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Taking bad with the good

Newark community to hold benefit to help injured soldier, family

Nathan Knutson, 19, of Newark, (at right) was injured Saturday, March 17, after the Army vehicle he was riding in struck an Improvised Explosive Device in Afghanistan.
Nathan Knutson, 19, of Newark, (at right) was injured Saturday, March 17, after the Army vehicle he was riding in struck an Improvised Explosive Device in Afghanistan.

"He called me when it first happened, Saturday, March 17, and said 'I have good news and bad news,'" said Newark resident Dennis Knutson about his 19-year-old son, Nathan.

Nathan didn't sound like he was in bad shape, Dennis said. He sounded OK that morning.

"He said, 'The good news is I'm coming home early,'" Dennis remembered.

Nathan enlisted in the United States Army in July 2010, after graduating from Newark Community High School. He was deployed to Afghanistan in October 2011.

The bad news was that while traveling in Afghanistan, the vehicle Nathan and some other soldiers from his unit were in struck an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and Nathan was coming home due to his injuries.

Before he left Afghanistan after the incident, Nathan's jaw was wired shut, his ruptured spleen was removed and he had minor surgery on his elbow. Dennis said Nathan's elbow was not broken, but it did have a chip off the side of it.

After being treated in Afghanistan, the wounded soldier was flown to Germany for a few days before coming home to the United States. Nathan is now at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and has had 10 surgeries on his crushed ankle, but is doing "pretty good," Dennis said.

Dennis and Nathan's mother, Karen, flew to San Antonio when Nathan came back to the U.S. Since then, Karen had to come home to be with Nathan's two younger brothers, Noah and Neal, and to keep their business going, but Dennis is still down south.

"Nathan has been getting a lot of visitors," Dennis said. "A couple weeks ago, the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, came to see the guys."

He said the Sergeant Major of the Army and his wife came to the hospital to visit, as did three-star generals.

Two other soldiers in the vehicle that day were also injured, said Pat Schuerman, a member of the Newark American Legion Post 459.

Schuerman said the wires were taken out of Nathan's mouth, but he still has rubber bands.

"He can't eat a steak yet," Schuerman said.

Schuerman and other members of the Newark American Legion are working together to host a benefit Sunday, April 29, for their local teenager.

"This is the first soldier from Newark in a very long time that was injured," Schuerman said. "The community wants to do something to show support."

Several people from the town wanted to support the Knutson family, so they all decided to come together and host one big event.

From noon to "whenever" on Sunday, guests can enjoy a pig roast dinner, door prizes, raffles, kids' games and music at the Newark American Legion, 606 Fennel Road, Newark. Children eat free with a paid adult. Admission is $20.

Tickets can be purchased at the door Sunday, or prior to the event at the Subway/BP in Newark, Citizens First National Bank in Newark or Midland Crossing.

"The support we've been getting from the community is just outstanding," Dennis said. "The food, the help with the kids when we had to leave, the thoughts and prayers, it's overwhelming."

Dennis said it is unlikely that Nathan will be out of the hospital in time to attend the benefit himself, but they are hoping to set up Skype at the American Legion and the hospital so Nathan can at least see and say hi to everyone who comes to honor him.

"Nathan is a great kid," Schuerman said. "And the Knutson family would give you the shirts off their backs."

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