Sunday, November 9, 2008

For local Iraq vet and his mom, the healing never ends

For local Iraq vet and his mom, the healing never ends
Four years after Rory Dunn was blown up by a bomb in Iraq, the publicity that surrounded his miraculous survival has faded. Meanwhile, Dunn rebuilds his life and his mother copes with what it means to be the parent of a wounded veteran.

By Cara Solomon

Seattle Times staff reporter

There he stands, Renton's Hometown Hero, tall, broad, handsome.

It's taken four years for Rory Dunn to put on this uniform, a reminder of the ugly days in Iraq. He's different now — 26 years old, with four pieces of shrapnel in his head. A missing eye. A rebuilt forehead. Deaf in one ear.

He could have skipped the parade, but older veterans wanted him here — and what else does he have planned? It's a break from his routine, watching sitcoms, walking to the grocery store, waiting for a friend to pick him up.

So Rory lets another veteran pin the Purple Heart on his Army uniform. He poses for a picture with a toddler beside the military trucks, and when the music starts, and the parade moves down the street, it feels kind of good. He struts.

Behind retired Spc. Rory Dunn, just a few steps behind, is his mother. The woman who watched over him at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for nearly a year. The one who saw his chin tremble at night, the tears stream down his face. She taught him to walk in the world again.

Cynthia Lefever, 57, hears the clapping, and yes, it sounds nice. But attention like this is fleeting. More than four years after a bomb blew Rory up in Iraq, the media flits in and out of their lives, covering the miraculous recovery of the man who was not supposed to live. Friends have fallen away.

And mother and son are still trying to find their footing. Some days are better than others.

So Cynthia is not looking for admiration from this crowd. She is looking for appreciation. Does anyone out there understand what has happened to her child?
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