•SERGEANT JOEY BOZIK
What's Fair Got to Do with It?
Weeks after an anititank mine ripped his body apart, Sergeant Joey Bozik, 26, emerged from a coma to find himself surrounded by relatives and friends at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. As soon as he grasped the extent of his injuries, Bozik asked everyone but his fiancé to leave the room. Although he and Jayme Peters had spent only a few weeks in each other's presence--they met via e-mail while Bozik was stationed in Afghanistan--they had made plans for a life together filled with travel and outdoor activities. A gymnast and exercise-physiology student, Peters, 25, had a full, active life ahead of her. Bozik, on the other hand, had just lost both legs and his right arm. So he invited her to walk away. "Things you would be able to do with a regular man, I wasn't going to be able to do anymore," he says. "I told her, 'There won't be any hard feelings. I will completely understand.'"
Peters wanted no such deal. "I loved him for who he was in his heart, and he still had that. And I loved him for what he had in his mind, and he still had that," she says now. On New Year's Eve, just eight weeks after he became a triple amputee, Bozik left his hospital bed in a tuxedo and wheeled down to the flower- and family-filled hospital chapel to marry his Texan bride.
Bozik, a native of Wilmington, N.C., was on patrol south of Baghdad looking for roadside bombs when his humvee rolled over a mine. "Why would I bother thinking life is unfair?" he says, in reply to a question. "I've already been set back in life with the loss of my limbs. Why would I want to hurt myself more?" In his first two weeks at Walter Reed, psychiatrists and psychologists poured through Bozik's door, offering a sympathetic ear. They don't stop by anymore; Bozik has convinced them that he doesn't need them.
Dosed with morphine three times a day, Bozik has long red scars from more than 20 surgeries, is making slow progress with his prostheses, often falls asleep at 3 p.m. because of his agonizing and exhausting physical therapy, and won't be able to leave Walter Reed for many more months. He has pins and plates in all three stumps and in his remaining left arm, plus a lifelong elevated risk of arthritis, back and heart problems. But he's alive and thanks God every day for that.
Bozik attributes a big part of his relentlessly upbeat attitude to his new wife, but some of it is constitutional. "Even as a child growing up, Joey never ever threw a tantrum, never cursed," says his mother Gail, who raised three boys alone after her husband died of a heart attack when Joey was 2. Her youngest son joined the Army in early 2001 because money was tight and he wanted to study criminology and become a law-enforcement officer. His commitment to the military only grew stronger after 9/11. "Even knowing that I would lose three limbs, I would sign up again," he says. "After Sept. 11, I remember thinking, 'My God, they could put something in the water and kill a million people.' That's a fear I never want my family to have to feel again."