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Local soldier hurt

Spc. Dustin T. Hastings is recovering from wounds he suffered during bomb attack

Spc. Dustin T. Hastings is recovering from wounds he suffered during bomb attack

September 28, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

SMITHSBURG - The night before his last mission in Iraq, a local soldier told his gunner he had a bad feeling their luck was running out, the soldier's mother said Tuesday.

According to Shari Hastings, her son is recuperating in Kuwait from a bomb attack in Iraq. U.S. Army Spec. Dustin T. Hastings, 21, has had trouble sleeping and eating since he was injured by shrapnel Sept. 2, she said.

"He's got a lot of sleeplessness. He said he'll stay up three days straight before he'll get to sleep, until he's completely exhausted," she said Tuesday.

In an e-mail sent Wednesday to The Herald-Mail, Spc. Hastings wrote that he sees a doctor every day for treatment.

"I'm recuperating well, I still have the 2 holes in my back on my left shoulderblade and they have been closing slowly, but that is to be expected," he wrote.

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Military public relations officers said Wednesday they could not confirm his injuries or release details about individual soldiers.

Spc. Hastings will stay in Kuwait until Nov. 9, when his unit returns to the United States, his mother said, but doctors have told him he will not return to duty.

A 2003 graduate of South Hagerstown High School, the soldier was "all gung-ho" when he joined the military, his mother said. She said he told her he wanted to fight terrorists.

"I sort of felt that I wasn't going anywhere in my life and I wanted to make something of myself, I also wanted to get out and see the world and I felt that I needed an adventure," Spc. Hastings wrote.

As the soldier's family prepared for a Labor Day weekend camping trip, Shari Hastings said she told her husband, Tim, she was worried her son would try to call home. They had not heard from him since he and members of his unit left Kuwait for a mission in Iraq more than two weeks earlier, she said.

When Spc. Hastings finally reached his mother on her cell phone after calling the house without any luck, she said she could tell from the tone of his voice that something was wrong. That is when he told them he had been hurt.

"He said, 'Mom, they didn't clean the blood off my hands from my buddy,'" the soldier said.

According to his mother, Spc. Hastings administered first-aid to one of the three men riding in his gun truck when the bomb exploded. The gunner sustained head injuries and, like Spc. Hastings, is in Kuwait, Shari Hastings said.

"He said that was his worst fear, that his gunner was going to die on him," Hastings said.

Both the gunner and Spc. Hastings have had trouble dealing with what happened to them, Shari Hastings said. In one conversation, the soldier told his mother about the nightmares he has had about Iraq.

"He said, 'Mom, I'm dreaming about the dead bodies that I see ... the dead, decaying bodies and the body parts,'" Hastings said.

Hastings talked with tears in her eyes as photos of her son smiled down on her from the walls of her living room in her home outside Smithsburg. Her daughter, Katelyn, 11, showed off her brother's elementary school artwork - pictures of camouflage-clad warriors and spaceships.

Katelyn said her brother is "shy" now, quieter than he used to be. Hastings attributes that to maturity, but she said she still wishes she could take care of her son, like she did when he was younger.

"I wanted to grab a hold of him and hug him and not let him go," Hastings said.

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