The day before attending President Bush's final address in the White House, Air Force Staff Sgt. Scott Lilley told his parents the long-awaited news that he can return to active duty in the Air Force.
Lilley, a former Minot Air Force Base airman, suffered a serious head injury in Iraq in April 2007.
He and his family had been waiting for the Air Force's Medical Evaluation Board's decision whether he would be given the return-to-duty status and could remain in the Air Force.
Former President George W. Bush hugs Air Force Staff Sgt. Scott Lilley, formerly of Minot Air Force Base, after Bush gave his farewell address to the nation Jan. 15 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Lilley’s parents, Jolene and Frank Lilley, of Roswell, N.M., are behind their son. Scott Lilley was seriously injured in Iraq in April 2007. Bush has been a strong supporter during the staff sergeant’s recovery.
Lilley gave the news to his parents, Frank and Jolene Lilley of Roswell, N.M., the day before the three of them attended President George W. Bush's final address Jan. 15 in the East Room of the White House. Other wounded servicemen also attended the event.
The Lilleys' invitation to the White House event was a special time for Lilley and his parents. Bush had taken a special interest in Scott and was a strong supporter during Scott's months of recovery.
"We had spoken to the president earlier that evening and Scott told him that the Medical Evaluation Board had given him a 'return to duty' status," Frank Lilley told The Minot Daily News. "Scott received that information the day before, Wednesday. So after the president's speech, he walked around, shook hands and gave Scott a hug and whispered, 'Good job. You did it!'"
"The farewell address to the nation by President Bush was awesome but sad at the same time 'cause we were losing a great and wonderful commander in chief," Scott Lilley said Wednesday.
"President Bush was so caring as to what was going on with me and how I was every day going through the treatment I was going through from April 15, 2007, to today, which is awesome for someone to be that supportive of someone he met 21 months ago. It means a lot to me for all the support he gave not only me but all the wounded warriors that have been in the Middle East," Lilley said.
Lilley said he got the news of the Medical Evaluation Board's decision when he and a friend, Staff Sgt. Michael Barczik, were going into Andrews AFB in Washington, D.C., to see a master sergeant who was a squad leader with the squadron that Lilley also was with in Iraq.
Lilley was told that the board had given him a return-to-duty status and a C2, which is a non-deployable status code.
"I had the biggest smile on my face when my case manager from Wilford Hall Medical Center (at Lackland AFB, Texas) called and told me the news," Lilley said.
This was the Lilleys' fourth visit to the White House first on July 4, 2007, when Scott and other wounded warriors were invited to the White House to watch the fireworks, then to the Oval Office by a personal invitation from Bush, and in December for a White House Christmas party.
Scott also was invited to the groundbreaking ceremony in Bethesda, Md., for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center July 3, 2008, when Bush told the audience, "I was one that felt this guy had no chance. Yet the doctors here used state-of-the-art technology and aggressive treatment to get Scott better. Their perseverance paid off, and so has his."
Bush first talked to Lilley when he called him at the hospital.
Of the recent visit to the White House, Frank Lilley said, "This trip put closure on another part of Scott's journey not only would he be going back to work but we were able to say goodbye to the president and several of his staff who all were of help to Scott along the way. President Bush took a special interest in Scott for which we are grateful. President Bush is a good man."
Scott Lilley has been stationed at Lackland AFB, with a patient squadron since leaving Minot AFB July 11, 2008. He is being transferred to the 343rd Security Forces Squadron at Lackland AFB and will be a Security Forces instructor at the technical school.
In April 2007, Lilley suffered serious head injuries in Iraq when a roadside bomb hit the Humvee he was in. He was hit by shrapnel and underwent treatment and recovery in medical facilities in Iraq, Germany and then the U.S.
Ten months later, on Feb. 25, 2008, Lilley returned to work at Minot AFB with 5th Security Forces. He really didn't have a job at the time but was doing administrative-type work for the Minot AFB squadron while waiting for the decision from the Medical Evaluation Board at Randolph AFB, Texas. In the meantime, Lilley was reassigned to the patients squadron at Lackland AFB and left Minot AFB on July 11, 2008.
Lilley told The Minot Daily News in an interview at Minot AFB in March 2008, a few days after he returned to work at the base, that to his knowledge it is very unusual for a person with the extent of his head injuries to be back at work, especially in 10 months after being injured. He said he was very anxious to return to work. A military policeman, Lilley said he wanted to stay in the Air Force in security forces but that decision was up to the Medical Evaluation Board.
Lilley and his parents visited Minot AFB a few months earlier, in November 2007, for a ceremony when Scott was presented the Air Force Combat Action Medal by Col. Joel Westa, commander of the 5th Bomb Wing. Lilley was given the Purple Heart at the hospital in Balad, Iraq, before he was flown to Germany.
The Lilleys expressed their appreciation to the people of Minot and Minot AFB.
"We would like to say 'thank you' to the people in Minot and at Minot AFB. We thank them for their prayers and we thank them for their love and support of our military," Frank Lilley said.