Video: Wounded warriors

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updated 8/26/2005 2:37:17 PM ET 2005-08-26T18:37:17
STORY

After joining the army to see the world, Sgt. Jeremy Feldbusch was blinded by shrapnel from a mortar while guarding an Iraqi dam.

“I do see with other people's eyes but I don't see with my eyes anymore,” says the former soldier.  “I see with my heart.”

Still, Jeremy continues to fight for his fellow soldiers.  He’s battling to win much-needed financial help for severely injured service members — a situation he knows all too well.

After his injury in April, 2003, Jeremy was transported to a Texas military hospital, spending two months battling brain injuries and blindness.  In a coma for six weeks, his parents never left his side.

His mother Charlene was forced to quit her job, cutting the family income almost in half and adding financial burdens to the emotional ones. 

“Your mortgage, your car payment, your utility bills, your taxes — everything still has to be taken care of.  You really don’t want to think about those things, your thought is with your soldier,” says Charlene.  “It can be very stressful.”

Now twenty-five-years-old, Jeremy continues his recovery at home.  And as he's discovered, though military health insurance covers medical bills, before a service member begins receiving veteran's benefits the cost-of-living expenses can add up.

Charlene says, “There are months and sometimes a year before [benefits] are transitioned into the Veterans Administration."

It didn't take long for the Feldbush family to see they were not alone in their financial struggles. Thousands of wounded military members and their families face these challenges during recovery.

So Jeremy teamed up with other fellow veterans, traveling to Washington last month, representing the non-profit Wounded Warrior Project.  Their goal — to establish a form of disability insurance, costing service members one dollar a month, easing the financial burdens for future servicemen and women severly wounded in combat.

As Jeremy said during a meeting on the Hill with Sen. Larry Craig, “This is one of those holes that needs to be filled.”  The young veterans soon found the support they needed from the Idaho senator.

Sen. Craig says the soldiers nearly broke records by passionately pushing through legislation in just weeks.

Craig recalls, “what they said to me that was so profound was this is not for us,  this is for our friends."

President Bush signed the amendment into law last week as part of the latest war-spending bill, thanks in part to a young veteran who continues to serve his country and the men and women of the armed forces.

“I'm always going to be there for them, have to. Never leave a fallen comrade behind.”

The amendment will approximately pay between $25,000 and $100,000 to wounded soldiers based on the severity of the injury, and should be in place within 180 days.

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