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Byline: Wes Smith
HINESVILLE, Ga. _ Staff Sgt. Howard LeRoy Hizer made it back from Iraq with a Bronze Star in November 2003, but he's still fighting to get healthy and get home.
More than a year after the rest of his Florida National Guard unit returned to civilian life, the St. Cloud, Fla., reservist has a drawer full of medications, a Jeep with 265,000 miles on it and a bed in a 16-man trailer on a military base 300 miles from his family.
Hizer, 41, was called to active duty in December 2002 and served 11 months as an infantry-squad leader in the Persian Gulf before being sent to Fort Stewart, Ga., because of severe back and neck injuries. He was hurt when he fell from a truck on its way to help a military-police unit that had been attacked.
The staff sergeant, an Osceola County volunteer firefighter who works at St. Cloud's wastewater-treatment plant in civilian life, is now into his second year of what the military calls "medical holdover." He gets his military pay and free treatment for his injuries, but except for the time he spends on leave, he can't return to his wife and two young children.
"He's very frustrated, and I'm beyond frustration," said his wife, Lynette Hizer, a registered nurse. "He is back in the States, that's true, but he's not home."
Col. Barbara Scherb of U.S. Army Forces Command in Atlanta acknowledged last week that at least 15 wounded or injured Iraq veterans who were …