MADRAS, Ore. - A soldier from Madras is recovering from serious head injuries suffered in Afghanistan, and his mother offered thanks Monday for the community's prayers and support.
Army Sgt. Ryan James Craig is assigned to the Tenth Mountain Division and has been serving his country for four years, having re-enlisted for another tour of duty earlier this year.
"He wanted to serve the country and he wanted to prove to himself that he had the skills and the guts to be able to do what other soldiers we're doing," said Jennifer Miller, Ryan Craig's mother.
On Nov. 19, Craig was hit in the head by a bullet that went through his helmet and hit his brain, Miller said.
Craig suffered several brain hemorrhages and skull fractures, and to this point hasn't been able to speak, she said.
Miller is at her son's side at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., while he undergoes several surgeries.
"Every time he squeezes my hand, just like he did when he was a little boy, I know that he knows that I'm there and that he appreciates that," Miller told NewsChannel 21.
Miller noted she has another son, Steven Craig, in the Navy, who just returned from serving overseas.
She said in a writing that her son called the day before he was injured, "to wish me a happy birthday. That is the kind of son and soldier he is, always thinking of others, no matter what situation he is in."
Miller said her son's group was on a foot patrol, to help protect a smaller village against insurgents, when they were attacked and two fellow soldiers were struck by gunfire, and he went to help them.
Due to his injuries, Miller said the front portion of Craig's skull was removed on both sides, to be replaced in about three years with synthetic bone.
"Ryan is having therapy every day to help him relearn movements," she wrote. "He has not been able to speak as of today."
Thanking those who have offered prayers and thoughts, Miller wrote, "Please continue to pray for my son and all the others who still are serving overseas, as well as the boys here that are in a new journey of healing."
"I try to keep a positive outlook, and sometimes I can see some of Ryan come through. And that keeps me going," Miller said.
Miller's friends and co-workers at Redmond Family Medicine and the Women's Center of Central Oregon in Redmond have set up an account for the community to help the family with its expenses. They note the large expenses being incurred while his mother is not working.
You can donate at any branch of Bank of the Cascades, under Ryan Craig's or Jennifer Miller's name.
Ryan was wounded around the same time another Central Oregon service member was injured in Afghanistan.
Corporal Kyle Thompson of La Pine was hit by a roadside bomb.
Thompson had his left eye removed, but his right eye is starting to clear.
"We are doing good -- hanging in there," said Katrina Gamble, Thompson's stepsister. "We are just trying to be strong for Kyle and provide as much support and give him whatever he needs."
Thompson is now able to walk by himself but he still has shrapnel in his face, arms and neck.
Katrina says that if Thompson's condition stabilizes ,he can come home to visit for the holidays.
If you would like to donate to Kyle Thompson's family, the family set up a bank account at Wells Fargo.
Or you can mail letters to the address: CPL Kyle Thompson c/o Veterans Affairs Hospital Building 7 Unit D Room 120 3801 Miranda Ave. Palo Alto, CA 94304
Both men are receiving a great deal of community support. And for Ryan Craig's mother, that means a lot.
"The amount of support that we get from friends and family and community members is overwhelming at times," Miller said. "It's very humbling.