Walter Reed

A statue in the lobby of Building 10, Walter Reed Bethesda

This all started in Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, OR, last Sunday. I saw a book on a sale rack, called “The Good Soldiers” by David Finkel. It was about the Iraq war. I like reading books on war; partially because I’m a guy, and partially because my birth cohort was never asked or expected to fight in one, and I’ve always wondered how I would do. (Answer: really, really, badly.)

Two days later, I put the book down, amazed, moved and devastated, and called up NPR to see if they could get me into Walter Reed Hospital to pay a visit to the service members there.

I swear to you: I didn’t intend to write or talk about this in public. I didn’t want to be one of those guys who starts talking about the Wounded Warriors with the subtext of how wonderful I am for going to see them. But as will be evident, talking and writing about what I saw became very quickly both important for them and necessary for my own mental health. I’ll explain more after the jump.

While “The Good Soldiers” is a superb work of reporting and non-fiction writing, what really struck me – more than the heartbreaking stories of soldiers working, suffering and dying, and then those who survived adjusting to life afterwards – was the dates. The regiment that Finkel followed to Iraq was sent there as part of the “surge,” and stayed there from April 2007 to July 2008. I don’t know about you, but I remember those years really well. I published my first book, I travelled all over the country with my show, including to New York City to accept a Peabody Award, I attended a lot of fun parties, I shared a lot of good times with my wife and kids. I had a grand time. And all during that period, I can’t say I spared more than a passing thought for the men sent into the meat grinder of the Iraq War. As Finkel notes, we were told the surge worked. We were told violence was down. And it was. Fewer Americans died during those months than in the terrible days of 2003 and 2004. (For a gripping account of the early days of the war, see Martha Raddatz’ “The Long Road Home.”)  But some did die, and more were gravely wounded, and I wasn’t paying attention. Reading Finkel’s book, I felt some shame about that, and some regret, and conceived a wild notion to take advantage of an upcoming trip to DC to try to rectify that error.

I asked my colleagues at NPR to see if Walter Reed would like me to visit the soldiers, hopefully in the company of the genuine celebrities NPR was hosting for this year’s White House Correspondents Association Dinner. (I thought the troops would be happier to see me if I was standing next to, say, John Legend.) But this was all  just last Wednesday, it was all too sudden to sign up anyone else by Saturday, and so I found myself sitting by myself in the lobby of Building 10, Walter Reed Bethesda, at 10 AM Saturday morning, nervous as hell.

I was greeted by a Sergeant, an Army medic who had served in Basra, Iraq but now was attached to the hospital working with the Wish Well visitor program.  (I will not mention any names in this account, both as I did a terrible job of keeping track of them, and because I don’t know, and didn’t ask, if the service members I spoke to would want their names publicized.)  The Sergeant was matter of fact, and pleasant without being overly friendly. He told me that my name had been circulated around the ward, and that ten soldiers had elected to have me visit. He didn’t know if any of them knew who I was; he said most of their visitors were Congressional or Military, which resulted in a particular kind of visit, and that he expected they would just be grateful to visit with someone not there out of either a sense of self-importance or duty.  He told me I would be spending about 10 minutes with each patient, for a total of about two hours. We got into an elevator and rose upwards.

The single best piece of advice I got in preparing for this visit came from, of all things, a profile of Garry Trudeau by my friend Gene Weingarten in the Washington Post. Trudeau has been deeply involved in writing about, advocating, and supporting wounded troops, and he told Weingarten:

“In these soldiers’ minds, their whole identity, who they are right now, is what happened to them. They want to tell the story, they want to be asked about it, and you’re honoring them by listening. The more they revisit it, the less power it has over them.”

My wife also gave me similar advice. “Don’t try to be amusing,” she said, knowing me well. “Let them talk.”

The first soldier was in bed, surrounded by six members of his family, including  his fiance, who was slumped over asleep. His left foot was missing, and he was in obvious pain, and also obviously in a fog of painkilling drugs. I chatted with his family, and heard about his injury – an IED in Afghanistan. My memory of this first visit was foggy, because I was slowly realizing something that for the life of me I had not anticipated: the men I would be meeting were not in rehab, or in recovery. These were not the guys I had read about in magazine features, gamely learning to walk on prostheses or deal with TBI,, months after their injury. These were guys who had just been gravely hurt, weeks or in some cases days before. They were sitting with family members who – also just weeks or days before – had gotten a call from the Army or Marines saying, “Your son has been wounded in battle,” and had with hearts pounding and tears streaming thrown things into a bag and gotten on a plane for Germany or Washington. These wounds were fresh and raw, in every sense.

