The Rev Doug Latta presides over the wedding of Army Spc. Jim Benoit of Wharton and Pamela Callahan, held at the Town Manor on the Lake in Auburndale, Fla. on Nov. 18. The couple are embarking on their married life after Benoit -- who had been fighting for his life and then fighting to walk -- walked down the aisle with just a cane.

Heroes, hope and healing: Morris County's top 10 inspirational stories


Monday, December 25, 2006

Medical recoveries that defy doctors and long odds. Parents who fight for equal rights for their children. Soldiers who face the enemy and whose bravery saves lives. Communities that respond to a neighbor in need with emotional support, money, time and muscle.

These could be rough scripts for blockbuster Hollywood movies. Yet, they are true stories of Morris County area residents who have inspired their communities and beyond. These are the top inspirational stories of 2006.

10. Montville's Pathways
9. The Liquid Church
8. Mother, daughter reunited
7. Scott Harris shows progress
6. Heroin's tragic grasp
5. New life for Sacred Heart
4. Cathie Doroshenko
3. Medal-winning troops
2. Alicia Vitiello
1. Army Spc. Jim Benoit
Army Spc. Jim Benoit of Wharton was not expected to live -- and if he did, he certainly would never walk again, doctors told his mother, Missy. Jim Benoit was critically wounded on a Baghdad road in 2005, but in 2006, he showed his doctors they were wrong, vindicating his mother's struggle to save his legs from amputation.

Fourteen months after the improvised explosive device detonated under his armored Humvee and across his backside -- leaving him permanently disabled -- Benoit, 24, walked down the aisle with just a cane to marry Pamela Callahan on Nov. 18.

Benoit not only survived the attack, but came through 79 surgeries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. His remarkable recovery energized his hometown to raise more than $40,000 for him and local government to donate land for an accessible house to welcome him home. Construction is under way, thanks to all-volunteer muscle and materials.

In the meantime, Benoit and his wife are living at Picatinny Arsenal in Rockaway Township. They hope to move into their home next year, following his 80th surgery, scheduled in January.