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Monday, July 21, 2003

Don't forget the wounded. Over 1000 US soldiers wounded so far, and increasing by several every day. The Washington Post visits with several of them at Walter Reed Hospital in a two-part series: Part One Part Two
In Room 5714, Garth Stewart is sleeping when three doctors arrive. One of them reaches for a light switch, and before Garth can shield his eyes, his room is flash-blasted in white.

"Can we take a look at the leg?"

Garth flips back the bedsheet. His desert tan has gone sallow. His GI buzz cut is a woolly disgrace. Even in this condition, he wishes for a decent soldier's haircut. The drugs have made his stomach cramp so much that he stays curled on his side. Now, with the doctors hovering, he tries to straighten out his 6-foot-4 frame. His amputated leg won't lie down. It trembles in midair.

A doctor works quickly, unwrapping the bandage and then the white gauze. Garth watches as they probe the black caterpillar of sutures on his bulbous stump. He moans. The stump begins to shake violently. "I'm gonna get sick," he says.

"You want your bucket?"

Garth reaches for the container. "I can't do this much longer," he says, holding his hand over his eyes.

"We're almost finished," the doctor tells him.

"No," Garth says, "not that, everything. I can't take it any more."