I will not, or can’t give you details of every visit I made that morning, even a day after. I sat by bedsides and, as Trudeau advised, asked them what happened, and heard their stories. As I listened, I tried to focus, and control my own feelings of horror and dismay, and my growing urge to walk out of the room and tell the Sergeant, patiently waiting outside, that I could take no more and needed to leave now. (The sergeant told me later that this does happen.)

But these are the things I remember most vividly, from the six men I spoke to yesterday:

– The Green Beret, still with his downrange beard (and yet still looking terrifically young) who told me that at the end of a ten hour firefight, he and his team saw a figure jump out of the building they were engaged with; how they saw that the person was an 11 year old boy and how they lowered their weapons; how that boy then pulled out an AK-47 and started spraying bullets at them. How one of those bullets passed through his hip and groin. How another caught one of his friends in the upper chest and killed him. How he would never have children, and yet that his wife was two months pregnant; which he considered a “miracle.” How the bullet was still in his right hip.

How he felt and knew that his friend who died was a good man and that he, the Green Beret would be able to accept and understand his death.

– An Army Sergeant, a tough as nails Army lifer from Northern California, who sat pulling at the bandages over the stumps of his above the knee amputations as his Spanish speaking mother offered me water from their trays of food and drink. He told me about how his patrol had found one IED, then another, and then a third; how he was escorting the bomb disposal guy toward one of those IED’s when the undiscovered fourth IED exploded. How he found himself on the ground, being tended to by one of his soldiers, and kept asking “How bad is it?” and the soldier said, “You’ll be fine, Sarge,” and he kept demanding to know, “HOW BAD IS IT?” and finally shouted, “YOU MOTHERFUCKER I WOULD TELL YOU IS IT ONE LEG OR TWO” and the soldier said, “It’s two, sergeant,” and he said to himself, Okay, fine, I’m a double amputee.

How his two sons already were coming to understand his injuries; how he would threaten to “whip their butts” and his 3 year old said, “How you gonna catch me when you got no legs,” and he said, “I guess you got me there.”

How this had happened on Easter Sunday, three weeks before. (I thought about watching my kids run around and find the candy we had hidden for them, as I watched from a chair.)

– The young Marine, his voice hoarse from having a breathing tube inserted down his throat during his most recent surgery, telling me in precise, almost desperate detail how exactly his team had entered a house in Afghanistan, how they had seen the pressure plates for the rigged IEDs in the main doorway and avoided it, how they had checked this door and that door, how other Marines were on the roof firing at the enemy, how his lieutenant had gone into the courtyard, how he had stepped through a doorway that he somehow did not clear, and how the explosion lifted him up so high he could see the soldiers on the roof, level with him. His legs were shattered and severely wounded but he still had them both and hoped to walk again.

– the Marine Captain, in his mid-30s the oldest man I spoke to, a fan of my show. After two tours in Iraq he had been sent to advanced academic training at the Naval War College in Monterey, and had become immersed in academic studies, he told me only half joking, as a kind of therapy for his PTSD. He learned Farsi, and international studies, and went to Afghanistan as an intelligence officer, talking to Afghans and troops on the ground to understand better what was going on there, how the networks of interrelationships on the ground were steering the course of the war. How he had been wounded by a suicide bomber – a 12 year old kid – who happened to detonate his explosive while the Captain’s back was turned, and thus the Captain’s life was saved by his gear on his back, which absorbed most of the shrapnel. Still, he took serious wounds to his buttocks and legs, and despite his deep and fierce interest in the underlying process of the war, he thought this injury might end his interest in overseas deployment. How his tray table was covered with notebooks and academic books on the war. How I recommended a recent novel I had read about Marines in combat and how he laughed and said, he thought he knew enough about that.

– and the last patient I visited, a cheerful young Navy Corpsman who had been serving his first months of duty with a Marine platoon, when an IED exploded and injured his legs, both of which he was still grateful to have. This bomb went off last Sunday. The same day I picked up the book in Powells. In the course of the same week in which I read about the war and, decided to visit, he had fought the war, been badly injured, evacuated from Afghanistan, transported, and treated, to meet me there.

Again: the dates. All of these wounds, all of these firefights, all of these injuries, all of these deaths (the Green Beret’s friend, the boy who shot him, the suicide bomber) had happened in the past month. The war, as I write this, as you read this, grinds on, and next week there will be more young men in the wards of Walter Reed and other hospitals. If they are like the men I met, they will be cheerful, determined, soldiers and sailors and Marines through and through, who are proud of what they have done and are determined to heal and live without a trace of regret or self-pity.

