She hated the way she looked, made her mother cover her bathroom mirror with a towel, but recovered her strength quickly. Lara took longer to heal, and Halfaker would visit his bedside to try to get him moving. Once, in August, she dropped to the floor and began snapping off one-arm pushups. S---! he thought. I need to get up!
The two of them went to Aspen last winter for a ski event but barely saw each other on the slopes--Lara skied and Halfaker snowboarded. Snowboarding is the only time she forgets she's missing an arm, at least until she falls to her right and eats snow. She has played basketball a few times, but it's not the same as before. "I miss the way the ball feels in my right hand, the way the leather feels," she says. "You know how good it feels when you shoot the perfect shot?"
When running she has an advantage over leg amps, but then, few of them know how stressful it is for her to maintain good running form. An amputated arm presents more problems overall than a below-the-knee severance. Army Sgt. Andy McCaffrey, a right-hand amp, cocks his left thumb and says, "This is what keeps us on top of the food chain."
Then there's the phantom pain. Seventeen months after the amputation, Halfaker still feels the shoulder and arm she used to have, and often they hurt. Phantom pain might be caused by any number of factors--infection before amputation, nerve damage, ill-fitting prostheses and inadequate surgical procedures. Without drugs, only exercise keeps the pain at bay. She tries to run every day.
In a sense, then, Halfaker began the Army Ten-Miler looking only for relief. She had walked to the start, streaming through the crush of people to the front, standing stock-still for the national anthem with a dead-eyed stare. Some members of Missing (Parts) had come looking to make a statement, but it's not in her to be melodramatic. She just wanted to run. But then the starting cannon went off, and the team got its 10-minute head start as 13,000 able-bodies watched and sunlight splashed the trees. Speaking of this moment later, she would begin to cry. With each step away from the crowd, Halfaker found herself running in deeper and deeper silence. The road drew closer to the Potomac.
Suddenly she heard a voice in her head: Look what you're doing. Not long before, she'd nearly died. Then she'd been at that picnic, sidelined, watching. Now she could hear her own breathing, her feet hitting the pavement again and again. A bridge lifted her over the river, and she heard the voice again. Look at what you're doing.
CAPT. LONNIE MOORE
A ROCKET-PROPELLED GRENADE BLEW A HOLE THROUGH THE SIDE OF STERLING'S BRADLEY, SENDING A SLUG OF MOLTEN COPPER THROUGH THE LEG OF HIS LIEUTENANT AND INTO HIS ARM.
--THE SACRAMENTO BEE, MAY 6, 2004