“Don’t you start crying,” Patrick told him. “I’m the one that lost the foot. It’s just my left foot - I use the right one more. I’m fine.” Every weekend, George would make the five-hour drive down from Highland Falls to see his son. He watched as his boy refused to ride the Segway the physical therapists offered.
“No,” Patrick told them. “Let me walk.”
He shook his head in disbelief as Patrick scoffed at the three-wheeled bike with a hand crank, mounted a two-wheeler and took off. Soon, it was Patrick making the five-hour drive every weekend, so George thought about installing an accessible bathroom in their house in Highland Falls before Patrick’s visit at Thanksgiving.
“You don’t need that,” Patrick told him. Then he proved it - he stepped outside into the November chill - and ran.
Nearly a year has passed since the day Sgt. 1st Class Patrick King lay in the street in Baghdad bleeding beneath the pigeons.
In the time since, he has undergone two surgeries - one in Germany immediately following his injury and another upon his arrival at Walter Reed, where doctors further whittled down his leg to a nub that now ends two inches below his knee. He has felt pain - days when his leg swells and cannot fit inside the socket of his prosthesis and he has to pass the hours sitting idle in his room.
There are days when his leg shrinks as afternoon wears on to evening, forcing him to stuff his socket with specially made socks he carries with him at all times in a backpack. There are days when he wishes he could run - really run, like Adrian Peterson and the NFL running backs he watches on TV - instead of jogging slowly for a mile, then stopping when his leg begins to burn from the pounding.
However, he also has skied down mountains and kayaked up rivers, scuba-dived in deep water and rock-climbed high walls - all things he had never tried before coming to Walter Reed. He lifts weights daily and takes pride in pulling the young men through the gantlet he has weathered in the past 10 months.
“Once you have this,” Patrick says, pointing at the prosthesis planted in a Nike running shoe, “there is no easy way out.”
He turns, picks up a barbell and begins to lift once more.
“It’s too easy,” he says again. “Too easy.”