Wounded Iraq veteran gets by -- With a little help from friends

(CBS News) -- Ten years ago Wednesday, U.S. ground forces began pouring into Iraq.

By the time the war was over, more than 4000 Americans had been killed and 32,000 others were wounded.

Veteran Eddie Wright lost both his hands to a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq in 2004.
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But for some veterans, there are new battles.

Eddie Wright's wife Cody has to help him tuck in his shirt before he gets his picture taken because he lost both his hands to a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq in 2004.

"At first I looked at my hands and I said, 'Damn, both of them'," Wright said.

Wright spent a year-and-a-half at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, much of it with his mother at his side -- an expense the family couldn't afford.

In 2005, a charity called Semper Fi Fund presented him with a check to shore up his finances.

Wright became the first double amputee to return to active duty in the Marine Corps, teaching martial arts.

Iraq veteran Eddie Wright and wife Cody.
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"I didn't want to be a charity case. You know. I wanted to actually be a productive marine," he said in 2005.

He still says he doesn't want to be a charity case.

He got on with his life -- going to school, becoming a father to three children -- but couldn't escape his terrible wounds.

"I've also had times when I needed people to step up, like the Semper Fi Fund and help me out when I was in a bind," he said.

Wright's biggest bind was in his marriage. His wife Cody had to bear the brunt of anger he couldn't control -- especially after he left the Marines.

Iraq veteran Eddie Wright, wife Cody and family.
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"Of all the things the Semper Fi Fund has done the marriage counseling is the best," he said.

"What it all boiled down to . . . losing your hands, I do have a little anger and other feelings that accompany it and I do a good job concealing that underneath the surface but unfortunately I've taken it out on my wife."

Wright said he was angry because his career was cut short. "When I say I was living my dream, I really mean it," he said.

He is just one of the wounded marines helped by the Semper Fi Fund which Karen Guenther set up in May 2003, the same month President George W. Bush declared major combat in Iraq had come to an end.

Guenther said the fund had given out $72 million to almost 9000 service members.

Iraq War: Was it worth it?
U.S. troops injured in Iraq face tough homecoming
More coverage: Veterans affairs

But Karen Guenther's work is not coming to an end.

"When we started we thought, 'OK we're going to do this for a year or two'. Now ten years later we're still doing it and now I'm saying it's going to be decades."

There are no more Eddie Wrights coming home from Iraq, but the wages of war still must be paid.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.

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