And, I think, they will want their stories told. One thing that they all told me was that they don’t think that anyone in the US knows or understands what’s going on in Afghanistan; that the media tells little of what’s happening, and when it tries, gets it wrong. This has nothing to do with politics; many of these men had done multiple tours, serving initially under President Bush, and they were injured after being sent into battle by President Obama. Whether or not they are fighting for Freedom or Democracy or Security or Empire or Oil is irrelevant to the fact that they are fighting, and getting gravely hurt, because we as a country asked them to.

The very least we can do is pay attention, and listen to their stories, and I am deeply glad that I had the chance to do so.

I went that night to the White House Correspondents Dinner, and it was a lot of fun; I’m not going to say I didn’t enjoy hanging with my friends and colleagues and meeting the glittery celebs and hearing the President make his jokes and Jimmy Kimmel make his. But I kept thinking (and talking) about the men I had met earlier in the day, and thinking how the true stories that must be told, and the real focus of our nation’s attention, should not be on the glowing ballroom, but on the quieter, smaller rooms at Walter Reed.

 

 

 

52 Responses to Walter Reed

  1. Myra April 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    Peter, as a retired soldier who has served in Iraq, I thank you for taking the time to be there for us. Anyone who can remind the greater world out there that we are still deploying, getting shot at and dying for them. We are quickly forgotten once the war is no longer bcoolb, but we are always serving, always faithful . Thank you for keeping the faith with us.

    • Greg May 2, 2012 at 6:34 am #

      Thank you, I am a 64 year old Army “brat” sitting in a pool of tears. Whenever I can I listen to my friends, the Vets. But some won’t tell me the story, such as my dad wouldn’t. I do it to understand him. After WWII and Korea he stopped telling but never stopped reliving, we civilians need to understand. Thank you for listening but even more for telling without glamor and glitz. The truth may not set you free but it might them. God bless them, and you.

      • Mike Wagner May 15, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

        I know what you mean Greg.

        My dad was a Marine at Okinawa in WW2. He never spoke of it. I mentioned once I was reading a book about the battle and that I had learned it was mostly coral and that the Marines couldn’t “dig in” for protection.

        He walked away from me weeping.

  2. Bob Nilsson April 29, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    Great account of your visit. Felt the same way on my first visit 8 years ago, but could not put it into words.

  3. David B April 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    My daughter’s school recently did a service project for the Wounded Warrior project at Ft Sam Houston in San Antonio. Meeting these brave men and women are truly amazing and we owe them (and all veterans) a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid…it must be paid forward.

  4. Jessica April 29, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    As a newlywed Army Wife to a Blackhawk pilot I am just learning the military culture. It is a family, and when a soldier’s story is told it is felt in all of our hearts because we know that could easily be our husband, wife, father, brother . . .
    Thank you for what you did and for sharing their story.

  5. Kara April 29, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    I work at Walter Reed and I thank you very much for your blog. Their stories must be told. Too many are oblivious to what is still going on every day overseas and the great sacrifices that are being made by our brave military men and women. Thank you again for taking the time to be with our troops.

  6. BKP April 29, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    As a surgeon who has taken care of these men and women for the past decade, and who recognizes all but one of the wounded warriors mentioned above except one based just on the limited descriptions given: thank you for understanding and getting it right.

  7. Mere April 29, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    The first soldier you saw was my friend’s fiance. She recieved an early morning phone call from her soon-to-be mother-in-law saying that *Jake had been injured. Since then, it’s been a crazy whirlwind of events. Reading about your visit and how these soldiers are moving along, and knowing that soon my little brother will be seeing action in Afghanistan, gives me some hope among a great amount fear. Thank you for writing this, and thank you for visiting these amazing men and women.

  8. Tom B April 29, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    Excellent, my friend. Excellent.

  9. ER April 29, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    As someone who has worked closely in treating these warriors, thank you for your piece. It’s good to see someone capture the essence of who these guys really are and the strength and endurance they show every single day in dealing with situations which would break most people.

  10. Snead April 29, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this experience, and for paying attention.

  11. Miguel April 29, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    Thank you for this wonderful piece. I commend you for spending the time listening to these wounded warriors and telling their stories. As a veteran of 3 tours to both Iraq and Afghanistan, I can honestly say that there is a growing division between those who have served (along with the support of friends and family, the wounded are not the only ones who suffer) to those who have not been given the privilege to meet and know these individuals. I hope that through your work that gap shortens.

