Saturday, March 10, 2007

Appreciating Wounded Warriors

In all the words that have been written and hot air that's been blown in Congress and the media about the conditions and bureaucracy facing wounded veterans at Walter Reed and elsewhere in the Veterans Administration system, one thing that is missing is the face of the average Soldier, Sailor, Marine, or Airman at the center of the issue. We've seen the faces of the few who testified before Congress, but what of the others? Who are they?

I work in the Pentagon, and one of the things that has been started there since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan heated up has been a program under which combat-wounded veterans and their families are brought from Walter Reed Hospital to the Pentagon for VIP tours and lunches with top Service military and civilian officials. The dates these visits are scheduled are announced within the building, and everyone is encouraged to come out and greet the troops when they arrive.

Yesterday was one of those days.

I went down to the Corridor 3 entrance at about 11:00 AM, and was amazed at the size of the crowd that had turned out to greet the vets. While these visits always attract many well-wishers, this time the crowd was truly huge, lining the corridors four- and five-deep, with more people coming all the time, and the roar of applause could be heard a long distance off, even in the cavernous Pentagon.

The wounded soldiers, some with their families, some accompanied by nurses or other escorts, made their way down the hallways. Every man and woman who could walk, with crutches or canes or assisted by a nurse, came proudly, if slowly, down corridors echoing with applause as well-wishers surged forward to shake hands or give hugs. Young men and women in wheelchairs, unable to walk, seemed to receive special attention. And I have to tell you that I had tears in my eyes.

These terribly wounded warriors, some missing legs, arms, or eyes; some terribly burned, have paid an awful price for doing a hard and brutal job most of us never see, understand, or appreciate. They gave up much of their lives in the service of a country whose shallow President asks for sacrifice only of those in the military.

A VIP visit to the Pentagon and a greeting by cheering crowds is small payment for what these brave souls have lost. Regardless of how we may feel about the war in Iraq (and regular readers of this blog know that I have opposed it from the start for practical military and political reasons), we can and should show our appreciation - now and into a difficult future - for those who have sacrificed so much.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


1 comment:

Min: said...

Very good post.