A group of wounded U.S. soldiers and Marines who are undergoing
rehabilitation at Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center are
being treated to some special therapy - a weekend of fun with their
families in New York City.
Looking down 10 stories over Ground Zero, Marine Corporal Jonathan Rist said he hoped the new construction going on below would not remove every last shred of the buildings destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
"They have all these great plans for new designs and new buildings and reflecting pools and memorial this and memorial that - I think they should leave a little bit -they are tearing the last bit of it out now," he said. "I think they should leave a little bit, because that means more than anything they could build. It will mean more to the generations to follow - plus the ones that gave up a lot for it."
Corporal Rist should know. He is one of the thousands of U.S. military personnel that have been injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Just 22 years old, he has been a Marine for four years. He spent 10 months in Iraq and then was deployed to Afghanistan, where a roadside bomb severed both his legs on August 30 last year.
But today, he and his wife Tonya were just two tourists, taking in the sights of New York, not thinking about the long road to recovery that still lies ahead.
The non-profit organization "Hospital Audiences," which provides hospital patients access to the arts, organized the 3-day escape for the wounded warriors, many of whom will spend between nine months and two years at Walter Reed.
Friday started out stormy, but as the 14 soldiers, Marines and their families boarded a yacht for a sightseeing cruise around lower Manhattan, the dark rain clouds parted giving them a glorious view of the Statue of Liberty.
It was a relaxed and happy atmosphere for the group. A chance to put aside the physical therapy, surgeries and doctor appointments that have become a part of their daily routines.
Army Specialist Will Cook, 20, lost a leg in Iraq, but was not thinking about his injuries on Friday. "The girl I like is here, so it's really fabulous!" he said.
Danielle Lyons, wife of Corporal Corey Lyons, 23, said she wished the weekend would never end and they did not have to return to Walter Reed hospital.
"It is a great opportunity for him to get away from physical therapy and all the stress he has to deal with," she said.
It is also a good opportunity for the spouses and children to relax. Their hosts have organized a full weekend of diversions for them, including a Broadway show and a trip to the circus, before they return to Washington on Sunday.