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Monday, August 04, 2008

Landstuhl Military Hospital Visit Brought Hope to Wounded Vets

GUEST COLUMN

By JOSHUA REVAK (Ret.), U.S. Army

When I heard Barack Obama had planned a trip to visit Landstuhl Military Hospital in Germany, I knew from personal experience how much of a lift it would have given the hundreds of soldiers recovering from war wounds there. As fate would have it, I was sent to Landstuhl two years ago, after my lower legs were shattered by shrapnel from a mortar round in Iraq.

After undergoing surgery, I spent nearly a month as a bedridden patient in the recovery care unit, uncertain whether or not I would ever walk again.

It was around July 4th and I was feeling down, alone in a hospital room in Germany without family or friends.

The days all ran together, until a big cowboy hat poked through the door of my hospital room. At first I thought it was the painkillers playing tricks on me, but it was Nashville songwriter Thom Shepherd and his band, the Nashville Songwriters.

Thom came into my room and played one of his most popular hits, “Riding with Private Malone,” a song about a soldier who never made it back home. I played along with him on my guitar and shared one of my own songs.

His band stayed and played music for our whole floor, going from room to room, lifting spirits around the hospital. They did it at no charge, as a thank you to all of us.

That visit really helped pick me up—and not just for a few hours or days. Thom and I are still in touch and he’s encouraged me to continue writing and performing music. Later on, I learned he wasn’t even scheduled to visit Landstuhl, but fit it in on the way to another USO tour in the Middle East.

It’s disappointing that Senator Obama recently passed up his chance to meet and thank the wounded warriors in Landstuhl, too. Not only because I personally understand how much it would have meant to those heroes, but also because of the impact it undoubtedly would have had on Barack Obama to hear from the men and women in uniform he hopes to command someday.

All I know is that many veterans such as myself find it hard to accept the fact that Senator Obama made time to work out and to hobnob with Europeans, while failing to find time to visit our bedridden soldiers recovering abroad. I can’t help but wonder about the judgment of someone who holds a rally before a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Berlin, but cancels his visit with our wounded troops hospitalized in the same country.

What does it say about Barack Obama that he chooses to meet with the media in Paris and London over meeting with our brave veterans, who were left high and dry, apparently because there wasn’t going to be a photo op? For me it says everything about Barack Obama’s lack of judgment and experience, his habit of putting politics ahead of principle.

Does anyone have any doubt what John McCain would have done in the same circumstances? Senator McCain has always put his country first, from his military service in the Navy and heroic actions as a P.O.W. in the “Hanoi Hilton”, to his years of public service in Congress.

I can’t get the image out of my mind of how the wounded troops in Landstuhl Military Hospital must have felt after hearing all the buildup to Barack Obama’s visit last week and how let down they had to be after hearing the senator cancelled on them. The way I see it, the most Senator Obama had to sacrifice in going to Landstuhl was the loss of additional media exposure, while many of the veterans who were waiting for him have sacrificed so much more.


Joshua Revak received the Order of the Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster for wounds incurred during Operation Iraqi Freedom and is an active member of Veterans for John McCain.


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