Post-9/11 Warriors Gain New Perspective During Visit to WWI, WWII, and Battle of the Bulge Sites
The historic Battle of the Bulge started Dec. 16, 1944
Two wounded warriors, Brent Whitten and Brett Miller, returned to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where they were treated and medically evacuated years ago. On this trip, both veterans experienced a week of gratitude, introspection, and education. While there, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) opened doors for Brent and Brett to tell their story and connect with fellow veterans who ushered them through historical sites from World War I, World War II, and the Battle of the Bulge, which started Dec. 16, 1944.
"Being at these historical battlefields, where my grandfathers and my great grandfather fought, puts in perspective my service and their service – the fact that we have a connection as American soldiers and that wars change, but the soldiers never change," Brent said.
Brent was in the U.S. Army, deployed to Iraq, when his vehicle was struck by a car bomb in 2006, leaving him with severe burns and other injuries. He was medically evacuated to Landstuhl and still remembers receiving a WWP backpack while in the hospital. The opportunity to return to Landstuhl helped him show gratitude to the people who save the lives of soldiers like himself and put his combat experience in historical context.
“I was honored to play a small part in fighting the war I was fighting, and I’ve honored the sacrifices [my forefathers] made in their wars,” Brent said. “When you see a name on a historical grave, they are a person, they have a family, and generations are affected by that loss of life. It’s tragic – the number of graves really brings visual perspective on the sacrifices that [generations of veterans] made for this country to allow me to have the freedoms I have today.”
A Closure That Seals Both Ends
Fellow veteran Brett Miller was in the U.S. Army National Guard when he was injured by a roadside bomb in 2005, leaving him with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) and paralysis on his left side. Cycling and other outdoor activities were a huge part of Brett's recovery, and WWP helped connect him with other warriors who understood what he'd been through.
“Coming here is a 360,” Brett said about this resiliency trip to Europe. Although he doesn’t remember much about his medical evacuation, and the people who work at Landstuhl are different now, the experience brought his healing full circle.
“It’s closure – I’m alive and well, and it shows them what they’re doing works,” Brett said. Going back “sealed both ends for me and for them.”
“For me, it’s about the people at Landstuhl; the little glimpses and memories are inconsequential to the big fight. The people make it worth it.”
While overseas, Brett and Brent had opportunities to connect with servicemen and women through speaking engagements, a ruck march, and other activities facilitated by WWP teammates based in Landstuhl who work hand in hand with the American Red Cross to support troops as they are medically evacuated through Landstuhl.
Brent spoke at the start of the Run, Ruck, March event at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, which took place on his 16th Alive Day – the day Brent survived his attack.
Honoring Service and Sacrifice with New Perspective
As veterans today, we still need to watch out for each other, and we still need to be battle buddies and help each other out, because the war has ended, but there’s sometimes still a war within ourselves. Having that companionship, just like the band of brothers, can go a long way and have a positive outcome.
Visiting historical sites was eye-opening for the veterans. The warriors went to Luxembourg American Cemetery to see the headstones of 5,074 Americans who died in the European theater during World War II, many of them during the Battle of the Bulge. That cemetery is also the final resting place of Gen. George S. Patton, making it one of the more visited American cemeteries outside the United States.
From there, Brett and Brent crossed over to Belgium to learn more about the Battle of the Bulge, including a visit to the 101st Airborne Division's Easy Company's foxholes in the Bois Jacques, or “Jack’s Woods.” Both men were left speechless by the enormity of the situation their military predecessors faced many years ago. It was also rejuvenating for them to see the respect Europeans still pay to the American troops who helped defend their lands in WWI and WWII.
“When we visited the Easy Company foxholes [at the Battle of Bulge site], there was thunder and a downpour, and we were just embracing it - in the same place [where they fought],” Brett reflected. “It was so surreal. When you research and find out how many of Easy Company were from your town and state, it puts it into perspective I want to see what my brothers in arms went through and I want to pay homage to them at those sites and those scenes,” Brett said.
Personal Healing Journeys Press Forward
When most people think about traveling to Europe, they might plan a trip to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, but these veterans seized the chance to continue their recovery from the invisible wounds of war.
The fact that 16 years had passed since his injuries didn’t minimize the healing effects for Brent. “When you’re strapped to a cot, you can’t move, your face is burned off, your bones are broken, you only have one perspective: What’s my life going to be like and what’s my military career going to look like?” Brent said. “Wounded Warrior Project helps me look back and see that everything is going to turn out OK because of my attitude, my faith, and help from WWP.”
A specific image during the trip brought the healing home for Brent.
“You see a foxhole and you know that often there were one or two people in there who depended on each other to survive,” Brent said. “That’s kind of the mission of Wounded Warrior Project. As veterans today, we still need to watch out for each other, and we still need to be battle buddies and help each other out, because the war has ended, but there’s sometimes still a war within ourselves. Having that companionship, just like the band of brothers, can go a long way and have a positive outcome.”
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Contact: Raquel Rivas – Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 904.426.9783
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