A “Biblical” dust storm kicked up just before Lt. Col. Timothy Karcher’s MRAP was set to leave his base in Iraq in June 2009. Visibility was down to almost nothing.
“Sir, do we really want to go out today?” asked the lieutenant in charge of Karcher’s personal security detail. Despite his misgivings, Karcher recalls trying to reassure everyone with a gallows humor reply.
“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” he said. Minutes later, barely two kilometers from their Baghdad base, Karcher’s vehicle was hit by an explosively formed penetrator, a particularly lethal roadside bomb.
Part of the blast blew through his door. He felt intense pain, and realized that both of his legs were gone.
Two years and many surgeries later, Karcher remains on active duty in the Army. He gets around on a pair of state-of-the-art Otto Bock X2 artificial legs, which he showed off Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington. He spoke as part of a panel advocating for more of the kind of biomedical research that has led to breakthrough treatments for wounded warriors’ injuries.
Karcher was joined by actor Robert David Hall of the television show, “CSI,” who lost both legs in a 1978 automobile accident; Dr. Regina Armstrong, who is the director of the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Rebekah Lovorn, the executive director of charity No Greater Sacrifice; and Paul McKellips, vice president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research.
Public support for research has fallen since the Vietnam War era, from roughly 70 percent to 57 percent, according to a Zogby poll McKellips’ organization cited.
McKellips said he understands that people are upset about government spending, but said, “It’s really not about money. It’s about, ‘We’ve got to embrace and support that we’re almost there. … We’ve got all these boys and girls coming home. Let’s not forget them.’”
The event marked the launch of a $500,000 media effort by McKellips’ group, which emphasizes that advances in treating wounded warriors’ injuries usually translates to breakthroughs that benefit civilian medical care as well. For Karcher’s part, he said he thinks he’s received fantastic care and support.
“There’s no other nation in the world that would care enough about their wounded servicemembers to do what our nation has done for us,” he said. “I sit here in front of you with conservatively $80,000 to $100,000 worth of prosthetics on. It’s a far cry from what the pirates got.”