Prince Harry Meets Wounded Warriors, Walter Reed Staff
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
BETHESDA, Md., May 10, 2013 The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center here has hosted celebrities, heads of state, sports stars, and today royalty, as Britain’s Prince Harry paid a visit to encourage wounded warriors and learn about the cutting-edge treatments being used to care for them.
Britain's Prince Harry, center, talks with Army Staff Sgt. Tim Payne, right, and Navy Special Operator 2 Bo Reichenbach, left, wounded warriors undergoing treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., May 10, 2013. DOD photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The prince, who visited Arlington National Cemetery earlier today, arrived at the bustling Bethesda hospital in his British Army camouflage uniform to hear about the technologies being used to treat wounded warriors, particularly amputees.
A British Army captain who has deployed twice to Afghanistan, Harry mingled easily among the wounded warriors in the hospital here, talking with several individually to ask about their injuries, their treatment and their prognosis for leaving the hospital and moving on with their lives.
Visiting the computer-aided rehabilitative environment lab, Harry cheered on Army Spc. Corey Garmon during his first session on a large, round contraption that looks like a cross between a treadmill and carnival tilt-a-roll.
The prince leaned on a bar surrounding the device as Garmon, who lost both legs to an improved-explosive-device blast in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in July 2012, walked along a rolling stone path through a forest -- all virtual and projected onto a giant screen in the darkened room.
“We’ve got nothing like this back in the U.K.,” he told Garmon, who received his prostheses in November.
But Navy Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks, the Walter Reed commander who accompanied Harry throughout his visit, said much of the discussion focused on ways the American and British militaries share medical expertise and how they might collaborate closer in treating wounded warriors.
In fact, one of the devices the staff demonstrated to Harry, -- a mechanical hand -- is manufactured in the United Kingdom, Stocks noted.
“He was very interested in our technology and how we can work together in the future,” the admiral said. “But the thing he was the most interested in was meeting with the warriors and the families. He has deployed himself, so he feels that bond, and that was obvious.”
Harry visited the hospital’s Military Advanced Training Center, where dozens of wounded warriors were undergoing their rehabilitative regimens under the watchful eyes of their caregivers.
The prince walked through the room, shook hands with the patients, posed for photos when asked to, and spoke with them quietly, individually, about their wounds and recovery. He laughed with them, occasionally grimaced when they described their injuries, and became, as one soldier said, “just like one of the guys.”
Army Staff Sgt. Tim Payne, a 30-year-old 10th Mountain Division soldier who lost both legs during a dismounted patrol in Kandahar in Afghanistan in July 2011, praised the treatment he is receiving.
“The care they have given us here is fantastic,” Payne said he told the prince. “You really can’t beat it, anywhere.”
An avid swimmer who does much of his rehabilitation in Walter Reed’s pool, Payne said he also told Harry he hopes one day to swim the English Channel.
“He said I’m crazy,” Payne laughed. “But overall, he seems like a really nice guy and I think it’s really nice that he took the time to come visit us.”
Special Operator 2 Bo Reichenbach, a Navy SEAL who was medically retired after losing both legs above the knee to an IED in Afghanistan’s Oruzgan province in July 2012, said he was impressed that the prince was so interested in hearing his story.
“He seemed like the kind of guy who would really like to spend more time talking with us,” Reichenbach said of the prince. “He was really interested in being here with us and talking about our health care. And we told him that we all want to be here, because for us, this is the best place.”
Back the darkened computer-aided rehabilitative environment lab, Harry watched as Garmon negotiated his platform as it sped up, slowed down and occasionally tilted to simulate rolling hills. To add to the challenge, Garmon was instructed to use his arms to bat away sinister-looking virtual birds that headed toward him from the screen.
“One hundred, huh?” Harry challenged him, giving the thumbs up as Dr. Chuck Scoville, head of the department of rehabilitation, explained the lab’s function and the scoring system used to measure patient progress.
Harry laughed and yelled out a few “heys” as Garmon swatted at the “birds,” then congratulated him for tallying a 72-percent hit rate during the session.
Garmon told Harry he’s receiving “awesome” care at Walter Reed that helps him heal both physically and mentally.
“Once you leave here, you are good to go,” he told the prince.
Stocks said he wishes more people could have the chance to experience what Prince Harry saw today at Walter Reed.
What makes it so special, he said, are the medical caregivers who connect with families from the day they arrive until the day they leave, the families who stand by their loved ones and the wounded warriors themselves.
“The people here are amazing,” Stocks said.
“I believe it would be a wonderful opportunity for everyone in America to spend a day or two on this campus,” he said, “and see the spirit of these families and the spirit of these warriors” and their determination to move forward in their lives, whether in the military or as full members of society.
“It is truly amazing, and not one that I have spoken to has any regrets,” Stocks said. “They are so proud to have served their country.”