CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – On the eve of the anniversary of the September 11th attacks and on the same night President Obama addressed the nation on Syria, a man who knows the effects of war spoke in Cambridge. “We change lives. We save lives every single day,” said retired Army Staff Sergeant Erick Millette, a New Hampshire native.
Millette now works for Wounded Warrior Project. He was in town ahead of the 4th annual Boston Soldier Ride later this month. “I don’t think I’d be sitting here having this conversation or be able to present my story, my troubles or how I overcame them without the Wounded Warrior Project,” Millette said in an interview with WBZ.
He did two tours in Iraq and still suffers from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. “I was subject to nine direct hits by improvised explosive devices less than three feet from my door. I was knocked unconscious six times,” he said. “I suffer from traumatic brain injury. I have a spinal injury as well as a left knee injury.”
Millette was forced to medically retire in December of 2007. After that, he says his life spiraled out of control. The Army had been his family. “I was one drink away and one bullet away from suicide just last November and Wounded Warrior Project pulled me into their program and said you’re not alone, we’re going to take care of you,” he explained.
Millette did not want to comment on whether the U.S. should strike Syria. But his reaction reflects what he’s been through. “My reaction automatically goes back to if that was to happen, we need to focus on taking care of the warriors who are called into action to take care of our country,” he said.
“I can’t imagine what active-duty service members actually are thinking,” he said. “I can’t speak for them now. Obviously it’s a different time. But when I recall the shock and awe prior to a ground campaign in Iraq, I remember feeling the anxiousness and the wondering of what is going to happen. I tried to eat my last hamburger and to get those last few things in. Because you have these intruding thoughts of this could be my last time in the United States,” he recalled.
At this point, President Obama says he’s only talking about targeted air strikes in Syria, and no boots on the ground.
“I think everybody in the United States, for the most part, is hopeful that we don’t have to do any or have any military action in Syria,” Millette said.
But if there is an aftermath, if there are more men and woman who need help, he and Wounded Warrior Project will be there to welcome them home. After all, the project saved his life.
The Boston Soldier Ride to raise money for Wounded Warrior Project takes place Saturday, September 21st in Concord, MA. 200 people have already registered with contributions of around $50,000. Organizers hope to double that. To register or find out more, go to www.soldierride.org/Boston.