Like many war veterans, Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Thomas Morrissey doesn’t consider himself a hero.
The 25-year Woodstock resident considers himself both lucky and fortunate. Shot eight times in an ambush during his third tour in Afghanistan, the former Special Forces soldier spent three years in rehabilitation.
Morrissey, vice president of sales for window manufacturer Hunter Douglas, now spends his time making sure that groups that help veterans get the recognition they deserve. He helped raise funds to build a new and larger Fisher House, where wounded soldiers and their relatives can stay as they recover, near the Augusta, Ga., hospital where he stayed.
Morrissey, who recently was recognized for his efforts by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation – he is not a Medal of Honor recipient – took time to talk to Senior Reporter Kevin Craver, himself a veteran, about his mission after leaving the service.
Craver: How many tours did you do in Afghanistan?
Morrissey: Three – the first one in 2003, the second one in 2005, and a back-to-back tour in 2006.
I got shot up on the last one in June 2006. We were ambushed, and I was hit eight times at close range by AK-47 fire. I spent three years in recovery at Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Ga. I had 20 surgeries.
Craver: You’re very lucky to be alive.
Morrissey: I’m very thankful, embarrassed almost, that I came out so good when so many other people ... [pause] ... They thought they may have to amputate my right arm. I lost 6 inches of my [right] humerus. My left arm can’t move very well – the bones are fused into one mass.
Craver: So you helped the younger troops as they were coming through?
Morrissey: I didn’t do anything I wasn’t supposed to do. Senior NCOs, especially in Special Forces culture, you take care of everybody. You take care of the next guy. When I started rehabilitation, I was integrated into a group of people, all junior. You start watching out for them and mentoring them.
They were mostly kids. I always kind of felt I was the lucky one. I was already 53 when I was shot.
After three years in rehab, I was a fixture, whereas people came and went, thankfully. I became exposed to not only the medical side, but the community side, as well. There are a lot of community groups out there to help out our wounded warriors, which is admirable, yet they don’t always get directly thanked.
Craver: Hence, why you helped Fisher House down in Augusta.
Morrissey: I would speak and share my story to raise funds for a new Fisher House. They had a very old and a very small one. Their new one opens in October, and will be the largest one in the country.
Craver: And you do stuff locally to help veterans?
Morrissey: I’m on the board of Transitional Living Services [a McHenry County agency dedicated to helping homeless veterans].
Craver: I first heard of you when Hunter Douglas told us about your work and your award.
Morrissey: When I got injured, they were more than generous. The first time the doctors let me visit home, [Hunter Douglas] sent a private airplane for me ... let me compose myself.
Craver: Over the aircraft or the award?
Craver: What should readers take away from this story?
Morrissey: Soldiers need help re-assimilating themselves. It’s different by person, different by community, but they need help, whether personal or through groups. It’s really, in my opinion, up to the community to help soldiers re-assimilate themselves. That’s the true payment to thank these soldiers.