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With End To Iraq War, Thousands Are Left Wounded

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Because so many people have been nice enough to ask me how I am doing with my arm since I broke it a month ago, I thought I would give an update.

First of all, it still hurts — a lot. I don't know what I expected, since the last time I broke a bone, I think I was in fourth grade, and all I remembered about it was how wonderful it was to be able to get the cutest boys in my class to carry my books with little more than a crook of my finger and a toss of my pigtails. This time? Well, this is a little different.

Can I just tell you? All the cliches about how you can't tell a book by its cover, and how we're all bowling alone, that people are fundamentally good and all that — all the cliches are true.

For example, last week I decided I had to have a haircut, and I decided I felt good enough to walk to one of the neighborhood hair places by myself, despite the cast up to my shoulder. And I stood there for I don't know how long as all these people, nicely dressed, wearing trench coats and suits and business attire, totally ignored me and the fact that I couldn't open the door by myself.

Until, finally, this young guy, teenager, with his pants hanging down to you know where and an earring poking through his lip, rushed to open the door for me and offered to escort me upstairs. Who knows why?

And that one about how you don't know what you've got until it's gone? All true. It is more frustrating than I ever imagined to do without a fully functioning limb. Think about it. One minute you can jump in your car, go where you want, do your own hair, put on your own makeup, blah blah blah.

The next minute, you have to ask your 8-year-olds to help you get dressed, your colleagues to put on your headphones, not to mention beg rides from your very kind neighbors to get your kids to their after-school activities.

Don't get me started about physical therapy. I thought breaking the bones was bad, but PT? The most pain I have ever experienced in my life. And there is no end in sight. Yes, I miss my pain-free life when the worst thing that I thought about, at least physically, was a sore foot after a good run, which brings me back to where I was when I last talked about the arm.

I talked about the courage of people like my mom, when she broke her arm, and of people like former Navy aviator and now U.S. Sen. John McCain, who broke both of his when he was shot down and held as a prisoner of war.

So today, I want to talk about the war now just officially ended. Nearly 4,500 Americans died in the war, but more than 30,000 were wounded. For many of them, the war to restore and maintain their bodies and spirits continues and may never be over.

Sometimes it's hard for people who have never been through something like that to know what to say or do. But one thing I've learned is that it sure feels great when people notice; it feels great when they ask, and when they follow through. As this war recedes even more from the headlines, it becomes that much more important not to let the needs of those who have sacrificed so much disappear from our consciousness, too.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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