    • army wife April 30, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      Amen

  12. Peg April 29, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    Thank you for abiding with these warriors and now telling their stories. I’m far from Walter Reed and even farther from Afghanistan, but your writing compells me to keep these fine people and their loved ones in my thoughts and prayers.

  13. Jerry April 30, 2012 at 7:11 am #

    Thank you.

  14. Leslie April 30, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    Thank you for intruding into my cocoon of oblivion and safety and reminding me of what’s important. A great piece.

  15. Glenn April 30, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    Thank you

  16. army wife April 30, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    Time. Dates. My husband is on third tour to Iraq/Afghanistan, and I can tell you the concept of dates and the time that passes while he is gone is lost on people not going through it. I even had a sister ask once where he was and then remember he was gone for a year- or 15 months when it was the surge. Someone wrote this blog :http://jennpineo.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/letter-from-a-military-wife/
    about what it’s like for a military wife and family back here waiting.
    Thank you for going- thank you for listening- and thank you for sharing. It’s honoring.

  17. sherrill ann smith April 30, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    thank you for broadening my view on our soldiers lives — it is with respect for them that we wake each morning fully aware how blessed we are that these people fight in our stead

  18. AntNene April 30, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    Thank you for making these visits and for telling us about them. A deeply moving piece.

  19. Abby Beth April 30, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    One of my former students lost both his legs in Afghanistan over a year ago. He shared with me how much he enjoyed meeting people with the Wish Well Program. The soldiers who have suffered these terrible injuries are mostly unknown to the general public and I am so glad you are able to share your experience meeting them. Regardless of our thoughts on the wars, we need to remember the suffering these men and women are facing and work to find ways to help them.

    • peter April 30, 2012 at 9:58 am #

      Abby, thank you for this comment. I really worried about whether or not I did any of those young men any good, and I’m glad to hear confirmation that at least, in general, visits like mine help.

  20. marji April 30, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    Peter, I have never responded to a celeb posting before, never felt inspired to do so. Until now. I have always loved Wait Wait, and you are a terrific host. After reading your article, you have touched me and impressed me with your humanity. Thanks.

  21. Jeremy Hornik April 30, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    As someone who dealt with a very different set of medical issues, (in my case, a child with cancer,) this rings very true to me. There is tremendous comfort in knowing that others have heard your story and care about what happens to you.

    The difference might be that caring about a child with cancer is an act of empathy. Caring about a wounded soldier is both an act of empathy and a civic responsibility. All US citizens are affected when a soldier is wounded… or at least, should be.

  22. Carrie April 30, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    Peter,
    Thank you for following through on your impulse to visit, and then writing so respectfully about your experience. I’ve just spent a year going almost daily to Walter Reed while my active duty husband underwent in-patient and out-patient cancer treatments. Even within the military we don’t always have daily reminders of the visible and invisible wounds borne by soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and also, importantly, their families. I was consistently humbled by and unspeakably proud of the courage of the patients and their loved ones. It will be the work of us all going forward to keep a spotlight on not just the sacrifices that have been made, but the need for continuing support for recovery. So many Americans have no idea – thank you for helping remind and educate.

  23. Thomas April 30, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    Nicely written Peter. I did some physical therapy with some wounded Gulf vets (non-combat related) at a VA facility, and as a group they were cheerful, positive and in my mind, heroic.
    Thanks for the article. It should be required reading for those who have the “Out of sight out of mind” mentality.

  24. Doug April 30, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    Peter-your best piece ever. Why are we still in Afghanistan? Because if we withdrew, every chickenhawk politician and pundit would scream “Who “lost” Afghanistan?” Every cynical, self serving pundit and politician bears this guilt-and we do, too. It has been said before, but I will say it again- we are not worthy of these brave men and women who serve. We are simply not worthy of them as a nation.

  25. Susana April 30, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    Thank you for visiting and sharing these stories. It is with tears in my eyes that I think about the sacrifices of and am amazed at the resilience of the soldiers you profiled. Several of my former students have endured the rigors of war; one of my best friends from childhood is serving has fourth deployment now. Every day I am thankful for their service.

  26. J. Corkey Custer April 30, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Thank you for writing this. It’s important that this story be told, and told by people who are not using the vets to advance some point of view.

    Any one who reads your words will push a little harder for beter treatment for returning vets and bump it up a little higher on their priorities,

  27. Verna April 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    It is so important that we do not forget the bravery & fortitude of these wounded warriors. The most striking to me were the descriptions of how they were wounded or seen to be killed.
    May God bless you & the families who wait for you.

