A 19-year-old Bristol soldier was seriously injured in a vehicle accident in Baghdad on Monday, eight weeks after his arrival in Iraq.
Pfc. Frank Hickman IV, a member of the Army's 1st Division Infantry, suffered multiple injuries when the Humvee he was riding in went over an embankment, his mother, Gail Hickman, said. Hickman underwent surgery for internal injuries following the accident and was to be transferred to a hospital in Germany for assessment for additional surgery.
"He had collapsed lungs and broken ribs. He underwent an emergency surgery in which his spleen was removed. He has a dislocated shoulder, and his ankle is shattered," his mother said.
"I talked to him at 1:30 this morning. He called and, as a mother, it was great just to hear his voice," Gail Hickman said Tuesday.
"He is concerned about his future, his ability to continue with the Army and the infantry, and his ability to recover from his injuries."
Gail Hickman, a secretary at Johnson City Medical Center, was waiting for an update on her son's condition from the Army Board Surgeon's Office on Tuesday before finalizing plans to leave today to be with him in Germany or at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington.
Once in Germany, his mother said, doctors will decide whether he will undergo surgery to his ankle there or if the operation will be done at Walter Reed. Either way, the cost of Gail Hickman's travel will be covered by the Army.
She said it is not yet clear if the accident was combat related.
"He does a lot of guarding. They do foot patrol in the inner-city markets and the airfields. So I believe he was probably on a guarding mission.
"They ride around the city to show presence, and there are land mines and places where the road is damaged. ... Sometimes they are riding along and the road just suddenly disappears.
"We don't know what caused his vehicle to go over the embankment."
Gail Hickman said the Army infantry is something her son, a fourth-generation military serviceman, always wanted to do and took great pride in.
Both she and his father, Frank Hickman III, served in the Navy. His grandfather retired from the Air Force, and his great-grandfather was an Army veteran.
"He's 19 and he's a great kid," his mother said. "He took a real interest in the Army, and he sees it as his calling. He graduated from Tennessee High in 2005, and he joined the Army in October 2005. And he decided he wanted infantry. There is a pride thing in the infantry, and it's what he wanted."
While information about the accident and about Hickman's transfer out of Iraq has been limited, the family has learned he was thrown from the vehicle and that it landed on him. Another soldier in the vehicle suffered a broken arm.
"It seems so many people are saying prayers for him, and I appreciate that," his mother said. "They told him he should have died in this accident, so somebody was definitely looking after him."