Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Holiday Hopes: Young wounded vet dreams of better life, family trip


Perry Young met Samantha in eighth grade. They were different than the other kids, both dreaming of a big world, far from their hometown of Adairsville, Ga. One day in the high school lunchroom, they came up with an escape, a trip to Jamaica. It would be exotic. They would bask on beaches and swim in a cove with a beautiful waterfall. By the end of lunch, they made a pact: After graduation they would go together. • But they had no money. And nothing scared them more than following generations of their families into the town's carpet factories. So Perry enlisted in the Army. • After basic training, they realized there was something more between them than friendship. At 18, they said their vows in a candlelit chapel and soon were eating "beef and leaf" from street vendors in Korea. He had signed up for an infantry tour, wanting to do exactly what he saw on television commercials, and both of them accepted the risks. • One tour in Afghanistan led to another. Then in July, while returning from a mission, Perry remembers telling his platoon leader they were in a treacherous place. That was just before a bomb went off. • Later he would remember that right before it happened, the man, sitting on a donkey, was awkwardly perched on top of something covered by a blanket. • Perry saw his eyes. He looked angry.

• • •

When he tells the story of the "incident," another version plays out in Samantha's mind. Two movie reels side by side, she says.

Every time he left on a mission, Perry would send Samantha a text and another when he returned.

On July 23, 2013, he sent such a message. It was morning in Afghanistan and he was heading out. He would text when he got back.

"Please do," she responded. "I love you Baby! Be SAFE Bunkin."

It was 11:10 p.m. when Samantha sent another text from Georgia, where she was living with their baby, KinLee. Samantha was sick, her head hurt and she was cuddling in Perry's jacket, wishing he was there to hold her.

"Please let me know you're back and safe bc I'm worried as usual. I love you with all my heart Mr. Young."

He had not responded by morning.

She sent a text just before 8 a.m. "Baby ..." it said.

Just before 10 a.m. she sent another. "Babe. I'm scared ..."

• • •

The mission had gone off without a hitch. Perry and his troop were returning to the base through a village in Wardak Province. He had been there before carrying a squad automatic weapon. Now he was the radioman. He knew the enemy would be looking for him and the platoon leader. Take out the radio and a troop can't call for help. It was about 8:30 a.m. when he saw the man on the donkey and heard the click of the bomb detonating. Three American and four Afghan soldiers and an interpreter were killed.

Perry was blasted into the air and broke his neck as he landed. Shrapnel seared into his neck, near his spinal cord. He was paralyzed.

• • •

A month later, they arrived in Tampa. Perry, now a quadriplegic with a purple heart, was released last week from the spinal cord injury center at James A. Haley VA Medical Center. They moved into an apartment in Tampa Palms near Haley so he can continue therapy for a couple of years. He can move his right arm and operate a stylus. He can raise both legs a little.It has been a whirl of chaos for them both. Samantha longs for peace. Perry is still on active duty, working on his discharge, and as a specialist, money is tight. A nonprofit group, Operation Helping Hand, paid to move them from Georgia.

A couple of weeks ago, KinLee turned 1. On Wednesday, the couple celebrated their third anniversary. They both are just 21.

Last week, the Internet wasn't yet set up so Perry sat in their apartment unable to operate the TV and with nothing to do.

"I feel trapped in my chair and trapped in my body," he said.

What now? he wondered.

Samantha has an idea. Many people work their whole lives so that they can relax, enjoy life and travel.

Perry doesn't have the money for it yet, but he hopes to visit the big cities in the United States, where he can get around in his wheelchair. And one day, after he gains more mobility, they plan to go to Jamaica.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at or (813) 226-3431.

Holiday Hopes

This is the fourth and final story in the 2013 weekly Holiday Hopes series, where we profile people throughout Hillsborough County who have a need or a wish. Readers will be updated if and when wishes are granted.

The wish

Perry Young wants tools to help him be more independent and to interact with his family. The couple also wants a travel fund, especially for Jamaica, their dream since 10th grade.

To help

Make checks payable to Operation Helping Hand and include in the memo line: Perry and Samantha Young. Mail checks to MOAA Operation Helping Hand, P.O. Box 6383, MacDill AFB, FL 33608.

Retired Navy Capt. Bob Silah, the founder of Operation Helping Hand, says the full amount will go to the Youngs. He also said an Army Ranger with two boys, ages 2 and 7, needs Christmas gifts.

Holiday Hopes: Young wounded vet dreams of better life, family trip 12/20/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 20, 2013 2:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    And Ramos is giving the Rays a pretty good glimpse of what that can be like.

    In Friday's 8-3 win over the Orioles, he hit a grand slam - …

  2. Buccaneers-Vikings Scouting Report: Watching Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen


    No matter how much film we study, no matter how much data we parse, we just don't know how an NFL season will unfold.

  3. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Sue Carlton: Job or family when a hurricane's coming — a very Florida conundrum


    It must seem as foreign to Northerners as shoveling snow is to those of us raised in the Sunshine State: The very-Florida conundrum of having to choose between work and family — between paycheck and personal safety — when a hurricane comes.

    A hurricane helps the rest of us acknowledge the police officers, paramedics, hospital personnel, public works employees and others who stay on the job despite the storm. 
  5. After Tampa concert, Arcade Fire members party, preach politics at Crowbar


    After waiting more than a decade for Arcade Fire’s first appearance in Tampa, fans didn’t have to wait long for their second.

    DJ Windows 98, a.k.a. singer Win Butler of Arcade Fire, performed at a "Disco Town Hall" at Crowbar following the band's concert at the USF Sun Dome on Sept. 22, 2017.