[caption id=“attachment_2478” align=“aligncenter” width=“500” caption=“Retired U.S. Army 1st Lt. Edwin Salau and seven other wounded warriors speak, as part of Operation Proper Exit, to an audience of U.S. Soldiers, stationed at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Oct. 15, 2009. Operation Proper Exit is a therapeutic program that brings injured Soldiers seeking a sense of closure, back to the place they were injured. Salau was injured by a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire, Nov. 2004 and lost his left leg. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod/Released)”][/caption]
Operation Proper Exit is a groundbreaking program that affords wounded Troops and veterans from around the US to retrace the last steps they took before being injured. Sponsored by Troops First Foundation and The USO, Operation Proper Exit finished its fourth tour in April and the fifth group is out right now.
As reported by NBC Chicago, the current crop of soldiers is accompanied by the Union League of Chicago’s COO Jonathan McCabe, who is using a Facebook page to provide updates on the mission. One participant is Staff Sgt. Brian Beem, who had the lower part of his right leg amputated after being injured in Baghdad in 2006. Like most of the men, Beem seeks a sense of closure from the experience: “I’d like to see (if) the efforts put forth actually did something and be able to hear from other soldiers, whether or not things are better or things are worse,” Beem told CBS affiliate KTVA. “I’d like to be able to see some kind of end product for what we did.”
We hope his experience will be like that of Sergeant (Ret.) Juan Arredondo who, on last month’s trip, reunited with former colleague Command Sergeant Major Robinson. “Sgt. Arredondo and I were deployed to Korea and Iraq together. I remember when he was injured. Seeing him today makes me feel some sadness, but also joy at the same time. He is here, in Iraq, standing,” said the command sergeant major to Spc. Crystal M. O'Neal.
“I’ll never forget when we redeployed, and he met me and the other guys getting off the plane. We were so happy to see him there, recovered,” he said. “Moments like that and this one, today, are priceless.”