Pain. Hurt. Fear. Trauma. Blackout.
When a wounded soldier is sent home from a war zone, the healers on the receiving end do their job to ensure that they can put parts back together again as best as circumstances will allow. As you will hear from one soldier’s testimony, at times, they do not remember much about the violence which caused them to fall into the unconscious. But when they do regain consciouness, the scenes of war can go into instant replay in their minds, and naturally, questions arise
Why did I fight so hard? Could I have prevented a comrade’s death? Did I kill innocents? and most importantly, was it for nought?
Rick Kell, founder of Operation Proper Exit, which is sponsored Troops First Foundation and The USO recalls that it was due to soldiers’ input that the program saw light. OPE was created in 2009 an has helped 49 service members deal with their injuries by affording them the opportunity to return to Iraq. The program is an opportunity for combat soldiers that were injured to return to the war zone, in this case, Iraq, and see for themselves what improvements and changes occurred since their departure, giving them a sense of closure.
Many who undertake the trip back are not as whole as when they went in: as described in the photo caption of this USO blogpost, Retired U.S. Army 1st Lt. Edwin Salau was injured by a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire, Nov. 2004 and lost his left leg. Another participant, Staff Sgt. Brian Beem, had his lower right leg amputated in 2006. The majority expressed a need to see for themselves that a working and useful ‘product’ resulted from their sacrifices and injuries. While not all return to the ‘scene of the crime’, i.e. the place they were injured, they do go back to the major bases, the division’s headquarters, and get the opportunity to talk to comrades.
They visit towns like Ramadi, where most of the security controls are handled by the Iraqis; this gives them a sense that their physical and emotional equities in the Iraq war have yielded returns.
They also visit the hospitals where they received initial treatment prior to being flown back to the States, and get a chance to express their gratitude to those responsible for saving their lives. The psychological victory is that they walk into and out of that hospital on their own volition.
Wow, what a feeling!
Please show your support for our troops by visiting this link: http://www.uso.org/woundedwarriors/