(Host) The National Guard says that the Vermont soldiers who were injured in Iraq this week are in good condition and are recovering well. The mother of one of the wounded soldiers says her son will be sent soon to an army hospital in Washington, D.C. for further treatment.
VPR’s John Dillon reports.
(Dillon) Jane Bedia says her son, Sergeant Matthew Bedia, sustained shrapnel wounds during the mortar attack south of Baghdad.
(Jane Bedia) “He told me when I talked to him [that] he took it in the face and in the shoulder, and I guess he took it on one side pretty bad. He’s walking and his got both legs and both arms, so we’ve got a lot to be thankful for.”
(Dillon) Bedia told his wife by phone that he’ll be flown soon to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington for additional treatment. Jane Bedia says she expects the physical recovery will be hard, but she says it will also be difficult mentally. Her son, she says, was good friends with Sergeant Kevin Sheehan, the 36-year-old Milton resident who was one of two Vermonters killed in the attack.
(Bedia) “I’m sure this is kind of a long process, this healing business. And mentally I’m sure it will be rough on him because he just lost his father five years ago and now his best friend got shot right next to him and got killed. So I’m sure it’s going to be a mental thing too, you know.”
(Dillon) Bedia is 43-years-old and works as a state milk inspector for the Agency of Agriculture. He joined the Guard after serving in the Marines. His mother says it was probably always in the back of his mind that he could get called up someday. She’s says that’s part of the bargain that Guard members make when they join.
Nine more members of the Vermont Army National Guard are preparing to leave for Iraq. Not all are young recruits. Chief Warrant Officer Eugene Sumner is being sent to war at the age of 53.
(Sumner) “Well, I’ve been in 33 years. And back when Moby Dick was a minnow, when I first joined, I never expected to go into a combat zone. With the things the way they’re changing in the Guards, and the Guards making up so much of the active duty forces – we thought that it would happen at some point.”
(Dillon) The invasion and occupation of Iraq has led the Pentagon to rely more and more on part-time soldiers in the National Guard and Reserve. Adjutant General Martha Rainville says the deaths of the two Guardsmen this week underscore the reality of military service.
(Rainville) “They did volunteer, they are great patriots. I doubt any of them could have pictured where they were standing and the mortar attack coming in. Did they know the risk? They knew the risk intellectually. But I think that the reality is probably coming home to all the soldiers today.”
(Dillon) The three soldiers who were seriously injured in the mortar attack were first airlifted to a military hospital in Germany. In addition to Bedia, a second solider – Specialist Thomas Brooks – will also be sent to Walter Reed Hospital for recovery.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.