CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: A special edition of HARDBALL. Inside Walter Reed, a soldier‘s journey home. Tonight we meet the soldiers recovering from serious wounds at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Fisher House. For many of these fighting men and women, it‘s the first stop on their long journey home.
This is Walter Reed Army Medical Center where many of America‘s sons and daughters come to have the best healing hands in the world mend their wounds. One of them is Sergeant David Glenn, recovering from wounds suffered in Afghanistan.
(voice-over): A dream wedding for Robin and David Glenn. They married in September, 2003 at a military chapel at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The couple honeymooned at Walt Disney World, and two weeks later, army special forces medic Sergeant David Glenn shipped out to Afghanistan.
Today David‘s life is very different. He wears his wedding ring around his neck because his ring finger is gone, his left hand and foot shattered and his right leg amputated after an anti-tank mine exploded near his humvee while on patrol.
His determined face battle scarred from shrapnel, but also shattered his jaw.
SGT. DAVID GLENN, ARMY MEDIC INJURED IN AFGHANISTAN: I was kind of not all there at first. My head was thrown in, my ears were ringing, I couldn‘t see at first. Some guy, my friend Johnny started working on me at first. He started patching me up when I started coming around. I was directing him, to make sure he was doing the right things.
MATTHEWS: So you were directing your own treatment.
D. GLENN: Yes.
MATTHEWS: And the first thing was your leg, right?
D. GLENN: Actually, my friend, he wouldn‘t let me see my legs. I was there and not there. I mean, I saw my hand was pretty messed up.
MATTHEWS: So you were able to keep in control of the situation even if you were hit this way.
D. GLENN: I stayed with it.
MATTHEWS: What kind of word did you get on this of his getting wounded that bad over there?
ROBIN GLENN, SGT. DAVID GLENN‘S WIFE: I actually had a chaplain from his team and another gentleman that was on the team with him prior that was also at our wedding. They arrived at the house and they were waiting for me.
MATTHEWS: Was it one of those terrible things where you see the car arrive or the taxi arrive?
R. GLENN: They weren‘t in their dress uniforms. I knew it was OK. They said that he had been injured and my first thought was, OK, so he lost a leg. I can live with that.
MATTHEWS: That was in your head already.
R. GLENN: When they came up to me, I don‘t know why, that was the first thought that went through my head. They said we needed to go upstairs and talk and it just started to feel like a dream after that.
MATTHEWS: Robin, who lives with Dave here at Fisher House on the grounds of Walter Reed Medical Center plays an important part of his rehabilitation. She‘s with him every day, helping him every painful step of the way.
D. GLENN: I‘ve been on an artificial leg for almost a month now. I still can‘t weight bear on my left leg yet. So I just set up physical therapy every day on crutches or walking. You can‘t call it walking. It‘s hobbling.
MATTHEWS: What are you bouncing on? The prosthetic? Or you‘re bouncing on your left...
D. GLENN: The prosthetic.
MATTHEWS: You can‘t put weight there.
Is this the real thing or is this a trainer?
D. GLENN: This is the one I‘m using right now. You can see, it is like pear-shaped. My leg was still pretty swollen from the surgery itself.
BUNNIE WYCKOFF, WALTER REED PHYSICAL THERAPIST: I really love working with the soldiers. Particularly, they are well motivated, they were in great shape before they were injured, and it is so rewarding to see them progress.
D. GLENN: She sat me up. Probably the first time I‘ve been vertical since I was injured. I almost passed out just from siting up. I hated seeing her the first couple times.
WYCKOFF: That‘s where I think our love/hate relationship started.
The whole team that we worked together with, everyone really cares. You guys, they just really give us back so much more than we ever give them. And to see how much they accomplish is fantastic.
MATTHEWS: What was your success rate at getting people back alive if you treated them?
D. GLENN: Everyone I‘ve gotten to an A-station (ph), I‘ve treated myself, has made it.
MATTHEWS: So you were a good guy for them to meet out there.
D. GLENN: I guess.
MATTHEWS: I mean it. Because you know how to treat them. And you had cases like this?
