31 January 2012

Wounded Warrior and Wife Get 'Dream' Second Wedding

View more videos at: http://nbcsandiego.com.

They originally married in a courthouse, but Marine Lance Corporal Josue Barron and his wife Debbie had always dreamed of having a big second wedding with family and friends after Josue returned from Afghanistan. When an IED took Josue's left eye and his left leg, that dream seemed beyond their reach... until 2 weeks ago. (Tissue alert)

30 January 2012

76th ERQS flies 'So that others may live'

Airmen and soldiers assigned to the 76th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron offload a patient by litter from an ambulance to a HC-130 for medical evacuation. The 76th ERQS serves as an ambulance of the air for Operation Enduring Freedom. The squadron’s mission is to provide medical or casualty evacuation and personnel recovery for U.S. and coalition forces, Afghan National Security Forces and local nationals in all of the regional commands in Afghanistan. Photo: Senior Airman Tyler Placie, 1/30/2012, Camp Bastion.

Associated article about the 76th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron here.

Landstuhl Medical Center Saves Lives, Advances Medicine

Article by Cheryl Pellerin of American Forces Press Service discusses the role Landstuhl has played not just in the care of our wounded warriors aeromedically evacuated from the battlefield, but also in medical advances for both military and civilians.

Medical-surgical teams at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center here save the lives every day of warriors wounded in Afghanistan and, until recently, saved troops wounded in Iraq. But that’s only part of their success.

Here, a side benefit of providing relentlessly superior care from the point of injury in the war zone to what doctors call "definitive care" -- care given to manage a patient’s condition -- has been to advance the practice of military medicine and, ultimately, the practice of medicine everywhere.

For medical teams at Landstuhl, the brutality of combat and the urgent need to respond to the wounded have yielded advances in en-route lung bypass, whole-blood transfusion, and even combat tourniquets that can be applied with one hand and in the dark.

“Ten years ago, we had to stabilize [patients] before we could move them,” said Army Col. (Dr.) Jeffrey B. Clark, commander of the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

“Now what our Air Force can do is basically put an intensive care unit in the back of a C-17 with a critical-care air-transport team so we can continue to stabilize while we are moving,” Clark said.

The critical-care team program is part of the Air Force aeromedical evacuation system. A team consists of a critical care physician, a critical care nurse and a respiratory therapist, along with supplies and equipment.

Over the past 70 years, and especially over the past 10, a combination of evolving surgical capabilities, technology-intensive critical care and long-range air transport have pushed medical-surgical capability far forward. This saves lives and helps to reduce the load on teams at Landstuhl, a military hospital operated by the Army and the Defense Department, whose staff since 2004 has treated nearly 66,000 patients from Iraq and Afghanistan and military personnel and their families stationed in Germany.

From the United States, 48 visiting civilian trauma surgeons rotate in to Landstuhl for two weeks at a time from hospitals at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, the Oregon Science and Health University in Portland, and others.
Also under the Landstuhl command are seven clinics: two in Belgium, two in Italy and three in Germany.

Landstuhl is the only hospital outside the United States designated a Level I Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons. Its survival rate for trauma patients is 99.5 percent.
“About 14,000 of the 60-some thousand were actual battle injuries,” Clark said. “We have returned to duty about 20 [percent] to 21 percent of those who have come to us from Iraq or Afghanistan, which is huge.”

Every week, every critically ill patient is discussed on a video teleconference that spans nine time zones on three continents. Attendees include “our NATO colleagues such as MERT [Medical Emergency Response Team], the British paramedic units that have physicians on the helicopter teams, to the forward surgical team, the [three] combat support hospitals [and] Landstuhl … as well as our partners on the East Coast and San Antonio and the [Air Force] Aeromedical Evacuation service,” said Air Force Maj. (Dr.) David H. Zonies, Landstuhl’s trauma director.

“Everyone discusses their care that’s provided along the continuum,” he added.

The broad influence of Landstuhl’s medical-surgical innovations is seen 25 to 30 times a day, Zonies said, every time a patient undergoes surgery in an operating room.

“From the last 10 years, a lot of the evidence that we’ve gathered has changed not just the practice of military medicine, but has now been completely translated back into civilian practice,” Zonies said.

