Saturday, April 14, 2012

The fallen and those that survived

On the latest broadcast of Correspondents Report with Elizabeth Jackson (Australia's ABC -- link is audio), Stephanie Kennedy visits the section of Arlington Cemetery where the fallen from the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War are buried. Excerpt.

Stephanie Kennedy: They died on the battlefields in dusty deserts and on unforgiving mountains on foreign soil. But their final resting place is here, in the rolling meadows of Arlington Cemetery. Tucked away in a pocket of this hallowed ground is what's become known as "The Saddest Acre in America." Section 60 is in the south-east part of this vast cemetery. It's the burial ground for more than 800 American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cemetery officials have very strict rules about adding decorations on gravestones here but, in this little corner, they've turned a blind eye. And the manicured grounds are the same as is the perfect symetry of the headstones. But what's different here is the personal touches left by the families of the fallen. Mementos of lives lived adorn many of the graves: laminated photographs of soldiers in uniform in happier times, with families and wives and fiancees, there's childrens' drawings, and even a can of tobacco on one grave, unopened beer bottles and with Easter came chocolate eggs and balloons. And here's a stuffed bear -- he's actually fallen over so I'll just prop him back up. It's actually -- It's actually a little Easter bunny -- or a big Easter bunny. There are cards and letters too. This one reads: "Beloved son, your smile lit up our world. Life is not nearly so bright without you. We love and miss you so much."

Iraq War veteran Stan Giles (Knox News) reflects on Iraq and declares all US troops have left Iraq. However, Marines guard the embassy, Special-Ops remain in Iraq, military 'trainers' remain in Iraq, the CIA and FBI remain in Iraq and contractors, thousands and thousands of contractors, remain in Iraq. Equally true, members of Parliament were calling for an investigation into the US helicopter that emergency landed in the center of Baghdad and the people in it were quickly whisked away in another US helicopter and Iraqis believe that the CIA was in the car stopped in Baghdad where the people inside were supposedly all diplomatic staff but carried firearms. (Whether the belief is true or false it is a reality that the entire car could not have been diplomatic staff. As a young lamb sent to slaughter before the US Congress -- a low ranking State Dept employee -- explained months ago, no one working for the embassy or its consulates would travel anywhere without security guards. The fact that no security guards were in the car and no security car was tailing them means it was CIA, FBI or Special-Ops.) Giles concludes:

Today when asked about my thoughts on the Iraqi war, my stock answer is this: Quality historians will need about 50 years to gain adequate perspective to accurately assess it. We are far too close to draw accurate conclusions. But what I do believe is that in the meantime we need to seek to fund the Veterans Administration on a long-term basis because there are boatloads of wounded, mostly young veterans who will need care for many decades to come.

Yesterday, USA Today offered "Chat with a Wounded Warrior" an online discussion where readers were able to ask questions of journalist Chuck Raasch and Iraq War veteran Bryan Anderson. Raasch reported last month on how Anderson had become a motivational speaker after surviving a bombing in Iraq:

Four years later [after 9-11], Anderson was on his back on a Baghdad sidewalk, both legs and his left hand blown off when the truck he was driving was hit by an improvised explosive device. Frantic buddies saved his life. "My mom's going to kill me," he remembers thinking.
In that moment that changed everything, Bryan Anderson's road back became part of a wounded nation's story. Anderson, 30, and scores of other wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are doing what they can to make it remain so and relate their struggles to the challenges of others.

In the online discussion Friday, many shared their own stories and the stories of loved ones:

Comment From Becky Stanton: Hi Bryan. I want to thank you for being such an inspiration to others and sharing your story. My 20 yr old nephew Cody Stanton lost both legs and two fingers on his left hand when he stepped on an IED in Afganistan on Jan. 26, 2012. Someone gave Cody a copy of your book No Turning Back when he arrived at Walter Reed in Md. At night in ICU when Cody was in too much pain to sleep I would read from your book to him. Cody was able to relate to you because he is also MP and ARMY and he said your stories were very simular. Your book helped us get through a very difficult time. You let me know that Cody could still live a very full and productive life, that this was not an end for him, but that he would just have to learn to do things differently. Cody and his mother moved into his apt at Walter Reed last week where he will continue his rehab. Untill Cody's accident I had no idea how many of our soilders are getting blown up & the injuries they are left with. Your book and sharing your story gives both our wounded and their famillies hope for their future. Thank you so much for sharing your "extraordinary" life with Cody and me.

Bryan Anderson: See hearing things like that make it all worth it and I'm glad to have shown you Cody can still live. That's huge just to know it can be done it gives you a goal to reach or something to stride for[.]

[. . .]

Comment From Tim Johnson: Can you explain what type of wheelchairs you use and how your artificial legs work. Why and when do you use one or the other?

Bryan Anderson: Well I have a manual chair power chair and prosthetics. I don't use legs much bc they hinder me there less efficient. I use a manual traveling its much easier and power at home when I wanna be lazy :) I do use legs when I want or for sports specific activities. I can just get up and walk away and if I were wearing pants you would know much was wrong just that I walked a tad slower than the reg

Comment From Lou: Any advice or lessons learned on public speaking?

Bryan Anderson: I had a just do it additude so I just did it. The more you do it the easier it gets. Practice is key and try not to panic or fluster your self. I just think of it as like I'm just telling my friends a story [.]

For more from Bryan Anderson, you can visit the No Turning Back website where you'll find his blog, his bio, contact information and more. And the book he wrote with David Mack, No Turning Back: One Man's Inspiring True Story of Courage, Determination, and Hope, came out last August and is on sale at Amazon (on sale for $13,98 currently, list price is $25.95).

The following community sites -- plus On The Wilder Side, Adam Kokesh, Fresh Air and Chocolate City -- updated last night and today:

Carole King quickly. I thought we were doing a book discussion of her new book (A Natural Woman, released Tuesday) at Third. We're not. So let me correct what I noted here earlier this week. Instead, Jim's assigned the book to Ava and I for a review. Meaning, we have to do a critical work. I read the book two weeks ago. In a book discussion, I can stand behind the lie of: 'I've really only read a few chapters and enjoyed them.' And offer nothing further. I can't do that if I'm supposed to co-write a review. In other words, this is going to be a critical piece. I stand by every word Ava and I wrote in "Trapped in an AA meeting with Judy Collins." If that offended you and you needed nothing but applause for your fave, you shouldn't read the Carole King piece tomorrow. If you're not adult enough to handle a critique, then don't read it. As with Collins, I know Carole. Carole's written a much better book and it's a book I recommend everyone read but what's on the page, though readable and interesting, isn't going to receive universal praise from me. In part because I do know Carole -- and apparently remember a great deal more of her life than she does (not surprising, it's not for nothing that Elaine and Rebecca nicknamed me Memorac -- after the computer in Desk Set -- back in college). Carole's shoddy memory is why she uses one device that reviewers have ignorantly praised. Her book is Carole at the Troubadour for the first time. That's the key to understanding the book. The key to understanding Carole is another issue. If you're a grown up fan of Carole's, you'll probably enjoy the piece. If you're someone who can only take lavish praise, you should avoid it. That's your heads up. (And there will be praise for parts of what she's done. This is not a slam Carole piece. It is book criticism which is not a book report or a write-up for 16 Magazine.) And my remembering it better doesn't mean I'm co-writing some expose on Carole. It does mean there's a glaring absence throughout the book and we will be pointing it out. It's not some deep, dark secret but it does go to why the book has the title it does and it does go to the limitations of the book.

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