For the Wounded

The Armed Forces Press Service article on the opening of the Center for the Intrepid begins with a question: “How does a nation thank someone whose legs were destroyed by an insurgent’s homemade bomb? How do Americans pay tribute to someone whose face melted in the fires of war? ”

Over 600,000 Americans have given over $50,000,000 to build the Center for the Inteprid, a state of the art National Armed Forces Physical Rehabilitation Center to help rebuild the lives of those who have given so much. Read coverage of the opening of the Center for the Intrepid and its associated Fisher House projects here and here. A photo essay is also available. Fisher House and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund are projects related to America Supports You.

Intrepid Wheelchairs

In related news, actor Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump’s Lt. Dan) is the celebrity face behind a drive to build a monument to permanently disabled veterans. We have monument after monument to war’s dead. The nation also needs a physical reminder of those who came home to face unbelievable challenges they never expected in lives. Read the DefenseLink news about the proposed American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial.

Those who are severely wounded are too often forgotten. It is true that very many of the wounded are treated in theater and quickly return to duty. That is not true, unfortunately, for others whose lives will never be the same. For them, “just wounded” is hardly an accurate description of their experience.

Senator and former prisoner-of-war John McCain spoke to the crowd at the opening of the Intrepid Center. His word are elegant:

To the servicemen and women for whom this center was built, and their families, I know it is not possible for even the most grateful nation to compensate you in kind for the measure of devotion you have, at great personal sacrifice, given our country. We have incurred a debt to you that — no matter how sincerely and generously we honor our obligations to you — we can never repay in full. We can offer you only the small tribute of our humility. You are the best Americans, and our best efforts to honor our debts to you will fall far short of what you have given and what you deserve. What you have done for us, we can never do for you. But we are mindful of that distinction, and humbled by it. And our appreciation for your service demands us all to do what we can, in less trying and less costly circumstances, to help keep this nation a place and an idea worthy of the hardships, danger and sacrifices you have born so valiantly for us.

When a nation goes to war, a million tragedies ensue. None are more painful than the loss and injury of a country’s finest patriots. It is terrible thing, war, but not the worst thing. You know that, you who have endured the heartache and deprivations of war so that the worst thing would not befall us, so that America might be secure in her freedom. As you know, the war in which you have fought has divided the American people. But it has divided no American in their admiration for you and from our obligations to you. We all honor you. We are all — those who supported the decision that placed you in harm’s way and those who opposed it — we are all humbled by your example, and chastened in our prideful conviction that we, too, in our own way, have offered our country some good service. It may be true or it may not, but no matter how measurable our own contributions to this blessed and beautiful country, they are a poor imitation of yours. Please know that we know how little we have given compared to your service, and the solemn and terrible sacrifice made by those who have not returned with you to the country they loved so well.

In the last few weeks some of your brothers-in-arms have learned their tour in Iraq and Afghanistan will last longer than they were initially told. Others have learned that they will soon return to combat sooner than they had been led to expect. It is a sad and hard thing to ask so much more of Americans who have already given more than their fair share to the defense of our country. Few of them and their families will have greeted the news without feeling greatly disappointed, and without offering a few well deserved complaints in the direction of those of us who have imposed on them this additional hardship. Then they will shoulder a rifle and risk everything — everything — to accomplish their mission, to protect another people’s freedom and our own country from harm.

It is a privilege beyond measure to live in a country served by you. God bless and protect you.

Senator John McCain, Dedication of the Center for the Intrepid, 29 January 2007, San Antonio News