Archived Story

Eslinger makes miraculous recovery

Published 7:27am Saturday, February 25, 2012


Donny responded to Mary as soon as she arrived in Germany on Oct. 1 by opening his eyes.

“Germany is beautiful … and so is Donny,” Mary wrote in a Facebook post Oct. 2. “As you can imagine, seeing him took all the life out of me for just a moment.”

Doctors were still concerned about the fluid on his brain, but even small movements were mile markers on the road to improvement.

“He moved his right arm, right leg and left leg,” she said. “We are very hopeful of just these simple things.”

On Oct. 3, Mary reported a slightly more active Donny who was tracking his parents more with his eyes and trying to kick with his broken right leg, despite his induced sedation.

Somehow, the mortar blasts in Afghanistan did not touch his right arm, which bears tattoos dedicated to his parents and country.

“I can’t begin to tell you how each and every prayer is working more ways than you know,” Mary said Oct. 3. “We are Donny Strong and headed to the United States of America tomorrow!”

Right before he and his dad boarded a C17 plane bound for the U.S., Donny gave them a “thumbs up” and lifted two more of his fingers.

Mary watched as his critical care team prepared him for flight with every piece of ICU equipment he needed in his hospital room.

“Watching him lift off was breathtaking and brought me to my knees again,” Mary said.

Donny and his father landed at Andrews Air Force Base and were then transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

Less than a week later, Donny received several special visitors.

President Barack Obama awarded Donny the Purple Heart on Monday, Oct. 10 for being wounded in service.

“The president was very nice, and Donny was humbled by the experience,” Don said. “Donny has volunteered to serve our nation and he’s humbled by the outpouring of support, but yet embarrassed as well. He’s an inspiration to me, I’ll tell you that.”

President Barack Obama presented Donny Eslinger with a Purple Heart at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland on Oct. 10, 2011, for wounds he sustained in Afghanistan in September. The pinning was just two weeks after his injury.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, also visited Donny, as well as U.S. Army Association officers who presented him with a Soldier’s Creed plaque.

In a Facebook post Oct. 7, Mary wrote, “At 2:34 p.m. today, although mumbled, I received the best words in the world … ‘I love you, Mama.’”

Those were among the first words he spoke after being injured.

At noon on Oct. 31, Donny boarded a private medical jet for Tampa on the way to his sixth and final medical facility, where he started intense rehabilitation and treatment for his traumatic brain injury.

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