November 20, 2012

Wounded Maine soldier makes it home for holidays

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

U.S. Army Sgt. Helaina Lake's one-year deployment to Afghanistan was cut short in June by a suicide bombing that killed several fellow soldiers and left her severely wounded.

click image to enlarge

U.S. Army Sgt. Helaina Lake and her 2-year-old son, Aden

This week, she's coming home.

After undergoing 18 surgeries at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Lake was scheduled to return to Livermore Falls on Tuesday for the first time in more than a year.

"I can't wait to get to hold her," said her father, Bernal Lake, who hasn't seen his 24-year-old daughter since she was deployed in September 2011.

Bernal Lake, who has restless leg syndrome, doesn't fly or ride in cars for long distances, so he stayed at the family farm to take care of their horses and cows while his wife, Jeannine Lake, left for Washington to be with their daughter and her 2-year-old son Aden.

After a procedure last week, Helaina Lake has been able to put a little weight on her right foot, and she gets around pretty well with a walker, her father said. Almost all of the bones on the right side of her body were injured in the bombing, and she received burns and other injuries.

She still can't use her arm.

Lake, her son and her mother will return to the military hospital in January, when she will have surgery on her elbow -- the first of a few more operations she still needs.

From Thanksgiving to Christmas, however, the whole family will be together.

"I'm beyond ecstatic," said Kathrynn Lake, Helaina's younger sister, a student at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham.

Their older brother, Charles, lives in Wilton.

"We're really all just so thankful and so happy she can come home," Kathrynn said.

The reunion was to begin just before noon Tuesday, when their flight is scheduled to arrive in Portland.

From there, the family will take a police-escorted limousine ride to Livermore Falls, making stops and adding fire trucks to their entourage along the way.

Jeannine Lake won't have much of a break before she has to start preparing Thanksgiving dinner for 22 people at their house.

"It's going to be a busy couple of days," she said.

Lake said she always makes a lot of food, including everyone's favorite pie -- that's cherry for Helaina.

But more than anything, the Lakes say they're all looking forward to sitting down and catching up with one another.

"Just going home and seeing everybody and being normal for a little bit is awesome," Jeannine Lake said.

 

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com

 

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