CLEVELAND, Minn. -- As a U.S. Army Ranger, Tom Block knew well the risks of his work.
So did his family, but that didn't sway their optimism when Block left for his fourth deployment to Afghanistan in August.
"Every time he gets back from a deployment, he's getting better. He's getting smarter ... You think less and less of it. But then, when it actually happens, yeah, it hits you like a brick," said Jeff Block, Tom's father.
On Sunday, Jeff Block received the dreaded phone call from U.S. Army officials. His son had been critically injured in a mission that had also killed four other soldiers.
"They proceeded to tell me that Tom was injured and there was an IED explosion, and he was injured," Jeff Block said from his home in Cleveland, near Waseca, where Tom grew up.
The Block family has learned Tom lost his right eye. His left eye is also damaged but is expected to heal. Tom is also recovering from a collapsed lung, but the family credits Tom's survival to the quick response of medics and others in the field after the explosion.
"They must have sent two or three or four helicopters to that scene," Jeff Block said.
But despite their relief at Tom's survival, his family is also mourning the loss of others on his mission.
"Even though we don't know them, we're all family. It's a sad day," said Megan Block, Tom's sister.
For now, with Tom once again on U.S. soil at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, his family remains focused on his recovery and the healing ahead.
"He's a strong man, a fighter. We're just all happy he's still with us," said his sister, Megan, adding, "He'll turn it into a positive thing and be a role model for everybody."
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