Family upset at soldier's injury notification


James Wilburn said the Army called his wife's cell phone while the family was eating at a restaurant and that the family was overwhelmed with grief.

Spc. William Stewart is fighting for his life at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Stewart is a member of the First Armor Division out of Fort Bliss, Texas.

Two weeks ago he and four other soldiers were severely injured during an ambush in Afghanistan. His father told ABC11 by phone what happened.

"It was an IED. He's a .50 cal gunner, that's up in the hatch," said Stewart's dad James Wilburn. "And I guess the Humvee in front of him is the one that ran over the IED."

Wilburn said the 25-year-old soldier from Fayetteville suffered a stroke after losing blood to his brain. The family was at a restaurant when the Army called to let them know Stewart had been injured.

"Just calling somebody on the phone and saying your son's been blowed up by an IED and we had to remove part of the skull," said Wilburn. "You know, while you're standing in a parking lot. I don't know to me, you just don't do that."

Wilburn and his family are now at Walter Reed. The father said the phone call was cold and impersonal. The family would have appreciated someone telling them in person in the same way loved ones are notified when service members are killed in action.

The Army said there is a good reason injured soldiers notifications are made by phone.

"When we have a killed in action, we have the time to go out and greet them and tell them in person at the house," said Public Affairs Officer Lt. Col. Dennis Swanson. "But we want the family to be able to be bedside with their soldier if they need and want to get there as soon as possible. And that's why we phone them."

Military leaders said their objective is to get the word to family members as quickly as possible. They know the system isn't perfect, but they said, right now, it's the best to get a family member bedside when a soldier is injured.

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