Just a few days after soldiers in the North Dakota Army National Guard's 818th are welcomed home from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan, there's another big step for the "Sappers".
"I love to hunt and fish, from North Dakota, that's kind of a normal thing around here." says Spc. Ian Placek.
People across the state have come to know Ian Placek.
"I get a lot of handshakes, a lot of thank-yours and I don't really feel deserving of it, you know, I was just doing my job." says Spc. Ian Placek.
He was injured in the same attack in Afghanistan that killed Sgt. 1st Class Darren Linde and Spc. Tyler Orgaard.
In respect to the families, Ian did not want to talk about what happened in the blast.
Ian attended both funerals, in a wheelchair, after returning to the States mid-December.
A homecoming that was not what he expected.
"It was emotional, it was almost surreal, getting off the plane, it was like wow, I'm home but it didn't feel like I thought it was going to because I wasn't getting off the plane with the rest of the guys, but..." says Placek.
"The rest of the guys" would come later in March.
Something that's been positive for his mental health recovery.
"It's nice to have the guys back, to relate to and talk about the stuff if you need to, from the injuries from the blast, they called it a traumatic brain injury, I still have to get a few check-ups with that, doesn't look too serious." says Placek.
He says he respects the little things more. but thinks about his fallen comrades--often.
"A lot I guess, it's something that will never leave you." says Placek.
Some wounds will heal in time.
"I got plenty of scars, just adding' to the collection I guess."
He suffered first and second degree burns on his back, wrist and side, and had to have two surgeries to repair his right foot.
With the assistance of his support system---
"My family, my girlfriend, all the guys in the unit, basically everyone in the community too."
We are happy to report, that as of two days ago, the 23-year-old is down to one crutch.
"I've been on crutches for a few months, so I'm in good "crutching' shape." says Placek.
He is walking with the help of only one crutch now, as he works in the Guard Armory.
"I guess just knowing, just do what they want you to do, just keep on keeping' on."
But he can always lean on his brothers-in-arms--past and present.
Ian is from Crosby and recently bought a boat.
He turns 24 on April 27th.
Ian says he believes he'll be 100 percent soon, even though the doctor keeps saying a couple more weeks.
The 818th will have an official welcome ceremony--called a Freedom Salute in around three months.