John Kelly's Washington

Disabled veteran's mission: to help wounded soldiers and kin

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By John Kelly
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stephen Maguire explained how it works.

"The soldiers will arrive three times a week by air evac from Germany," he said. "Always on Sunday evening, Tuesday evening and Friday evening -- about 5:30ish. They land at Andrews, then the big superbus brings them over here."

"Here" is Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"It brings them to the front of the hospital, on the second floor, and they come in right through the main lobby. Some are ambulatory, some are on respirators. . . . At the same time all this is going on, Department of Army casualty affairs has contacted the family and has issued them tickets and booked them to come the next day -- not the day the soldier arrives, but the next day. They want the soldier to be kind of settled in."

Wounded soldiers and their families: Steve Maguire's customers.

* * *

Steve always thought he'd make the Army a career. He enlisted in 1966. Armor was what he wanted, but he got infantry.

"I fell in love with infantry at Officer Candidate School," Steve said. "I went to Ranger school, and they kept me on as an instructor. I had the time of my life being a Ranger instructor."

He was sent to Vietnam in early '69, a recon platoon leader for a battalion.

"It's the kind of a job you had to be a Ranger for. . . . There's a couple pictures of me up there," he said, gesturing toward a framed photo of a young man in jungle fatigues hanging on the wall of his office in Walter Reed's main hospital building.

"They catch people's eyes."

* * *


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