The healing that takes place when soldiers are reunited with their buddies after being separated by injuries sustained in combat (and the treatment which follows) makes for very rewarding missions, as some have experienced. The impact of the mission described below can only be imagined by those who have suffered the sudden and permanent loss of a comrade or family member in our nation’s defense. Try to put yourself in the place of a family wanting to know about the last 10 months in the life of their son thru the eyes of his Platoon Leader. That’s what the mission described below was all about. As it was a “round robin” trip returning to MN, I was fortunate to be able to accompany the young LT., meet the families, as well as three of our volunteer pilots. I KNOW what we do makes a difference. I only wish all Americans could have shared my experience that day.
Read on to find out what Seth had to say about the mission….
Read on to find out what Seth had to say about the mission….
Lieutenant Seth Reimers & Tim Fyda
On behalf on myself, my unit, and the families involved in my mission I am writing to tell my story of an amazing adventure that was made possible by the generous people from Veterans Airlift Command.
My name is 1LT Seth Reimers and I am an Army Wounded Warrior. I was injured in Mahmudiyah, Iraq on April 19, 2007 during a rocket attack while serving as a Platoon Leader for TF 2-15, 2 BCT, 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, New York. I have spent the last four months undergoing an extensive amount of healing tending to both my physical and emotional wounds.
I spent eight and a half months in Iraq serving with my motorized infantry platoon before being wounded. I, with the help of five professional NCOs, lead a 22 man platoon on over 130 combat missions. The platoon I lead had been formed in February of 2006 back at Fort Drum. Almost immediately the bonds began to form among all members. After six months of hard training we deployed in August of 2006 to begin our fight alongside the many faces of the Iraqi Security Forces. Little did we know but the road ahead of us would change us forever and be anything but easy.
After being wounded in Iraq I spent a month at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. My healing progressed rather quickly and I soon found myself being transferred to the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is where I met Mr. Walt Fricke, CEO and Founder of Veterans Airlift Command. Mr. Fricke came to visit with me one day during one of my therapy rest sessions. We spoke only briefly but I quickly learned that Mr. Fricke's intentions were unique and real.
As time passed I healed and made daily improvements. While I concentrated on my recovery my soldiers continued to take the fight to the enemy in Iraq.
Unfortunately that did not come without a very high cost. I lost two young soldiers during the month of May. This undoubtedly put a damper on my recovery efforts. Sergeant Justin D. Wisniewski and Private First Class Matthew A. Bean both were killed during combat operations.
I continued to work on my recovery and finally was able to move to my home in Ogden,Iowa where I could continue my healing. It was here that decided that I wanted to go and see the families of my two fallen soldiers in their hometowns. I contacted Mr. Fricke to run my idea past him. I received almost an instantaneous response letting me know that he would do all he could do to make this happen. He went to work and developed an itinerary for me to leave from St. Paul, Minnesota and fly to Saginaw, Michigan to see the Wisniewski Family, then overnight at Fort Drum, NY, to be followed by a trip to Plymouth, Massachusetts to see Matthew Bean's Family. Not only was my trip going to be provided by three volunteer pilots, but Mr. Fricke was going to accompany me on the trip offering his support and guidance as he has traveled down similar roads a few years back.
Our trip began on August 31, 2007 as we departed from the downtown St. Paul Airport via a beautiful jet flown by Mr. Ian Scott. The smooth flight commenced as we landed at the Saginaw-Silver City International airport where I was able to meet with the Wisniewski Family. I spent three wonderful hours with the family at their home reminiscing about Justin and tending to questions and concerns that they had. It was a very rewarding stop for me and I believe that the family truly appreciated my visit.
After my visit to the Wisniewski's, we were off to Fort Drum where we spent the night recharging for our next visit the following day. While we were at Fort Drum, Mr. Fricke and I were both able to meet up with some fabulous friends and acquaintances to include Major General Michael Oates, The Commanding General of the 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Mrs. Marlene Morschauser, my Battalion Commander's wife.
The night was over before we knew it and we were boarding a beautiful plane the next morning owned and operated by Mr. Dale Thuillez. He took us on a gorgeous flight from upstate New York to Plymouth, Massachusetts. Upon reaching the ground I was greeted by Matthew Bean's family. Again I was treated to several hours of therapeutic visiting with Matt's family. This opportunity provided the family and I to indulge in priceless conversations.
Time flew in Plymouth. We were soon on our return flight to St. Paul courtesy of Mr. Tim Fyda and his gorgeous jet. This flight back to Minnesota afforded me the opportunity to reflect on our mission to visit the two families. Between talking to Mr. Fricke and Mr. Fyda I was able to isolate the importance of this trip. Not only was the trip meant to assist the families, but it definitely offered me the chance to find closure in the deaths of my two soldiers. I have fought an uphill battle in my own physical recovery but by making a trip like this I quickly learned just how lucky I really am. A lot of people might think that it's my job as a leader to make this trip. The bottom line is that I didn't make this trip to fulfill my obligations as a leader in today's Army, but I did it as a friend who lost two brothers. When you endure something like war with a group of your closest buddies, it's hard to imagine that you actually might not finish with everyone you started with. The emotional bonding that takes place is second to none and the loss of a comrade continually reverberates through the unit. Soldiers sometimes die, but the memories that they leave behind are priceless and live on forever. Families are often one of our only resources to tap into that legacy left behind, and I can imagine that the families have similar feeling about the soldiers that their loved one served with. This is exactly why these visits are so important.
I cannot thank Veterans Airlift Command enough for what they have done for me. Life goes on for those of us left behind after the chaos of war has taken its toll. It is a blessing to have people in my life like Mr. Walt Fricke and the three amazing pilots that made my mission happen. You are all impeccable men and have done this country and it's service men and women well. Thank you again and I wish you the best in all your endeavors.