Sunday, May 21, 2006

Visit to Brooke Army Medical Center

On any given morning, you might hear the news report – “2 American soldiers were killed outside Mosul today when a road side bomb exploded…..” Perhaps they might mention that others were “hurt” or “wounded”, maybe there won’t be any mention about the wounded at all. What you definitely won’t hear are the details about the injuries. And many aren’t aware that there are over 18,000 of these brave Americans.

Today (Friday) we visited the Brooke Army Medical Center and the nearby Soldier and Family Assistance Center (SFAC) at Ft. Sam Houston. This was real. Can you imagine what happens to a person when a bomb explodes nearby? Or the burns from fire, or injuries from shrapnel? I saw what happens. It’s horrific. Fingers, arms, legs blown off. Burns anywhere and everywhere on your body. It’s one thing to meet folks like JR, which has gone thru the 30+ surgeries and have come to grips with their injuries and have found their path in life. It’s another to visit a National Guardsman from Maine injured by shrapnel – that never planned on going to Iraq when he signed up for the Guard. Or a soldier from America Samoa with severe burns almost everywhere on his body. These were healthy young people just days earlier. Now their lives are changed forever.

Next we visited the SFAC and as we were about to leave, a young soldier asked if we had a few minutes to talk to him. Both his legs were wrapped from his ankle to his waist. I’m not sure the exact extent of his injuries. What he wanted to talk about was that his gunner, who was injured with him in Iraq, who died a few days ago. This guy was family to him. His big concern was this. There is a radical religious group in Kansas (led by Fred Phelps) that show up at soldier’s funerals with signs such as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”. You see, they are against homosexuality and since the government accepts homosexuality, they are against our soldiers. Can you imagine what a family is already going through, having to bury their son or daughter, mother or father, husband or wife, only to then have to deal with these people at the time of the funeral. One of the members of the American Legion Riders that was visiting the SFAC with us, Brad Pierce, is also a member of the Patriot Guard Riders. The purpose of the Patriot Guard Riders is, when a family requests their presence at a funeral, they will provide whatever support they can to drown out and to block out these protesters. The young soldier wanted the Patriot Guard Riders support at his friend’s funeral. He could not bear the thought of having these protesters impact the dignity that his friend and his family deserved. He was so appreciative of our efforts regarding the ride.

These guys truly appreciate America’s support. (NOTE TO READER: If you haven’t posted a message in our guestbook for our soldiers – DO IT NOW!) If you don’t think it makes a difference, you are wrong! With all the negative press about the war, they need your support.
These young Americans make tremendous sacrifices to fight the war on terror, so you and I and our children will have a better world to live in. Tom made a comment to the press recently that hits it right on the head. When the media person tried to turn the conversation political, Tom said the following: “It doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican, Liberal or Conservative – you’re an American - and these kids are Americans and they deserve our support." Well said.