FORT LEWIS, Wash. -It was the first mission Specialist Mike Ballard had ever gone on in Afghanistan. It turned out to be his last, at least for 2009.

Specialist Ballard broke his leg, and injured his hip and knee when an improvised explosive device blew up beneath the Stryker he was riding in August 16.

I've never felt that kind of pain before, Specialist Ballard told KING 5 News.

Specialist Ballard was deployed to Afghanistan with the 5th Stryker Brigade in July. A month later he survived the explosion that he knows could have killed him.

I know how extremely lucky I am, said Specialist Ballard.

He's been assigned to Fort Lewis' Warrior Transition Battalion while he recovers from his injuries.

Specialist Ballard hopes to be good enough to return to Afghanistan sometime in 2010.

He's aware this October has been the deadliest month for Americans fighting in Afghanistan.

That's why he wants to go back as soon as possible.

When they're getting hurt, said Specialist Ballard, That's when I'm needed the most. I'm stuck here and I can't go back there now.

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