Oklahomans will have a chance to meet and support some of Oklahoma’s wounded warriors this weekend at “Hold My Hand — A Hometown Hero Tribute — Wounded Warrior Weekend Event.”
This is the second year for the event which started as a way to raise funds to help U.S. Army Sgt. Rusty Dunagan, 32, a Guthrie native.
Dunagan became a triple amputee on Sept. 22, 2010, when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated where he stood on a mission in Afghanistan.
“I was conscious the whole time,” Dunagan said. He remembers the explosion and being thrown into a creek filled with filth and bacteria. He told his aunt, Susan Porter, that he didn’t think he’d been hit initially — until he looked over and saw his own leg lying on an embankment.
That day, Dunagan lost both his legs and his left arm and became the 23rd triple amputee to survive injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, Porter said. For weeks, he struggled for his life, fighting infections in his wounds, enduring surgery after surgery. To date, Dunagan has had more than 30 surgeries.
Immediately after hearing about her nephew’s life-threatening injuries, Porter said she turned to Facebook to rally as many people as possible to start praying for Dunagan.
Porter started a Facebook page she called “Hold My Hand.”
“Oftentimes when people pray or they’re giving comfort and you don’t know what else to ask for, you just say ‘hold my hand’ or ‘stay with me,’” Porter said.
The Facebook page gained 300 fans overnight and now, it has more than 26,000 fans.
But Porter’s goal had little to do with Facebook and everything to do with supporting her nephew and other wounded warriors like him.
“He’s lost so much, I didn’t want him to lose hope,” Porter said. “I wanted him to know that there were so many people that cared about him.”
Dunagan has been living with his family in San Antonio for almost two years since the explosion. He receives physical therapy at the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center.
He has received a prosthetic arm and prosthetic limb for his left leg. His prosthesis designers are working on a prosthetic device for his right leg. Dunagan’s residual limb is so short, he said, finding a proper fitting prosthesis that will stay on has proven to be a challenge.