Pace Picnic Honors America's Wounded Warriors
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
FORT MYER, Va., Jun. 17, 2007 Army Pfc. David Clatt's left arm has a curve in it where there shouldn't be one.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace, shakes hands with a wounded servicemember during a picnic in their honor at the Pace's home on Ft. Myer, Va., June 16, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
A military policeman, he was on patrol in Sadr City in East Baghdad when there was an explosion and a piece of shrapnel went right through it.
Two months later, Clatt was sitting on the grass in front of the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff's home here yesterday. Marine Gen. Peter Pace and his wife, Lynne, invited the young soldier and other warriors undergoing treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital for a picnic.
The picnic had the flavor of any outdoor activity anywhere in America. Kids played Frisbee or kicked around hackey sacks. Clowns made balloon animals. There was fried chicken, ribs, potato salad and desserts. Adults sat around tables and ate and talked and listened as a combo from the Marine Corps Band played country songs.
But it was different, too. One of the songs the combo played was "American Soldier" by Toby Keith. Clatt and another soldier sang along with the chorus: "I will always do my duty, no matter what the price; I've counted up the cost; I know the sacrifice."
These men and women do understand the sacrifice, and yet they want to do more. To a person, the injured soldiers want to get back to their units.
Army Spc. Caleb Huss, an infantryman from New Brighton, Minn., watched the festivities from his wheelchair and held his two-month-old son, Logan. Huss was serving in Kunar province in Afghanistan when an automobile accident ended his tour two weeks before he was due to come home. "I want to stay on active duty, but I don't know if I can yet," Huss said. "It depends on if my legs come back."
Huss was in the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry, 10th Mountain Division. "My guys (from the unit) keep in touch," he said. "They are doing all right."
Army Staff Sgt. Scott Gentry was in Mosul, Iraq, with the 4th Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division. He was on patrol when an improvised explosive device "rattled my clock pretty good," he said. He is blind in his right eye and surgery is rebuilding the right side of his face.
He, too, wants to go back to his unit. He said the third question he asked when he woke up in Walter Reed was about his men. "My first question was, 'Where am I?' My second was to my wife and that was, 'What are you doing here?' My third was, 'How are my boys?'" Gentry said.
The sergeant has 10 years in the Army, and said the service gave him something "no one else could." He said that he enlisted to better himself. "All my friends were into drugs or going to jail, and I wanted something different," he said. "The Army gave me a way out."
He said he has been pleased with the care he has received at Walter Reed, but wants out of the hospital as soon as possible. "I've seen too many friends at Walter Reed and that's not a place I want to have a reunion in," he said.
"Besides, my boys are still in Iraq," he continued. "I should be there with them."
The Paces spoke with all of the wounded warriors and their families individually. The general also spoke to them as a group. "Today is about saying 'Thank you' to our wounded warriors," Pace said. "You have freely given more than America could ever demand."
Pace thanked the families for their contributions and their sacrifices as they help care for those wounded. "I hope this helps you to know that your fellow Americans love and respect you," Pace said.