D. GLENN: Nothing actually this severe. My own case is probably the most severe I‘ve ever seen.
MATTHEWS: So what‘s your hunch right now? You‘re going to stay in the military?
D. GLENN: I would like to but I don‘t think...
MATTHEWS: What are they telling you?
D. GLENN: I have to go rehabilitate myself.
MATTHEWS: That could take a year, right?
D. GLENN: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, what do you think? Do you think he should stick it?
R. GLENN: This is all he‘s known. It‘s what he wants. So I have to support what he wants to do.
MATTHEWS: You had a good training? You had good equipment? And this is the price of war?
D. GLENN: Yes. It happens.
MATTHEWS: Do you want to go back to Afghanistan or Iraq?
D. GLENN: If I had the opportunity, I would.
D. GLENN: It‘s where I belong. I mean, I‘m not trying to sound
brainwashed or anything like that. But I‘m a soldier. My place to be is -
· I‘m hired to fight wars for this country. That‘s my place. That‘s where I should be.
Coming up, David Shuster on the inner workings of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center where miracles happen every day.
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a former commander-in-chief, when I was a lot younger I served 11 years in the Navy. As a matter of fact that‘s longer than anyone since Dwight Eisenhower, since the Civil War era. I know what it means to serve our country. And I want to express my deep gratitude and admiration for all of you who have been wounded or suffered in some way in the Iraqi war.
So on behalf of many Americans, I want to express my deep gratitude and my admiration and wish you all a very rapid recovery and the honor and dignity and respect and appreciation. Thank you very much. God bless you.
MATTHEWS: I‘m Chris Matthews. And welcome back to this special edition of HARDBALL, honoring men and women wounded in war. And here‘s David Shuster with a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most prestigious medical centers in the world, named after the 19th century Army medical doctor, Walter Reed.
DAVID SHUSTER, HARDBALL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Casey Owens is 22 years old. Three months ago in Iraq, an anti-tank mine blew off part of both of his legs. The explosion also broke his jaw and collar bone, and pierced his body with 200 pieces of shrapnel.
CPL. CASEY OWENS, WOUNDED IN IRAQ: I was pretty much unconscious and sedated until I arrived at Bethesda, and that was about three weeks later. During that time, my lungs collapsed. I had a bunch of blood clots. One of them went to my heart. There was a lot of close calls. Now I‘ve gotten to this point in such a short time, it kind of reflects the kind of care that I‘m getting here.
SHUSTER: And on this day at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Casey Owens was trying out some new prosthetic legs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I need you to do is take a big step with this foot. Right here.
SHUSTER: And walking for the first time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to see this change colors.
SHUSTER: The technology is state-of-the-art. A computer analyzes an amputee‘s style of walking and then sets microprocessors in each prosthesis that analyze and adjust to more than 70 variable a second.
MICHAEL VOGT, WALTER REED: It is able to tell how much pressure is put on the foot at any certain time, so we know the knee won‘t stumble and he won‘t fall. And it will make it—unless most prosthetics, it will make it so he can go downstairs and go down ramps. With most prosthetics, it is more of a side step. But he‘ll actually master going up and down the stairs here. And that‘s pretty amazing for an above-knee amputee.
OWENS: It feels good to be up, to be back on my feet.
Yeah, a lot better with that padding.
SHUSTER (on camera): While the break-throughs here may seem revolutionary, Walter Reed actually has a storied history that goes back nearly 100 years.
(voice-over): The facility was originally built in 1909 and named after Dr. Walter Reed, who made a crucial scientific breakthrough while he was in the Army.
MAJ. GEN. KENNETH L. FARMER, WALTER REED COMMANDER: A young Army major who discovered the relationship of the mosquito as the vector for yellow fever, and that allowed us to build the Panama Canal.
SHUSTER: Today this facility has been built into the nation‘s largest Army medical center. There are 3,800 staff members, including 600 doctors, 300 registered nurses, and more than 250 inpatient beds.
FARMER: Out of the 13,000 or so casualties from Iraq, we‘ve gotten about 3,800 of them right here at Walter Reed. About a little over 900 of those battle casualties, about 900 of them is inpatients. About 180 of them amputees.
