Two years after an IED attack in Afghanistan took the lower half of his right leg, Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey P. Hackett is preparing for the post-Army life for himself and his family.
My family has been there for me. Its time for me to be there for my family, he said. Ive been through all these deployments, going here, going there, and they stuck through it.
A fundraiser will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Firemans Park, Swan Road, Belleville, to help build a new home for the Fort Drum soldier that will be wheelchair-accessible.
The Aug. 15, 2011, blast in southern Afghanistan, which took place as Sgt. Hackett aided Afghan police forces inspecting a compound, also fractured his left lower leg and ribs, severed his intestine, punctured his colon and shredded the backside of his right arm.
He spent about a year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., recovering from his wounds. He returned to the north country in June 2012.
I look back, no regrets; (Id) do it again, Sgt. Hackett said. Its my job. What am I going to do?
Sgt. Hackett and his wife, Bobbie Jo L. Hackett, talked about his recovery and the fundraiser Friday afternoon at Rhodes Greenhouses, Route 3, Henderson. They have three children, Caitlyn, 10, Makenna, 8, and Arionna, 3.
Mrs. Hackett said she bought their home on Swan Road only weeks before the attack, and added that the homes size and angles have created problems since Sgt. Hackett first saw it in December 2011, as his wheelchair could not fit into the house or move between rooms.
In addition, a flight of steps in the house has created a major falling hazard when his prosthetic leg doesnt land correctly.
Ive fallen down those stairs quite a bit, Sgt. Hackett said. Mrs. Hackett remembered a conversation with her mother-in-law, who was worried about the frequency of the falls.
I said, Its part of his life now, she said. He needs to know how to fall and not hurt himself.
Despite a preference for using a wheelchair, the houses limitations have forced him to use prosthetics.
Since the injury, Sgt. Hackett has slowly increased his physical activity, and now has a collection of seven prosthetic legs that can be switched out based on the activity hes doing. Despite losing several nerves in his right arm, he said, he had improved his hand dexterity through playing video games.
After returning to post in 2012, the former 3rd Brigade Combat Team member has served in the 3rd Battalion, 85th Mountain Infantry Regiment, better known as the Warriors in Transition Battalion, which helps soldiers prepare to return to their units or retire. Sgt. Hackett will medically retire on Tuesday, following a career of 19 years, three months and 24 days.
I look back and yeah, it ended with a boom, but let me tell you what, its been great times, Sgt. Hackett said. I have no regrets, and if I could do it all over again, I would, and I could say I proudly did it too. I defended this country.
The two hope that the money raised Sunday can be paired with efforts of the nonprofit organization Homes for Our Troops, which builds specialty homes for wounded veterans. The organization invited the Hacketts to attend its conference in April.
After his retirement, Sgt. Hackett said, he is considering creating a business for his photography, a hobby of his since high school.
He said he was grateful for the communitys support through his recovery and for the fundraiser.
Its definitely a first step, and its going to be awesome when it comes together, he said.
Sundays benefit, organized by Red White and Blue Records, will consist of a chicken barbecue, craft fair and bazaar, raffles, 50/50 drawing and live musical performances by Rod Richmond and Ian Wagbone. More information about the event can be found by visiting www.facebook.com/JeffHackettBenefit.
Video of Mr. Hackett telling his story can be found at http://wdt.me/medVf6.