I’m amazed at the tenacity and commitment of so many of our military men and women. A growing number of troops severely injured in Iraq are insisting on remaining on active duty. Sgt. John Keith is one of those troops. His story is inspiring:
Army Sgt. John Keith likes to finish what he starts. So even after a rocket-propelled grenade tore into the door of his Humvee during his deployment to Iraq, leaving his leg dangling, he wasn’t willing to give up his 15-year military career
Thanks to a new mentality within the military, and programs to back it up, Keith is among a growing legion of severely wounded troops who are opting to continue their military service. In his case, the former medic is now serving with the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier to help get state-of-the-art equipment to warfighters quickly as possible.
Sixty soldiers with 30 percent or higher disability ratings have applied to stay on active duty, and all have gotten the green light, said Col. Mary Carstensen, director of the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program.
There’s a growing recognition that these soldiers have leadership experience, specialized skills and, in many cases, combat experience – all qualities they can continue to contribute to the Army, she said.
The Marine Corps shares this recognition, and issued a Marine administrative message in May 2006 that details its program for combat-wounded Marines seeking to remain on active duty.
President Bush advanced this effort while visiting wounded troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here in December 2003. “Americans would be surprised to learn that a grievous injury, such as the loss of a limb, no longer means forced discharge,” the president told the soldiers.
“In other words, the medical care is so good and the recovery process is so technologically advanced that people are no longer forced out of the military,” Bush said. “When we’re talking about forced discharge, we’re talking about another age and another army. This is a new age, and this is a new army. Today, if wounded servicemembers want to remain in uniform and can do the job, the military tries to help them stay.”
God bless Sergeant Keith and the other wounded troops whose commitment to our country and our military is unfailing.