For example, he added, the way patients are resuscitated has changed significantly since 2001.
For the past 50 years, he explained, the standard practice for storing blood has been to break it up in to components such as red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

When it was time to give stored blood to a patient, “we’d give them a bunch of red cells, and maybe for every four of those we’d give a unit of platelets [and plasma]. That was how it worked,” Zonies said.

“Well,” he added, “we noticed that our mortality rate was extremely high doing that, and it was standard practice.”

Then six or seven years ago, Army surgeon Dr. John Holcomb and Air Force surgeon Dr. Donald Jenkins, now both retired, observed that transfusions with 1-to-1 ratios of plasma and platelets to blood cells lowered patient mortality rate by about 15 percent. They began to use the practice for combat trauma patients, Zonies added.

“That is how we changed our guidelines for how we resuscitate all our patients,” he said. “We have now taken that evidence back to our civilian counterparts, and they’ve been able to replicate the same approach in civilian practice, and it has decreased mortality there.”

Another life-saving innovation involves a procedure called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or just extracorporeal life support. This is basically a lung bypass, or cardio-pulmonary bypass, that a special team from Landstuhl flies downrange to perform en route as the patient is evacuated from the war zone.

The suitcase-sized device takes the patient’s blood through an artificial membrane that replaces carbon dioxide with oxygen.

The technology, developed by a team at the University of Regensberg, about a four-hour drive from Landstuhl, has been around for 30 or 40 years, but only in the past decade, Zonies said, “has it gotten to the point where everyone feels this is a safe modality that truly … improves patient outcomes.”

So far, Landstuhl has the only capability in the Defense Department of providing that kind of support, Zonies said.

At Landstuhl, the hospital itself is a sprawling complex built in the early 1950s. By 2018, a new hospital that’s more contemporary and flexible will replace it, to be called the Kaiserslautern Community Medical Center.

“It’s a very special mission,” Clark said. “We take a tremendous amount of pride in what we do, and so we consider it a privilege. In many ways, it is so terribly uplifting to take care of wounded warriors, to take care of our own. But … it can wear on you, so we try very hard to look out for each other.”

29 January 2012

St. Louis hosts huge Welcome Home parade for Iraq War vets

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A true grassroots event organized by two men, Craig Schneider and Tom Appelbaum, who simply came up with the idea that 'something needed to be done'. So they launched a Facebook page, met with the St. Louis mayor, mapped a route, and their efforts resulted in a huge turnout despite raising only about $35,000 in donations and limited marketing.

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Looking around at the tens of thousands of people waving American flags and cheering, Army Maj. Rich Radford was moved that so many braved a cold January wind Saturday in St. Louis to honor people like him: Iraq War veterans.

The parade, borne out of a simple conversation between two St. Louis friends a month ago, was the nation's first big welcome-home for veterans of the war since the last troops were withdrawn from Iraq in December.

"It's not necessarily overdue, it's just the right thing," said Radford, a 23-year Army veteran who walked in the parade alongside his 8-year-old daughter, Aimee, and 12-year-old son, Warren.

Radford was among about 600 veterans, many dressed in camouflage, who walked along downtown streets lined with rows of people clapping and holding signs with messages including "Welcome Home" and "Thanks to our Service Men and Women." Some of the war-tested troops wiped away tears as they acknowledged the support from a crowd that organizers estimated reached 100,000 people.

Fire trucks with aerial ladders hoisted huge American flags in three different places along the route, with politicians, marching bands - even the Budweiser Clydesdales - joining in. But the large crowd was clearly there to salute men and women in the military, and people cheered wildly as groups of veterans walked by.

Veterans came from around the country, and more than 100 entries - including marching bands, motorcycle groups and military units - signed up ahead of the event, Appelbaum said.

Schneider said he was amazed how everyone, from city officials to military organizations to the media, embraced the parade.

"It was an idea that nobody said no to," he said. "America was ready for this."

Several veterans of the Vietnam War turned out to show support for the younger troops. Among them was Don Jackson, 63, of Edwardsville, Ill., who said he was thrilled to see the parade honoring Iraq War veterans like his son, Kevin, who joined him at the parade. The 33-year-old Air Force staff sergeant said he'd lost track of how many times he had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a flying mechanic.

"I hope this snowballs," he said of the parade. "I hope it goes all across the country. I only wish my friends who I served with were here to see this."

Looking at all the people around him in camouflage, 29-year-old veteran Matt Wood said he felt honored. He served a year in Iraq with the Illinois National Guard.

"It's extremely humbling, it's amazing, to be part of something like this with all of these people who served their country with such honor," he said.

Make sure to read the entire article!


28 January 2012

'Recovering': The Film

Official trailer for Recovering, the documentary film from Become Films on Vimeo.

Become Films has just released the trailer for their new project, "Recovering". The documentary follows several veterans during the summer of 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as they cycle through several states on the East Coast, including the sites of the 9/11 attacks, as well as Normandy, France.

From film maker Michael de Yoanna:

When my partner Greg Campbell and I began shooting this yet-to-be-named documentary film in late May, during a week-long veterans’ road cycle ride, we agreed it might be a good idea if I churned out a few miles with the riders. I’d get to know them and I could even attach a tiny HD camera to my bicycle and capture some shots. Then, we theorized, I could hop back in a van and get into director mode.

That all changed on the first day. The challenging road cycling rides, organized by Ride2Recovery, moved so fast that the best way to get to know the subjects of the film was to ride every day. On my bike, I’d introduce myself and veterans would tell me their stories—or not. Whatever. It was cool. At the end of each day of riding, there’d always be that question: “Are you riding again tomorrow?” At first, I’d hesitate to promise to ride. In the end, I pedaled every mile, more than 1,800 of them over the course of three rides. The only reason I can offer is that I was really enjoying the company. It was so inspiring to be around veterans struggling with seen and unseen wounds taking their recoveries into their own hands.

Every rider I sidled up to had an amazing story to tell and some wanted to share their stories on camera. I was in a position to help them help others understand the often forgotten toll of 10 years of war on a generation of Americans called to duty in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

During the week that followed Memorial Day, I rode every mile from Arlington National Cemetery to Virginia Beach. Then I rode through Normandy, France, seeing the sites of World War II and hearing tales of that nation’s liberation from Nazis by Allied Forces.

The final ride was Ride2Recovery’s 9/11 Challenge, in which hundreds of wounded warrior bicyclists, hand-cyclists, recumbent riders and others visited the sites of the 9/11 attacks: New York City, a field outside Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon.

But the R2R challenge only offered 550 miles. To a handful of riders, that was not enough. So the idea of a “pre-ride,” adding an additional 361 miles to total 911, was hatched. The idea came from Justin Minyard, an Army sergeant and passionate cyclist still recovering from wounds he received both as a first responder to the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon as well as in combat in the ensuing years. Justin sought to honor the victims of 9/11. He also wanted to find some closure to the mental anguish he suffered as a result of those horrible days a decade ago. That’s why he was devastated to learn he could not participate. Unexpected medical issues arose and riding a bicycle could be dangerous. He would stay home instead.

Yet a handful of riders—initially five—decided to carry on with the “mission,” as it was called, often thinking of Justin along the way.

There's lots more to Michael's terrific account of the highs and lows of the ride, and the story of recovery, friendship, and homecoming during the summer of 2011 here. I'm not sure many people truly understand how these kinds of events help our wounded warriors deal with a lot of different issues on multiple levels, but this film appears to go a long way toward that goal.

"Recovering" is now in the editing stage and I'm very much looking forward to its release later this year.

25 January 2012

Bridging the Divide

Written by Nick Palmisciano, former Army Ranger, President of RangerUp.com, and newest member of the Soldiers' Angels Board of Trustees.

To most people, the benefit of our troops’ contact with Soldiers’ Angels is obvious – our Angels provide comfort to those deployed, to those injured, and to those who have returned and need someone to hear their voice. If these three functions alone showcased the full extent of what Soldiers’ Angels brought to the table, the organization would be absolutely invaluable to our servicemen and women.

In the last few years, however, I have noticed another incredible service that our Angels bring to the table – they bridge the military/civilian divide.

To the average citizen, this divide is most likely not apparent, and that makes sense, as most people have absolutely no interaction with our Armed Forces. This is a marked change from the experience of previous generations. During World War II, a full 11.5% of all Americans served in the war, which essentially equated to almost every able-bodied man available. Everyone had multiple family members involved in the conflict and the war was very personal. People were willing to sacrifice because they had skin in the game. Limit fuel consumption? Absolutely. It might help dad. Buy war bonds? Of course. My brother needs the money for ammunition. Regardless of service status, nearly every man, woman or child had to sacrifice something, whether it was the loss of a loved one, years of separation, financial loss, or a lack of comfort items. Every American’s life was changed markedly, and when the war ended, it was truly a victory for all.

Over time, however, service numbers have dropped, our economy has become more robust, and our politicians have created a system where the average American feels no change in lifestyle due to a wartime stance.

Only 0.45% of all Americans have been involved in the Global War on Terror, and the majority of those 0.45% are the children of veterans, thus we’re seeing the possible beginning of a small “warrior caste” emerge that is even further separated from the population at large. Our taxes have not gone up to compensate for the increased spending necessary to fund the war. We have not been asked to curb our use of fuel, rubber, or steel. We have not been limited in the type of goods we can purchase. In short, while war has raged on for ten years, most of us have had to contribute well…nothing.

At the same time, we’ve seen Congress whittle away troop benefits while discussing a large reduction in force, a possible reduction in retirement benefits, and a general disregard for troop quality of life and safety (multiple deployments without rest, lack of proper equipment, insufficient training time and ammunition, challenging ROE, etc.). As there has been no outrage coming from the civilian world (because so few are directly affected), it’s easy for many troops to fall into an “us against them” thought process. This gets exacerbated when the only time any troop issue does get attention and pressure is when there is a lapse in judgment (e.g. urination on the enemy dead), leaving troops feeling that no one cares if they are killed or wounded or live in rough conditions, but God forbid something unpalatable happens in the din of battle that might be distasteful for someone sitting on their couch watching the war on CNN.

The last piece of this disconnect comes when troops return home, finally, and rejoin the civilian world. They enter a world that cannot fathom what they have gone through, that worries about insignificant challenges rather than life or death ones, and that views them as “broken” thanks to the media and Hollywood’s constant love affair with post-traumatic stress. This anger and frustration often results in an inability to connect with potential employers and has resulted in the largest veteran unemployment rate in history.

And this is where you, as a Soldiers’ Angel, make all the difference. Those letters and care packages sent to our deployed troops remind them that there are people who care for them – that appreciate their sacrifices. Those Angels visiting the wounded in the hospitals and helping to solve their problems and provide them comfort proves to our heroes that there are some Americans willing to still give their time, effort, and money for our men and women in uniform. And those Angels working to rehabilitate troops through our Heroes & Horses program, music programs, and homeless programs are helping provide that bridge back to normal life.

You see, what you may not realize is that receiving a care package isn’t a big deal because of what is in the care package, even though all the items are appreciated and needed. These packages move the troops because they show that someone out there cares. And when you’re sitting out there in a dusty post in the middle of a place you’d rather not be, having lost a friend or two and sacrificed a lot of time away from those you love, you need to know it matters every now and then.

Angels, for many people, you’re the only person letting them know it matters.

Please never forget that.
Thank you for all you do.

May no Soldier walk alone,

Nick Palmisciano

If you'd like to help with supplies for care packages - Soldiers' Angels is in particular need of healthy snacks right now - please click here to make a donation in kind, or here to make a tax-deductible cash donation.

Wounded Soldier to be reunited with dog he rescued in Afghanistan

The puppy Donny Eslinger rescued peeks out of his backpack in Afghanistan (Photo courtesy of the Eslinger family)

The Orlando Sentinel:

Donny Eslinger was on a mission in Afghanistan last August when he encountered perhaps the friendliest face of his tour of duty there.

It was a small puppy, and it was love at first sight.

Eslinger — son of Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger Sr. — rescued the puppy, stashing him in his backpack for the hike back to a checkpoint where he was stationed.

The puppy he named Smoke became an instant sensation when a photo of Eslinger with the puppy in his backpack made the cover of Army Life magazine.

A little more than a month after he rescued Smoke, it was Donny Eslinger, 20, who needed to be rescued.

He was hit by mortar fire while on patrol Sept. 24, suffering a penetrating chest wound, a head injury, broken ribs and a broken leg. He also lost his spleen.

He underwent surgery the next day at Kandahar Airfield Hospital and was transferred to Bagram Airfield Combat Support Hospital, where he was placed in a medically induced coma and was on a ventilator.

Don Eslinger flew to Germany to be with his son at Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center before Donny was flown to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Don Eslinger Sr. left Central Florida on Monday to join his son at Walter Reed, and he took along a companion: Smoke.

The 7-month-old puppy arrived at Orlando International Airport last Wednesday, five months to the day after Eslinger's fellow soldiers in Afghanistan set in motion plans to send the dog to him.

The elder Eslinger said he has arranged to board the dog with a veterinarian near Walter Reed so he can take him to visit his son.

Donny has told his dad he can't wait to be reunited with his pup.

And we can't wait to see pictures of the reunion!

Smoke now, 7 months old. (Photo courtesy of Eslinger family)

23 January 2012

Thank you!

The clothing shelves haven't been this well-stocked in a long time! Everything will go fast, but it's nice to pause and take a moment to thank everyone who helps support our wounded warriors at Landstuhl!

If you'd like to help, check our list of requested items.

21 January 2012

Wounded Warrior Receives First-of-its-kind Bionic Arm

Hospital Corpsman Sharod Edwards, who lost his arm in Iraq in 2005, is the first person in the world to have this incredible new arm.

"This is the next step of what the progress is as far as technology in this field... I'm very happy to be a part of it," [said prosthetist Geoffrey Hemmen].

Edwards said having two hands again has given him much of his life back.

"I wanted to fight the whole thing of being amputated," he said of his injury. However, he said a friend who has spent his whole life in a wheelchair -- and who has won two gold medals -- has inspired him to keep going.

He also offers a message for others in similar situations.

"Don't let that injury count you out. There is help out there."

Another video at the link shows how the arm works.

18 January 2012

'God wanted me alive for a reason'

Great interview with Marine Corporal Juan Dominguez by KGTV News in San Diego. (Make sure to watch the video at the link.)

"I woke up with a bad feeling that day, I knew something was going to happen," said Dominguez.

The 27-year-old Marine Corporal was on foot patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan assigned to a battalion from Camp Pendleton. A rifleman on the front line-safeguarding the way for others- when he stepped on a 30 pound improvised explosive device. It threw him 15 feet in the air.

"It was a Saving Private Ryan moment where everything was in slow motion. I saw dirt flying and I saw my legs. It looked like mangled raw meat. I knew at that time I was a double (amputee) but I didn't notice my arm right away. I was screaming for God to take the pain away. I was saying please if you are going to take me, take me now. If you are going to keep me on this earth, please make me numb God," Dominguez said.

Within minutes his fellow Marines found him in a cloud of smoke and they refused to let him die.

"They kept screaming at me saying this was my ticket to go home and see my daughter. They were bawling, these guys were my best friends," according to Dominguez.

A Navy corpsman kept him from bleeding to death by refusing to give him morphine, lest he go into shock.

Dominguez remembers, "my corpsman was yelling at me, I can't give you morphine, because I don't know if I will be able to bring you back if I do. Stay with me, stay with me. ...

Read the rest about Juan's recovery, his Mom ("she is a strong woman"), his new life as a motivational speaker, and the upcoming benefit concert by Gary Sinise to help finance Juan's new adaptive home.

15 January 2012

Aeromedical Evacuation Crew provides lifesaving transportation

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Timothy Talbert, native of Richmond, Va., a flight nurse with the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight, watches over a patient while the critical care air transport team works to keep the patient alive on a C-130 Jan. 10. The 455th EAEF picks up and cares for patients from all over Afghanistan. (Photo by Spc. Cody Barber, 11th Public Affairs Detachment)

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Timothy Talbert, a flight nurse, is part of the 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight team on Bagram Air Field, whose mission is to care for and transport patients from one location to another to get them further medical care.

“Our primary mission is to transport patients anywhere in theater,” said Talbert, a native of Richmond, Va. “We move injured and wounded patients whether they are soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines or contractors. There isn’t a patient we can’t transport.”

The 455th EAEF picks up and treats service members and civilians with injuries varying from anything as minor as a cough to as severe as multiple amputation or gunshots wounds.

The unit covers all of Afghanistan. They also take patients from Craig Joint Theater Hospital to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany for a higher level medical care.

Talbert said they are the medics in-between when referring to the transportation of patients from one location to the next.

“We are a part of a system,” said Talbert. “We are the intermediate area between point A to point B. The transport is vital for the continuity of care and getting the patient to the next step, which might be the life saving step, the diagnosis that they need, or the treatment that they need.”

“It’s something that is hard to describe,” said air medical evacuation technician Senior Airman Melissa Deardorff.“… but there is no greater feeling than to take care of one of your own and get them the help they need.”

Read more about this Aeromedical Evacuation Team.

The American flag hangs while a critical care air transport team helps to keep alive a patient during flight that was wounded in combat on the C-130 Jan. 10. The CCATT is needed for treating the most critically injured patients in the aeromedical evacuation system. (Photo by Spc. Cody Barber, 11th Public Affairs Detachment)

13 January 2012

Freedom Isn't Free

I watched the flag pass by one day
It fluttered in the breeze
A young soldier saluted it, and then
He stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.

I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many Pilots' planes shot down?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No Freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of taps one night,
When everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That taps had meant "Amen"
When a flag had draped a coffin
of a brother or a friend.

I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard at the
bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington...
No, Freedom isn't free.

- Kelly Strong

In Loving Memory
PFC Gunnar Becker
January 22, 1985 - January 13, 2005

12 January 2012

The Wait

A U.S. Army soldier watches the treatment of his comrade heavily injured by an IED in FOB Shank in Logar Province, Afghanistan November 19, 2011. Photo: Reuters/Umit Bektas.

11 January 2012

Exciting new advances in prosthetic knees

Great news.

New Knee Helps Amputees Return to Front Lines

By Terri Moon Cronk, American Forces Press Service

BETHESDA, Md., Jan. 10, 2012 – A sophisticated prosthetic knee with a newly designed microprocessor is giving many wounded warriors with above-the-knee amputations the chance to return to active duty, military medical officials here reported.

Wounded warriors who had such severe limb loss in the early days of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were fitted with a prosthetic, rehabilitated and medically retired in most cases, amputee services officials at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center said.
That was before 2004, when the Defense Department contracted with a prosthetics company to design a “military grade” microprocessor-controlled prosthetic knee to return these skilled veterans to duty when possible, officials said.

As a result, troops who have returned to duty wearing the Genium X2 prosthetic knee during the past three years include members of the Navy’s SEALS, the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team and infantrymen on the front lines, said David Laufer, chief of orthotics and prosthetics services.

“We wanted to enable any wounded soldier who has the willingness and ability to go back on active duty,” he said. “We’re not trying to force soldiers, Marines or sailors to go back on active duty after an amputation. We want to give them the opportunity to stay on active duty, and not be limited by their prostheses.”

The impact of these service members returning to the combat theater is more far-reaching than the extensive skills and experience they bring with them, clinic staff members said, noting that other service members can gain a new perspective on wounded warriors when they fight side-by-side with those wearing the newly designed prosthetic knee.

“They see them bring forward what they already know and realize they can do the jobs they were doing before they were injured,” said Charles Scoville, chief of amputee services in the medical center’s orthopedics and rehabilitation department.

“They learn to respect [those wearing the prosthetic knee], and realize, ‘He’s not going to hold us back or get us killed,’” he said. “It also shows them if they are injured, they will be taken care of.”

Laufer said the new devices are on back order, because the company that manufacturers them can’t keep up with growing demand.

One, the X2, was an instant hit when the first few patients got the opportunity to try it out as a prototype three years ago, Scoville said. At the time, the next-generation knee, the X3 that is scheduled to debut this summer, was still in the design phase.

“We were so impressed by the X2 prototype,” Scoville said. “We told the company, ‘We need these now.’”

At first considered “impossible” to design, the X2 has provided a new way of life for above-the-knee amputees, Scoville said. The new microprocessor has five sensors, compared with the original C-Leg, which had two, said Zachary Harvey, a certified prosthetic orthotist.

A combination of gyroscopes, accelerators and hydraulics form the knee’s greater stability, mobility and its versatility by “recognizing” actions, Harvey said.

Multiple sensors recognize when the wearer wants to sit down or go up and down ramps and stairs, he explained, all without being preset with a remote device, as required by former technology.
Harvey said the X2 is intuitive to learn. “It feels natural to walk on, in comparison to some other knees,” he said.

The X2 also enables wearers to rapidly switch from a walk mode into a run without changing settings, he said. “The X2 knee picks up on the change, kicks in and swings out a little faster into a run,” he explained.

In addition, the X2 features a protective cover in the event of falls and other minor accidents. “It's a qualitative and quantitative leap,” Laufer said, comparing it to the two-sensor unit on the C-Leg.

Marine Corps 1st Lt. James Byler, a 26-year-old infantryman who was wounded in Afghanistan more than a year ago, said he got used to the X2 almost immediately. A double amputee above the knees, Byler was fitted with a C-Leg for several months before receiving an X2 for one leg and a power knee on the other leg for his own comparison.

Unlike the X2, the power knee propelled him forward and was complicated because he had to focus on the knee, which was hard to do while walking, he said.

When Byler went to the X2 model on both knees, “the feeling was pretty immediate,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s any knee that compares to the X2,” Byler added. “It feels more natural than the others.”

The effect on his rehabilitation, Byler said, has been dramatic.

“It was only recently that guys like me with the really high amputations [realized] we could walk at all,” he said. “It took a lot of time and effort just to get up and walk.”

Byler said he’s decided to retire from the military, because as a double above-the-knee amputee, he doesn’t want to be a liability. But that doesn’t stop him and some of his fellow patients from putting on their X2 knees prostheses to visit newly injured patients who are bedbound. He and his friends tell the new patients it’s the X2 they want to get, and not anything else.

“I can walk on the X2 and not even think about it,” Byler said. “That’s the goal.”

06 January 2012

'For those I love... ', Part 3

U.S. Army Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry is tended to by medics after being wounded in a blast from an improvised explosive device on June 15 in Afghanistan in this picture taken by a Stars and Stripes photographer. Photo courtesy of the Hockenberry family to the Marietta Times.

Another update on PFC Kyle Hockenberry and the story behind his tattoo at today's Salina Journal News:

Love can make people do some crazy, unusual, heroic things.

A dance outside in a rain storm, a midnight flight across the country, a dash into a burning home, none of these are outside the realm of what people will do for those they love.

For one 1st Infantry Division Soldier, his love for his family and his country led him into an Army recruiter’s office, onto basic training, up the road to Fort Riley, Kan., and around the world to Afghanistan.

One evening, shortly before the deployment, Kyle and a few fellow Soldiers “went under the needle.” One of the Soldiers had his children’s names or birthdates tattooed, some had a lucky number or special picture done but Kyle selected a seven word phrase that had been rolling around in his head ever since he decided he was going to be a Soldier.

That night, the tattoo artist etched “for those I love, I will sacrifice” onto Kyle’s right side.

“I thought since I was in the military that it would be a good one to get,” he said. “’Those I love’ is for everyone – for my parents, my brother and all my family but it really for everyone in the country.”

Right now Kyle is looking forward to being fitted with prosthetics and getting cleared for travel to Fort Riley in April to attend the 4th Sqdn., 4th Cav. Regt. Welcome Home Ball.

Make sure to read the whole article.

"I'd do it all over again"
For those I love...

'Hero's Highway' flag presented to 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base

SAN ANTONIO - The 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base received an American flag Thursday that offered hope to thousands of soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines who were wounded in Iraq.

The flag is one of four displayed in Hero's Highway, a tent that wounded troops entered as they were brought into the Air Force Theatre Hospital at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

Over seven years, 35,000 patients were treated at the hospital in Balad.

More than 9,000 of those wounded warriors passed under the flag which was presented to the 59th Medical Wing.

Retired Col. Charles Hardin, who was the commander at the hospital from January 2005 to May 2005, said the glimpse at the flag offered hope.

"You could see the relief on their faces," he said. "That flag meant all the world to them at that moment."

It was a sign that they were in American territory -- and would be taken care of.

This 2007 Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo Jr. shows the US flag canopy of the "Hero's Highway" at Balad Air Base, Iraq, through which hundreds of wounded Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors and Iraqi personnel passed each month.

03 January 2012

Wounded Warrior Liaison

When a Wounded Warrior arrives in Germany, a hospital liaison is waiting to help them navigate through the process of recovery. Nice video about some of the unsung heroes of Landstuhl - the Liaisons - featuring our own SFC Robert Van Meter of the US Army Reserves. Way to go, Sgt Van Meter!!