  28. W. Anderson MD April 30, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    Peter, as a wounded warrior and former “Green Beret” physician I can tell you that there are so many stories to tell, and so few to hear them. The contradictions of being on a 2003 Iraq health mission, being shot twice, having to kill the attacker before tending to the team’s wounds, triaging oneself “expectant” (expected to die with or without care), and eventually going back to duty again as a medical officer working on the country’s health infrastructure…. And going back for another tour three years later on the counter-terrorist force. It becomes a succession of defining moments, indeed.

  29. Carol Gilbert April 30, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    Peter,
    Love your show and kudos to you for following through on your impulse to open your heart to these soldiers. If you’re looking for another impressive book that lets you understand what war is like, pick up “The Things They Carried.” War is Hell and all wars share many attributes, even this story is about Vietnam.

  30. Ellen April 30, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    Peter

    Thank you for this blog and your visit to the men at Walter Reed. When you mentioned family members throwing clothes in a suit case after they had been notified of their soldier’s injuries, I thought of the story about my grandfather.

    My father was a double amputee during World War II. My grandfather knew that my father was going to being transferred from Walter Reed to Fort Custer (Kalamazoo, MI.) One day, a military train went by my grandfather’s place of work. He immediately called his youngest daughter and told her to pack becuase her brother was on the train. They got in the car and drove from Dearborn to Kalamazoo. When they arrived at the hospital, my father had not even been processed through the system but my grandfather was demanding to see his son. My aunt would spend many hours helping her brother and the rest of the men on the unit.

    Thank you again for your visit.

  31. Fred Arzt April 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    Peter: I have been to the old Walter Reed Army hospital (in DC) and Bethesda National Naval Hospital (now the new Walter Reed in Bethesda, MD) a few times for my own medical appointments, and was struck not just by the number of wounded warriors from recent conflicts, but by the number of women warriors who are wounded. My perception is the number of young women is low compared to the number of young men, but their injuries seem just as severe – with missing limbs and arms, and probably similar unseen injuries — as the men’s injuries. Not something seen in previous wars as is the fact that so many are able to survive with excellent battlefield medicine, improved techniques, training and tools available to help them survive. The key will be the aftercare and continued support if they leave the military, but also for the families of the wounded servicemembers. I am convinced it was and continues to be tougher on my family than it ever was on me; the survivors family will also need support and care! Thanks for visiting them. In 1990, I was in Landstuhl Army Hospital in Germany recovering from relatively minor injuries from a plane crash compared to these men and women today, but I fondly remember the visit of some childhood heroes – members of the 1969 Miracle Mets I grew up rooting for and watching — Tug McGraw, Jerry Koosman and Jerry Grote. More importantly, I never properly thanked the doctors, nurses, medical techs and staff members who helped care for me and helped me and the other survivors recover; thanks to all. By the way, Peter, my family and I love your show.

  32. Susan Knott April 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    As a 63 year old woman, I sit here with tears streaming, remembering back 41 years to when my then husband was shipped home from Viet Nam. He was then 26, an Infantry Captain in the Army- on his second tour, and had run afoul of a land mine, resulting in brain damage (now called TBI), and paralysis of his right arm. How I wish someone at that time would have given a damn. Our first girl was 5 weeks old when he got home. He couldn’t speak well enough to say her name. Thank you for this piece. It is important.

  33. Tom O'Neill May 1, 2012 at 12:50 am #

    Peter, I’d love to have an NPR show, like All Things Considered, pick up you reading your journal, and read it to the world….President Obama and President Bush, and the Cabinet, so they can understand the carnage their decisions have brought upon so many young lives, now and forever. Great writing Peter, you’re not only funny but also poignant!

  34. Katie May 1, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    As one of the generally oblivious, I opened this blog a bit reluctantly, wondering if I really wanted to read something so painful and sad. However, I’m incredibly glad I did, as your words—and those in each comment—helped me understand what these brave men and women give for our country.

    Thank you.

  35. Carri May 1, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    Tom O’Neill’s message made me think this would make an amazing TAL piece if you get Ira Glass and his team to read that book and do as you did. Thank you for your piece.

