The town of Hermiston, Oregon, says Luke Wilson, is a small farm and ranch community. It’s where he went to high school and joined the Army National Guard. And it’s where he returned after serving in Iraq, with a prosthetic limb where his left leg used to be.
“I joined the Oregon Army National Guard when I was a junior in high school, and I loved it,” Luke says. “Then during my senior year, I opted to get a conditional release from the Guard and go active duty. I spent three years on active duty, and when I was discharged, I rejoined the Oregon National Guard.”
It was those three years on active duty — as an Army Ranger — that largely made Luke Wilson who he is today. “We went over to Iraq expecting the worst,” Luke says. “Unfortunately, that’s pretty much what we got. It was hot. It was dusty. I learned I don’t like getting shot at.
“We were in southern Baghdad on April 8, 2004,” Luke recalls. “I was in the third vehicle of a convoy. There was a Bradley in front of the convoy, and it got hit with an IED (improvised explosive device). Then the insurgents opened up on us with small arms fire and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades). We returned fire.”
After a flash of bright, white light, Luke realized his left leg was gone. Yet he continued firing on the insurgents. It wasn’t until the firefight was over that Luke convinced his disbelieving buddies he wasn’t just wounded in the leg but he had lost it.
Luke was transported to the combat support hospital in Baghdad’s Green Zone, where his leg was amputated, before receiving further treatment at Germany’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and ultimately landing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He endured nearly a dozen surgeries.
The support Luke received early on from Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) let him know others cared for his well-being. “Wounded Warrior Project made contact with me when I was still at Walter Reed,” he says. “When I arrived there, I had nothing but a hospital gown, so getting the WWP backpack really meant a lot to me.
“I was 24 years old at the time, a grown man,” Luke continues. “I’d played sports in high school, served with the Second Rangers jumping out of airplanes and all that. Then to be bedridden, then learning how to walk all over again … It’s not something I’d ever want to do again.”
After rehab came adjustment to Luke’s new life back in his hometown. “I came home to Hermiston. I got married, had a couple of kids. And I dove back into school and work,” says Luke, who will begin pursuing his civil engineering degree at Washington State University this fall.
He’s also looking forward to getting more involved with WWP through its National Campaign Team and by attending more Alumni events to personally share his story and experiences. “If I can help anybody else, that’s a good thing. At the same time, those guys are helping me, too.” That’s just the way it works with Wounded Warrior Project.