Injured Iraq veterans honored at local Fourth events
KEYSTONE – Summit County always wears its red, white and blue proudly on Independence Day. This year, the colors shine especially bright as the community steps up to host injured Iraq veterans and their families for a holiday weekend that will include wagon rides, concerts, picnics and fireworks.”I don’t consider it a charity. I consider it my obligation to them,” said local real estate broker Dan Goodale, who organized the getaway on behalf of his American War Heroes support group.All the Fort Carson-based soldiers were injured during recent tours of duty in Iraq, and some of them face medical expenses potentially above and beyond their basic coverage, while others are preparing for a transition to civilian life that can be challenging under the best of conditions.The group of soldiers sponsored by American War Heroes will be honored in local parades, and Goodale said he hopes the event serves to educate people that there is a need out there, and that community support is crucial to the effort. Goodale said it sometimes can be difficult to find injured soldiers due to medical privacy concerns, and so he relies on families and friends to help with grassroots outreach.”Some of these guys are being left out,” Goodale said of the thousands of injured soldiers returning from Iraq. “I’m trying to raise money any way I can. I want it known that we’re here to take care of our soldiers.”Like similar support networks, Goodale wants to help pay for families to visit injured soldiers, to help provide for additional prosthetic needs and other medical expenses and to build at least one house per year in every state for a disabled soldier and his family.Equally important is developing a professional mentoring network to help wounded vets make an economic transition that can put a strain on family finances. In some cases, help is needed if an injured soldier can’t work upon returning, and when a spouse then has to quit a job to care for the injured vet, Goodale explained.Sgt. Martin Flores, of San Antonio, was injured in a mortar attack on his way to the mess hall in a Baghdad base. The round didn’t explode, but a piece of the shell flew off and into his stomach, shattering his hip bone.Flores said he’s received excellent care so far but faces more surgeries and an uncertain medical future.”I’m worried about the future for my family,” Flores said, glancing at his daughters and smiling proudly when he mentions his college-student son in San Antonio.Some of the military families visiting Summit County are also outspoken in advocating formal review of the military’s definition of the Purple Heart medal, awarded to soldiers injured in combat.All soldiers injured in Iraq are deserving of the decoration, whether hurt by a bullet or in a highway accident, said Carmen Flores.”A lot of soldiers are putting their lives on the line, and are being denied what they earned, being passed over,” Flores said. “If they’re over there, fighting for us, fighting for freedom, and they’re injured, they deserve recognition,” she said, describing it as an issue that bothers some veterans’ families.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at email@example.com.
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