SANDPOINT - Christin Anderson, a longtime resident of this North Idaho town, has never met U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Adam.No, what takes your breath away is how this young man has responded to a catastrophic loss. If there is anyone who has a right to be bitter, or angry, about the Iraq War, it would be this guy:
But that didn't stop her from standing alongside U.S. 95 Sunday in below-freezing temperatures, waving an American flag while her husband, Andrew, held up a sign that read "Thanks Sarge and Welcome Home."
The Andersons were among hundreds of Sandpoint-area residents who lined up along city streets with red, white and blue balloons to celebrate the homecoming of 22-year-old Adam, a Sandpoint High School graduate and Purple Heart recipient who lost both of his legs in May while on a second tour in Iraq.
"It's so moving to know that he is one of the many willing to do so much for us," Anderson said.
Adam's Thanksgiving trip home to see his parents, Doug and Karen Adam of Post Falls, is the first since the accident.
"It's pretty overwhelming and humbling," Adam said of the community's response.
Adam was a combat engineer stationed with the 2nd Infantry in Fort Carson, Colo. He was in the middle of his second tour and had recently signed up for a third when the accident occurred.
The Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks inspired him to enlist; he reported for duty right out of high school.
Sandpoint resident Marsha Ogilvie and Adam's sister, Trish Small, were the driving force behind his homecoming celebration. Ogilvie said she saw a program on television about a group of World War II veterans that started meeting injured soldiers coming home from Iraq at the airport.
After the roadside bomb explosion in Baghdad that claimed both of his legs below the knee, Adam was evacuated first to Germany, then to the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio, Texas, where he has been recovering since.I hear far more anger and bitterness from antiwar activists who have given up nothing.
In early November, Adam had the opportunity to meet President George W. Bush, who toured the Center for the Intrepid, a new $50 million physical rehabilitation center at the hospital.
"I was in therapy and then they said we couldn't leave," Adam said. Then the press arrived, as did the secret service.
Adam described Bush as a "regular guy" who made small talk with the soldier and seemed "compassionate" about the injured men.
Adam hopes to be up and about again soon. His prosthetic legs are being fit in increments, and Adam said he's nearly back to his 6-foot stature. He's working with legs that make him 5-foot-6 right now.
Adam wants to join Olympic wheelchair events, has a ski trip planned and recently went surfing in Pismo Beach, Calif. He wants to go to college to study business or film editing.
His disability is not going to hold him back, he said.
"It did for a minute, then I thought about it and got over it," Adam said. "You can't let anything dictate your life."
One of the most troubling aspects to war is that we lose--or damage--our most idealistic and courageous people. Some die; some lose limbs; a fair number come home with PTSD or lesser mental disturbances caused by war.
Over time, these individual costs turn into an enormous cost to the society. I don't just mean the costs of rehab and artificial limbs. I mean the costs to a society that rewards those who don't answer the call to duty. I still can't support a draft--but I do think that raising the pay for military would be a good thing, to more properly reward those who are doing a very risky and necessary function.
CNN had a special recently about the problems that veterans are experiencing with the Veterans Administration. There was one guy with a missing arm who had been fighting with the VA about how much of his injuries were service-related. Now, there are times where it is difficult to figure out whether a particular psychological problem or long-term illness is the result of military service--or might have happened anyway. They showed a letter from the VA that claimed that this guy's "shrapnel all over his body" was not "service-related." Huh? Even worse, whoever was responsible for sending out the letter had cut his name and signature block out of the letter--almost like someone was ashamed to send a letter this absurd. (He should have been ashamed--enough to make him rethink sending out a letter like that.)
There was another guy who had been severely burned as a result of an IED. It was obvious that a lot of plastic surgery had been done on the guy's face--and he was still grotesque. (World War I was the first war to produce large numbers of veterans without faces--much worse, by the way, than this guy.) All I could think was, "Is this the best job that the VA's plastic surgeons could do?"
If the Democrats are all hot to raise taxes to keep upper middle class people from competing with them for land in Sun Valley (where billionaires are pushing out millionaires), spending a bit more on military pay and helping returning veterans would make a lot more sense.