Regis Philbin Inspired by Wounded Service Members' Spirit
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 23, 2004 It seemed like old home week when television star Regis Philbin walked into the Walter Reed Army Medical Center hospital room of Army Spc. Danielle Green. They'd shot a few hoops together four years ago when Green was a basketball star at Philbin's alma mater, the University of Notre Dame.
Regis Philbin of the "Live with Regis and Kelly" television
talk show chats with his basketball buddy of four years ago, Army Spc. Danielle
Green during a June 22 visit to her hospital room at Walter Reed Army Medical
Center in Washington. Philbin and Green shot a few hoops when Green was a star
on the University of Notre Dame's women's basketball team. Photo by Rudi
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Green can't shoot hoops any more -- at least not with the left hand she used to score more than 1,100 points during her Notre Dame career. She lost her hand May 25 when she was hit by an enemy rocket in Iraq.
Philbin, who was visiting wounded service members at Walter Reed June 22, listened intently as Green talked about her nightmare on the roof of an Iraqi police station.
"The rocket hit my hand and damaged my thigh and face," Green said, staring into Philbin's concerned eyes. "It opened up my thigh. I fell down on my right side and laid there thinking, 'Oh, God, I don't want to die. I'm only 27 years old, and I haven't done enough in life.' So I laid there and said, 'I'm not having a lot of pain, and I'm not crying, so I might live to tell my story.'"
Green said she wanted to get up and run, but she realized that if she did, the enemy would probably have killed her with another rocket. "So I stayed there," said Green, who was serving in Iraq with the 571st Military Police Company from Fort Lewis, Wash. "About five minutes later, my team leader came up. He thought I was OK, but I said, 'I'm hurt!' He came over and tears just flowed from his eyes and he screamed for help."
Philbin listened quietly as Green told him that the incident taught her how to be a team player in a sense much different from basketball. "I realize that you have to learn how to trust that person to the left, to the right, to the front and to the rear," she said. "When I was on that rooftop, I was scared that no one would come up there and get me. I thought I'd be lying there for a long time. But five minutes later, they're performing first aid on me."
To Green, "the coolest story" was when her platoon sergeant and platoon leader returned to the roof of the police station to search for her hand.
"They looked for my hand because they wanted to retrieve my wedding rings," Green said, sporting the rings on her right hand as her husband, Willie Byrd, looked on smiling. "They found my hand under seven inches of sand on the roof. They got into trouble because they were not supposed to go back up there."
Looking directly at the television host, Green said her survival may help others. "It's some story, and I'm happy to be alive to tell it," Green said. "Hopefully it will inspire and motivate other people."
When Philbin walked into Army Cpl. Timothy J. Brosnan's room, the corporal was on the phone with his mother, Mercedes Brosnan. "Let me talk to her," the television star said. He chatted with her a bit, then invited her to his upcoming show in Atlantic City, N.J. He didn't get the answer he expected.
"She turned me down," Philbin said, staring at the phone. The corporal's mother can't make it because she has to work that day.
Philbin asked Brosnan how he was wounded. Brosnan said he was in a convoy when an improvised explosive device hit the lead vehicle.
"My vehicle drove past it through the cloud of smoke and pulled forward for security," the corporal said. "Another unit showed up and tried to help." When he and a lieutenant were going to get more stretchers from the lieutenant's vehicle, another bomb exploded, the corporal said. "The lieutenant and me went down, and four other guys got hit," he recalled. "That incident cost us two guys, three wounded, plus their three casualties," said Brosnan, as he sat in a wheelchair. "The lieutenant standing next to me didn't make it."
Philbin asked him why they couldn't see the bombs, and Brosnan explained that they're everywhere along the side of the road camouflaged by trash, and that they can be triggered from cell phones.
"It's hard to see an IED, because there's so much trash everywhere," said Brosnan, who was wounded June 4.
Brosnan told Philbin that the violence doesn't reflect the attitude of most Iraqis. "It's not the majority of the country that doesn't like us," he said. "We get a lot of respect. When my battalion went over there, we adopted an orphanage. At least once or twice a week, we'd go to see the children and bring them food and stuff. We'd spend time with them for four to five hours a day. We'd block the street off and play soccer with the kids.
"The majority of the people want us there," said Brosnan, who joined the Army on May 8, 1994. "It's just that still, certain people don't."
The phone rang and Brosnan said, "It's my girlfriend," and asked her, "You want to say hello to someone?" He handed the phone to Philbin, who said, "I'm listening to the big boy here, and he's telling me all about Iraq." He invited her to join her boyfriend and his mother as guests in the audience at his "Live with Regis and Kelly" show one day.
Army Spc. Patrick Wickens, 21, was pleased when Philbin stopped by his room. "There are not a lot of celebrities who will take time to visit us," he said. Wickens lost his right leg when a mortar round hit him May 15. He said he looks forward to getting out of the hospital and attending computer school.
His mother, Judy Wickens of Denton, Mont., said, "I thought Regis was a sweet man. On TV you think he's just a movie star, but I think he has a very nice personality. He was good to the guys.
"He was good to all of our soldiers by just coming and brighten their lives a little bit," she continued. "A lot of people don't know what these guys are going through here, and Regis seems to connect with them."
Philbin kissed her on the cheek as he was leaving the room. "That kind of shocked me, but it was very sweet," she said. "It touched my heart in a big way. I was kind of stressed yesterday. That kind of brought me back down to God telling me that it's all good. People do care."
Philbin sat down for a short interview after visiting the patients. He pointed out that his son, Daniel Philbin, suggested that he visit patients at Walter Reed. Dan works in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.
Regis Philbin said there's no way to fully understand what service members go through in war until you meet them in person. "It's a tremendous sacrifice they've given," he noted. "You read that word (sacrifice) in the paper all the time, but until you see what they've given for their country for all of us you can't really appreciate it."
He marveled at the spirit the wounded service members showed. "You know, their spirits are so high that you kind of forget that they've been wounded in action," he said. "Some of them are going to have a long stay in the hospital. Some of them are not going to get everything they had going into it. But they're a great morale booster just terrific people.
"It's a very sobering experience," he said.
Philbin said he was a Navy supply officer between the Korean and Vietnam wars, "but I'd never seen people who had been wounded in action. I think every citizen in this country should spend some time with people who have gone through this. It gives you a different outlook on what our armed forces are all about -- what our country is all about."
The wounded service members' sense of pride in their comrades and their units amazed him. "And how they would like to get back and be with them again," Philbin said. "It's quite inspiring."
Regis recorded a message for all service members around the world in which he said, "I've just visited some of the folks at Walter Reed Medical Center. I must tell you how impressed I am with their courage and their bravery and their good humor and their good spirits. These are people who have all been injured and wounded in battle.
"It was quite a sobering experience to see them and be with them," he said, "some of them here just two days out of Iraq. God love them. Their spirits are high enough to give you a boost. We're all thinking about you, praying for you and hope you get back here safely real soon."