Eilers and two other Iowa Guardsmen were injured when a Taliban bomb shattered their truck. Eilers got the worst of it, suffering a serious brain injury, two spinal fractures, a broken leg, a broken elbow, a collapsed lung and a destroyed spleen. His heart stopped in the days after he was injured, and it took medical staff 12 minutes to resuscitate him. He was unconscious or close to it for nearly three months. After he awoke, he had to relearn how to walk and talk.
Eilers was still unconscious when he arrived March 7 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. His mother, Kathy Eilers, will never forget the scene. “It didn’t look like Adam. He was so swollen. He had tubes everywhere, and bandages. It made me sick,” she said. “He doesn’t really understand how far he’s come from where he was. I don’t know how to describe it to him.”
She took no pictures, because she didn’t think he’d want to see how terrible he looked. Now, they both wish she had pulled out the camera.Kathy Eilers said her son was “always our little soldier-boy.” All he ever wanted was to be in the Army, so she signed the papers letting him join the Guard at 17. He served a peacekeeping stint in Kosovo, and he could have chosen to leave the service instead of going on the Afghanistan deployment. But his friends were going, and there was extra money to be made, so he volunteered to go. He has no regrets.