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New group of wounded vets returns to Iraq

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Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 12:00 pm | Updated: 9:14 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Sgt. Lindsey Bradford

United States Forces-Iraq public affairs

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - Rick Kell, executive director of the Troops First Foundation, has done it again. Six wounded warriors arrived in Baghdad in C-130 Hercules Jan. 31 and took their first steps in Iraq after being severely wounded the last time they were here.

This is the fourth time Kell, with support from the USO, has returned wounded servicemembers to Iraq as part of "Operation Proper Exit," a program aimed at helping the warriors find emotional closure after being injured.

Although this is the fourth trip, this set of soldiers differs from previous groups, since all six are retired.

Capt. Ferris Butler was serving with 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, in Yusufiyah, Iraq, when he was struck by an improvised explosive device Dec. 21, 2006.

Butler, a Port Tobacco, Md., native, suffered a bilateral amputation below the knee. Butler, who works as the executive assistant for Ekistics Development Firm based out of Baltimore, Md., is on the board of advisors for Kell's Troops First Foundation and is an Amputee Coalition of America peer mentor.

He is a ninth-generation servicemember and has a brother serving in Afghanistan.

While serving in Ramadi, Iraqi, with the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Capt. Lonnie Moore was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. Moore underwent an above-the-knee amputation after the April 6, 2004, attack.

A program analyst for the Army Warrior Transition Command, Moore is also a board member on the National Council on Disability and a chairman for Operation Homefront-Southern California.

The 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry, was deployed to Ramadi in 2005 when Master Sgt. Tom Carpenter was injured in an explosion. The soldier suffered an above-the-knee amputation, in addition to a left foot amputation.

Carpenter was originally scheduled to join soldiers on Operation Proper Exit III, but severe weather in his hometown of Hastings, Mich., prevented him from leaving.

Carpenter is enrolled in school and hoping to finish college in the future, while enjoying the company of his children and grandchildren.

Sgt. Omar Avila, a Brownsville native, was serving in Adhamiyah, Iraq, when he was injured May 14, 2007, by a 200-pound, improvised explosive device.

The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, soldier sustained burns to 75 percent of his body and a foot amputation. Since retiring, Avila has started college again, coaches a basketball team for young children and speaks at local schools in the area.

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