Saturday, August 09, 2008


Guardsman's medical saga continues

Galatas to have 20th surgery in October

By Brian Livingston / staff writer

When Winston Walker, a medic with the 159th Combat Engineering Battalion, helped load Sgt. 1st Class Grayson "Norris" Galatas into a medical evac helicopter in April 2005, he told the soldier he would be alright.

But deep inside, Walker didn't think he would ever see Galatas alive again. 

"Norris asked Winston why he said that and Winston said they are supposed to in order to give the injured soldiers hope," said Janis Galatas, Norris Galatas' wife. "Everyone was so surprised to see Norris pull through. They wanted to touch him in order to confirm to themselves he really was alive and well."

For the Galatas family, alive and well is a relative term.

Norris Galatas, who suffered severe lacerations to his stomach and back and had shrapnel wounds over much of his body as a result of that day's IED attack has received notice he will return to Walter Reed Army Medical Center to prepare for his next surgery — his 20th. This latest operation will be to open up his abdomen for the third time to repair damage to his colon, caused by the MRSA staph infection last June. He will have to have a second temporary colostomy, which will have to be reversed at some future time for surgery number 21. 

The good news: he is well and happy, said Janis Galatas. 

"You would never know he was injured at all, except he walks with a limp and uses a cane for balance," she said. "You know how hard-headed guys can be. He thinks he is still bulletproof. He is doing his own therapy on his bad leg and foot by making them work, and the muscles are slowly coming back." 

Norris Galatas will return to WRAMC a month before the October operation so doctors can prepare him for the 9-10 hour procedure. Janis Galatas will, once again, be holding down the family waiting room area while her husband goes through the operation. She admitted to being excited and at the same time apprehensive about the upcoming date despite having been through these sorts of trials before.

"How do we get through this?" she asked herself quietly repeating the question. "Being a military wife for one thing and having faith in God is a large part of it as well. All soldiers, especially those who deploy to a war zone, are told they may not come back. Of course they believe it won't be them being loaded into a helicopter on a stretcher. But they accept dying more than those of us in the general public. That acceptance of the inevitable I guess has a lot do to with how we handle these sorts of things."

Janis Galatas has been approached by other family members who did lose a loved one in combat. The main question they want answered is why their son, daughter, husband or wife was lost and Norris was spared.

"All I can tell them is that maybe God wanted them to come home," said Janis. "For some reason, and we may never know for sure what that reason is, God wanted Norris to continue living on this earth."

In order to keep sane, Janis Galatas has adopted numerous soldiers across the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones. She said Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something all military family members should be on the lookout for from their loved ones who either have served or are currently serving. She also has written a book that not only delves into her husband's service and current condition, but also gives a military wife's perspective on the war as well. It is in these ways she hopes she can do something good for all soldiers, airmen and seamen who fight for the freedoms of a people and the security of our nation.

"I know people get tired of me when I get on my soap box but we can't let the general public forget what these men and women have done and are still doing," Janis said.

And while Norris Galatas is in surgery this October, Janis Galatas will have a few hours to sit and possibly reflect on what has occurred in the past two years. 

"I think it is easy for people to just sit there and ask 'Why' over and over," she said. "But it is what it is. You deal with it."

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