The Digital Journalist
© Nina Berman

"The wall, it was a mural of Saddam Hussein with his green uniform, beret, and a big rifle pointing to the sky. I was excited, pumped to put the wall down. I was feeling good. I couldn't wait to hit the wall. It was a sunny day, a beautiful day, blue skies. My tank was an M-88. We were 5 days in Tikrit.

I hit the wall and it just crashed on me and crushed my head and broke my neck and I was dragging the wall still about 100 meters. I felt everything separated, like in relaxing mode, but in reality I was still driving the tank. I couldn't feel my hands on the wheel. I felt nothing. My sergeant was telling me to stop on the radio but I couldn't speak loud because my voice just went away.

I've had 3 surgeries. My spinal cord is C3-C4 which means quadriplegic. From my neckline down I can not feel anything.

I'm just happy I took the wall down. No regrets. I did my job. I got an Army Commendation medal. I didn't get a purple heart. I feel like I deserve one. It would make me more confident that I really did something.

I'm disappointed that when they ask you to go, we go. And when we ask them where is our reward for doing something, they take their time. I don't know. I don't know how the system runs but it's pretty bad.

For the moment right now, I just want to heal."

(Despite his classification as a quadriplegic, Calderon waited more than seven months to be retired and discharged, a difference in benefits of several thousands dollars a month.)

Spc. Luis Calderon, 22, from Puerto Rico, a tank operator, 4th Infantry Division, was injured May 5, 2003 in Tikrit, when a concrete wall with Saddam's face on it, which he was ordered to destroy, came crashing down on his tank severing his spinal cord and leaving him a quadriplegic. Photographed at the Miami Veterans' Hospital December 17, 2003.