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"Jon Blair is my beloved friend. After 9/11 , I knew he would be one of the first to go after graduation. I was scared for him, but I understood his passion. He told me, 'I have to go How can I say I love my family if I don't?" John became the first casualty from Ft. Wayne, IN, which, oddly, fitted him. He died doing what he was compelled to do."

Kelly Kahn

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2009 Features

Families of Disabled Vets

Since the wars began in Iraq and Afghanistan almost 5,000 American soldiers have been killed and at least 34,000 have been wounded. Our fallen soldiers have sacrificed their lives; wounded heroes and their families will sacrifice for a lifetime.

During this year’s concert, co-host Gary Sinise and acclaimed actresses Dianne Wiest and Katie Holmes will pay tribute to our wounded American heroes and honor the sacrifices of their families as they share the story of Staff Sergeant José Pequeño, his mother Nellie Bagley and his sister Elizabeth.

TBIJosé Pequeňo and family
Traumatic brain injury has become a hallmark of the current conflicts, affecting at least 30 percent of the wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only can treatment for TBI be relentless and long-term, the outcome for the patient is unknowable. The spouse, parent and sometimes siblings often have to quit jobs, school and life as they knew it to care for the soldier ... or face the reality of leaving the soldier alone to be cared for solely by professionals.

During this year’s concert, we honor a family who had to face that daunting situation.

José Pequeňo

José Pequeño was a Staff Sergeant in the New Hampshire National Guard when he volunteered to deploy to Iraq. While on duty, he was calling in about a suicide bomber when an insurgent tossed a grenade into his Humvee.

José lost the bottom two lobes of the left side of his brain, and doctors held out very little hope for his recovery. His mother Nellie and sister Elizabeth went immediately to his side and remain there over three years later. Here they describe getting the news of José's injury.

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Dr. Stuart Scott treats José at the VA Hospital in Tampa, Florida.
Interviewed here by Executive Producer Jerry Colbert, he provides a window into the complex world of the disabled warriors who have become our living memorials, a visible reminder of those who sacrificed so much for the principles we stand for.

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As Dr. Scott stresses, it is up to each American community to welcome our wounded warriors home and offer them the dedication they so bravely offered our country.

Find out how to reach out to wounded soldiers and their families and offer needed help and support.

Learn more about traumatic brain injury.

Find practical information and assistance if you are a soldier, a military family or a veteran.

Read other powerful stories of veterans and of those who have fallen.

Share your story or a remembrance of a loved one or a friend who was wounded or died in one of America's conflicts.

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