Marine's Parents Grateful for Medical Care, Help Received
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2004 The parents of a Marine seriously injured in an Afghanistan vehicle accident are thankful their son is alive, and especially thankful for the medical care he has received.
Susan Brewer, center, president and founder of America's
Heroes of Freedom, has a good-natured laugh with John and Janice Hamberg, whose
son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daniel Hamberg, was being treated for wounds at
Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Brewer offered her organization's
help with the couple's expenses during visits to Washington to see their son.
Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daniel Hamberg, 21, was injured June 5, and was flown to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md., two days later. Doctors at Bethesda quickly determined his injuries were too severe to treat there or at nearby Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.
His parents, John and Janice Hamberg, expressed gratitude for the military doctors' assessment of their son's injuries and their quick decision to send him outside their system for treatment.
"The military doctors put their egos aside and did the best they could for our son, and spared no expense," the Marine's father said. "They sent him to the best place possible to treat his wounds."
The lance corporal was suffering from multiple injuries, including an open fracture of his pelvis, which his father was told was the worst the doctors had ever seen. He also had internal bleeding, nerve damage to his right leg and foot and other injuries. He was treated at the shock trauma center for about a month, and then recuperated at Walter Reed until Sept. 23, when he was able to go to his parents' home in Cincinnati.
"We got to Bethesda about three hours after he arrived," said John, who served five years in the Army and Army National Guard and 10 years of active duty in the Air Force. When their son arrived back in the states, Janice said, the only things he had with him were "whatever was in his uniform when they cut it off of him after he was wounded." That amounted to some notebooks, his dog tags and his wallet.
Visiting their son was expensive for the couple, but they say they're pleased with the help they received.
John, a logistics coordinator for Proctor and Gamble, said the government paid for the first week for him and his wife to visit their wounded son. "But after that, it was on us," he said.
"We were incredibly lucky, because our employers were both very generous on paying us and not making us take vacation time for a few weeks," said Janice, a payroll manager for a facilities-maintenance company. "I honestly don't know how people do it who can't leave their jobs."
She said the parents of a young man injured with her son have been driving back and forth from Philadelphia to be with their son. "His dad's a fireman," Janice said of the other Marine's family. "So he can't take off (work)."
John said he and his wife are pleased with the medical care his son received, but the military needs to take a look at the assistance provided to parents of wounded servicemembers. "Even though they want the families there for the patient's well-being and to help in the rehabilitation and recovery, they only pay for the first week's expenses for families," John Hamberg said. "For families like ours, that stayed there three months, that gets pretty expensive."
John said he and his wife have received financial help from the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, both nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping servicemembers and their families.
Susan Brewer, president and founder of America's Heroes of Freedom, also offered to help whenever the couple wants to visit their son. Brewer and her organization teamed with Washington's Willard Intercontinental Hotel to provide a five-star luncheon earlier this month for wounded servicemembers and their families.
"I'd love to help them so they can keep coming back and forth to see their son," Brewer said. "We're prepared to fly them and lodge them every time they come back and forth. These are immediate needs when a family needs money to come in. As nonprofits, we shouldn't sleep at night until we get it. I call everyone I know and say, 'Do we have any airline miles?' and we get them. So far, we've never had to say no."
Hamberg is on the mend at his parents' home. "He started physical therapy (Sept. 28) at the University of Cincinnati, and will be doing that three times a week," his father said via telephone. "He'll be re-evaluated at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in November or December, and will have to return to Bethesda next March for an evaluation."
The young Marine said he never thought he wouldn't make it, but he's surprised to have improved as much as he has. "I'm not sure how we got into the actual wreck because I was asleep in the back of the truck," said the former high school football cornerback. "I was an infantryman rifleman with 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. I'd been in Afghanistan for two and a half months before I got in the accident."
Hamberg said he's been called "the million-dollar man" because he's received so much sophisticated medical care. "I think I got the best treatment in America," he said. "I'm lucky to be alive today."