Some do not return home. Others, like Army Capt. Bobby Woods, come home changed.
Woods, native Texan and University of Georgia student, was shot in the head on Aug. 8, 2010 in a firefight while on patrol in Zwari.
He bandaged his own wounds and remained in the fight until he could be rescued by ground-troops. He refused to call for medevac assistance because he didn’t want the incoming helicopters to draw fire.
He was lucky to be alive and he felt God had given him a second chance at life and an opportunity to share his story with others.
Woods spoke on Thursday during the annual Patriots Fire: Lights from Home event at Meadowdale Baptist Church, which kicks off Veterans Day ceremonies in Gordon County.
“This is the fourth year we’ve done this and we do it every year near Veterans Day,” said Donald Bowen, Deputy Director of Gordon EMS. “It’s mainly just to honor our veterans and those still fighting now.”
Woods was the centerpiece of the Patriots Fire event, which was sponsored by Gordon Hospital and Gordon EMS.
The Sonoraville High JROTC provided the colors for the event and Sonoraville Elementary students led the pledge of allegiance. Other performers included the Georgia-Cumberland Academy Camerata Singers, the Calhoun Community Chorus and bagpiper Marsha Ely.
Woods’ story was certainly a testament to the sacrifices made by those in the armed forces.
Woods lost sight in his left eye and bone fragments entered his brain and could not be removed following the injury.
The bullet essentially removed Woods’ forehead, requiring two neurosurgeries. His left eye cavity and forehead had to be rebuilt, according to information from Gordon Hospital.
Woods had to relearn many of his basic motor skills and still has difficulty with language skills like vocabulary, he said.
Despite the injury, Woods has remained upbeat and his speech was laced with jokes and light-hearted self-deprecation.
Nonetheless, the injury had an impact not only on Woods’ body and mind, but also on his perspective.
The born soldier
In a sense, Woods was born to take up the family business.
He is the son of a brigadier general and mother who served in the armed forces as well. Like most children born to military parents, he moved around often.
“I’ve moved 25 times in the last 27 years and that includes four years in one spot in Athens,” Woods said. “It’s a lot of traveling, three schools in third grade; you get pretty good at meeting people on the whole.”
In high school, he had been an athlete and prom king, according to information from Gordon Hospital.
He turned down an appointment to West Point to attend the University of Georgia, because — among other things — he was crazy about college football.
Woods received scholarships to UGA where he studied psychology and criminal justice and participated in the Sigma Nu fraternity.
He was commissioned as an officer through the UGA ROTC program and after graduation worked as a ROTC recruiter at the University of Texas-El Paso.
“You go through all the training and it can be tough at times, but it was a great experience,” Woods said. “Getting to jump out of planes and going to ranger school (was great) and my graduation, with my dad there, was probably the greatest experience of my life.”
Shortly after, Woods attended infantry training at Ft. Benning, completing officer training. He subsequently shipped to Afghanistan where he was a platoon leader.
“It was a pretty rough area,” Woods said. “But that’s what we signed up for. We did much good while we were there.”
Woods said at roughly 20 soldiers from Bravo Company – of which his platoon was a part —were killed within the first month of being in Afghanistan.
Woods’ platoon spent fewer than 90 days in combat but engaged in more than 100 firefights before he was shot, according to his biographical information.
“We were sent out on patrol in peek ambush time,” Woods said. “The first round cracked off and hit me. You can’t dodge the first bullet not matter how good you are at fighting wars. It’s very fast.”
After the injury, Woods faced an uphill climb.
He spent months in the hospital and in therapy sessions — which he still attends.
Little by little Woods began regaining his motor skills and speech, but he realized he would have limitations the rest of his life.
Though Woods will never be the person he was before, he is still using his impressive intellect to his advantage.
He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at UGA.
He hopes to make a difference in the lives of others, especially disabled veterans who might see his story and find some level of hope in their struggles.
“I believe that one of the real reasons God saved my life was to help others,” Woods said. “Service to others, whether it’s for your country… or helping out in a time of crisis is truly a great thing.”