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Dorian de Wind

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Wounded Warriors Return to Iraq for Closure

Posted: 11/04/11 02:50 PM ET

As we approach Veterans Day 2011, many stories will be told about our veterans -- veterans of all our wars.

However, with the war in Iraq finally winding down and the war in Afghanistan entering its eleventh year, the focus will be on those veterans -- and rightly so.

Even though our troops will be finally coming home from Iraq at the end of this year, the carnage continues in Iraq and our troops continue to die while conducting military operations in that country. The U.S. military has just announced that another American service member was killed in Northern Iraq Thursday.

And, even though our troops fighting in Iraq will finally be home for Christmas, the suffering of thousands of our men and women -- young and old -- who have come home with physical or mental injuries continues.

But did you know that many of these wounded warriors -- some having lost an arm or a leg, or both; some suffering from traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury; others having sustained all kinds of battlefield injuries including blindness -- want to return to Iraq?

According to a stirring CBS News story:

The U.S. military has found that for all the physical and mental therapy it provides for troops wounded in the war, it was missing a crucial therapy: soldiers and Marines wanted to return to the battlefield where they were injured. Operation Proper Exit takes wounded warriors back in an effort to provide closure that often leads to better lives for these veterans and their families.

Scott Pelley from CBS News follows a group of eight veterans to Iraq on an emotional journey to relive their traumatic experiences.


One person in this group, Steven Cornford, "needed to return to help get over the feeling that he caused the death of his lieutenant, who was killed coming to his aid on the battlefield."

Others feel they need to return because they left Iraq "unconscious in most cases, ripped out of the unit and away from their brothers in arms."

Rick Kell, a retired advertising executive who was a volunteer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and now runs the Troops First Foundation, first heard of such a need for "closure," and now goes back to Iraq with these veterans, in small groups; 68 have made the emotional journey so far.

Among the objectives of Kell's and co-founder David Feherty's, "Operation Proper Exit":


* The sense of brotherhood inherent in today's military leaves a number of injured soldiers with the desire to return to theater after injury. By having a chance to visit, not only is their desire addressed but they can bring stories from home to deployed troops when they arrive.

* Soldiers who have witnessed the injuring of a battle buddy are often times left wondering how the situation turned out both short and long term. Upon the return of fully recovered soldiers, the minds of deployed troops are put to ease when they witness the results firsthand and hear about the journey and outstanding care being afforded to our Wounded Warriors.

* For troops that have been injured in battle, this initiative provides them the opportunity to make a "proper exit" on their own terms as they walk to the aircraft and climb the ramp rather than being medically evacuated. This component has a positively resounding effect in offering closure to that chapter of their lives.

Read more about this moving story here, and be sure to watch the "60 Minutes" report to be broadcast this Sunday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. ET/PT, where Pelley and Kell go with the eight veterans "to several places in Iraq, including the Air Force Theater Hospital where their lives were saved. They also fire the weapons and see the vehicles they depended on in battle. They return in uniform."

Also, please learn more about the "Troops First Foundation" and "Operation Proper Exit" here.

Should you wish to make a contribution to this admirable organization, please click here.