Disabled Veterans Question President's Timing, But Thankful For Troop Withdrawal

By John W. Davis

October 21, 2011 Updated Oct 21, 2011 at 11:25 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Four disable veterans shared their reaction to President Barack Obama's troop withdrawal plan.

They also shared how they learned to live with the painful and real results of the Iraq war.

President Obama's announcement brought out a range emotions for local disabled veterans.

"I actually couldn't believe what I heard," said U.S. Army National Guard Disabled Veteran Jeremy Rockstroh.

"Why now? Why not five years ago," chimed in U.S. Army Disabled Veteran Tim Leonard.

"It's been going on so long that's it's been apart of every day life," Rockstroh explained.

"Can't help to think there's a political agenda behind this," added U.S. Army Disabled Veteran Derek Ross.

The four guys sitting around the kitchen table on Dwight Drive in Fort Wayne all suffer from Post Tramautic Stress Disorder.

All suffer from back problems and one of them is wheelchair bound.

I'm better off now than I was two years," explained 25-year-old Tim Leonard, who is actually the youngest, yet ranking officer of the four men who were interviewed.

"Not being able to walk. That's a big thing. Having a doctor come in and tell you that the chances of you walking again are very limited. Your sense of freedom is gone. Your sense of independence is gone," Leonard said with tears forming in his eyes.

Originally from Florida, Leonard didn't know anyone when he moved to Fort Wayne to major in English at IPFW.

Now he's found brotherhood, with Rockstroh, Ross and countless others through the Disabled American Veterans of Allen County.

"Now I'm a lot better off than I was but still waking up every morning and seeing the chair, that's a battle that I go through every day," Leonard stated in a matter of fact way.

Leonard also told Indiana's NewsCenter why he joined the military.

His motivation was watching the 9/11 attacks in his 10th grade history class.

Leonard said he does not regret serving his country.

"I wouldn't trade my accident. If this is the outcome of the service I give to my country, then this is the outcome," Leonard said.

"PTSD is very real," added U.S. Army Veteran Matt Plum, who nows serves as the Commander of the Disabled American Veterans of Allen County Chapter 40.

All four veterans have been home between two to seven years. But coping knows no time limit.

"You just want to be a normal human being," Plum explained.

"You just wanna be like everybody else and be able to go out to a picnic and not have to worry or check the rooftops or wonder if you're driving down the road, you keep staring at the edges of the road looking for roadside bombs or anything like that," said Plum.

Meanwhile, although final troop withdrawals may only be weeks away, these veterans said if they were still in Iraq their number one focus would be taking it one day at a time.

"Whether it's day one or day 150 in the sand, you're working the same day to complete that mission. You don't change your mindset. Sure there's excitement about coming home but you still know you have a mission to complete," Ross said.

For more information on the Disabled American Veterans of Allen County, visit the related content section of this story.

For a direct response, call Matt Plum at (260) 494-9684 or email xjryder@gmail.com.

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