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10 Mar, 2009 05:55

Disabled veterans attempt to rebuild their lives

The US is deploying 17,000 more troops in Afghanistan, while back in America veterans are wondering when the wars will come to end and how to begin rebuilding their lives.

Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. is arguably the best and most high tech hospital in the United States. It was also the one in the middle of a massive scandal just a few years ago, accused of gross negligence towards US service members.

Today, military personnel are eager to show journalists that things have gotten better. Although the halls and beds may have been cleaned up, it is still a place that US soldiers desperately try to avoid.

Since 2001, over 10,000 soldiers were brought back from combat after suffering severe injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan. Insurgents in those countries now use more sophisticated explosives so the hospital has seen an influx of new patients.

Among them is 31-year-old Iraq veteran and former computer programmer from California David Mayer. He and three other soldiers were on a convoy when an explosive device on the ground went off.

He said: “I remember hearing a pop, is really what it felt like. Just a whole bunch of pressure and then the pressure released. When they pulled me out, I can’t describe the pain, it all hit me at once.”

Of the three people who got hit all three have lost both legs.

John Hoxie, 24, planned on joining the military at the tender age of 15. Six years later his dream finally came true.

He was deployed to Iraq in late 2006 and in less than a year he found himself in the intensive care unit at Walter Reed, but even the best equipment in the world could not help him repair some of his injuries.

“When I got here I still had part of my hand. I was missing the index and middle fingers. They lost the rest of my fingers and my thumb in surgery. Weren’t able to keep them,” he said.

Wounded veterans like Dave and John have kept people like C. A. Savoy busy. Savoy is a wood turner who makes personalized canes for wounded soldiers. As he works, C. A. cannot help think about who the canes are going to.

“It’s very difficult. When I stand up here turning this cane, knowing it will go to an amputee it’s really difficult. When the troops don’t have a need for these canes, we’ll stop making them. I wish it would come to an end soon. I’m tired of making canes,” he said.