Union Springs High School graduate Kyle Casler knew he was putting himself in harm's way for his country when he joined the Army in 2009, two years after graduating.
But the reality of serious injuries that can come with military service can be devastating. Casler, a 23-year-old U.S. Army specialist, first-class, was injured in Afghanistan on May 23.
"He was in southern Kandahar Province," said his father Mark Casler. "He was on a foot patrol ... they were securing a village to go in and meet the people in the village. ... He stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device).
Mark Casler said his son was reaching down into his pack to get a bottle of water because it was sweltering. He stepped on the 25-pound roadside bomb, and only 25 percent of it detonated. Had the whole thing blown up, Kyle Casler would be dead, his father said.
"He's just really lucky to be alive," Mark Casler said.
Kyle Casler's left foot was amputated a foot below the knee on June 7. On July 6, he took his first step with his new prosthetic limb. He walked two weeks earlier than doctors predicted, Mark Casler said.
"He beat the doctors by two weeks and a day because he's so determined," he said.
Kyle Casler, who was serving with Alpha Company 1-508 Infantry Regiment, Fourth Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, is expected to be rehabilitating for three months to a year. He is currently staying at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. with his mother, Lori Casler. Kyle Casler also has a sister, 21-year-old Mara Casler.
"He's extremely determined and he's just an all-around good kid," Mark Casler said. "He's just a good person."
Andy Rindfleisch, a friend of the Casler family, is organizing a fundraiser with another friend, Bill Heary, to help Casler.
"He's given up a lot and it just feels good to try to do something, to give something back to the kid," Rindfleisch said. "All those guys over there, no matter how you feel about the war, those guys are giving up a lot for us."
The benefit will be held Saturday, July 21, at Twin Oaks Campground and tickets can be purchased at Be Happy Cafe and Cavi's, in Union Springs. Food, live music, raffles, an auction and wine tasting will be featured to raise money and bring awareness to those who are still in harm's way overseas. All proceeds from the benefit will go to Kyle Casler.