Wounded Warriors Discuss Transitions to New Lives
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2012 – Caregivers, National Guard, reserve support and sports for the wounded are the top Defense Department priorities for wounded warriors and their families, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for warrior care said today, as wounded warriors discussed their experiences with recovery.
John R. Campbell made the comments after listening to panelists at the annual Warrior-Family Symposium, sponsored by the Military Officers Association of America. The panel included four wounded warriors who spoke about their transitions to a new life after being wounded in battle.
Retired Marine Corps Master Sgt. William “Spanky” Gibson moderated the panel, along with Retired Marine Corps Col. Derek Donovan, vice president of the Fisher House Foundation. Gibson was a 35-year-old gunnery sergeant in Iraq in 2006 when he was shot through the knee. His left leg was amputated above the knee, but he started competing in triathlons while recuperating at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and has competed in more than a dozen races. In 2008, he went back to Iraq as the first above-the-knee amputee to return to a ground combat area of operations.
Gibson’s determination showed up early in his recovery, when he proved he could get himself to the second floor of a Fisher House room – the only one available – rather than stay in the hospital. “I went up and down those stairs for two hours, sweating profusely, just to prove I could do it,” he said.
Another panelist, retired Navy Petty Officer Benjamin Host, was with the Seabees in Iraq in 2004 when he suffered severe traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after being in a Humvee convoy accident. Host said he received “exquisite” military medical care that included three brain surgeries and repairing his fractured skull. But, he said, “it’s the in-between area where we get a drop-off” meaning a lack of oversight in the recovery process.
Although it took a legal battle, Host said, he was medically retired from the Navy earlier this year.
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