07 June 2009

President visits Landstuhl patients

Corporal Steven Baker, left, 24 years old from Corinth, Mississippi, and Sgt. Matt Berth, right, 27 years old from Rhinelander, Wisconsin, talk to the press about their impressions after the visit of US President Barack Obama in the USO warrior center in Landstuhl, Germany, Friday, June 5, 2009. Berth and Baker received the purple heart medal for getting injured in battle. (AP Photo/Roberto Pfeil)

How exciting for these guys! I bet they were thrilled.

Obama meets wounded US troops in Germany

LANDSTUHL, Germany (AP) — Last week, U.S. Army Cpl. Steven Baker was wounded while on patrol in Afghanistan's Wardak province. Friday night in Germany, President Barack Obama pinned a Purple Heart medal on his chest.

"I couldn't stop smiling," Baker said after Obama's two-hour visit at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where many soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are taken for treatment. ...

Baker, 24, was riding as a gunner in an MRAP armored vehicle on May 30 with two other soldiers when it was hit with a roadside bomb. The Corinth, Mississippi, native was taken to a medical facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, for treatment, and then flown to Landstuhl — and learned of Obama's visit just yesterday.

"I thought they were kidding," Baker said.

He was one of six soldiers to whom Obama presented the Purple Heart in recognition of his injuries, and one of dozens the president met as he toured hospital wards and a recreation center for recovering troops.

Baker, a member of the Fort Drum, New York-based 10th Mountain Division, said he hoped to re-enlist after recovering at Landstuhl, and that he was looking forward to visiting his wife and family, first.

Sgt. Matt Berth, 26, of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, an Army engineer [with the Wisconsin Army National Guard], was recently injured in an explosion that struck his vehicle as he was driving on a highway near Kandahar. He had been at Landstuhl for a week when Obama came to give him a Purple Heart.

Members of the press never accompany DVs ("Dignified Visitors") during their visits with patients. However, reporters were given access to some of the soldiers after the President's visit, which I think is a really cool opportunity for them to share their excitement. This passage from Stars & Stripes' account of the visit was particularly poignant:

Unable to walk without crutches due to balance issues, Berth made a point of standing with assistance from Cpl. Steven Baker while Obama pinned a Purple Heart on his uniform.

“He’s my commander-in-chief and I did want to give him respect,” he said.

Just look at those smiles! When the guys are happy, I'm happy :-)

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