“With Memorial Day approaching, my heart aches even more than usual. I will be in D.C. to attend the Memorial Day Ceremonies and also to visit my father's gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. I will also be honoring my son, Sgt. Thomas Butts, Jr. United States Army, who has been in Iraq since March. My son is a very fortunate soldier since he has with him his grandfather's (my father's) field jacket. I am very proud of my son and of all the other sons and daughters that are overseas protecting us. I have the 'Blue Star' in my front window to show the world my pride.”
MEANING & HISTORY
TBI is the grim acronym for “traumatic brain injury” – a hallmark of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Body armor and efficient care has cut the number of combat fatalities dramatically. There are fewer dead and many more living. But now the survivors pay a large part of the tragic price of war…
The Story of Ted and Sarah Wade
(As portrayed by Gary Sinise and Bonnie Hunt)
GARY SINISE (as Ted Wade) In 2004 I was headquartered in Fallujah. I’d already served in Afghanistan and I’d been in Iraq 7 months and was wondering when I would ever get home to my fiancée, Sarah, back in North Carolina. I missed her terribly. We talked every chance we got on a satellite phone. Not much privacy but it was better than nothing!
BONNIE HUNT (As Sarah Wade) We met through a friend’s wedding and afterwards Ted kept coming to the restaurant where I was working which told me something… He was very quiet, patient and good natured. And he was a real soldier—once when he was talking to me on the phone he came under mortar attack –and he just kept talking, calm and collected --- I could hear explosions all around him.
TED WADE My regiment would go on patrol searching for insurgents. We were out there and often wide open to hostile fire and explosives. You could say I was aggressive and a little lucky. Three times my convoy was hit by IEDs… I wasn’t hurt and hit the ground running -- going after the bad guys.
Then on February 14th --Valentines Day -- we were on our way back to base when we got a call and made a U-turn. Bad move -- there was an IED buried in a place we’d just driven over minutes before. This time it went off -- right under me. I was hurled through the air, my arm blown off…shrapnel riddled my legs and pierced my skull. They couldn’t find me for a while—they thought I was off attacking the enemy again!
When they did I was rushed back to the Combat Support hospital in Fallujah, then to Baghdad within hours. They did what they could but they thought I was a goner. From the moment of the blast I was gone — in a coma for weeks. There was no Ted Wade. There was only my family and Sarah…and their memory of me.
SARAH WADE Ted’s mom called and her voice was shaky. She said “its not good.” Ted was barely alive. We should come at once – his parents and I – the flight over was the longest night of my life…
Right away, when I first saw him in Germany, I lifted up the sheets and saw… that his legs were still there! But then they told us about his brain injury…we should begin to think of withdrawing care. His parents were already grieving…
About the third day I broke down completely. I cried and cried thinking I would have to take Ted’s body home…. At the hospital I sat by his bedside and held his limp hand in an agony of fear and uncertainty. I was desperate to know. Did he want us to let him go or did he want to fight? He gave no sign. I began to talk to him. I told him it was OK to let go…whatever he wanted. I didn’t know...what was best. And then, a miracle! I saw a single tear run down his cheek as I was talking to him. It was all I needed. Ted was in there and he was fighting and so I would fight too.
After two weeks they flew Ted back to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington. Most of the doctors were excellent, but they were inexperienced with these types of traumatic brain injury. They had very little hope and thought I was kind of crazy. I was often the only one who could see that he was making progress.
They moved us after a month to a VA facility in Richmond. And Ted finally came out of the Coma, but he could barely speak or express himself. We were just getting by financially. I was working in a restaurant – double shifts, three days a week – and nagging doctors the rest of the time.
Then Ted was “retired” from the military only we didn’t know it! It turned out that the decision had been made long before – on the assumption that he was helpless and probably dying and no one bothered to check it out. But Ted -- he was alive and they stopped his pay for 2 months! He still needed a lot of care. He was an out patient but at one time he had 15 treatment sessions a week in different places – counseling, physical and speech therapy, fitting his artificial arm. I had to be with him all the time. I couldn’t work and they don’t pay any expenses when you’re “retired”. I figure we lost $17,000 that way. Anyway, as soon as he got out of the hospital we went right to the court house and got married! All we had was uncertainty—but the big fancy wedding wasn’t so important any more.
Today, we’re home again. Ted has improved a lot but he still needs a lot of attention. He still needs knee and foot surgery and prosthetic training. He’d like to go back to school but who knows if that will ever be possible? And the way things are, we couldn’t even think of having children.
Last night I couldn’t sleep and kept wondering what will become of us. I thought ‘I’m still in limbo. I don’t dare get my hopes up for a much better life.’ Its been three long years of struggle since Ted was hurt – on February 14th 2004…
TED WADE Valentines Day! We often think… love does make the world go round. So many guys like me are alone with no one to care for them. But I had Sarah and I owe her my life and love forever. I dedicate this night to her… and all the families and friends who won’t give up—who never have and never will. God bless you all.