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Retired Army major visits wounded soldiers overseas

December 19, 2005|By KAREN HANNA


During his visit to a military hospital in Germany, a local veteran said soldiers told him they worry about civilians killed in Iraq.

They also want to go back, retired U.S. Army Maj. Dieter Protsch said.

"This is what hurts the most for some of these soldiers, that's what they want to talk about ... because they crash into some of these houses where the insurgents are and there's civilians caught in between. And guess what? People are getting killed, kids are getting killed," Protsch said.

A Vietnam War veteran and Green Beret, Protsch recounted in an interview Wednesday his November visit to Kaiserslautern Military Complex in Germany, where he joined a group of hot-rod drivers from GM Racing and another Special Forces veteran in passing out goodie bags to severely wounded soldiers.


Protsch said the soldiers he met, many of whom are missing arms and legs, expressed mixed feelings about the war.

"The morale is not too bad. They don't like the war, but they like the fact they are being sent over to do a job," Protsch said.

According to Protsch, who grew up in Germany during the Hitler regime and served 20 years in the U.S. Army, soldiers who are wounded in Iraq receive treatment at the military complex before returning home.

"They patch 'em up as good as they can, and they ship them back to the United States," Protsch said.

In tours of the hospital and other military installations in the area, about 1,000 goodie bags supplied by GM Racing were distributed. Protsch also delivered letters written by Western Heights Middle School students.

Protsch and his wife moved to Hagerstown in 1976, the year he retired. Protsch said he supports reinstating a draft, but he expressed ambivalence about the war. Today's soldiers have been forced to do more with less, Protsch said.

"You try to talk with them, communicate with them, and they ask you, 'How was it in Korea? How was it in Vietnam?' And, it's totally different because then, I think we had wars going on. Now, we have military conflicts going on - all over the place," Protsch said.

Expressions of opposition to the war likely do not hurt troop morale, Protsch said.

One day before voters in Iraq took part in national elections, Protsch said it is time to leave.

Some of the wounded soldiers Protsch met told him they would like to return to Iraq to find the people who hurt them, he said. Some soldiers volunteered for more than one stint in Iraq before they got hurt, he said.

"They have the feeling like I had sometimes: I didn't do enough, I wanted to do more, so then you say, 'Send me back,'" Protsch said.

Protsch said he plans to visit soldiers in Iraq sometime next year to make sure they understand their efforts are not forgotten.

"I'm pretty sure that most of them would rather be home because it would be stupid or without feeling to say, 'I'm all for it, but, somebody's got to do it.' But I just hate to see more bodies coming home,'" Protsch said.

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