Pfc. Thomas Ponce, 19, from Maui, was wheeled Monday to a helicopter on his way to Germany for surgery, after being treated at the Ibn Sina Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, a day after he was injured in an attack at his base in Sadr City. CLICK FOR LARGE
Maui soldier's kin learn of ambush in Iraq
Pfc. Thomas Ponce of Maui is wounded in a grenade attack at his Sadr City base
Maui native and Army Pfc. Thomas Ponce told his father he was putting up a barricade in his base in Sadr City, Iraq, on Sunday when his Humvee was hit in a rocket attack, injuring him and another soldier.
"He said they were in an alleyway, trying to barricade it with earth and cones, when a white pickup truck pulled up on the side, someone got out and shot him," said Wayne Ponce, who said he talked to his son Monday.
He said his son has shrapnel in the right side of his face, torso and both legs. He said his son told him he was pulled to safety by the other soldier in the Humvee, who had shrapnel in his leg.
The other soldier is Spc. Benjamin West of Tempe, Ariz., said Ponce's mother, Jean Okamura.
The two soldiers are members of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 325 Infantry Regiment, of the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Her son's Humvee was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, Okamura said.
She said this is her son's first deployment to Iraq, and he has been there since January or February. Okamura said her son, 19, enlisted in the Army while he was still a junior at Maui High School, entering last June after he graduated.
Ponce was taken to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for surgery. But when she called her son early Tuesday, Okamura learned the doctors decided it would be better for her son to get the surgery stateside. He is scheduled to return to North Carolina tomorrow, she said.
"He has shrapnel in his right eye, but he can see movement," Okamura said.
She said her son has a patch over his right eye because the injury has made it sensitive to light.
Ponce told his mother the Army might discharge him because of the injury. She said she asked her son how he felt about that prospect.
"He knows if he's not 100 percent, the Army won't want him and he can't do his job," Okamura said. "At least he did all he could."
But she said he remains optimistic that he will get better.