Cheney meets with wounded Soldiers
October 17, 2006
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Army News Service, Oct. 17, 2006) - Nine Fort Campbell Soldiers had the honor of personally interacting with Vice President Richard Cheney when he visited post Monday.
Eight of them were selected by their units for some one-on-one time with the vice president prior to his speech to a crowd of Soldiers waiting at Sabalauski Air Assault School. Cheney pinned the ninth with the Distinguished Flying Cross for demonstrating heroism during aerial flight in Iraq.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lori Hill, a pilot with the 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, was flying an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior March 21 when it came under heavy fire. Hill drew the fire away from the lead aircraft while simultaneously providing suppressive fire for the troops in contact with the enemy.
A rocket propelled grenade damaged the instrumentation of her aircraft, but instead of focusing on herself, Hill quickly established communication with the ground unit and provided them with aerial weapon support until they reached a safe location.
"We still had engine power," Hill said, "but it's kind of like driving without your power steering."
Three rounds of machine gun fire then hit her aircraft, one of which hit Hill's ankle. With a damaged aircraft and an injury, Hill safely landed the aircraft at Forward Operating Base Normandy, saving the aircraft and her crew.
"You always hope you'll be able to respond well, and you never actually know what's going to happen or how you're going to react when you get shot," she said. "I'm very happy that I was able to help the ground guys out and get our helicopter down and safe on the ground."
For her heroism that day in March, Hill was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing to get the award and then have the vice president come and award it to you," she said. "It's just incredible for any Soldier."
Master Sgt. Christopher Self, 5th Special Forces Group, was also selected by his unit to personally interact with the vice president.
Self was shot in the leg while he was doing physical training in Baghdad Dec. 27. Because of injuries sustained from the enemy engagement, Self's right leg was amputated below the knee July 13. He was appreciative of Cheney's willingness to spend time with the Soldiers at Fort Campbell.
"He's taking his time to come down here and see us," Self said. "It's just awesome."
Self's wife, Dana, is proud of her husband, who has been in the military for 21 years and has deployed five times.
"We're very proud and really honored to be one of the eight chosen to meet the vice president," Dana Self said. "Chris is an amazing Soldier. He's going to do great things."
As for her husband's injury, it hasn't affected his spirit, she said. "A good prosthetic is better than a bad leg. He's three months out and nothing is stopping him. He and I are running the Nashville marathon in the spring."
Along with the support of his wife, Chris has three children who are proud of their dad.
"The kids are so proud of him," Dana Self said. "They write stories about him all the time and share them with their friends; they're just very, very proud of him."
Specialist Matthew Torres, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, also had the opportunity to meet the vice president Monday.
Torres, 21, was in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Feb. 19 when snipers fired on his combat patrol. One of the rounds went through Torres' back and exited through his stomach.
"I was a little disoriented for a minute (after being shot)," Torres said. "My friends over there were great. They got me, they pulled me to safety, and got me out of there within a minute."
Torres said he is still in the process of recovering from his wound, but he plans to stay in the Army. "You don't just quit a job because you get hurt on it," he said.
Torres said he was grateful for the chance to mingle with the vice president. "(Cheney) asked me how I was and how I was recovering," Torres said. "He told us he was thankful for our service."
Cheney reflected on the Soldiers he met personally and all Fort Campbell Soldiers in his speech to the more than 4,000 troops in attendance.
"We've had to rely on the bravery, the toughness and the skill of some very dedicated Americans. The people of the United States know about the heroism you display every day in this war," Cheney said.
"We stand in total admiration ... Our freedom depends on men and women who live by the ethic of service above self and who place duty and the national interest above any considerations or personal comforts or safety. Those who put their lives on the line for America are the very best among us.""