SHUSTER: But those injuries from Iraq still present the cutting edge doctors and staff here with a unique challenge.
LT. COL. PAUL PASQUINA, WALTER REED: They‘re dirty wounds. They‘re bringing the types of blast injuries that the soldiers are sustaining, are bringing with them a significant amount of—imagine mud, bacteria, dirt. And foreign bacteria, things that aren‘t necessarily common organisms that you find in the United States.
SHUSTER: When a soldier is seriously injured in Iraq, military field doctors will dress the wounds, but try to leave them open. The soldiers then flown to the Army medical center in Landstuhl, Germany, and once in a sanitary environment there, or here at Walter Reed, doctors will finish washing out the wounds before closing them. Then their condition will be reevaluated.
PASQUINA: They may have multiple fractures on the other limb. They might have significant nerve damage to their upper extremities. They might have a head injury. They might have internal organ damage. So all of these things need to be treated simultaneously in a coordinated effort.
SHUSTER: And the effort includes giving family members free housing on campus.
FARMER: Having those family members there, along with peer mentor amputees that come in every day and work with them, it just really does help in the total recovery.
SHUSTER: And here one of the long-term recovery goals includes restoring a soldier‘s independence. The occupational therapy wing features mock apartments, just like this one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing here is handicap-accessible. Everything here is just like normal living, as if you were in an apartment that doesn‘t have handicap accessibility.
SHUSTER: Juanita Wilson lost her left arm this past August in Baghdad due to a roadside bomb. Now, she is learning how to prepare meals and fold laundry all over again.
STAFF SGT. JUANITA WILSON, WOUNDED IN IRAQ: And you quickly learn as an amputee in occupational therapy that things don‘t always have to be perfect. They just have to be the best you can do.
SHUSTER: The appliances and equipment here were added in just the last few months. Thanks to help from the Walter Reed women‘s auxiliary.
NORA O‘DONNELL, WALTER REED WOMEN AUXILIARY: We receive requests and we try to respond to those requests from the different departments and the different clinics and from the Red Cross and Army community service, Army family team building.
SHUSTER: But for all the organizations, all the volunteers and the countless number of doctors and staff, the future even here still comes down to each individual patient.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you feeling? Are you feeling you‘re ready to go?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Great.
SHUSTER: Casey Owens faces another four or five months of tough and often painful physical therapy. But he has plans.
OWENS: I‘m hoping to get up and running before I go home. There‘s, say, a 10k that I‘m looking to run in June. Before that, I‘m going skiing in February and April.
SHUSTER: Indeed, even though life has changed permanently for Casey Owens and so many others at Walter Reed, every day they are reminding themselves and us that their courage, resiliency and pride lives on.
I‘m David Shuster for HARDBALL in Washington.
MATTHEWS: Up next, a guided tour of Fisher house, the home away from home for recovering soldiers and their families. This is a special edition of HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: I‘m Chris Matthews. And welcome pack to this HARDBALL special edition, paying tribute to our injured fighting men and women.
Now a tour of the Fisher House, a real house for recovering soldiers and their families.
KENNETH FISHER, FISHER HOUSE FOUNDATION, CEO: The idea behind Fisher House is to give families injured or sick, service member and women, an affordable place to stay. The core of Fisher House is these houses. We essentially put the houses up and then we gift them to whatever branch of the military they serve.
MATTHEWS: What‘s the longest stay? what sort of tenure do people have?
FISHER: Typically it was about two weeks. But given our actions right now in Iraq and Afghanistan, it‘s really as long as they need to be here. Nobody is ever kicked out of here.
CONNIE HALFAKER, DAUGHTER WOUNDED IN IRAQ: The Fisher House Foundation has been a most remarkable gift to us. And not just us. To all the families. The fisher houses are kind of like a bed and breakfast, more of a family situation.
FISHER: This is an eight-room house that was opened in 1997. There are 32 that are in operation right now. We are building the largest one we‘ve ever built down in Houston, Texas, which is going to be a 21-room house.
MATTHEWS: You‘ve got the key.
FISHER: Yes. We found the key.
