QUESTION: I wondered if you can talk about why you're here, the significance of this program and what you're seeing.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, this is the third year they've done it. Joyce (Rumsfeld) was here last year. What we have is a group of people who have been severely wounded in every case. I think there are 24 here now or something like that. I don't know how many skied before, but I would guess not half. None, obviously, had skied with a disability. So what you have is a group of people who have been instructed by people, many of whom have disabilities themselves or have been taught to assist individuals with disabilities. The instructors are just terrific. Wonderful, wonderful, talented people.
How many are repeat?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Five. And the rest are all doing it for the first time. Most of this time they have, in some instances have spouses which --
VOICE: Actually, all but three.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Is that right?
VOICE: Three have their sons.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: They have a chance to -- They're not all up here for lunch, are they?
VOICE: No, because all of them can't get here.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: That's right, this is off the top run.
When they leave, a lot of them go back to therapy or they go back to the Wounded Warrior Barracks and end up living with and working with others who have disabilities who have not progressed as far as they have. The result being that they become -- they inspire others to achieve things they otherwise might not aspire to do. The effect of it is that it has a ripple effect. We were talking this morning, it's like dropping some pebbles in a pond so the ripples go out. These people all are in one way or another not only benefit themselves in terms of their confidence and moving to a new plateau as to what they can do, but they will provide that same kind of inspiration to others.
We have a friend named Gordon Dunn who went blind in his 20s if I’m not mistaken, from retinal pigmentosis. He skied after this, and I'm trying to think what he said. He literally felt that it freed him to ski, being blind. There's something about being outside in the fresh air and having a chance to physically do something that I think gives them a sense of freedom that they otherwise wouldn't get.
QUESTION: I’ve talked to a lot of vets who have seen you before; you’ve come through after they were injured. What's it like seeing them in their hospital beds and then seeing them here?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I've seen a lot of them in therapy as well as in their hospital beds, but they take them out of the theater so fast and into Landstuhl (Germany) for a very short period of time, until they're stabilized, then they're in Bethesda or Walter Reed within a matter of two or three days, frequently, at the very very early stages of their recuperation. Then we go back frequently, so sometimes I'll see them again before they've been moved on to wherever they're going to go, Brooke Army Hospital or a rehabilitation center that specializes in one thing or another.
It's not a lot different. They come into those places with a lot of confidence and a good deal of pride. The amazing thing to me is not so much the troops but their families and how -- it's really inspirational to be with them, their parents, their children, their spouses. I suppose they have gotten a very strong sense over a sustained period of time of what their father, or husband, or wife, whichever it may be, thinks about their service and how proud they are of their service. So when they're injured and you go to visit them in the hospital it's not as though they don't understand how important those soldiers and sailors and Marines feel what they've been doing is. They understand how important they believe it is and how respectful they are of the service that they've provided.
I think that the thing that always amazes me is how the strength of the troops migrates into the families, and it's just almost always that you find them strong and proud of the service of the individual who's been injured. But it's fun to see them here, up and out in the fresh air.
QUESTION: Most of them I've talked to want to go back.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: They do. It's very common. It's very common. And they go back, too, a lot of them. We have one here that went back. (Captain) Dave Rozelle went back.
QUESTION: They're very appreciative of, it seems like the recent [inaudible] stay on active duty. That's one thing I've heard a lot.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: A lot of them want to stay on active duty and a lot of them are able to stay. They're finding ways that that can happen, that they can stay on active duty.
Of course this is all new. The speed of getting people who are injured into stabilizing care in the field and then at a field hospital, and then in Landstuhl, it all happens so fast. People are living today who never would have lived in any prior war. There's a corollary to that, obviously. You have a lot of people who are wounded very severely who would not have been the case in previous years. Therefore what they're doing today after they've been so severely wounded is also new, and it takes the technologies that are being applied to prosthesis and the adjustments that the Armed Services are making to accommodate to people who have disabilities that would have been disabling, if you will, previously, but which are no longer disabling because of a combination of things: One, the technologies that have come along, but also the accommodation that the individuals make and also that the Services make. So it is impressive.
QUESTION: Why is it so important that programs like this one [inaudible] put together continue, and the American public continues to show support to not just our wounded troops, but all our troops?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: If you do something that you believe is important it is reinforcing to have other people demonstrate that they also believe it's important. That is a wonderful thing about our country. You think of all the criticism our country takes around the world and yet there isn't, to my knowledge, a nation that is as generous both with respect to its own people as we see in so many programs here, but also as generous to other people around the world. The charities that people give to, in our country, that provide funds for people who have distinctive needs of one type or another, are just enormous sums of money in our country. There are also enormous sums of money that go for people all across the globe in need.
It says a lot about our country. It’s a wonderful country and it often is not credited with the generosity of spirit and the compassion that the American people have.
VOICE: Thanks very much.