Chairman Honors Wounded Soldier for Selfless Service
(September 3, 2009)
WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2009 – The chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted on a recent visit to the
National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., that wounded
veterans recovering there all had one thing in common.
“These are individuals, without arms and legs at that point,
who had one common desire -- and that was to get back with
their unit,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said Aug. 25 at the
presentation ceremony for the 2009 International Brain
Mapping and Interoperative Surgical Planning Society's
Beacon of Courage and Dedication Awards in Boston.
"Their only concern was . . . How do I get out of here and
get back with them?"
A desire to serve again also was expressed by one of the
award recipients, retired Army Sgt. Maj. Colin Rich, who
recovered from two traumatic brain injuries and returned to
active duty each time.
And while he was given top-notch medical care for each
injury, Mullen credits Rich's wife with completing the
“While we honor Colin tonight, we do so only because he has
been incredibly supported by Nancy, who represents thousands
and thousands of spouses and children and parents who've
made such a difference to those who've been wounded and who
offer so much for the future of our country as Colin does
tonight,” Mullen said. “It is an honor and a privilege to
recognize, introduce and be able to say for over 2 million
men and women who serve, how special you are, Colin ... and
now, have been and always will be.”
Speaking off the cuff because his head injuries have made
reading difficult, Rich thanked the chairman.
“Admiral Mullen's kind of stolen some of my thunder,” he
joked. “He talked about my wife and all the other countless
spouses and family members out there that have borne the
brunt of this war as much as any soldier has.”
His said his wife, Nancy, has been his pharmacist, his
neurologist, counselor and masseuse.
“She was the first thing I saw after countless seizures. She
was the last thing I saw after trying to get to sleep when I
was in miserable pain,” Rich said. “I've told her on
countless occasions, ‘Nancy, have I told you I love you
today and thank you for everything you've done for me?'
“Today, I want to say it publicly,” he added. “Nancy, have
told you I love you and thanked you for everything that you
have done for me?'”
He went on to accept the award on her behalf.
Rich joined the Army Reserve on April 13, 1981, and was
recruited into active duty June 28, 1985. By late 1986, as a
private, he had been assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment as
an infantryman. Eight years and four months later, Staff
Sergeant Rich moved on to his next assignment and several
schools, which led him to serve in the ranks of 1st Special
Operations Detachment, also known as Delta Force, in May
Later that year, a .45-caliber bullet “bounced off the front
of my head,” he said. “If I'd been an inch taller, we
wouldn't be talking here right now.”
Fast-forward to Shken, Afghanistan, on Dec. 28, 2002, and
Rich was shot a second time in the head.
“OK, this is no kidding,” Rich told the crowd gathered for
the award presentation. “A .308 bullet hit me in the back of
the head. If I was one inch taller, again, we would not be
having this conversation today, and that is no
Rich served on active duty for another four years before
retiring in 2007 with full disability. He's faced multiple
challenges since the injuries, and he has a guide dog
primarily to help him overcome visual impairment, but he
still hasn't let the challenges he faces slow him down.
He's training for a 300-mile solo venture on the Appalachian
ABC News anchorman Bob Woodruff, who suffered traumatic
brain injury while reporting on hostilities in Iraq, also
was presented with the Beacon of Courage and Dedication
The award was part of the 6th Annual World Conference for
Brain Mapping and Image Guided Therapy, co-hosted by the
society and publisher of scientific information, Elsevier.
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
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