MATTHEWS: OK, great.
FISHER: This is the living room. This is typical of the smaller eight-room house. As you can see, there is a very comfortable seating area here. This is really for the families to get together. As you can see, we have the Christmas Tree up. That was decorated by the families. So there‘s a real sense of family. That‘s what these houses are promoting.
R. GLENN: The Fisher House has been great. Since we‘ve been able to get in here, everyone has a private bedroom and their bathroom. There‘s a communicate kitchen. There‘s washers and dryers to use. There‘s a community living room, family room, a community dining room. Not only does it give as you place to sleep and rest our head at night and just comfortably be together, there‘s a support system that is created here.
FISHER: This is where the families get together and have their meals. The families will sit together. They‘ll eat together. It is all part of the support network. It is a very stressful time for all these families that have basically been thrown into this similar circumstances, which is a need for an affordable place to stay and a loved one who is sick or injured. So, that‘s the beauty part of the foundation.
MATTHEWS: Look at this. How long have you been here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About three weeks.
MATTHEWS: What happened?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My son had complications at birth. And he had four surgeries done in Germany. And then we came here to follow up on his liver enzyme levels.
MATTHEWS: Wow. How‘s it look? Is everything all right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, everything seems to be working out fine.
MATTHEWS: It looks more and more like a bed and breakfast, Ken.
FISHER: You know what, it‘s got that feel. But again, with the sense of family here, it really is a home.
Chris, this is a typical bedroom here in Fisher House II. This is set up for, you know, a family that may have children with them. We have a desk over there where they can do some work or write some letters home and then television here and some draws, a bathroom here. Every room has its own bathroom. This is all part of being comfortable during these stressful time.
MATTHEWS: So this has been pretty amazing. You know, when I was coming in here, Ken, I just saw this plaque over here.
What does that mean to you? The family heir to this whole operation?
FISHER: Well, this quote is on every house that we build. It‘s dedicated to our greatest national treasure, our military servicemen and women, and their loved ones. This is our legacy now. And this house really is dedicated to servicemen and women that we have come in many cases to take for granted.
MATTHEWS: Are you going to teach your kids to keep up this legacy?
FISHER: Do you know what, Chris? I hope when my kids get older, they never have to build a house, because there‘s never a need for one. But That May not be realistic. And I would be thrilled to have my children carry on that legacy.
MATTHEWS: Up next, the personal story of a West Point grad. A young woman wounded in Iraq.
MATTHEWS: I‘m Chris Matthews.
And welcome back to this HARDBALL special edition paying tribute to our injured fighting men and women. Come with me as General Barry McCaffrey and I meet some of the soldiers here at Walter Reed.
MATTHEWS: So, when you were here for two years, what was your injury?
RET. GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: I had my left arm blown off by a machine gun. So I was in and out of here a couple of years, maybe five or six major surgeries, an unbelievable package of care.
MATTHEWS: So you‘re pretty—are you fully capable now?
MCCAFFREY: Well, no. You know, it never comes all the way back.
But what they do here, not only do they medically treat you in the chronic phase, but they give you physical therapy and occupational therapy and set you up for life, either back in the Army or out with your family.
MATTHEWS: Here we go.
MCCAFFREY: Here we are. Go ahead.
SGT. JOSEPH BOZIK, WOUNDED IN IRAQ: Hello. How are you doing?
MCCAFFREY: It‘s like being a rock star or something, isn‘t it?
MCCAFFREY: Good to see you, soldier.
BOZIK: Glad to meet you.
MATTHEWS: Chris Matthews.
MCCAFFREY: Yes. Thanks for your service.
BOZIK: It‘s my pleasure. It truly is.
MCCAFFREY: Yes. You‘re looking pretty tough right now.
BOZIK: Well, thank you. Thank you. I‘m not that tough right now, though.
MCCAFFREY: Tell me how you were injured.
BOZIK: I was driving—actually, I‘m a team leader, so I was riding in an up-armored Humvee. And we drove over an anti-tank mine. It was daisy chain with 2155 mortar rounds.
MCCAFFREY: Oh, my gosh.
BOZIK: Yes. And it exploded on the right side front tire. And, of course, that‘s where I sit. And so it blew me and my driver, my gunner out of the Humvee. And that‘s how I was injured.
MCCAFFREY: Armored Humvee. Were you wearing body armor?
BOZIK: Thank God.
MCCAFFREY: Blast glasses?
MCCAFFREY: So your eyesight is OK?
MCCAFFREY: How is your pain doing?
BOZIK: It‘s doing very well, actually. I just came off of all the heavy medication. They took the epidural out a couple days ago. And it is doing very well. It‘s doing very well.
I have got my leg—my leg—my left leg, I was having a little trouble with. They finally got it closed up now. And so it‘s just a matter—I have a fracture in both femurs and a fracture on my humerus. So, whenever they heal up, then I‘ll be good to go.
MATTHEWS: How is this hand for use?
BOZIK: Oh, it is OK. It‘s moving along. Obviously, you can see my thumb is casted. And that‘s your opposable appendage that you actually when you grab things.
BOZIK: You use your thumb. And I‘m not able to use my thumb, so I‘ll have to use my two fingers as like a pinching thing.
MATTHEWS: What is the prognosis for your thumb?
BOZIK: I had a fracture in my thumb. So they put a pin in. And it healed up. They have already taken X-rays. It has healed up wonderful. And tomorrow, actually, they‘re going to take the pins out of my hand and put my hand in a cast and give me more range of motion with my fingers.
MATTHEWS: Yes. This is the best place, right?
BOZIK: Actually, yes. I would much rather have come here than go to any civilian hospital.
MATTHEWS: Well, you look great, believe it or not.
BOZIK: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know what this youth and excitement is all about here, but you look great.
BOZIK: Thank you. Thank you.
MCCAFFREY: Airborne soldier. He is supposed to look...
BOZIK: That‘s right. If you read that right there, it pretty much tells it all.
MATTHEWS: Is that you?
BOZIK: No, sir. That‘s what is called a jump master. They‘re the people that check and make sure everything is OK before an airborne paratrooper exits the door.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.
BOZIK: A very prestigious honor to be a jump master.
MCCAFFREY: Sure. It sure is.
MATTHEWS: So what do think of the volunteer Army? Better than drafts?
MATTHEWS: Is it? Why?
BOZIK: Because of the type—what the soldiers are going to be like and the training. You want someone that wants to be there.
MATTHEWS: Right, wants to be there.
BOZIK: You want somebody that is serving their country because they want to, not because they‘re being forced to. It is a pride thing. It has to come from in here, which is why my injuries, I don‘t—fine. I don‘t care.
MCCAFFREY: Between being an airborne soldier and 26 years old and your family and Walter Reed, you‘ll be out of here and in terrific condition.
BOZIK: Yes, sir.
MCCAFFREY: Twelve months and hard work.
BOZIK: Yes. That‘s what I‘m shooting for.
MATTHEWS: Hard work.
MCCAFFREY: Hard work.
Well, we‘re proud of you.
BOZIK: Well, thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: And thanks for telling the story.
BOZIK: Of course.
MATTHEWS: The country wants to hear it.
BOZIK: My pleasure.
MCCAFFREY: Hey, Dawn, can we say hello?
MCCAFFREY: General McCaffrey and Chris Matthews.
MATTHEWS: Chris Matthews.
CAPT. DAWN HALFAKER, WOUNDED IN IRAQ: Good to meet you, sir.
MATTHEWS: Good to meet you.
MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, I‘m teaching up at West Point, Dawn. I don‘t know if I told you that.
MCCAFFREY: Yes. I‘ve been back five years. Everybody is very proud of you.
HALFAKER: Thanks, sir. Appreciate it.
Well, how were—your hip, how were you wounded?
HALFAKER: I was actually in an up-armored Humvee. And we were on a routine patrol mission, M.P., over in Iraq in Baquba. And an RPG came through the front and it took off my arm and left some other nasty shrapnel wounds and things like that. But that‘s basically what happened.
MATTHEWS: Could you see the shooter?
