Thursday, October 15, 2009

Returning to the scene

Operation Proper Exit is a new program started by Troops First Foundation.

Troops First has a mission to improve wellness and quality of life for all of today's military personnel.

I don't know this group, but I'm going to make it my business to meet them.

They get it.

In an attempt to help soldiers cope with their physical and mental wounds sustained in Iraq, Troops First has sponsored a unique program. They have arranged for soldiers to return to their bases in Iraq and the places where they were wounded.

Per The New York Times, that appeared to be the case for retired Lt. Edwin Salau.

He was one of eight wounded American veterans who lined up on Wednesday to meet Brig. Gen. Farhan Abbas, the Iraqi Army brigade commander in Diyala Province, where Lt. Salau had been wounded at Normandy base.

“It’s an honor to be here and see all the progress,” Lieutenant Salau, whose prosthetic left leg was hidden beneath his baggy uniform, told the Iraqi general. “We gave a lot for your country and we’re glad for it.”

“You should wear your wounds like badges on your chest,” General Farhan said.

As one of the privileged few Gold Star family members that have had a chance to go to Iraq, it does help.

The situation becomes clearer. The story becomes real. As awful as the reality is, it is less scary when you visit it face to face.

And especially when there is visible progress, it helps make sense of the sacrifice.

Colonel David Sutherland made the trip as well. He was not wounded physically. But as a brigade commander in Diyala, he had lost 110 soldiers. That weighs on a man.

“I left about 15 pounds of guilt back in Iraq after that trip,” he said, “because I saw such dramatic change.”

For Sgt. Luke Wilson, 29, from Hermiston, Ore., the flight was the first he had ever flown anywhere in business class.

Business class was important, for a 13-hour-long flight, so they could lie down, take their legs off and relax.

“This has blown me away,” Sergeant Wilson said. He lost his left leg above the knee in a grenade attack in Baghdad in 2004. “I’ve never been treated like this.”

He then turned to Lawrence Wilson, the highest-ranking noncommissioned officer in the theater, and asked, “Can I stay, Command Sergeant Major?”

Godspeed, Troops First Foundation.

God bless the men and women who wear the cloth of our nation and all other nations that are willing to bleed for our freedoms.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
-John 15:13

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