  36. Bruce Cohen May 1, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    As a veteran of a previous war who was lucky enough not to be wounded or killed, I’ve taken an interest in returning vets from all of our wars. Many of their stories are sad, especially in the first few days of their return, as you report. But we mustn’t forget that the debt we owe them doesn’t stop when they return to civilian status, no matter how much surgery and rehabilitation they’ve been given. No matter how we feel about the war they served in (and I have been fiercely opposed to the wars the US has fought in the last couple of decades), we still owe each of our returning servicepeople whatever help we can give them in return for their courage, their risk, and their loss.

  37. Steve Nelson May 2, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Thanks for the moving article, Peter. Our organization, Amicus, recently began working with veterans who are trying to reenter the “free” community after being incarcerated. Not surprisingly, we’ve found that many of those we work with are dealing with invisible wounds such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury and those wounds have resulted in behavior society can’t understand. For our clients, that has often resulted in incarceration. We believe one of the key things we as a community can do is what you were suggested to do on your visit to Walter Reed – visit them and listen to their stories. Once we’ve heard the story, we can then seek ways to use the surrounding community to help heal a veteran’s wounds or at least helping them to survive those wounds. Sometimes we can help them find medical care or a safe place to live. Sometimes we can offer them a lead on a job. At all times though, we can be people who will listen. They deserve that much, and more.

  38. Sauce23 May 3, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    Terrific. By the end, I found myself humming “Where have All the Flowers Gone.”

  39. Sarah May 5, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Thank you. My brother, an Army Reservist, served in Afghanistan in 2009. He came back uninjured and mentally healthy. I try to be grateful for our family, and thoughtful of those soldiers and their families who were not untouched by war and the hardships they face.

  40. Amelia May 5, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Wow. Thank you. Had to stop and just hold my head in my hands and cry. Thank you.

  41. Tina May 6, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    As a military spouse whose husband served in Afghanistan when my youngest was born – thank you for taking the time to go and listen to these brave soldiers who continue to risk their lives for our country. Thanks for being able to sit with their families and not look the other way because it was too hard. Friends have told me – “I have to turn off the TV when they show the soldiers and families”…when you think…at least you have the option of turning off the TV – and those families have to live with that every single day. Just wondering what portions of their spouse, father or son are not going to return. Thanks for being there, and thanks for taking the time to share this reminder.

  42. Johnny Guido May 6, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    Peter, up until I just read this article, I had never heard of you or your show. However, I read it to see how the Walter Reed Hospital is treating our Wounded warriors. I also didn’t know that Bethesda Naval Hospital, is the new Walter Reed Hospital. I am a veteran from the Viet Nam conflict. It was never officially declared a war. I served in the USN as a Hospital Corpsman on board a Destroyer Tender.

    I too wish to convey my humble thanks to your story. It opened my eyes to a very real situation that we as a nation will have to deal with for a long time to come. A new generation of children who will grow up without a father or mother, brother or sister who unselfishly gave their lives because we as a nation asked them to go. I was never injured in a war. My father was a Marine in WWII. He told me with tears flowing down his face of the horrors he saw. I pray for this war to end. Thank-You.

  43. Sil_in_Corea May 6, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Thank you so very much, Peter! I worked in a rehab for ten years with Vietnam vets and the stories I listened to were much as you heard. Sure wish more folks knew the sacrifices that our service members have made for us. I’ll do my best to help spread the word.

  44. Tina W May 7, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    Great job, Peter. Coming from a war-torn country as a child, I can almost empathize with these soldiers. I don’t think our country, in general, fully appreciate their stoic sacrifice. I’m glad you’re taking a step to correct that.

  45. Jessica May 9, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    Thanks. As a wife of a veteran who was blown up twice in Afghanistan (fortunately not seriously injured), and a mental health professional who sees a lot of veterans, this is really close to my heart.

  46. Roger Kimpton May 10, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    Thank you. This piece brought me to tears sitting in a restaurant in Manhattan, all safe and comfy. You have provided a great service with this story. You never fail to make me laugh, make me think – now, damn you, make me cry in public. Every American should read this sharing.

  47. TJ May 18, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    I was very inspired by your story. As the granddaughter of a WWII vet (deceased) and a Vietnam vet, I wanted to show my appreciation for not only my wonderful grandfathers, but all that have sacrificed to protect me. I decided to follow your example and get off my rear end and find a way to show my gratitude. On June 12th I will be flying as a personal guardian of a WWII vet to DC to personally assist him on a visit to not only the WWII memorial, but 3 others. It’s called an Honor Flight, approximately 75 vets with guardians will be with us that day. I am so excited and thrilled for the opportunity.

    Thank you for the outstanding article and motivation!

  48. Paul May 25, 2012 at 2:40 am #

    How can I visit Walter Reed?