After a whirlwind brush with death on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan, Spc. Channing Moss has made it back home to Georgia, and this time, he’s here to stay.
Following five surgeries and intensive physical therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Moss recently moved to Fort Gordon in Augusta with his wife, Lorena, and two young daughters.
"We are happy," Lorena Moss said. "This is what we’ve been waiting for for a year and a half. We feel like we’re starting our lives over again with a new outlook on life. We never stop thinking about how valuable our lives are."
The 2001 West Hall High School graduate is visiting Gainesville this week, and will attend a ceremony this morning at his alma mater where the school’s new weight room will be dedicated to the former West Hall linebacker.
Channing Moss said he is overjoyed to be back in Georgia.
"I can just smell that Georgia air. And I could stick my feet in that Georgia clay and rub it around," he said.
His last surgery, to repair his colon, is probably next month at the Dwight Eisenhower Medical Center in Augusta.
"I’ll probably need medical attention for the rest of my life ... but I’m doing excellent," he said. The Hall County native received a hero’s homecoming when he visited Gainesville in May to receive the Hall County Sheriff Department’s Medal of Valor, the department’s highest honor. He then returned for more medical care at the Walter Reed Army Base.
The former Army private was gravely injured in southeastern Afghanistan on March 16, 2006, when he was traveling in a group of five humvees along the Pakistan border. As a gunner, Moss was positioned atop a humvee when Afghan insurgents attacked the caravan. A rocket propelled grenade entered the humvee through the windshield and pierced Moss’ body, but failed to detonate.
The RPG entered through his right hip and extended through his left thigh. The only medic for miles happened to be in Moss’ humvee. Moss’ best friend, Jared Angel, a medic from Utah, risked his life to tend to Moss’ wound while working around the baseball bat-sized rocket precariously lodged in the 23-year-old soldier’s body.
Moss was flown to a U.S. Army hospital in the Pashtun province of Afghanistan, where a team of doctors violated Army procedure and brought Moss, a human bomb, into the hospital to remove the RPG.
After a brief stint at a U.S. Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, Moss was flown to Washington, D.C. His wife, who was five months pregnant, waited anxiously with their 1-year-old daughter, Yuliana, to find out how severe her husband’s injuries were.
Despite predictions that Moss might lose a limb, the soldier endured five surgeries that closed the gaping wound in his abdomen. After physical therapy, he could walk again.
The Gainesville native made national news when ABC’s "20/20" aired his story on Sept. 21. The broadcast initiated a nationwide outpouring of contributions and support for the Moss family.
Bob Sydow, a 50-year-old investment manager living in Manhattan Beach, Calif., saw Moss’ story on "20/20" with his 12-year-old son, Brian.
"By the end of the show, I felt I kind of knew him a little bit," Sydow said. "And me and Brian decided that it would be neat to help him out."
Sydow then wrote a check for $20,000 with Channing Moss’ name on it.
"I just really love the part (of the ‘20/20’ story) where he told the doctors that he was going to walk to get his purple heart," Sydow said. "And I thought that was really classy of him — it showed that he had a lot of guts and determination."
The Moss family said they thought the generous check was a joke at first.
"I was speechless, I didn’t believe it," Channing Moss said. "It makes it worthwhile to serve for my country to get home and get that much support."
Channing Moss’ wife said there have been many people from Hall County who have donated to the family’s fund set up with Bank of America. Lorena Moss said they are saving the money for now, and that when the time is right, they will use the funds.
"We are really blessed," she said. "People in Channing’s hometown have shown a lot of support. We are so thankful to have these people we consider friends."
For now, Channing Moss said that he is content to be recovering in Augusta with his wife and his daughters Yuliana, 3, and Ariana, 1. He said that he will continue to receive medical care at the Dwight Eisenhower Medical Center while he lives in army housing at Fort Gordon. Channing Moss believes he will remain in the army for about one more year, and will then be discharged upon a more stable recovery.
"I got banged up pretty bad. ... It’s going to take some time to heal," he said. "I’m not going to be able to do what I love in the military. I wanted to be an airborne ranger ... and I got accepted to go to ranger school, but I got hurt, and you have to be physically fit."
While Channing Moss focuses on his health for the next year, he said that he has big dreams for his future.
"I plan on going to school down here. ... I have a great opportunity to go to Georgia Military," he said. "I want to study business, financial science and real estate. I want to own my own business one day."
Although many Americans have expressed their gratitude to Channing Moss, he said that he feels like he owes the world to everyone who had a hand in saving his life and to the many who have helped him to recover.
"I’m overjoyed," he said. "I can’t thank Hall County as a whole enough. They’ve carried me on their back, even people I don’t even know."