Dog Face Soldiers Recover at Walter Reed
October 17, 2008
<b> FORT STEWART, GA </b> -- On June 19, 2007 Operation Iraqi Freedom V ended for Sgt. Tim Johannsen.
Johannsen was assigned to Battery B, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division when the humvee he commanded was struck by an improvised explosive device near the Iraqi community of Maderiyah, which is south of Baghdad.
Second BCT had been in Iraq less than a month and just kicked off Operation Marne Torch, an offensive operation to clear Al-Qaeda in Iraq insurgents from the area when Johannsen's humvee was struck.
"We were starting to build our patrol base," Johannsen said. "We were escorting barriers and we ran over a pressure plate."
The truck's driver and gunner where not hurt in the blast, however Johannsen's legs were severely injured.
"I was totally conscious and the humvee was filled with smoke," said Johannsen, who was serving on his second deployment to Iraq. "I tried to get out, but I couldn't move; I knew it was pretty bad."
The blast ended up taking both of Johannsen's legs. He is now recovering from his injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. Johannsen has been fitted with prosthetic legs and can walk.
Johannsen is assigned to the hospital's Warrior Transition Battery. His wife lives with him as he continues to rehabilitate.
There are 22 3rd ID Soldiers convalescing at WRAMC.
Depending on the type and extent of their injuries, the duty day for most of the Soldiers revolves around physical training, occupational therapy and any appointments they may have.
In 2005 WRAMC came under fire for having little accountability of Soldiers and their care. But First Lt. Mark Little said he has seen nothing but the hospital putting the Soldier's first. He said the care he's received at the hospital has been outstanding.
"Everything is awesome," said Little, who lost his legs when his humvee was struck with an explosively formed projectile in September 2007. He was a convoy commander in Company F, 26th Brigade Support Battalion which is the forward support company for 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT.
There are two full-time 3rd ID liaison's stationed at WRAMC who help to coordinate appointments and meetings between the Soldiers and the hospital.
Little said the liaisons have been "great" in helping the Soldiers with everything they need while they're at the hospital.
In July, Little was able to leave the hospital and welcome his company home as they landed at Hunter Army Airfield.
"I've tried to stay close to some of the guys," Little said. "I promised the guys I'd be there when they got home and I was able to greet them plane side. I stayed through reintegration. It was great just to be around everyone again."
Staff Sgt. Jason Letterman, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th BCT, was wounded in May 2008. He lost both of his legs in an IED blast. He said the medical staff at WRAMC has the best interest of the recovering Soldiers in mind.
"I have a really good therapist, she pushes me," Letterman said.
Elena Letterman can also see the progress her husband has made. "It's just amazing. I left once and he was using a walker to walk. I came back two days later and he was using a cane, it was great."
Various events are offered to the Soldiers at WRAMC.
Trips to government buildings and historical sites around Washington D.C. are popular and the hospital has started programs to help Soldiers after the Army.
Since many of the Soldiers decided to leave the Army after their treatment is complete WRAMC helps them sign up and attend college courses, job fairs and resume building classes are also offered.
Various companies also offer internships to Wounded Warriors.
The stays at WRAMC last from a few months to years. Johannsen has already been at WRAMC for more than a year and like many others, he said he hasn't decided if he'll stay in the Army.
He said the medical board decision will play a role in his decision but that process just started for him and it could take up to six months.
"I'm not sure what I'll do. I've thought about going Green to Gold but I'll just have to wait and see. There are a lot of things out there...the Army is always there but I think I'd go crazy if I got out," he said with a smile.