Cover Story

Walking wounded

"Walking wounded" Continued...

When Smith returned home for two weeks over Christmas, it marked the first time they had seen each other as a couple. They got engaged on Easter in 2011 and began planning a summer 2012 wedding.

But in the summer of 2011, Smith learned his unit would be deployed to Afghanistan in early 2012. When he told Tori she had one response: “You are not going anywhere without marrying this girl.”

Tori shopped for a wedding dress in less than 30 minutes, trying on two of the three dresses just to please her friends. She forgot to buy a veil until the morning before their Dec. 23, 2011, wedding. She was in her first year of law school and he was training to go to a combat zone. All they could do was Skype with one another.

“Now I see why God had different plans,” Tori said of their rushed wedding. “What would we have done if we weren’t married when all this happened?”

Today the couple talks often about the Book of Job—how God chose him to endure sufferings because He knew that Job would be a light for Him.

Part of God’s plan for the Smiths is already becoming clearer. They see their current community of wounded soldiers as a new ministry opportunity. Others on base see all the setbacks that Smith has been through and ask, “How do you get through that with such a good attitude?”

“When you are talking to nonbelievers that is like, cha-ching,” Tori said.

While Smith was unconscious in the hospital, Tori put headphones over his ears to play praise music. His head would sway back and forth. Tori wouldn’t let doctors wheel Smith away for any of his surgeries before praying.

A network of 2,000 family and friends who log onto spent months asking God to heal the holes in Smith’s intestines that prevented him from eating. A half dozen doctors told Smith that there was zero possibility that the holes would close without surgery. The doctors decided to wait until November or December to operate so Smith’s scar tissue from all the previous procedures could heal. But during an examination in late summer, the shocked physicians saw evidence that the fistulas had closed on their own.

“They were like, ‘Wow—just keep doing what you are doing,’” Tori said. “It’s such a testimony to the Lord.”

When Smith could return to a normal diet, he didn’t eat the roasted chicken saved in his freezer. The surgeons were so impressed with his miraculous progress that five of them insisted on taking him out to Ruth’s Chris Steak House. They said it was the first time they had done that for a patient.

Smith ordered a 12-ounce New York Strip, but he couldn’t finish it all. He brought it home and ate the rest of it the next day.

“We were talking to healers, and we were able to tell them that we knew the master healer,” Tori said. “What happened was a tragedy. It was terrible. But God has turned it into a blessing. To know that he is here because God spared him, it is hard to complain about anything.”

In the hallway of Tranquility Hall, information tables sometimes are set up offering internships for wounded warriors at government agencies like the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But the Smiths are intent on returning to Tennessee. A local charity is raising funds to build a house for them. Once there they aren’t sure what they will do. Law school is on hold for Tori. Smith is studying for the GRE. They bought a Running a Restaurant For Dummies book. Smith said it wouldn’t be a fancy one. It would serve “a lot of nasty, greasy food. We’d name it ‘Heroes’.”

One morning in late October, Smith put on his new prosthetics that end with a pair of white and blue Nikes. He straightened up and began his stretching exercises.

“I feel like I’m 90,” he said. He grabbed a square shaped foam pad and began to drag it behind him around the track. “And he’s off,” said Dunlavey, his therapist.

Smith can make two laps around the track, dragging the extra weight. It’s his second day walking without a cane. Throughout the fall, Smith and Tori shared a saying: No cane by Christmas. Then the goal became: No cane by Halloween. It’s more than a week before Halloween.

Smith tosses a 4-pound weighted ball back and forth with Dunlavey. They soon advance to a 7-pound ball. Smith catches it with one hand without losing his balance.


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