Andrew Dys

President Obama visits wounded Rock Hill soldier, family

Nobody likes being in the hospital. The food is awful. Hospitals smell like disinfectant and bad cheese. People all over the place are sick and dying.

Often, while recovering from a shattered leg suffered during an insurgent attack in Afghanistan, a visitor – especially a stranger or a politician – is the last thing a soldier needs.

But Army Spc. Michael Millwood from Rock Hill and his family made an exception for a visitor last week when the commander-in-chief showed up at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to visit wounded troops.

“President Obama held our baby!” said DeAnna Millwood, Michael Millwood’s wife. “It was really pretty cool.”

DeAnna and the baby are staying in an apartment near the hospital while Michael undergoes treatment. The family will celebrate Father’s Day in the hospital and, on Tuesday, the couple will celebrate its first wedding anniversary there.

Spc. Millwood, 23, a combat engineer with an Army unit from Georgia on his second deployment, was wounded May 23 when his unit was ambushed while out on patrol. The unit “had no cover,” Millwood said after the attack, and a bullet shattered his leg.

His sciatic nerve was destroyed, and he faces surgery in a few days to try to reattach it, said Lynn Millwood, Michael Millwood’s father.

“He’s been through a lot, but he’s tough,” Lynn Millwood said. “And there at the hospital, he did get the visit from President Obama.”

The president spoke to Millwood and his family and thanked him for his service and sacrifice. He posed for a few pictures with the family, and even held baby Michael, just 4 months old.

“The president was right there in the room with us,” DeAnna Millwood said.

That hospital, and that tough Rock Hill soldier and his devoted and patriotic family who have sent him first to Iraq and now Afghanistan – and now have to help nurture him back to health – that’s the reality of war. Michael also has a 4-year-old daughter.

“We will do anything we can for Spc. Millwood and his family from here, as he has served with great honor,” said Joe Medlin, veterans service officer for York County, who knows more than a little about honor and service.

Medlin just returned May 31 from a nine-month tour as Command Sgt. Major for the Rock Hill Army National Guard 178th Combat Engineers. He is a neighbor of the Millwood family and is personally involved in making sure they get everything they need.

Medlin’s soldiers were involved in bomb clearance in Afghanistan, and undertook the same missions that Millwood was on when he was shot.

Millwood’s recovery will take months. “Michael is in a lot of pain,” DeAnna said.

Still, Millwood – a serious soldier who has been in combat twice in his young life, whose whole life is about being tough and following orders and doing the most dangerous job on earth – managed a smile and a firm handshake for the commander of the armed forces.

Millwood, tough, a leg shredded, did not flinch. He saluted.

“We are all extremely proud of Michael,” Lynn Millwood said.

President Obama told the Millwood family that he is very proud of Michael, too.

Spc. Michael Millwood, York County is proud of you.