Soldier mends, re-enlists after injury in Iraq

Nikiski man won't let suicide attack damage his resolve

Posted: Monday, January 01, 2007

KENAI - They say it takes more than just strength, courage and determination to be a soldier. It also takes an indelible resolve in the face of adversity, which a soldier from Nikiski proved he had this past year.

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Chris Bauer, 23, of Nikiski, was seriously injured in April when a suicide bomber detonated himself near Bauer while he was on foot out of his Stryker vehicle as part of a dismounted patrol in Rawah, Iraq.

The blast injured Bauer and a fellow soldier from Fort Wainwright assigned to the 4th Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, while a third soldier involved in the blast, Kenneth Hess, 22, of Asheville, N.C., was killed.

Bauer said he felt lucky to have survived the incident, but was a man of few words when it came to talking about the events of that fateful day.

"It's just one of those things that happened, that you deal with and learn from. I'll just have to keep a sharper eye next time," he said.

While Bauer was humble about the incident, his injuries were quite serious. He received numerous lacerations to his head and neck, and Bauer had black eyes from the pressure of the explosion against the goggles he was wearing.

"I came back (to the U.S.) and recouped. Everything is pretty much healed up now. Some numbness in my cheek is about the worst of it, and I've still got shrapnel in my neck, ear and eye brow," he said.

Bauer was born in Anchorage and attended grade school in Kenai and high school in Nikiski before joining the Army in 2001. He was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq when he was hurt.

His injuries didn't damage his enthusiasm for serving his country though, as he has since re-enlisted for a third hitch.

He is tentatively scheduled to be sent to Fort Lewis in Seattle early next year, and while he said it would be nice to remain stateside so he could be closer to family and friends, he will return to Iraq if ordered.

"Wherever they need me is where I'll go. I volunteered to do this, no one forced me, so I have no problem going back," he said.

As to why he would once again risk life and limb to serve in the military, Bauer said it stems from a sense of duty.

"It feels good and makes me proud to do something good for the country," he said.

The idea of Bauer returning to harm's way is less than desirable for his mother, Joan Bauer of Nikiski.

"I'm mom, so I'd like him to stay here and be safe, but it's his choice and I'll support him all the way in whatever he wants to do," she said.

Bauer's mother said it would also be tough to try and dissuade her son from being a soldier, since it seems to be his calling in life.

"Even as a child he always played with Army men and tanks. He's always been interested in it and even now he seems to be doing something he really loves," she said.

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