MILWAUKIE, Ore. - A wounded soldier from Milwaukie is settling in to his first visit home in nearly two years as the community rallies around him.
On Saturday, the Milwaukie High School class of 1972 is hosting a tribute and benefit for Army Specialist Alex Hussey. Until then, he’s spending time with friends and family.
Life is very different for Alex now. When he, and his wife Kim, drove into the neighborhood where his parents live on Thursday night, dozens of friends and family greeted them. The streets are lined with red, white, and blue ribbons and balloons letting Alex know what matters most is he’s still alive, finally able to make the trip home.
When asked how it feels to be home, Alex said, “Amazing because I miss my parents, and family and friends.”
It’s been a long road for Hussey to get back to Milwaukie.
In August, 2012 he was on foot-patrol in Afghanistan with his Army unit when an IED went off. The explosion killed two soldiers and wounded several others.
Alex, who was 20 at the time, almost died. He was the most severely hurt of the soldiers who survived.
"I'm getting better, slowly but surely,” he said.
Alex was part of the 82nd Airborne Division, trained as a paratrooper. He’ll likely never jump out of a plane again, and for now he can’t walk.
The explosion took both of his legs, most of his left hand, and the middle finger on his right hand. But, the biggest obstacle for Alex is an injury you can’t see.
"He suffered from a traumatic brain injury. That is definitely the biggest challenge,” said Alex’s new wife, Kim.
She's been by his side since the attack. They got married last October after he'd regained some strength.
“Alex is my best friend. I've known him since middle school. So, I knew who I was marrying,” she said.
Kim, 22, is Alex’s full time care-giver. She drove them to Oregon from Escondido, Calif., where they live, in their new truck modified to accommodate Alex’s wheelchair.
That’s the very truck that Alex's former high school PE teacher, Ken Buckles, is raising money to pay off.
Kim said having the truck paid off “will be one less thing to worry about."
Alex lives full-time at a brain injury facility where he gets 24 hour care. His full-time job is now undergoing hours of occupational, physical and emotional therapy every day.
"That's my next step, weight bearing and then walking," Alex said. He currently has two "dummy" legs, prosthesis he will eventually use to start walking again.
“These are my starter legs,” Alex explained.
He’s determined to get to the finish line and walk again.
When asked what he thinks about being called a hero Alex said, “I'm not a hero because other people died. I probably should have.”
Even though Alex carries guilt around about what happened to him in the war, he's living his new life and doing lots of laughing.
"He lost his middle finger on his right hand,” Kim said.
Laughing, Alex said, “I can't flip people off anymore.”
“You are right, you cannot flip people off anymore,” Kim said smiling a smile only a wife can give.
Those are two things that haven't changed about Alex since his attack: his wit and his huge smile. Alex Hussey’s a wounded warrior who refuses to give up.
Alex and Kim will be home for two weeks. Then they'll make the drive back to Southern California where Alex will continue his therapy.
Click here for more information about the benefit for Alex Hussey, which will be held Saturday evening.