- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sgt. 1st Class Patrick King lies on his back, staring up at the fluorescent ceiling lights, left leg clicking. It is a late afternoon in the summer of 2008, and he is doing leg presses, plastic and carbon fiber moving down and in, pushing cast iron out and up.

“It’s too easy,” he says. “Too easy.”

Sgt. 1st Class Patrick King lies on his back, staring up at pigeons fluttering in the cloudless October sky. It is early afternoon in the fall of 2007. Chaos surrounds him, but his eyes remain fixed on the serenity above. He can feel it closing in around him on the narrow street - the small buildings that hid the remote-controlled explosive that ripped his Humvee apart, the smoke billowing from the mangled vehicle, the commanding officer screaming “We’ve been hit! We’ve been hit!” into the radio over and over.

Something has gone terribly wrong with this routine patrol mission through the mulhallas, or neighborhoods. He has known that for a few minutes now, ever since he watched the Iraqis release the pigeons to warn of the approaching Americans.

Then he heard the big bang, saw the floorboard beneath his feet cascade past his face like a waterfall in reverse, smelled the putrid black smoke that blotted out the bright afternoon sun, felt the blood …

The blood. It’s running down his leg, but it’s streaming, thank God, not pulsing. Were it an arterial wound, he would feel it pulsing out.

Out … where is it going? Is his left foot gone? No, maybe it’s just fractured or it’s dangling, and they can save it, so he can run.

Nope. It’s gone. The medic’s flat tone has just given it away.

“Patrick, you are going to be all right …,” he says, delivering the signature Hollywood medic line.

“I know,” Patrick says, still staring at the sky. “I’m just going to run a little slower.”

He always had loved to run. When he was a little boy growing up in the hamlet of Highland Falls, N.Y., a friend of his older brother’s spotted him sprinting down the street and gave him the nickname he carries to this day.

“Duke,” the older boy told Patrick, “you are going to play football someday.”

Yes, he loved to run. As a teenager, when he would skip school, run to a nearby lake and fish for trout, crappie and bass for hours on end. As a high school senior, when his friends finally persuaded him to stop ignoring his talent, put down his rod and come out for football and track.

No one was surprised when he ended up flying past defensive backs as a receiver for the James I. O’Neill High School Raiders and charging past the field in the 200-meter dash. After all, he always had been faster than the kids in the schoolyard and on the sandlot. He had been a force on the community-league basketball team, when he and his three brothers made up four-fifths of the starting lineup.

“Uh-oh! Here come the King boys!” the people in the stands would say to George, the boys’ father, causing him to beam with pride.

Story Continues →