Factual · Powerful · Original · Iconoclastic
In the film "Home of the Brave," a soldier who lost her hand in Iraq is asked if she underwent physical rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "Yeah, Walter Reed," she says. "Talk about tough Americans." Tough Americans, indeed.
When I visited that same ward the first soldier I met was Sgt. Luke Shirley, who had stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) blowing off his right side appendages and spraying him with shrapnel. "It kinda sucks not having an arm or leg," he told me, "but it hasn't bothered me like you'd think it would." Just offhand, I would think it would have devastated him. I was dumbstruck. What kind of person is this?
That's why I visited Walter Reed's Orthopedic Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Ward in Washington, D.C, along with the surgical inpatient ward at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (At Bethesda the men and women aren't yet ready to be sent on to Walter Reed or elsewhere for rehabilitation.) I wanted to meet these tough Americans and tell some of their stories.