08/09/11 — Airman to receive tribute from USO

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Airman to receive tribute from USO

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 9, 2011 1:46 PM

Staff Sgt. Ben Seekell and his dog, MWD Charlie.

A 4th Fighter Wing airman who lost his foot during a bomb blast in Afghanistan is among those who will be honored at the USO of North Carolina's "Salute to Freedom Gala" this fall.

Staff Sgt. Ben Seekell, a Security Forces K-9 handler, is one of six "outstanding" servicemen stationed or deployed from the state set to be recognized at the Oct. 7 event.

Seekell and his military working dog, Charlie, were on a patrol just outside the Bagram Airfield wire in early May when a member of their team stepped on a land mine.

But the airman had no idea that as he and his team made their way back to the installation to get treatment for their wounded comrade, he, too, would be the victim of an enemy attack.

"There was an explosion underneath me. It kind of blew me up in the air a little bit," Seekell said earlier this summer from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the facility where the airman received treatment until its doors were closed a few weeks ago. "I fell back down -- landed on my chest -- and when I rolled over, I felt a sensation of pressure in my legs.

"I was worried at first that I had lost both of them, but when I looked down, I saw my right foot first. I thought, 'Man, maybe this isn't so bad.' Then I looked at my left foot. It was just a mess down there."

Since the incident, Seekell has undergone numerous surgeries and has been fitted with a prosthetic foot.

But through it all, his commitment to one day returning to Afghanistan -- and his comrades at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base kennel -- has never wavered.

"Maybe if I had a desk job," the airman said, smiling. "But I love what I do too much."