It was June 9 of 2012 when everything went wrong for a platoon sergeant and army specialist.
The two told their story to Fox5, starting with what seemed like an ordinary day — and ending with an unthinkable tragedy.
“Our mission was to go after a high value target,” one of the soldiers explained. But that particular mission felt off from the time they ate what they thought was just another breakfast; one of the two admitted that he called his wife before they rolled out, despite not normally doing so, because of the unshakable feeling in the air.
The others on the mission didn’t feel the same sense of foreboding that John Hosea, the hesitant soldier — now retired — felt. They went as far as to banter with him as they rolled out of camp, joking that the news his wife had delivered in that non-traditional phone call — that she may be pregnant — was a sign he was about to end up with daughter number four.
Hosea, though, was right after all.
First, there was a blinding white light, then complete darkness.
Rocks went flying everywhere, as the soldiers found themselves thrown from their convoy; they could hear screams through the ringing in their ears, barely able to see, and immediately knew that the worst was yet to come.
Nick Williams, the other of the surviving pair from the blown convoy, told Fox5 that he surveyed his body from toes to head, as he was wont to do when he’d been injured.
“First left toe, and that was fine… then as I moved up and got to my hands, I knew something was off.”
He held up his forearms for the camera to see; at the end of his right arm was a large, callused hand, and at the end of the left arm was nothing.
“It takes some getting used to,” he admitted softly, turning his arms to examine the vastly different extremities.
The Fox5 Surprise Squad arrived at Hosea’s home to hear their story, listening to the harrowing tale. Williams picked up his own hand after the blast, which came as the result of a hit IED out in the desert, and made sure that the others on the mission with him could get out as safely as was possible at that point. Hosea had been rendered unconscious; to this day, he doesn’t remember the blast, and credits the fact that he’d been found to Nick’s recovery efforts out in the field despite his own injury.
Unfortunately, he was unable to save everyone. 21-year-old Nathan Tyler Davis was killed in the blast, taking one of Hosea’s “children” from him as the platoon leader.
Their lives are still in the process of being pieced back together. Hosea and his wife named their new daughter after Davis, and take a photo of her at his gravesite every year to send to his mother in his memory — and Williams is still trying to raise the funds for a proper prosthetic hand, one with fingers rather than simply a claw.
That’s where Fox5’s Surprise Squad came in.
Hosea admitted that the fundraiser had been successful so far, but was still around $1,300 short the cost needed to get Nick the hand he was hoping for. So Fox5 went ahead and presented them with a promise — a promise for $1,500, enough to get them over the hump and make his dream to move forward a reality.
It’s not often you see soldiers cry — but the gesture brought the two men to tears, even before the news anchors revealed their plans to donate another $1,000 to each man in Davis’s memory to help their families out with continuing costs.
Both men still have a ways to go in their recoveries. Hosea joked after the surprise was revealed that he’s like a human barometer now; there’s no need to watch the weather, he said, when his bones can tell him within 10 minutes if it’s going to rain. Some days, although he fared far better than Williams in the blast, his wife Sara still needs to help him get out of bed.
Williams, though, is one step closer to the biggest part of his recovery — and both men are now one step closer to their ultimate goal, which is to take what they’ve been through and help the enormous, suffering veteran community in their area near Las Vegas.
They’ve gotten plenty of help — just during the show alone, Harley Davidson donated $2,000 to the Tyler Davis memorial fund to provide scholarship money to someone in need — but they hope to provide even more help as they move forward.
Fox5 hopefully gave them that extra launching point.