News of America’s military men and women who were wounded and killed in Iraq and Afghanistan almost overwhelmed me on some days. I may have sounded strong when I was talking to the press, but sometimes I had to push my feelings way down in order to get any words out of my mouth to make statements and answer questions.
The hardest days were when President Bush went to visit the wounded or families of the fallen. If it was tough for me, you can only imagine what it was like for the families and for a president who knew that his decisions led his troops into battles where they fought valiantly but were severely injured or lost their lives. He regularly visited patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near the White House. These stops were unannounced because of security concerns and hassles for the hospital staff that come with a full-blown presidential visit.
One morning in 2005, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan sent me in his place to visit the wounded warriors. It was my first time for that particular assignment, and I was nervous about how the visits would go. The president was scheduled to see 25 patients at Walter Reed. Many of them had traumatic brain injuries and were in very serious, sometimes critical, condition. Despite getting the best treatment available in the world, we knew that some would not survive.
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