Vice president visits wounded warriors

by Chuck Roberts
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Public Affairs

Spc. Michael Allison froze when Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, entered his hospital room Feb. 3, but his 19-month-old son Logan didn’t miss a beat.

Within minutes, Logan was saying, “hold you hold you” to the second lady and soon found himself nestled in her arms and the recipient of a stuffed toy replica of the Biden family dog, Champ, and a copy of Dr. Biden’s book, “Don’t Forget: God Bless Our Troops.” Dad wasn’t as quick to relax.

“I never really met anybody that important, so to meet someone like that, I was kind of star struck for a second,” said Allison, a combat engineer recovering from a gunshot wound he received during a firefight in Afghanistan. “I was thinking, ‘I can’t believe the vice president is here shaking my hand.”

But the 25-year-old Millersburg, Ohio, native was soon put to ease by his special guests, which also included Dr. Ashton B. Carter, the deputy secretary of defense.

“It was like the vice president was here to let us know he appreciated my wife for the sacrifice she made while I was deployed,” said Allison, whose wife, Rhea, has been at her husband’s bedside during his recovery, which continues at their home in Bamberg, Germany, where they are stationed. “He also, of course, thanked me for my service and for what I did while I was deployed. It was a very nice visit.”

The vice president’s visit also included visits with two soldiers from the Republic of Georgia, one of 54 coalition countries whose service members have been treated at LRMC for injuries sustained serving alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
One of these soldiers was Sgt. Lago Kakulia, an infantryman shot in the leg by a sniper while attempting to carry a fellow soldier to safety who had been shot in the shoulder by the same sniper.

“It was a big surprise. At first he didn’t believe it,” said Maj. (Dr.) Zura Zakaraia, a Georgian doctor who acted as translator for both soldiers during the visit.

But as with Allison, Zakaraia said the vice president soon put the 21-year-old at ease sharing stories of his travels to Afghanistan and amusing anecdotes during his visit to Georgia.

Guiding the vice president through his visit to the intensive care unit was Maj. Kate Reese-Hudock, an Army nurse and member of the LRMC Critical Care Air Transport Team and the Acute Lung Rescue Team. Reese-Hudock said it was amazing to meet and interact with the dignitaries.

“What I think was most amazing for me, and I hope I can speak for our staff, was to see how sincere they were and how caring they were, not only to the wounded warriors but to our staff for providing care to the wounded warriors and our other patients. And that’s just something I will definitely take away,” she said. “You see them on television, you see them at events, and just to know that they’re so heartfelt and care about us, I will keep that in my mind always. It was just an amazing experience.”

In addressing the ICU staff, the Bidens expressed the sentiments described by Reese-Hudock.

“Even if there were no wounded warriors here to visit today, we wanted to stop by
and visit with you to say thank you for all that you do for them. What you do is truly breathtaking. And because of you, our wounded warriors can return home alive to their mothers and fathers, to their wives and husbands, and to their sons and daughters,” Biden said.

(Donald Cloud, special adviser to the vice president for defense and intelligence, contributed to this story)