First Term Memories


Photo: Pete Souza/The White House

"This was one of the most poignant moments of the President's first term. He was visited wounded warriors in the intensive care unit ICU at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, May 1, 2012. He had just presented a Purple Heart to Sgt. Chase Haag, who had been injured by an IED just hours before. Sgt. Haag was covered with a blanket and it was difficult to see how badly he was injured. He was also seemingly unconscious so the President whispered in his ear so not to wake him. Just then, there was a rustling under the blanket and Sgt. Haag, eyes still closed, reached his hand out to shake hands with the President."

Chase is thankfully doing much better than he was when Obama visited him in the ICU that day. From the President's speech at Fort Bliss on August 31, 2012:

"Sergeant Chase Haag is 22 years old. This past spring he was with his team when their vehicle got hit by an IED the day that I flew in. So when I arrived at his hospital room, he and his buddies were all in pretty bad shape. And he was certainly in bad shape -- his leg was broken, his back was fractured. He was laying there on his bed. He was under a lot of medication, face was swollen, his eyes were shut.

And at first, my attitude was I didn’t want to disturb him because I thought he was sleeping. And the doctor said, no, I think he can understand what you’re saying even if he can’t acknowledge it, and I think he’d appreciate knowing that you’re by his side. So I leaned in and I told Chase how proud I was of him and how proud the country was of him, and how we’d be praying for his recovery.

And I was turning to leave and then something happened. There was a rustling under his blanket. And Chase never opened his eyes, couldn’t make a sound, but suddenly you saw the blanket lift and his arm came out. And he shook my hand -- a firm Army handshake. (Hooah!) And I don’t think there was a dry eye in that room.

And then a few months later I was visiting our wounded warriors at Walter Reed, and I walk around the corner and who’s there but Chase. He had endured multiple surgeries. He was persevering through physical therapy. But this time he was on his feet. He was walking again. And he had his dad next to him. And today he’s back where every soldier wants to be -- back with his unit. (Hooah!) (Applause.)

And it made me think, that’s just one moment in the life of one American soldier. But it captured the spirit, the resilience, the tenacity, the discipline, the resolve, the patriotism of all of you."


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