KABUL, Afghanistan — After surviving severe combat injuries and enduring years of intense physical rehabilitation, eight U.S. service members returned to Afghanistan for a chance to exit the country on their own terms.
During a stop at Camp Phoenix, the group entered the camp’s meeting hall to thunderous applause from nearly 200 coalition service members who came to hear their stories.
“There is an incredible amount of guilt we carry for leaving you all in the fight,” said Capt. Samuel Brown during the visit.
Brown, whose vehicle struck an improvised explosive device during his previous tour, spent nearly three years at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio for burn treatment after the incident.
To help reduce that guilt, the service members continue to represent their service by staying in the military or participating in Operation Proper Exit.
The program fulfills a need for some veterans to gain a sense of closure by returning to where their injuries took place.
“Many warriors often ask to return to the place where they were injured to come to grips with what’s happened to them,” said Rick Kell, program director.
During the visit, Staff Sgt. Earl Granville talked about how he deals with the loss of his left foot and the loss of his brother, who committed suicide. The two joined the Pennsylvania National Guard together.
After their introductions, the group opened up the discussion to questions from the audience. Granville broke down as he recalled his injuries and spoke of his brother. He also urged each member of the audience to pay attention to changes in their battle buddies’ behavior to prevent further suicide attempts.
“Before a bad day becomes a bad month, talk to your buddies,” Granville said.
The group said they hoped their visit might help them better deal with their injuries.
In the end, Task Force Centurion Commander, Brig. Gen. William Hall thanked the veterans for their service and said, “I don’t know who got more out of your stories, but I think we all gained from your visit.”