"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
"So we're driving down the road and it's midnight, so it's pitch-black, and when you're driving at night, you don't use any lights," says Terry Rodgers, "but we can see fine because we've got night vision goggles."
He's sitting in the living room of his mother's townhouse in Gaithersburg, telling the story of his last night in Iraq. He's still got his Army crew cut and he's wearing a T-shirt with an American flag on the chest.
"We're driving down this road and there's this tiny bridge over a little canal," he says. "They had rigged up this bomb and they had a tripwire running across the bridge and we hit it and it blew up."
Like the rest of the 13,877 Americans wounded in Iraq, Rodgers has a story to tell. He tells it in a matter-of-fact voice, like he's talking about making a midnight pizza run or something. He's sitting in an armchair with his right leg propped on an ottoman, the foot encased in a soft black cast that reaches almost to the knee. His crutches are lying on the rug beside the chair....
Rodgers was flown to Baghdad, then to Germany, then to Washington, where he was taken to Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Memorial Day. But he doesn't remember any of that.
"The first memories I have turn out to be hallucinations," he says. "I thought my leg was burned off. I thought half my face was blown off. I thought little kids were jumping on me, stealing my eyes and my teeth."
He was doped up on pain medicine that made him see things that weren't there.
"He kept yelling at me to get the people behind him," his mother, Ann Rodgers, recalls. "He said, 'Get them away from me!' I said, 'There's nobody behind you.' He asked me if I could see the back of his eye because his face was gone. I said, 'Your face isn't gone.' He said, 'Liar!' "
His real injuries were almost as bad as the ones he hallucinated. He had a broken femur, broken jaw, broken cheekbone. His right calf was blown away. Also, his right ear couldn't hear and his right eye couldn't see.
He spent a month and a half at Walter Reed. The doctors wired his jaw shut, put a metal rod in his leg, did nine hours of surgery on his eye, reconstructed his calf, and did skin grafts....
One day a nurse came in to ask Rodgers if he wanted to meet President Bush, who was visiting the hospital. Rodgers declined.
"I don't want anything to do with him," he explains. "My belief is that his ego is getting people killed and mutilated for no reason -- just his ego and his reputation. If we really wanted to, we could pull out of Iraq. Maybe not completely but enough that we wouldn't be losing people -- at least not at this rate. So I think he himself is responsible for quite a few American deaths."
As you were, soldier! If you have a boo-boo, we can give you something for that: