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Columbus Navy nurse injured in Afganistan attack

A Navy nurse from Columbus was wounded Friday in Afghanistan after an insurgent posing as an Afghan National Army soldier opened fire on U.S. military personnel at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-E-Sharif.

The attack also left two people dead, according to a Department of Defense release.

Commander Kim LeBel’s yearlong tour of duty was cut short when she sustained a gunshot wound to her arm and had to be airlifted out of the country for treatment, according to her mother, Burah Wilbourn, and sister, Kay Daniels.

Wilbourn of Columbus first learned about the shooting Saturday through an e-mail sent by LeBel. LeBel wrote her family a short note informing them she had been shot, but she’s alive. She also informed them that two people had been killed.

“Everything went through my mind,” Wilbourn said Tuesday from her home. “I was hurt. I was a little bit angry with her for going over there. I love her for what she does. She’s a wonderful nurse.”

LeBel called her mother Sunday from a German hospital in Afghanistan. It was then that Wilbourn received a more detailed account of the attack.

The shooter came from within the camp, LeBel told Wilbourn.

He was someone they had worked with there.

LeBel, 53, was jogging within the compound with a close friend, Lt. Florence B. Choe, 35, of El Cajon, Calif., and two male co-workers when the shooting occurred.

Her mother said the group ran the same 5-mile route together almost daily and had never encountered a problem before.

LeBel was the first to go down. She had been hit in her left forearm, Wilbourn said.

Choe was the second victim to fall to the ground. She had been shot in the leg, Wilbourn said.

“She was screaming and hollering,” Wilbourn said her daughter told her. “He shot her two more times and she was killed.”

Another soldier, Lt. J.G. Francis L. Toner IV, 26, of Narragansett, R.I., yelled at the Afghan, asking him what he was doing. He was shot in the head. The gunman then shot himself, LeBel told Wilbourn.

One of the soldiers who managed to escape unscathed ran for help.

“Kim said she had determined she wasn’t going to say a word until she knew the person who was coming to get her,” Wilbourn said.

LeBel underwent her first surgery Sunday. She was then flown to Landstuhl, Germany, where she received further treatment, her mother said.

She will be airlifted to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland some time this week, her family believes.

There, Wilbourn said, she’ll likely have another surgery.

“She’s on morphine and in a lot of pain,” Wilbourn said.

This was LeBel’s first deployment, her mother said.

The Navy commander and mother of three children looked forward to mentoring young nurses there and mending injured troops, both American and Afghan.

She was scheduled to redeploy back to the United States in four months.

Wilbourn said she doesn’t know when exactly she’ll be reunited with her daughter or how she’ll react when she sees her.

“I might just hold her.”