Archived Story

Eslinger makes miraculous recovery

Published 7:27am Saturday, February 25, 2012

SEPTEMBER: AFGHANISTAN

Sept. 26 began as a typical day at the FOB, or Forward Operating Base, where Donny and his unit spent much of their time.

Donny had arrived back the day before from a brief leave, which he spent with his family in Jemison.

“I do not remember what I was doing before the mortars hit,” he said. “I know I was in P.T. clothes – shorts, T-shirt, tennis shoes – so we must have been on down time. Normally, we are in full gear with protection, but it is usually safe to relax in your own FOB.”

He also has no memory of the chaos that ensued after the grenades detonated and relies on what others who were there tell him.

Of all the soldiers in his FOB that day, Donny suffered the worst injuries – in his mother’s words, “the brunt of it all.”

He was standing 4 four feet from a 75mm recoilless rifle round, according to his squad leader.

His Army brothers and fast-working medics are credited with saving his life.

“Several of them risked their life as rounds were still coming in to get me to safety and medical help,” he said. “I would do the same for any of them.”

Those who saw Donny after the attack did not think he would survive, and understandably so, considering he was unresponsive after the incident.

“Obviously, I thought he had died,” Don said. “It was one of the worst days of my life.”

Mary’s reaction to the news was no different. Her world crumbled as her husband and Donny’s stepfather, Frank Sazera, took the phone from her hands.

“When I heard the words, ‘Pfc. Eslinger is unresponsive at this time’ on that dreadful day four months ago, Frank took the phone from my screaming self to talk with the Army and slowly broke the news to me in bits and pieces as to Donny’s prognosis,” Mary said. “It stopped my world cold.”

Don said the Army diligently sent updates to the family, but Donny’s prognosis was not good.

His injuries included a traumatic brain injury, punctured lungs, broken ribs, a broken leg, kidney damage and a severe chest wound exposing his heart. His spleen had to be removed, and he had fluid on his brain.

Doctors were forced to remove part of his skull to allow his brain to swell.

“His cranial pressure was so high, (doctors said) if he did survive, the prognosis wasn’t very good,” Don said.

On Thursday, Sept. 29, Don flew from the U.S. to Germany to see Donny; Mary only hours behind him.

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