HALFAKER: No. I couldn‘t see him. It was 2:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m. So, I mean, we didn‘t really see anything. So it was tough.
MATTHEWS: Who treated you first?
HALFAKER: Actually, the combat medic in my unit treated me first.
MCCAFFREY: Kept you alive?
HALFAKER: Basically. I was in and out. I kind of knew what was going on, kind of not. I was in a lot of pain. I was pretty worried. I did not see him putting on a tourniquet, but I knew my arm was fairly damaged. So, I was worried. I was telling him not to cut it off.
MATTHEWS: So where is it? Where is it?
HALFAKER: It‘s actually...
MATTHEWS: Right on the shoulder.
HALFAKER: Yes. It‘s just I have a shoulder bone—the RPG basically took the humerus right out of the socket.
MCCAFFREY: You were a terrific basketball player at West Point. Has that helped you, being an athlete?
HALFAKER: I would have to say yes.
Every experience in your life, you know, you can kind of draw from that, because, being a basketball player, it is competitive. There‘s a lot of physical—you go through a lot of—I don‘t want to say physical pain. But you know what it is like to work hard, to work for a goal.
MCCAFFREY: Tough discipline and—yes.
HALFAKER: To have discipline, exactly, to work as a cohesive team, which I look at Walter Reed as a cohesive team. Everyone is working together, including the patients, to move on. And...
MATTHEWS: Were you a performance athlete? Did you play intercollegiate?
HALFAKER: I did, sir.
MATTHEWS: Why did you pick West Point over other colleges?
HALFAKER: That‘s an interesting question.
I actually got to visit several—well, I would say five different schools. I think that‘s the maximum you‘re about to allowed to take for official visits. And West Point was one of them, which I really didn‘t know much about, coming from the West Coast and having never been to New York before. So, the first time I saw West Point, I just—I took one look and I stayed there for a weekend, I think it was and met some of the cadets. And it‘s just a different caliber of people.
I had no idea really what I was going into. But I knew that what I was going into would definitely present me with some interesting challenges and life experience.
MATTHEWS: What year did you get out of the Point?
HALFAKER: I graduated at 2001.
MATTHEWS: So you were aware that there was going to be war probably in the Mideast and you had seen the Persian Gulf War.
HALFAKER: Yes. I had seen the Persian Gulf war when I was younger. And I think, when you go to anything, it‘s not like I expected what war would be like. I had really no idea.
But, of course, there‘s always—that‘s what the military is training for. We‘re training for situations like Iraq.
HALFAKER: So, that was, yes, definitely always a possibility. But I can‘t say that it was something that was always on my mind as I was going through West Point.
So, but—obviously, there‘s a point where you get to where it‘s like, OK, I used to have this life and I don‘t have that anymore. So you say, all right, well, I do still have a life, thank God. And you know what? I‘m going to do something with it. I‘m going to move on and I‘m going to be happy. And I can truly say that I‘m—I mean, I‘m a happy person. So, that—and there‘s—I feel terrible for the soldiers that aren‘t—were not as lucky as me. So...
MCCAFFREY: Well, Dawn, you are one tough soldier.
HALFAKER: Thank you, sir.
MCCAFFREY: We‘re very proud of you.
HALFAKER: Thank you for your leadership, sir, for our country.
MCCAFFREY: All over the face of the earth, these soldiers come home to Walter Reed if they get really serious injuries. The system is terrific. The care is first rate. The whole notion is, get them back to their families OK, get them back into active service or out into civilian life with more education.
So, it is a very uplifting thing to see what the Army and the Marine Corps do to take care of their own when they‘re injured.
MATTHEWS: Do you think their optimism is a little bit too extreme?
MCCAFFREY: God, you know, they‘re in their 20s.
MATTHEWS: They‘re so gung-ho.
MCCAFFREY: Yes. No, it‘s really encouraging, isn‘t it? The first thing we hear out of them is, they wish they were back with their unit.
MATTHEWS: I‘ve heard that.
MCCAFFREY: Yes. And then they want to see the unit come home. So, it‘s a tremendous commitment to their idealism, their dedication, their physical courage. This is hard work. They‘re in pain and they have to work through it. And it is just amazing, the young soldiers and Marines and service members that we‘ve got in uniform and what they can do.
