An Iraq War Hero Comes Home, Recovers from Injuries

Joe Gentile
Joe Gentile
Dr. Gregory Lee
Dr. Gregory Lee

July 19, 2007 11:41 PM

By Leland Kim

SALT LAKE (KHNL) --  An Iraq War hero comes home to Hawaii to recover from his injuries at Tripler Army Medical Center.  During one fateful day in June, his world changed in an instant.

Hawaii-based infantry soldier Joe Gentile was on a routine patrol in Iraq with his platoon, when his truck got hit.

"It was a bright flash, and then everything went dark," said the 21-year-old Army specialist.  "All the lights in the truck shut off and the radio shut down.  The truck kind of filled with smoke."

Gentile suffered one of the most severe injuries.

"Everyone's asking if everybody's okay, and I'm going, 'No!  I'm not!'  Instantly I knew I wasn't," he said.  "I went from a driving position to being crushed up in a little fetal position."

The gas pedal turned into shards of metal, shooting up Gentile's foot.

"My heel was actually was broken into a lot of pieces, and then pushed up towards the top of my foot," he said. "So they have pins in there now that are bringing all the bones down and back together, to make it into a heel again."

The most complicated surgeries are behind him, but the road to recovery could take a while.

"Long term, there may be some post traumatic arthritis we're worried about especially in joints," said Dr. Gregory Lee, an orthopedic surgeon at Tripler.

Still , doctors are hopeful Gentile will walk soon.  For his valor, the Army awarded him a purple heart.  As he gets better, his thoughts are with his platoon, with his family.

"The Army changed who I am for the better, in so many ways that I don't think I could just leave," he said.  "It's part of who I am, it's part of what I do.  I love every bit of it."

And now, this war hero is now part of American history.  Gentile may not be able to stay in his infantry unit, but he hopes to have a life-long career in the Army.