News 12 at 6 o'clock, November 26, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.--- Augusta is poised to play a bigger role in caring for the nation' s wounded warriors thanks to a top notch medical community that includes Eisenhower Army Medical Center and the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center...and thanks in part to a former News 12 anchor who's helping to spread the word about the benefits of wounded warriors healing at home.
Earlier this year, News 12's Laurie Ott decided to do a story on the active duty rehab unit at the Uptown VA. It's the only one of its kind in the nation. That's where she met a young soldier named Crystal Davis who lost a leg in Iraq.
Crystal told Laurie, "I still don't know if I'm going to end up keeping [the other] leg or not."
Crystal came to Augusta after a stay at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "Walter Reed is a good place," she said. "I have no faults with that. It's just that there's too many patients for not as many therapists."
After hearing Crystal's story, Laurie wondered if maybe Augusta, with our military and medical communities, could do more for our wounded soldiers. That became her new mission. "It's exciting work," she told me.
Laurie and I sat down recently in the rehab unit and talked about how it's changing so many lives--including hers.
"Almost 500 inpatients have come in here--active duty soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen," Laurie said. "They come through here hurt, injured, wounded and they turn them out those doors success stories."
One of her challenges is to raise awareness of what Augusta has to offer.
This Senate hearing chaired by Senator Johnny Isakson did just that.
Since then, she's been to Washington meeting with a man who may be one of the nation's most well-known wounded warriors, Bob Dole. In a letter to Laurie, Senator Dole suggests Augusta would make a great regional center for wounded warriors.
And it only makes sense, with 70 percent of the service members returning from the war zones calling the southeast home.
"It really goes back to common sense," Laurie said. "If you or I got hurt, where would you want to be? We'd want to be near family and friends, and it's the same for our service members."
And it just so happens that there's room to grow at the VA, without having to spend a dollar on construction. Space is not a problem; the active duty rehab unit could grow in a hurry. Right now there are rooms filled with beds just waiting for wounded warriors. 30beds in all are ready and waiting to be used.
As for Laurie, she has a new office and a new mission.with reminders nearby about the people she's really working for now and the friends she left behind.
"I think people really want to know how you're doing," I told her. "Are you enjoying this?"
"You know, I miss News 12 and the work I was doing there and my friends, obviously," Laurie replied. "But the great part about what I'm doing is I feel like we can get something accomplished that will really serve the men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan."
And it could be a real opportunity not only for Augusta, but for the men and women who served our country.
"This is an opportunity for us to serve them," Laurie said. "What's better than that?"
Another way we serve is through the Fisher House at Fort Gordon. It's a place family members can stay while their loved ones are getting treatment here. Augusta has been approved for a second Fisher House which would hold 21 families. But the community will have to come up with $1.8 million to make it happen.
If you'd like to support that new Fisher House, you can donate through the CSRA Community Foundation. Click the link below for more information.
It's just another piece of the puzzle that seems to suggest Augusta is ready to play a bigger role in this heroic effort.