Many in Parsippany and in surrounding communities have been praying and pulling for , a Parsippany resident gravely wounded while serving his country in Afghanistan.
His recovery has been rocky so far, but McConnell appears to be on the mend and will share his story with the nation on the CBS television network during Saturday's Army-Navy football matchup.
After stepping on two improvised explosive devices in Kandahar last July during a rescue mission, the 22-year-old McConnell suffered severe injuries, including the loss of both legs. Since then, he has fought for his life quite literally at the Walter Reed National Military Center in Bethesda, Md., undergoing more than 30 surgeries and suffering through a series of tenacious infections that kept the North Caldwell native laid low.
McConnell is fighting back, though. Reports are that he has so far beaten back the infections and soon will be fitted for prosthetics.
McConnell, who moved to Parsippany about four years ago with his mother and four siblings, still has a very long road ahead of him. The young man is not alone, though. His mother is with him during his recovery and shares bits of the story in her CaringBridge blog. His friends are rallying around him. He also has the support of numerous organizations and residents he has never met in towns throughout Morris and Essex counties.
In Parsippany, for instance, the Little Vikings youth football league sold T-shirts at its 2011 home games to raise funds for McConnell. And the have a fund set up to help the McConnell family cope with medical expenses. (Donations may be sent to: Friends of Derek McConnell, c/o Parsippany Elks, 230 Parsippany Road, Parsippany, N.J. 07054.)
On Saturday, the nation will get to hear from McConnell himself. A short interview with the wounded warrior is slated to air during the first quarter of the Army-Navy game. The broadcast is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS.