Remember the Veterans

Monday, May 30, 2005

I love my country, and I admire, appreciate and support those who put themselves in danger to defend liberty around the world. But it took a job to get me to focus on what the sacrifices of war really are.

I was appointed by the National Association of Manufacturers to be the liaison with a nonprofit group called the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes. The group's mission is to help severely wounded and disabled veterans of the war on terrorism rebuild their lives. It offers adapted homes, nearly free of charge, to veterans who use wheelchairs; helps prepare and place veterans in good jobs; and arranges private housing for families visiting wounded heroes who are spending months in hospitals recuperating from injuries. It also provides mentors to help the veterans plan their road to recovery. Veterans I have met in my work include:

· Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Tracy Jones, who became a quadriplegic when the truck he was driving was broadsided by an Iraqi water tanker. Sgt. Jones and his wife will be among the first four families to receive a new, handicap-accessible house courtesy of the coalition.

· Army Cpl. J.R. Martinez, who was so severely burned by a land mine two years ago in Karbala, Iraq, that he considered killing himself. Cpl. Martinez now visits hospitals, comforting and encouraging other wounded veterans.

· Army Spec. Robert "B.J." Jackson, who lost both legs when his Humvee was hit by rocket-propelled hand grenades during an ambush in Baghdad. Now fitted with prosthetic limbs, Spec. Jackson considers himself fully recovered and is working with the coalition to inspire injured soldiers.

Unlike the rest of us, these veterans can't brush the war aside in

favor of more pressing concerns.

Yet many of the most badly wounded have chosen to use their experiences to reach out and help others.

Their unselfishness and spirit are


More than 6,300 soldiers have been wounded in Iraq alone. Many who otherwise would have been killed have been saved by modern medical and battlefield technology. Now they need the miracle of human help and hope.

As the war in Iraq enters its third year, we risk a creeping indifference that comes not from a lack of caring but from a lack of connection to the harsh reality of a war so far removed from our daily lives. For the sake of the heroes such as Tracy Jones, J.R. Martinez and B.J. Jackson, we must not forget our veterans.



© 2005 The Washington Post Company