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Video: Wounded soldiers revisited

By Brian Williams Anchor & “Nightly News” managing editor
NBC News
updated 12/1/2004 7:33:39 PM ET 2004-12-02T00:33:39

Sgt. Carla Best is the face of determination. "Look, I'm standing on my leg!" she says.

These are her first steps since her leg was shredded by a roadside bomb in Baghdad more than one month ago.

This is Ward 57 at Walter Reed Medical Center, where amputees get treated and where some of the best doctors in the world put some of America's bravest soldiers back together.

"I have seen miracles out here," says Jim Mayer.

Jim Mayer is not able to stand on his own two feet, but he has replacements. Both his legs were blown off by a landmine in Vietnam in 1969. He was operated on at Walter Reed and now comes back to counsel the young, grievously wounded veterans.

"It is difficult, but I'll tell you what I learned from experience is that they want to know how you're doing," says Mayer.

What does Mayer get out of it?

"A personal sense of reward I can't describe," he says. "I get to see patients -- men and women, when they first get here, not doing so well. And I watch them blossom. I watch them re-invent their lives."

Doc Worley was not expected to live. Doc, his real name is Joe, is 22 and remembers the day — remembers the convoy — that changed his world forever.

"The day I got injured was on September 17," says Worley. "We had roughly a week or so left."

Doc Worley was with a Marine platoon in Fallujah when a vehicle in front of his was blown up.

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"It broke my heart, it broke my heart when I heard it," he says. "I mean you're just, we were facing the other way, looking behind us and I just hear 'BVVVV!"

He grabbed his own medical bag, ran a few yards and was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.  It did not explode, but took off his left leg. He was then shot — six times. 

"I look down and there's a puddle of blood under me that's just getting bigger," says Worley. "And I realize that literally, I had seconds to live."

And then this young medic methodically went to work — on himself.

"Thank God I have a little tourniquet that I keep on my vest right there," says Worley.

He tied the tourniquet on his own leg.

“And I shoot myself up with morphine, 'cause I knew if I'm passed out from the pain I was done," he says.

Doc Worley is lucky. And he knows it.

"I commend any Corpsman that strives to work with Marines," says Worley. "It is the greatest thing I have done in my entire life — other than having my baby.”

If you ask them, these soldiers will still say they are lucky. New limbs? They’re a minor setback for most. Those looking for self-pity at Walter Reed will not find it.

"I was under the impression I was gonna die," says Worley. "I went through the whole bargaining and through the anger and depression, and went straight into acceptance. The left leg was a fair trade, you know. Getting out of Iraq, that left leg was a fair trade, I'm happy. I've got no complaints."

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