In September my friend Richard Botkin suggested I make a trip with him to Camp Pendleton, and to the Wounded Warriors Center across from the base hospital. Though a civilian, I was happy to return to the base as I married my wonderful Marine Corps brat in the Ranch House Chapel there. (And on my wedding morning my bride's USMC Colonel dad asked why I hadn't bothered to shine my shoes. Col. Helmer was a fine father-in-law, but every inch the Marine.)
The Wounded Warrior Center is home to up to a few dozen Marines completing their rehabilitation from wounds suffered in the war or in training for the war. It is one of many projects sponsored by The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, which contributed over $100,000 to the outfitting of the center. A Fallbrook friend, Carl, had helped get the center painted and had written me about it, but until you visit, you don't "get" the commitment of these wounded heroes to their rehabilitations.
That visit led to a three hour radio show yesterday which featured more than a dozen Marines from around the country who are in various stages of their rehabilitations from wounds ranging from the loss of one or two limbs, to severe burns, to traumatic brain injuries. It was a parade of heroes as each Marine (and an Army Sergeant and two Navy Petty Officers and a Corpsman) came forward to tell their stories of enlistment, service in war, injury and recovery. Often they were joined on air by a parent or spouse, and they all told of how the Semper Fi Fund had played a crucial role in allowing their recovery to proceed, whether by facilitating the travel to their side of a parent or family member or the purchase of needed equipment, like a specialty wheel chair which is allowing a Marine paralyzed from the waist down to attend culinary school on his way to a job cooking in a New Orleans eatery.