|Chris Reunites with Wounded Soldier Scott LIlley at Minot AFB|
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE - The North Dakota State Fair was a good chance for country singer Chris Young and wounded warrior Scott Lilley to get together.
Lilley, formerly of Minot Air Force Base, and Young first met when Lilley and his dad, Frank, of Roswell, N.M., traveled with Young on a Stars for Stripes tour in Iraq in October 2009. They've seen each other since only a couple times.
But Thursday afternoon Young, Lilley, his wife and their family got together at Minot AFB where Young autographed CDs for airmen and their families. Young also performed Thursday night at the fair.
Lilley, in an interview with The Minot Daily News Wednesday at Minot AFB, said going back to Iraq two years ago "put a closure to everything."
Staff Sgt. Lilley, then with Minot AFB's 5th Security Forces, suffered a serious head injury in Iraq in April 2007 when a roadside bomb hit the Humvee he was riding in. He was hit by shrapnel. He went through treatment and recovery in Iraq, Germany and the U.S.
Lilley and his dad were invited on the Iraq tour after meeting Judy Seale, of Nashville, Tenn., president/CEO of Stars for Stripes, a nonprofit organization that provides top-quality entertainment to deployed service members in remote areas overseas. They met in mid-2007 when Scott Lilley was a patient in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
"My dad told her he wanted to go to Iraq and thank all the service members for everything they've done for our country," Lilley said.
Lilley's parents, Frank and Jolene Lilley, were with him throughout the time of his recovery. Scott Lilley also has three brothers with families who spent time with him when they could during his treatment and recovery.
When the tour with Young and singer Craig Morgan was coming up, Seale invited the Lilleys to go along on it.
"That's how I first met Chris Young. It was his first trip going over, he'd never been over there. He was excited, he was ready," Lilley said.
Young also serves on the board of directors for Stars for Stripes.
Seale said Thursday at Minot AFB that she did 30 entertainment tours to Iraq. She has also done numerous ones to Afghanistan. She and a small staff do all the Stars for Stripes work voluntarily.
During the tour in Iraq, Lilley returned to some of the places he had been when assigned there.
"We drove 20 to 30 feet within where I was blown up," he said.
When he was injured he said there were five Humvees in his convoy. "We were the third ones right in the middle. I was the only one injured," he said.
Lilley, his dad and another wounded warrior, Sgt. 1st Class Joe Bowser, went to all the entertainers' shows in Iraq and talked to the audiences.
They also flew to Balad. "As we were flying in, it's getting mortared," Lilley said. He said Bowser lost his leg in Balad to a mortar coming in.
Lilley's cousin, of Roswell, N.M., a civilian working in Iraq, surprised them by meeting them in Balad.
Lilley got to know Young quite well during the tour in Iraq. "He's an awesome person," Lilley said.
Lilley, his wife, the former Candi McCloud of Belcourt, and their family Mikisha McCloud, Jarron Otto and Mikaylie Lilley live in San Antonio, Texas, where Lilley has been a civilian employee since July 2011 with the 502nd Air Base Wing at Lackland AFB, Texas. He said they try to visit North Dakota as much as they can.
Lilley, who received a medical discharge, remained in the Air Force until December 2010
He wanted to stay in the military. "I wanted to do my 20 years, but the loss of my short-term memory bit me hard," he said. "It's hard retaining things now. It was never like that before."
Eight months after Lilley was injured and had spent time undergoing treatment, he and his parents returned to Minot AFB where he was presented the Air Force Combat Action Medal.
"I don't remember coming up and doing it," he said. But he said he has a photo of the presentation.
He returned to Minot AFB to work 10 months after he was injured and then was transferred to Lackland, leaving the Minot base July 11, 2008.
President George W. Bush took a special interest in Lilley Bush first called Lilley in the hospital and was a strong supporter during Lilley's hospitalization. Bush invited him to the White House several times.
Lilley was one of 20 wounded warriors invited to play in The Bush Center's 2011 Warrior Open Golf Tournament in Dallas.
Lilley said he tells others who are going through similar experience as his:
"It's to keep a smile on your face and look at the good things that could come out of this. Don't look at all the bad things.
"Actually, when I talk, even to the people who aren't injured, I tell them being wounded or injured in any way, shape or form isn't the end of the world. Yes, it's hard, it's something you have to deal with for the rest of your life that you never thought you would or weren't anticipating. But it's not the end of the world to get injured or wounded. It's how you overcome it and adapt to everything that you have to adapt for," Lilley said.
For more information about Stars for Stripes, visit www.starsforstripes.com.