War Wounded Return to Iraq to Find Closure

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Their physical injuries cared for, though many still in rehabilitation, a handful of soldiers have gone back to Iraq to help heal the wounds that medicine and prosthetics cannot. 

    Previously kept quiet because of the intense security involved, the military last year lifted the veil on Operation Proper Exit, a week-long mission to take soldiers back to the places where they were injured to help them find closure.  The sixth such mission is currently in its final days.

    "It's pretty amazing to come back here and being able to see that the work that we've done here wasn't for nothing, that Iraq is actually getting better," one soldier says in an Internet video posted by the United Service Organizations, which provides some funding for the program.

    Some of the injured say they don't remember leaving Iraq the first time.  Being there again, witnessing the progress and leaving the country on their own accord offers a bit of closure.

    "It feels really good.  It's almost like a final stepping stone to finishing the chapter of my life that I left here," one soldier remarked in the October 2009 video.

    A retired Maryland advertising executive, Rick Kell, is the man behind the Troops First Foundation, which created and works out the logistics for Operation Proper Exit.

    Included on the current trip is Jonathan McCabe, the Chief Operating Officer of the Union League of Chicago and a former U.S. Army officer.  The 131-year-old civic organization has long had a strong commitment to supporting the military. 

    Earlier this month, the Troops First Foundation transported eight wounded soldiers from around the country, including one from Indiana, back to Iraq.  They'll return home next week.

    "Some are funny, some are serious, some tall, some are thin, some love to work out, some don't. They are different but they are not. I am honored to have had the opportunity to get know each and every one of them," McCabe wrote Saturday on a Facebook profile created for the mission.

    "All are benefitting," he'd previously wrote.

    The former head of the elite 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, Major Gen. Joseph Anderson, is also on the trip.  He'll be the co-grand marshal of Chicago's Memorial Day parade.