Where Our Heroes Heal

More than 2,000 servicemen injured in Iraq and Afghanistan have passed through National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., since 2003.

"I think the public should be aware that there is devastation and injury going on," said Bethesda intensive care nurse Allison Bischoff. "We hear on the news, 'X amount of service members killed,' but we never hear about injured, we never hear about recovered."

Body armor and helmets have saved many more lives than was possible in past American wars.

"We've been really fortunate that we've only lost a handful of these young men," said Lt. Cmdr. Eddie Lopez, who heads the intensive care unit at Bethesda. "That's just the loss of life, that's not the loss of quality of life."

Brain injury can dramatically change the lives of servicemen and servicewomen -- and their families.

Sarah Wade's husband, Sgt. Ted Wade, was hit by an IED -- an improvised explosive device -- on Valentine's Day 2004. Physicians were not sure he would survive. Ted pulled through but lost his right arm and suffered a brain injury.

"People can understand an amputee," Sarah Wade said. Brain injury is often called the invisible injury, as it is difficult to see and to understand.

A New Life, Post-Injury

"No one wants to go to Richmond and see ... the Marine Corps captain who lives in the room next to him who was drooling on himself, wearing diapers. It goes from being graphic to disturbing, and people don't want to see the disturbing part," said Sarah Wade.

Military wife Megan Boothby remembered the day her husband, Michael was critically injured in Iraq. "His commander from Iraq called me, and just told me that he was hit in the back of the head with an IED," she said.

Sgt. Michael Boothby has progressed through a difficult rehabilitation since the attack in September 2006.

"I pray every night for my husband, but most of my prayers go for those soldiers that are still there," Megan Boothby told Bob Woodruff. "We meet so many families. And they're here one day and they disappear the next … We don't know if they're just getting better or if they're dying."

Some Veterans Require Constant Care

"Not all the stories have a happy ending," Gail Ulerie said, speaking from experience.

Ulerie's son, Shurvon Philip, left for Iraq as a spirited, fun-loving 26-year-old Marine sergeant. He returned home with a severe brain injury in May 2005.

Shurvon Philip and Bob Woodruff were treated at Bethesda Naval Hospital during the same time. But chance led them to different recoveries.

Today, Shurvon understands what is happening around him but is only able to participate through his eyes. He cannot speak or move.

"When it first happened I was told that he would not be able to speak again," Ulerie remembered. "I was like, no, it's going to happen and I went into his room and I held him and I was like, 'Shurvon you can't do this, you have to fight.' ... It didn't happen."

Ulerie has lovingly and unflinchingly dedicated herself to her son's around-the-clock care. With the help of the Veteran's Association, Gail Ulerie and her son will be moving into a handicap-enabled home this spring.

"These are the real heroes," said Lt. Col. Rocco Armonda, a Bethesda neurosurgeon, of the injured veterans he treats. "When you see these individuals, thank them. Thank them for their sacrifice. Thank them for their contribution. But most of all, recognize their undying spirit and effort to continue to get better."

Bob and Lee Woodruff have established a fund to assist members of the military who are suffering from brain injuries. To learn more, click here: Bob Woodruff Family Fund.

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