On July 8, 2007, his 45th day in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ramon Padilla was ready for dinner. He was at a firebase in the Korengal Valley, the "valley of death" where Taliban warriors ruled ferociously. To make a radio call to the eight soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade under his command, Padilla climbed onto a pile of dirt and rocks.
There, his life changed.
He knew it when he saw his left arm floating away from his body. "All the skin was gone, blood was running out," he says, "and my arm was hanging by two ligaments, like strings."