There's no place like home

  • Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 9, 2004 - 11:00 PM

Laughter once again fills the home of Kim Wyatt (middle, playing with granddaughter Isabella) as her daughter, Staff Sgt. Jessica Clements plans her wedding with older sister, Utahna Neese (not pictured).

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

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From her hospital bed, Jessica Clements made her grandfather a promise in June.

"I will be at your birthday party," she said.

At the time, it seemed unlikely. Jessica, an Army Reserve staff sergeant from Ohio, had awakened from a coma only a few weeks before.

She could barely sit up in her bed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. She had a devastating head injury and a tornup hip from a roadside bombing in Iraq in May. A long stretch of rehab lay ahead. Her grandfather's 79th birthday was only three months away.

Yet on the day before the party, Jessica clutched her cane and climbed into her fiancé's pickup for the drive back to Ohio.

Right on schedule, they pulled up to her mother's home in the Akron suburb of Coventry Township Sept. 12, and after a few quick hugs, hurried in before the other guests arrived.

Jessica hid just out of sight as her grandpa, Harry Palmer, arrived. She waited until he reached the back porch. And then she stepped out in front of him, flashing her luminous smile.

That, Jessica says, is a moment she'll always remember --the look of joy on her grandfather's face.

But he wasn't surprised, he told her. After all, she had made him a promise.

Making it back

Jessica Clements was one of the casualties of war who was never expected to make it back.

But here she was, after three months in military hospitals and five weeks at the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center.

Here she was, greeting old friends, giggling with her sisters and flipping through bridal magazines at her mom's house. "Everything still seems very unreal to me," she said.

It was her first trip home since Christmas, since leaving for Iraq with her Army Reserve unit, since the roadside bomb transformed her life.

This was only a temporary reprieve -- in a month, she would return to the hospital in Washington for more therapy. But for now, it would have to do.

Her mother, Kim Wyatt, invited Jessica into the den. Now that she was home, there was something she wanted to show her.

A videotape had unexpectedly by mail.

It was an ABC News report from a few months back, about the war wounded.

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