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Two Fort Drum soldiers badly wounded in Afghanistan

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FORT DRUM — Two Fort Drum soldiers faced leg amputations after suffering major injuries in an improvised explosive device attack in Afghanistan early this week.

The soldiers, Spc. Joseph A. Mille and Pfc. Rex Tharp, were injured Tuesday while on patrol in Kandahar Province. Pfc. Tharp, 20, North Manchester, Ind., was injured when he detonated an IED while kneeling next to a wall. His team’s leader, Spc. Mille, 20, Atlantic City, N.J., detonated another IED while running to Pfc. Tharp’s aid.

Both soldiers had to have their right legs amputated, among other injuries, and are at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. Spc. Mille’s amputation was below the knee, while Pfc. Tharp’s was above the knee. At the hospital, each was given a Purple Heart decoration.

Both soldiers will be transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., this weekend or early next week.

According to Marissa A. Mille, Spc. Mille’s sister, Spc. Mille was very active in school activities.

She said he participated in varsity football, wrestling and track and field while at Sitka High School in Sitka, Alaska, from which he graduated in 2009. She said he had a great sense of humor.

Ms. Mille said one of her brother’s biggest concerns was whether he would be able to continue to serve.

“He loved his job,” she said. “He wanted to make it a career.”

She added that her brother was told by nurses his injuries might not be career-ending.

“He was pretty happy about that,” Ms. Mille said.

Geegee G. Tharp, Pfc. Tharp’s mother, said that when she first spoke to her son, he was most concerned about how his friends and family were reacting to his injury.

“He has been a trouper through this whole thing,” Mrs. Tharp said.

On Monday, Mrs. Tharp had been told by her son via Facebook that he would be promoted to specialist at the beginning of February, and that he would be returning home in only a few weeks. She said she had been at work for only about 20 minutes Tuesday when she received the call about her son’s injuries.

In addition to participating in several varsity sports while at North Manchester High School, Mrs. Tharp said, her son is a talented singer who has won several solo awards in state competitions. He also played varsity soccer and football and participated in the school’s band and choir. Pfc. Tharp starred in several school theater productions, and Mrs. Tharp said her favorite role of her son’s was when he played Horton the elephant in the musical “Seussical.”

She said she was amazed at the outpouring of support her family has received in the past few days. In addition to the Army providing financial support for travel and lodging to see her son while at the hospital, she and other family members have been given money by employers and local veterans organizations to cover expenses.

“The community support has been beyond belief,” Mrs. Tharp said.

Fort Drum’s Public Affairs Office was not able to comment about either soldier or their injuries Friday.

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