Vancouver Soldier Crawford gets Purple Heart, leaves ICU

By Paul Suarez, Columbian freelance

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Things are improving for Spc. Michael Crawford, a Vancouver soldier injured when an improvised explosive device detonated near his convoy in Paktia, Afghanistan, on Dec. 27.

Crawford, 20, a specialist in the Army, is out of intensive care at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and on Wednesday was presented with a Purple Heart by Secretary of the Army John McHugh.

“From two weeks ago to today, it is night and day,” his father, Adam Crawford of Vancouver, said of Michael’s condition. At first he wasn’t sure what would happen, but now “you see hope, you see laughter. I can’t tell you what a feeling it is.”

Crawford still has at least two more surgeries ahead of him, one to repair his spine and another to reposition bones in his left leg, said his mom, Carol Steinmitz of Battle Ground. For now, doctors are giving his body a break.

His parents are still cautiously optimistic that he will be able to walk again.

On Wednesday, he was among 10 or so soldiers honored by Army Secretary McHugh at the San Antonio hospital. McHugh thanked Crawford for his selflessness serving his country, his mother said.

“I thought that was really great be

cause that is what Michael is really about,” Steinmitz said.

Crawford is also receiving thanks in the form of letters and cards from students in Clark County schools, his father said. Those schools include Discovery Middle School, Union High School (where Michael Crawford graduated in 2009) and a few other area schools. He hopes to stop at those schools when he returns to Clark County, his Steinmitz said.

On Thursday, he was able to speak to his grandmother, Colleen Bowers of Battle Ground, for the first time since returning to the states.

“It was real surprising,” Bowers said.

Michael was expecting to get a motorized wheelchair Friday. His family and physical therapists will help him learn how to maneuver the chair.

“I think it’s going to be interesting,” Adam Crawford said. “It was fun to teach him how to drive a car. I don’t know how I’m going to teach him how to drive a wheelchair. I’ve never done that before.”

Soon, he should be able to move around the hospital and maybe even go outside.

Adam Crawford said the level of service at the hospital is incredible.

“We couldn’t get better care anywhere else,” he said. “These doctors specialize in this kind of stuff.”

The family will go to Fort Hood, Michael’s home base, next week to attend a ceremony for three others who died in the attack that injured Crawford. Another man injured in the explosion was moved to Crawford’s hospital in San Antonio. The family plans on visiting with him.

There’s more good news: In the heart of Longhorn and Aggie country, someone managed to find Michael an Oregon State Beaver hat, his mom said.