JOE HODGES writes:
They came in single file, about 50 of them. Silent ambassadors, to tell us who they were. They moved at a slow pace, passing us for over 20 minutes. Some walked, while others pushed their wheelchairs as best they could. Some were helped along on crutches by their wives or sweethearts.
They were escorted front and rear by U.S. Marines in dress blue uniform. I have never seen prouder Marines. The Amputee Ward from Walter Reed Army Medical Center visited the Pentagon today. I was there.
Some wore looks of resolution, pride, or dignity. Many had prosthetic devices where limbs used to be. All of them wore looks of surprise. We, the 26,000 employees of the Pentagon, lined both sides of the A ring (the inner ring of the Pentagon) to watch them pass and welcome them with thunderous applause. Half a mile they walked through a gauntlet of grateful fellow citizens two and three deep, who reached out to shake the hands of the remaining good arms, or grasp the remaining fingers of hands that have given ultimate service. They walked through us to the main concourse, where they were met by the Army Band and color guard playing martial music for them, and where the mall was filled with additional people who swelled the applause. Many of us just called out loudly, Thank
You, because we didn't know what else could be said; thank you for your service to us. The applause never stopped.
None of them spoke. They just cried. So did we.
It was the closest I have been to Christmas in a long time.