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Injured soldier happy to be home, proud of her service

July 13, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Mary Burral said Saturday she has no regrets about her experience in the military even after being hurt in the war in Iraq.

Burral, 24, of Boonsboro, a U.S. Army specialist, received a broken leg and shrapnel wounds to her arms and legs when a five-ton truck in which she was riding was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on May 16.

Burral's 54th Engineering Battalion was working on rebuilding Iraq's roads. She had expected to serve in the Middle East until September.

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The 1996 graduate of Boonsboro High School decided to join the military in January 2001 because she was looking for a new, exciting challenge in which she could better herself, she said.

That is exactly what she got, she said, sitting at her family's Boonsboro home where she has been recovering from her injuries after spending about five weeks at Walter Reed Hospital.

"It was truly the experience and the challenge I set out for," Burral said.

She went to Iraq and proved herself, she said.

She always wanted to travel, she said.

"I wanted to get out of Hagerstown."

Burral was stationed in Germany temporarily, she said. She also was taken to a hospital in Spain but she does not remember that trip due to her injuries.

As a result of her military service, Burral will be able to attend college to get a degree in interior design or interior decorating so she can help with the family business, Kipe's Upholstery Shop on Longmeadow Road, she said.

Burral's left kneecap and bones in her left leg were so damaged she will never be able to bend her knee again, she said. She is scheduled to return to Walter Reed on Tuesday for surgery in which rods will be placed in her leg so she can put weight on it, she said.

On the day of the attack, Burral was driving a truck carrying a trailer that holds water, she said. Her unit was taking a long, winding route because it had been told the shorter route was too dangerous.

She saw nothing unusual until suddenly "everything went white," she said. She was pulled out of the truck since she could not move and was taken to a field hospital.

She remembers her clothes being cut away and hearing a helicopter. The next thing she remembers is being at Walter Reed, she said.

Burral's parents, Nancy and George Burral, said Saturday that while it has been a difficult experience having their daughter injured in war, they know it could be much worse. While at Walter Reed, family members often talked with other families of soldiers hurt in the war and they plan to remain in contact with them, George Burral said.

"It wasn't easy," he said. "You start to get a perspective. Mary is busted up bad but there are so many soldiers coming in who were in much worse shape."

"I just thank God that she is home," Nancy Burral said. "I believe she was sent home for a reason. God is looking out for her."

Government and military officials, as well as celebrities ranging from Wayne Newton to Jennifer Love Hewitt, stopped by her daughter's hospital room at Walter Reed, Mary Burral said.

"It was nice having these people stop by and thank you for what you have done, to know that you are appreciated and are not just a number," she said.

Michael Balch, command sergeant major for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, visited Burral while she was recovering from her injuries at Walter Reed.

"She seemed like a great soldier, very dedicated. She is a typical, hard-working soldier," he said Friday.

Burral said she wants to thank everyone who has sent cards, donations and other items to her.

"I am back and I am doing wonderfully," she said.

She hopes other soldiers are recovering as well as she is, she said.

"And I pray to god that nobody else gets hurt."

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