Eight soldiers wounded while deployed to combat zones or injured while training for deployment took up an offer Tuesday to tour the state Capitol and talk with lawmakers.
All are assigned to the Army's warrior transition unit at Fort Sill, which provides support to wounded soldiers who require at least six months of rehabilitative care and complex medical management.
Soldiers also are evaluated as to whether they should be medically discharged.
The unit also helps soldiers who are making the transition out of active service into the private sector or the pursuit of educational activities.
House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, who was elected to the powerful House of Representatives post Tuesday, invited the soldiers to come to the Capitol after he heard a couple of them were interested in politics.
"We value your service and we're eternally grateful," Shannon told the soldiers. "You guys are making tremendous sacrifices each and every day and I hope we don't ever take it for granted."
Rep. Chuck Hoskin, D-Vinita, who was injured when he was tossed off a fighter jet on a Navy carrier in 1972, said soldiers wounded in combat or hurt in accidents suffer lifelong injuries.
"I'm glad that people are realizing what it is that these people have gone through and what they face when they come back," he said. "Hopefully these individuals will be able to find jobs and support their families."
Hoskin complimented Shannon for inviting the soldiers to the Capitol.
"Any time you can get folks in front of the legislators, it really makes it more real what these folks have faced," he said. "It helps legislators understand what kind of battle they not have been in but continue to be in."
We value your service and we're eternally grateful. You guys are making tremendous sacrifices each and every day and I hope we don't ever take it for granted."
House Speaker T.W. Shannon,
Hoskin, whose back and both ankles were injured in his accident, still receives medical treatment.
"The injuries have lasted a lifetime," he said. "They're not nearly as devastating as some of these individuals have. ... I'm very fortunate that I don't have the type of injuries some of these individuals have because it affects every day of their lives. And that's what we need to remember when we're trying to address the needs the best that we can."
--Sgt. Freddie Williams, 27, from Gary, Ind., who suffered a lower back injury in Iraq two years ago when he fell off a vehicle after an enemy round exploded nearby, said he is taking CareerTech auto body and pharmacy courses. His enlistment is up next year.
--Staff Sgt. Julie Hopson, 43, suffered neck and back injuries from carrying heavy packs. When she leaves the Army, Hopson, from Hope, Ark., said she probably will work at a civilian post at Fort Sill.
--Sgt. Quarre Jackson, 40, from Thomasville, Ala., said he is suffering from post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury after being involved in a vehicle explosion in Afghanistan in 2009. A 17-year veteran of the Army who served four years in the Marines earlier, Jackson is expected to serve through 2015. Jackson said he would like to go to CareerTech and take air-conditioning repair courses.