Germany: A Way Station For Wounded

The Early Show, War doctors, Dr. Maj. Jeffrey Lawson and Lt. Col. Susan Raymond
CBS/The Early Show
More than two dozen U.S. soldiers and Marines injured on the front lines are being treated at a military hospital in Germany.

"We're only keeping them here for a pretty short time," said Lt. Col. Susan Raymond, a nurse at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center's ICU. "If it looks like they have a condition that they will be over in time to head back to the front, we'll let them do that. Otherwise, if they don't look like they're going to be over it pretty quickly, they're usually sent back to their home station."

Dr. Maj. Jeffrey Lawson, an emergency room physician, said he is seeing a lot of injuries to the arms and legs. "Seems like the body armor's doing a good job of protecting people," he added.

Raymond noted treatment is not just for physical injuries, but also for mental health.

"We have chaplains, social workers, psychiatrists that treat not only the patients but the staff members, as well, making sure we take care of their physical and their mental health," she said. "When they first wake up from anesthesia, many of them want to know, 'Can I talk to my loved one in the States?' And the second thing they want to know is, 'How are the guys doing in my unit?' They're very, very concerned with their buddies back in the war zone."

Sgt. Charles Horgan is one of the injured U.S. soldiers eager to get back to his buddies. And he doesn't mind telling people how he was injured.

He says he's just grateful to be alive to tell his story.

From Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, he told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm he suspected trouble when he approached a bridge south of an-Nasariyah and saw a group of Iraqis in Bedouin robes running away from him.

"We went to go check on some civilians that were on a bridge that apparently were upset about something," said Sgt. Horgan, a 21-year-old Humvee gunner from Fort Benning, Ga. "We went up to the bridge and we ended up getting ambushed by Iraqi soldiers dressed as civilians.

"I looked down the road, and right as I looked, there was a rocket headed toward us. It was just like in the movies. It didn't make like a horrible loud noise, it was just like this whizzing noise."

Recovering from shrapnel wounds to his right leg, he told Storm he was in shock at first.

"I was thinking, 'Oh, my God, they actually shot at us.' And then I thought, 'I'm going to die.' Then I thought, 'Well, no, it's going to hit the truck. I'm going to lose both of my legs.' And then I knew right then that I had to warn the guys who were inside of the vehicle. I yelled 'RPG,' and no sooner than I said it, we got hit. And the vehicle was disabled."

He was blown out of the turret along with Staff Sgt. Jamie Villafane, the Humvee driver from the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, from Fort Benning, Ga. Wounded on his left arm, Villafone said the whole experience was more of a shock than anything.

"I was real relieved to find that they all reacted the way that we would in training - the way that all of us are trained," Villafane said.

Villafane said he managed to pull the Humvee back, pursued the assailants and got four to drop their assault rifles and surrender.

Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Menard, also being treated for battlefield wounds at Landstuhl, said he was not prepared for the scale or resistance he encountered in the battlefield. "You can prepare yourself as much as you can physically and mentally, but, there's really no way to describe how it is. You're not really prepared for what is out there."

But like the others, Menard noted, he did what he was trained to do. Menard is from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was hit in the left hand, severing nerves.

Sgt. Horgan said he joined the army to serve his country but he was fighting to protect his friends.

"My friends were there. I know Sgt Schwartz, Nick and I are really good friends. We've been together since we've been in the military. We went to Kosovo together. We went to Iraq together, and I feel that he was there on the ground helping protect me. And I know my driver was there, and he was crawling with me, keeping me protected. And I feel that right now, since I'm at this hospital, I'm not doing like the same for them. I'm not helping them, the way they did to me and I feel kind of bad for that."