in Panjwai District of Kandahar Province in Afghanistan, birthplace of the Taliban.
On Oct. 4 of 2012 — seven months into his deployment and just four weeks before his scheduled leave — Todd, a medic with the U.S. Army, was on foot patrol with his platoon when it came under heavy enemy fire. His platoon sergeant and two others were seriously injured by a dismount improvised explosive device (IED). Todd rushed to the front line, but he stepped on a secondary IED and, in his words, “got blown up.”
“I had gone about 15 meters when I stepped on the IED,” he said. “I looked down and my foot was gone. I tried to apply a tourniquet myself, but I couldn’t do it, so I had to rely on the guys who were with me.”
It took a few days for Todd to process what had occurred. “You’re in denial,” he said. “You can’t believe it really happened.” Ironically, Todd had a premonition earlier that day. “I told one of my friends, ‘I don’t think I am going to get out of here in one piece.’”
One week later, Todd was transferred to Walter Reed Bethesda National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., which specializes in amputations and combat trauma. Since then, he has made remarkable progress, thanks in large part to his positive mental attitude.
“It was demoralizing at first, but you see that there are other guys worse off than you,” he said. “You start to realize that there are still opportunities; that you’re still the same person you once were. There are tough times, but you have to be willing to bend and not break.”
Todd was fitted for a prosthetic leg — several, actually (each for different activities) — and by February, he was actually running on it. “I’m not as fast as I used to be, but I can still do an eight-minute mile,” he joked.
Fueling his rapid recovery is the presence of his family: wife Alice (Case), also a 2010 Wooster graduate, and their young son, Angus, who was born 17 days before the explosion that severed Todd’s lower leg. The three live together in a facility at Walter Reed, where he will spend another year in rehab.
In addition to the physical wounds, Todd, like many of his comrades, grapples with the mental and emotional scars. “It’s tough dealing with loss of a limb,” he said. “You start to question and blame. There are still some things I have trouble watching, and loud noises still sneak up on me, but I have been able to adapt thanks to my family and fellow soldiers (at Walter Reed). You learn to be as positive and supportive as you can be.”
Although he rejects the notion that he is a “hero,” Todd is under consideration for a medal for valor, and his story has been a source of support for fellow soldiers, the Boston bombing victims, and the entire country, following a report on the NBC Nightly News. The story profiled Todd’s journey, and highlighted the promise of prosthetics — developed in response to battlefield injuries — in restoring the daily routine for many amputees.
“The marathon bombing really hit home for me,” said Todd, who grew up an hour north of Boston. “I feel bad for the families, but these things happen, and you have to dig deep, deal with it, and overcome it.”
An art major at Wooster, Todd admits that he was not a model student or a model citizen while in college. “I got into to some trouble,” he said, “but it forced me to grow up and make adult decisions. Wooster was a place where I could trip over my feet and get back up again because there was always someone there to look after me, correct me, and put me on the straight and narrow. It was a great small-college experience.” A month before graduation, Todd enlisted in the U.S. Army, following in the footsteps of his younger brother. “I wanted a challenge, and I fell in love with it,” he said.
Todd isn’t sure where the next phase of the journey will take him, possibly to graduate school in his native New Hampshire, but in the meantime, he is taking things one day at a time, and celebrating life with those who matter most to him, particularly his wife and son.
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