And the longer he spent away from his unit, the more Milton began to question his treatment. He became angry when he was told that he must delay surgery to mend his bulging discs, a decision he says is part of an unspoken Army policy of trying to return as many injured soldiers as possible to duty to keep troop numbers up.
"The reality is that they said I might need surgery, but my commander deferred it," he said.
Maj. Larry Porter, a spokesman for the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, acknowledged that many soldiers are being treated "in theater" but said Milton's claim that soldiers were being kept in Afghanistan when their injuries warranted being sent home was "totally false."
"We are finding out that soldiers with minor or rehabilitating injuries are receiving more personalized care … than they would in the States and that this cuts down on the recovery time, transportation, and sometimes they can perform another job that is still required," Porter said.
As the weeks at Wilson passed, Milton's back slowly improved. But he still walked gingerly and was awakened four or five times a night by shooting pains.
U.S. commanders have said that securing Kandahar city, the birthplace of the Taliban, is a major objective for the year. They've been working since early summer to choke off insurgent access by controlling the surrounding countryside.
But the strategy has run into difficulty in the Arghandab River Valley, a fertile belt of pomegranate groves, vineyards and dusty villages used by insurgents as a staging ground to conduct attacks in Kandahar.
After Milton was evacuated at the end of July, several infantry platoons rotated into Nolen and other outposts. A nearby village once riddled with hidden bombs and used by insurgents is now under U.S. control, commanders say.
The fighting at Nolen has been so intense that a therapist on the 101st Airborne Division staff has traveled there multiple times to evaluate soldiers for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and for brain injuries caused by bomb explosions, said Lt. Col. Michael Wirt, the brigade physician.
Despite the daily trauma, Wirt isn't surprised that soldiers such as Milton prefer to fight through their injuries.
"Most soldiers don't want to be pulled out," he said. "They don't want to leave their fellow soldiers. There's a significant degree of guilt, especially among noncommissioned officers."
In late September, Milton was sent back to Nolen to rejoin his unit. His back wasn't fully healed, so he was assigned to a desk job. His commander told him to help keep up morale until he can return to combat.
About that, too, Milton is conflicted. He resents the decision to hold off on surgery on his back. But then he thinks about his unit.
"My choice," he said, "is to stay here in hell with them until we all go home."