By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
April 15, 2006
A U.S. Army soldier from Cascade Locks was injured during the early morning hours of April 8 when his military unit in Iraq came under enemy fire.
Private First Class Nolan Howell, 21, underwent two major surgeries that same day to remove shrapnel that had penetrated the bicep of his right arm and lodged in his chest. He also sustained wounds to the right side of his torso, including his shoulder, face and neck.
After receiving immediate medical care at field hospitals near Ramadi, Howell was flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for further treatment. He was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries received during battle before being transported on Friday to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
His father and mother, Rev. Don and LaRonna Howell, also of Cascade Locks, believe their son’s expected full recovery is nothing short of “miraculous.” Rev. Howell said the shrapnel that penetrated his son’s back from an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) narrowly missed his lungs and other vital organs on its path into his chest cavity.
“When they (children) go into military service you kind of hold your breath and do a lot of praying,” he said.
In January, Howell was deployed to Kuwait as part of the First Armored Division “Old Ironside,” First Brigade Combat Team, 1-36 Mechanized Infantry Unit. He was sent to Iraq in February to use training he had received from the Army and as an Emergency Medical Technician with the Cascade Locks Fire Department on the front lines.
Howell, a medic, was returning home from a mission to the north of Ramadi when his unit came under attack from insurgents.
Rev. Howell said Nolan made the decision to join the Army while he was still a teenager. He said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks led his son to step forward as a defender of American civilians.
“I think having our country attacked made a profound impact on Nolan’s life. He wanted to stop them (terrorists) from coming to our country again,” he said.
Rev. Howell said his son deferred care packages while in Iraq to gain shipments of candy that could be passed out to children by the soldiers.
“He told me, ‘you’ll never know how much it blesses us when we are able to give something to the children and see them smile,” said Howell.
The recovering soldier and his wife, Katani, live in Cascade Locks with their 13-month-old son, Braeden. The elder Howells pastor the Cascade Locks Assembly of God Church and he also drives a school bus while she works as an instructional assistant at the local school.