MATTHEWS: Up next, a view from the top, General Norman Schwarzkopf on the human cost of war.
But, first, remember to take a look at the great work of the Fisher Foundation at www.FisherHouse.org. Your support goes a long way in helping our recovering men and women.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: I‘m Chris Matthews. And welcome back to our HARDBALL special edition honoring America‘s fighting men and women.
No one is more sensitive to the human toll of war than General Norman Schwarzkopf. I spoke with him recently about the miracle that is the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
MATTHEWS: General, you‘ve commanded troops. You‘ve also seen them wounded and wounded badly. What do you think it is that gives these young people such gung-ho attitudes toward their recovery?
NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you know, I was in the hospital, Ward 1, which was the officer‘s orthopedic ward. And I was there to have my spine fused.
But the one thing I was overwhelmed with was the fact that the troops on that ward, some of them multiple amputees, just wouldn‘t tolerate anybody coming in there feeling sorry for themselves. And every—and many, many times, and rightfully so, they had a right to feel sorry for themselves when they would come in having lost an arm.
But, I mean, there was this flying squad of people with—having lost both arms or an arm and a leg that would come in and there and say, oh, quit your bawling. You‘re going to get cured here. You have got the finest medical training. And it almost became a ritual that they adopted to make absolutely sure that people went about their cure with a positive attitude.
That‘s what‘s going on now. They are—when they first come in there, they feel terrible about the fact that they may have lost a limb or something like that. But after dealing with these other people that are there with them who show them that this is not the end of the earth, that‘s the thing that really brings the morale of these troops around and makes them take things positively, rather than negatively.
MATTHEWS: Well, it must be something, because I saw just what you‘re talking about, that high morale of the people even who have lost a couple of limbs or even three limbs.
Let me ask you about this instinct I capture from these young guys who talk about they want to get back to their units. They want to get back to the front line, even if they‘ve had a severe wound. What do you make of that? What is that about, that not just morale being high, but wanting to get back to the fight?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, you know, Chris, there have been a lot of studies about the fact of unit cohesion and what causes it to happen.
And what causes someone to stay in their foxhole when 50,000 Chinese are screaming across the valley coming towards you? And it all comes down to the fact that this unit cohesion thing, that they don‘t want to let down their buddy on their left and on their right. And that is what causes them to fight and to stick together. And, as you say, I‘ve never heard a soldier yet who was wounded in battle who didn‘t say, I have got to get back to my outfit as soon as I can.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about endurance. People who have lost limbs go through phantom pains and obviously all the horrible pains you get just from being stuck in a bed, especially when you‘ve lost a good part of your body.
What is it about military people and their ability to absorb pain?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, I don‘t think we have any particular ability to absorb it. We like to avoid it as much as possible.
But you face the reality the day you sign up that, one of these days, you may be there. You may be shot at. You may be wounded and you may be killed. And that‘s all part of the game. I hate to call it a game, but it is part of what being in a unit is all about.
SCHWARZKOPF: And it‘s a wonderful thing about particularly American troops. They just—you know, they don‘t want to let their buddies down. And many of them, when they get wounded, feel that they‘ve let their buddies down. And that‘s one of the things you have to overcome when you‘re dealing with them in Walter Reed.
MATTHEWS: I was out at Walter Reed. And I have to ask you, you‘ve been in the military. It‘s been your career. You were a lifer. Have you noticed—I guess you have—the amazing improvements?
It is the most amazing facility over there. And I guess it is the state-of-the-art. Have you noticed its progress over the years of being able to handle these really bad wounds?
SCHWARZKOPF: Absolutely. It‘s amazing what they‘re doing over there. And I‘m a product of some of the work that they do over there and specialize in. And I have got to tell you what. When you‘re in Walter Reed, you are in good hands. There‘s no question about it.
MATTHEWS: What do those guys talk to you about when you go over there?
SCHWARZKOPF: Mostly about—mostly, they can‘t believe that you‘re talking to you. Gee, the fact that you came out here to talk to me when you‘ve got more important things to do and I—how much they appreciate it.
