Byline: Kirsten Scharnberg
FT. CAMPBELL, Ky. _ If not for the Purple Heart pinned to his blue hospital gown, it would be impossible to identify David Ainslie as a hero of war.
When his stretcher was carried off a military medical flight late last month, returning him to Ft. Campbell, the home of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, his arrival was an understated affair. Just one man_a doctor_made up his welcoming committee. Bands did not play patriotic songs; politicians did not line up to call him a great American; schoolchildren did not hold flags and banners and say they wanted to grow up to serve their country, too.
Ainslie, a 35-year-old sergeant first class, was whisked within moments from the medical plane to a medical bus to a medical facility. He saw his orthopedic surgeon before his saw his wife and 2-year-old daughter. He lay alone for hours in an unadorned hospital room, just him and the pain and the shiny medal that attested to the fact he was gravely wounded while fighting in Iraq.
"It hasn't quite sunk in that I'm home yet," the soldier said, twisting uncomfortably in his narrow hospital bed, trying to find a position in which his mangled leg, ankle and foot didn't throb so much. "I'm not sure when it will."
Less than 24 hours after Pfc. Jessica Lynch returned to West Virginia in an emotional homecoming covered live on television, Ainslie was back on the base where, before the war, he had been honored as the division's top non-commissioned officer of the year.
Unlike Lynch, whose capture and rescue in Iraq made her a household name, no one aside from Ainslie's family and a few doctors paid the slightest heed to the platoon sergeant who had been injured when four Iraqis speeded through a traffic control point in the northern city of Mosul last week, their Kalashnikov rifles blazing.
Ainslie's story illustrates how the scores of …