A soldier's battle continues in Hub
By Jules Crittenden
Monday, September 13, 2004

In the West Roxbury Veterans Administration hospital yesterday, Sgt. James Lathan Jr. celebrated his 27th birthday with his wife and 4-year-old son.

Lathan can't move his arms or his legs or feel anything from his chest down. He has a hole in his throat with a tube in it because he can't breathe on his own. If the tracheotomy tube shifts the wrong way, he can't talk, because breath will pass across his vocal chords.

Lathan, an Omaha native, was a chopper mechanic at Baghdad International Airport. It was the Fourth of July, and he had only 13 days left to go in Iraq.

``I was just coming back from chow, going to watch a movie in the rec tent,'' Lathan said last week. ``As I was getting to the tent door, that's when the mortar came down, or rocket, or whatever it was.'' He was hit in the neck.