Team Andrew: Channel 3 travels to Walter Reed
BETHESDA, MD. (WRCB) -- With every step, Specialist Andrew Smith takes another stride on the journey home.
"It's so cool to see how far he's come," said Andrew's wife, Tori.
It's been 14 months since Andrew stepped on an IED while on patrol in Afghanistan.
Since then he's met and exceeded every challenge.
But his recovery hasn't been without setbacks.
The most recent came in February, during a surgery to repair Andrew's abdomen.
"What was supposed to be just a week in the hospital turned into a few months in the hospital," he explained.
Doctors discovered the damage caused by the explosion that left Andrew wounded was worse than they thought.
"No eating or drinking," said Andrew. "That was pretty tough being fed through a pick line in my arm."
It was two months before Andrew could eat again.
That delayed his homecoming and his rehabilitation.
"I lost a lot of strength in my left knee," he said. "When I first put my legs back on, I could barely stand; but thankfully, it came back quick."
Andrew went back to the gym, working to gain his strength.
His next goal is to be able to run. He wants to meet that goal before coming home.
"We're hoping to come home, just as soon as possible," said Tori, who attends rehabilitation sessions with her husband. "They know that our goal around here, but we want to get back home the right way."
A local non-profit, Steps2Hope, is making sure it's a homecoming to remember.
The group is building the Smith's a home to meet Andrew's needs.
"I don't think I'm ever going to be able to grasp the idea that someone, this group of people, so selflessly is building us a home, giving us a home free and clear," said Tori.
"I mean that just doesn't happen. God is so good."
It's the generosity of the Chattanooga community Andrew says has fueled his recovery.
"We're keeping the U.S. Postal Service in business right now," laughed Tori.
Since his injury, there have only been two days Andrew has not received a card, letter or care package.
Then there is the baseball bat, signed by the Atlanta Braves baseball team. The concert put on by country music star Luke Bryan in Andrew's honor, and the countless visits from athletes, actors and politicians.
It's enough to go to anyone's head, but not Andrew's.
He's as humble and hardworking as they come.
The woman by his side; devoted.
The Purple Heart on their window seal represents what they've sacrificed.
Andrew is concentrating on what he's gained and where's he's headed, which is no doubt Chattanooga.
Steps2Hope plans to break ground on the Smiths' new home in the next few weeks.
Andrew and Tori will get the keys on July 4th, but Andrew won't be released from rehab until late fall or early winter.
They hope to be settled into their new home by Christmas.
When Andrew does come home he'll be a Sergeant. His promotion becomes official on June 1.