Veterans injured in Afghanistan blast reunite after 5 years - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Veterans injured in Afghanistan blast reunite after 5 years

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SCOTTSDALE, AZ (CBS5) -

Four veterans wounded in Afghanistan got to see each other for Friday night for the first time since their Humvee was attacked five years ago.

The emotional reunion took place at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, and was made possible by the Valley based nonprofit Friends of Freedom.

"I try to move on, said Mike Brown of Chicago and the driver of the armored vehicle. "But, that day – on Sept. 24 – that's a life changer."

On Sept. 24, 2008, four Americans - three national guardsmen and one contractor for the State Department - were on a mission south of Kabul when their Humvee was blown up by the Taliban.

"We were out on a normal patrol," said Mike Downing of Boston. "I was up on the gun, taking my turn, and one thing led to another."

The blast ejected the men from their vehicle - severely injuring all of them.

But, some of the men managed to remain conscious and fire at the enemy - helping to save the team.

"The only reason in the world that I'm alive is these guys fought like crazy and protected all of us," said Steve Martin of the Phoenix area.

Steve Martin, Steve Kingan, Mike Downing and Mike Brown were flown back to hospitals in the U.S. for treatment and recovery.

Martin and Downing both lost their legs, but not their spirit.

The men have stayed in contact over the years through phones calls, texts and emails.

But, Friday was the first time since they were ambushed on an Afghan desert road - that these heroes have been able shake hands, give hugs and reminisce in person.

"For us to be together after what we've been through is – it's joyful," said Brown.

"It's almost a relief," said Downing. "Cause you can see everyone is still doing well."

"It needed to be done," said Kingan, of Nampa, ID, about the reunion. "It needed to be done."

In addition to the reunion, one of the men got a special gift from Friends of Freedom - a Mobility U.S.A. outdoor, four-wheel drive wheelchair.

Downing will now have access to his many acres of land, near Cape Cod, for the first time in five years.

"Now I'll actually be able to go out and explore it - see what's out there," said Downing. "I can maybe go hunting on my own property – and, keep those who do don't belong there off my property."

If you'd like to make a donation to Friends of Freedom, visit their website.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

 

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