Now he's stepping out on a Friday night for dinner with other recently wounded soldiers.
It's a weekly dinner for the wounded that now is marking its fifth anniversary. Free eats are nice, but what's really going on is healing, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.
"I'm glad you could make it out tonight," Hal Koster said to a soldier in a wheelchair.
He replied: "I'm very happy to be out tonight."
"Looks like you're doing great, though," Koster said.
"Yeah," the soldier replied. "I'm getting around. It'll be better when I can walk around, but it takes time."
Koster and another Vietnam vet, Jim Mayer, who lost both his legs, started the dinners five years ago.
"Did you think you were going to make it to five?" Martin asked.
"Well, we didn't think we'd have to. It wasn't a matter of wanting to," he said. "We certainly didn't want to."
"I always sit down with a guy that doesn't have legs - an amputee," said Iraq veteran Chris Bain. "I tell him I'll get his food for him so's long as he'll cut it for me."
Iraq left Bain with a useless left arm and a handicapped right. What he and all the others get out of these dinners is a taste of being normal again.
"It gave us confidence to go out and not be afraid to get in front of people and that's what those dinners mean," he said. "They mean the world to you. It's a lifesaving tool."
Andre Cilliers doesn't know yet if he's going to keep his left arm.
So it helps to know that with a little practice and a special knife, a one-armed man can cut a steak just fine.
It's hard to believe one room could encompass so much suffering - and so much happiness.
One soldier looked down at his son, whom he brought along, and said: "This is my little guy. He was born when I was in Iraq."
And it's important to remember that soldiers are still coming off the bus for their first Friday night dinner.