And, secondly, then they want to talk to you about their family. They want to show you the pictures of their family and that sort of thing. And then—you know, they don‘t tell war stories. They really don‘t start off and say, there I was, me in a foxhole with 10,000 screaming Chinese coming after—you don‘t hear any of that sort of stuff.
Most of all, it is somewhat of a concern for their unit, that their
unit did well, that they did well, that they didn‘t let anybody down. That
· and, oh, by the way, they love their family and they can‘t wait to get back to them.
MATTHEWS: No offense to Tom Brokaw, who just left NBC running the anchor chair there. Do you think there‘s a difference between or among the men and women who have served in these different wars?
Is there a difference between the professional soldier today and the guy who fought in World War II in terms of their ability to take the heat, take the risks, take the pain, take the loss?
SCHWARZKOPF: No. No.
You know, there‘s a model of a very famous regiment back in the Revolutionary War, you know? And they‘re regulars, by God. And that‘s really what you see. There‘s a professionalism there. I think—and these people are fighting for their country, just like they were in Iwo Jima. They were fighting for their country a long way away from their country. But, by golly, they were in a tough battle and they fought it out. And you see the same thing.
These people are fighting, most of all, for God, country, mom‘s homemade apple pie and, oh, by the way, their buddy on their left and their right.
MATTHEWS: General, you won‘t be able this Christmas season, this holiday season, to visit all these people that have lost in this war who are now recovering in the bases around the country and the hospitals like Walter Reed. What do you want to say to them now?
SCHWARZKOPF: I say the same thing I say to every single soldier that I—soldier, sailor, airmen, or Coast Guardsman that I run into that either served in Desert Storm or is serving today. I just say thanks for serving your country.
MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, General Norman Schwarzkopf.
MATTHEWS: When we come back, what would the holidays be without a party?
You‘re watching a special edition of HARDBALL on America‘s injured soldiers on MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, DEVELOPER/BUSINESSMAN: Hi. I‘m Donald Trump.
And I want to wish the troops the absolute best. You‘re really brave people, incredible people. And speaking for myself and my family, I thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We all have so much to be thankful for this holiday season. And we would like to celebrate with a gathering of men and women of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, who have opened up their homes and their hearts to us. This party is being given in their honor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We‘re going to head into the stairwell.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Push the roll a little bit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m a soldier. I am hired to fight wars for this country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was shot in the head. He was knocked out of the Humvee. He laid in a street for a little bit until the helicopters came in, picked him up and flew him to Baghdad. He went through five hours of brain surgery and they removed 25 percent of his brain. He is doing so good. The doctors just say it‘s a miracle.
HALFAKER: Obviously, there‘s a point where you get to where it‘s like, OK, I used to have this life and I don‘t have that anymore. So you say, all right, well, I do still have a life, thank God. And you know what? I‘m going to do something with it. I‘m going to move on and I‘m going to be happy.
BOZIK: You want somebody that is serving their country because they want to, not because they‘re being forced to. It is a pride thing. It has to come from in here.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, what do you think? Do you think you stick in?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, this is...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know.
MATTHEWS: This is part of your application.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is all he‘s known. It is what he wants.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So I have to—I will—I have to support what he wants to do.
MATTHEWS: Who would like a large size NBC shirt? Anybody like one?
MATTHEWS: You‘ll like one. I think—part of the act.
Anybody want a “Saturday Night Live” shirt?
On behalf of—speaking for Microsoft, I want to offer this up to you on behalf of Bill Gates and all the good people out West, president for Fisher House, because we‘ve been spending a lot of time at Fisher House. And it‘s a great, a great place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris, on behalf of all the Fisher Houses and Walter Reed and all the many wonderful families that stay there, thank you very much. We will put this to good use.
MATTHEWS: A special thanks to everyone at Walter Reed and the Fisher House. We would also like to thank Eric Felton (ph) and his jazz quartet, the NBC Experience, MSNBC, Microsoft, Pampers, Toys “R” Us and Target.
From all of us at HARDBALL and MSNBC, we wish you all a good night.
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