Army General Knows War's Toll Firsthand

James Barclay
CBS
Being a general does nothing to ease the anguish of having a son badly wounded in battle and getting a phone call he is being med-evaced to Germany, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.

"He said, 'You need to go now,'" Brig. Gen. James Barclay says. They thought his son might not make it.

When Barclay got to Germany, he was greeted by a close friend and fellow general. Barclay knew all about war — he'd spent 18 months in Iraq — but now it was personal.

"She grabbed me and she said, 'You're not a general anymore.' And she goes, 'You're a dad,'" Barclay explains.

"It's hard. It's hard to see your son. But the best thing was he was alive," Barclay adds.

Lt. James Barclay IV, nicknamed Jae, went to Afghanistan last March the way most soldiers go to war the first time: Gung ho.

"I was really excited to go in there and find Osama and win the war. Carry everyone on my shoulders and win the war. And when you get there, it's not like that. The insurgency was very heavy. There were a lot of fighters there. We were fighting on their turf," Jae explains.

For six months, he took his platoon up remote valleys to hunt the Taliban. Then he got hurt.

"My vehicle had gotten hit by an IED and I was on fire. The explosion hit the gas tank. Both medics died and the gunner in my vehicle died as well," Jae says.

It happened on the first anniversary of his marriage to Sierra and six days before their first child was born. It meant moving to the burn ward at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, where soldiers and Marines fight a daily battle against pain and disfigurement. There, they gave him what he calls a "pain pop" – a pain killer he can suck on to take the edge off.

Jae's mom, Deborah, has taken on the job of caring for his wounds. It has become a daily routine for her.

"It has to be. It has to be. You go to PT and they'll stretch you, but if that's all you do, then the scar wins," Deborah says.

Beyond the physical pain, there is remorse.

"The guys are like brothers to me. I left them. And it took me a while to get over leaving my guys," Jae says.

Despite his son following in his footsteps, Barclay says he doesn't feel responsible.

"I couldn't be prouder. Do I question how his life had been if he hadn't chosen to go in the military? Sure, I don't think any human being would not do that," Gen. Barclay says.

Jae doesn't regret following in his father's footsteps.

"I don't regret that his happened to me. If it hadn't happened to me, it would have happened to someone else. And ... I wouldn't want to put that on anyone," he says.

It's a level of commitment few families on the home front can match. They put their own flesh and blood on the line. After Jae got hurt, the Barclays' younger son, Bill, signed the papers to join the Army and become a helicopter pilot — just like his father.