On January 23rd of this year, Army Private First Class Michael Fletcher of Pasadena and seven of his fellow soldiers were on patrol near Baghdad when their heavily armored personnel carrier was hit by an insurgent grenade. The explosion injured all eight soldiers on board, but Fletcher took the brunt of the blast. As Houston Public Radio’s Jack Williams reports, Fletcher is now recovering from his wounds and will be honored by his hometown.
On a quiet street in Pasadena, the house with the yellow ribbon around the tree and the sign that reads “Welcome Home Michael” is easy to spot.
“Hi, how are you. Jack Williams, KUHF. How are you? Mike Fletcher, come on in. Michael just got back from his therapy. He’s getting a shower.”
Mike Fletcher, Michael’s dad, says it was a phone call that no parent ever wants to get.
“My wife was home alone. She got the call from the Army that he was in surgery, that he had been wounded and that’s what she knew, that he was in surgery and had been wounded. She called me, it was pouring rain and I was 25 miles north on the freeway and she says come home.”
In Baghdad, 22-year-old Michael Fletcher couldn’t feel his lower body when the grenade went off right behind him. It had been tossed into the open top of the 8-wheeled Striker vehicle used by his combat team.
“I fell to the floor of the Striker and kind of was dazed, fumbled around a minute, pulled myself back up and got back in my hatch and realized that I did have my legs, looked down, felt them, could feel holes and everything and I knew it was bleeding and that I needed to get something done about it.”
Pieces of shrapnel had ripped through Fletcher’s spleen and pancreas, all the way from his left ankle to the middle of his back. Blood began filling his chest cavity. Several surgeries and a few days later, Fletcher was at an Army Hospital in San Antonio and a week after that, back at home recovering.
“Just dealing with it is, just putting it in the back of my head and kind of forget about it. I don’t have too many issues with it, although two days ago I was riding down Beltway 8 and a cement truck tire blew out in front of me and I thought an IED went off or something. I had to pull over for a little while and kind of sit there, but all and all, it was all right.”
Fletcher undergoes physical therapy three times a week and his wounds are still clearly visible up and down his back and legs. He plans to become a real estate investor and isn’t looking back, although he was he’d return to Iraq tomorrow if he could.
“The injuries that I sustained, the loss of the spleen and part of my pancreas, there’s certain things that you have to do medically to go over there and the doctors are telling me that I wouldn’t be able to do that if I was over there.”
Although not one to seek out the spotlight, Fletcher says the reception he’s gotten here at home has helped the healing process.
“Everybody just wants to say thank you for serving. It’s nice. It’s nice being welcomed back and being able to be back.”
Michael Fletcher will be honored with a reception tonight at the Baywood Country Club in Pasadena. You can see a picture and Michael and his father on our website, KUHF.org.