Memorial focuses on veterans' wounds that stay for life

WASHINGTON - President Obama this morning called it a painful truth: America has not always done enough to help its veterans.

He was speaking at a dedication ceremony for a new memorial that honors, for the first time, the millions of Americans injured in war.

When the flame was finally lit, many wondered why it took so long to erect a memorial to disabled veterans.

Project director Barry Owenby gave CBS News a tour ahead of today's dedication. The name -- American Veterans Disabled for Life -- is saying something.

"The unique thing about this memorial is we're commemorating all disabled veterans. There's a link back to the Revolutionary War, all the way forward," Owenby said.

Owenby added: "Disability doesn't end with the war. They live with it forever."

An estimated 3 million veterans -- like Dennis Joyner who lost three limbs to a booby trap in Vietnam -- are living with those disabilities today.

"One of the things that I've always struggled with somewhat is I've never really felt that the general public really understands or understood what disabled veterans go through," said Joyner.

Some disabled veterans, like former U.S. Senator and Presidential Candidate Bob Dole, who was severely wounded in World War II, have lived public lives, but most are like Joe Bacani.

"I've always seen myself as just like a normal average Joe," he said.

Shot by a sniper in Iraq, his picture is now part of the memorial.

He was asked if the picture is a window into his soul.

"I hope so and I hope people can see beyond the wheelchair that there's still a young man in there with many more years left to live, to make something out of himself," he said.

Bacani is back on his feet and a junior at Columbia University, just another college student -- except to anyone who visits Washington's newest and most overdue memorial.

  • David (CNET) Martin

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