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Middle East

Full recovery expected for local soldier

| Monday, April 14, 2003

Army Staff Sgt. Shawn Crane, a McKees Rocks native facing more surgery for injuries suffered when a rocket-propelled grenade struck his armored personnel carrier in Baghdad, told his father Sunday he has only one regret.

"He really regrets not being back there with his troopers," Daniel Crane said last evening. "He's in charge of these guys. They train together, sleep together, eat together. They're like his kids."

Dan and Laureen Crane phoned their son yesterday as he rested in his hospital bed in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where he is being treated after being struck by shrapnel that hit his arm, leaving him with a mangled hand and burns of his neck and shoulders.

"The doctors told him he'll make a full recovery," Dan Crane said. "They said he'll need therapy on his hand, but that when he's done he'll be good to go, 100 percent."

Crane, who underwent two operations in a hospital in Kuwait City, was expected to undergo a third operation last night or today in Germany, where he was flown because of Landstuhl's sophisticated treatment facilities, Laureen Crane said.

"He said, 'Mom, I'm doing really good now.' The burns are healing up. Most of the damage is between his wrists and fingers."

Crane, 32, who enlisted two weeks after his graduation from Sto-Rox High School in 1989, talked to his parents Friday, but yesterday was able to tell them what happened Thursday when four armored personnel carriers and four tanks came under attack as they were on patrol in the northwest corridor of Baghdad.

The staff sergeant was in command of the crew of one of the Bradley personnel carriers.

"He was standing in the turret, with his head out of the hatch, exposed, giving the driver precise instructions," Dan Crane said. "This was a residential road and there wasn't much room to maneuver."

Dan Crane said he teased his son, saying, "You had to be the dummy, standing there with your head out of the tank. He said, 'Dad, I had no choice. That's my job. That's what I do.' He speaks so matter-of-factly. They all do."

Crane told his father that when some rocket-propelled grenades exploded about 30 yards in front of his vehicle, the tanks opened fire and destroyed the building where the culprit was hiding.

About 20 minutes later, as the convoy continued down the street, Crane's vehicle was hit.

"He said all he saw was a flash," Laureen Crane said.

"I thought maybe he threw up his arm to protect himself but he said, 'Dad, you don't see those things coming.' I guess it knocked him unconscious for a few seconds, " Dan Crane said. "He said all he remembers is the intense heat and thought the vehicle was on fire so he dove out of the turret and onto the ground.

"He said he was aware of tank and machine gun fire everywhere. A couple of his people and some crews from other vehicles risked their own lives by running through (enemy) fire to make sure he was all right. That's the military for you. All these guys looking out for one another."

Dan Crane said his son wasn't aware he had been wounded until other soldiers pointed out the blood. He was the only casualty of the battle.

"He said his hand looked like it had been through a meat grinder," Dan Crane said. "They gave him a shot of morphine and I guess everything got a little hazy after that."

There is a silver lining to Crane's injury -- he'll soon get a chance to see his first-born, Nicholas, who was born March 9. Crane and his wife, Karin, a native of Germany, live near Fort Benning, Ga.

"He's never seen the baby," Dan Crane said. "His wife's mother and niece live in Germany. They're going to go to the hospital and take him some pictures."

Dan Crane said his son can't wait to get home to see Nicholas.

"He won't be able to return to duty until his hand is fixed up. I told him, 'It will give you a chance to spend some quality time with your son.' He's looking forward to getting home."

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