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American Hero Goes 'On the Record'

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," April 8, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Brian Kofage, one of the most seriously wounded soldiers to survive the war in Iraq (search). On September 11, 2004 a mortar attack (search) nearly killed the 23-year-old senior airman. He lost an arm and both legs in the attack but he has not allowed his devastating injuries to slow him down.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSTEREN: When did you go to Iraq.

BRIAN KOLFAGE, U.S. AIR FORCE: The first time I went was February — actually I got there in February of 2003. And we went into Iraq, actually when the war started. It was, I think March 26 or 27 of 2003.

SUSTEREN: What did you think when you were there? What was it like for you?

KOLFAGE: It was a big reality check, like when we first crossed the border. And you see the fire still burning through an Army, the rampage through the town. It was kind of chaotic.

SUSTEREN: How old were you then?

KOLFAGE: I think I was 20 — 20 or 21.

SUSTEREN: All right. Let's jump ahead to September 11, 2004. Do you remember that day?

KOLFAGE: I remember a couple of minutes prior to what happened. I don't remember what I did. If I talked on the phone way before it happened. I know I woke up.

SUSTEREN: Where were you?

KOLFAGE: Balad (search).

SUSTEREN: And what were you doing there?

KOLFAGE: Performing custom duties for the Department of Agriculture and inspecting all the baggage and the personnel leaving Iraq back to the U.S. making sure they no contraband and stuff on them.

SUSTEREN: All right. What happened? What do you remember about September 11, 2004.

KOLFAGE: We were waking up. I walked outside of my tent, walked about twenty feet and a mortar just dropped out of the sky on top of me.

SUSTEREN: Do you actually remember that?

KOLFAGE: I don't remember the mortar hitting me. But I remember being face first in the sand up against a sandbag. And I tried getting up. I didn't know what happened. I thought I was still dreaming, because I had just woken up five minutes ago.

SUSTEREN: Was it dark outside or was it light?

KOLFAGE: It was about 2:00 in the afternoon — 2:00 or 3:00.

SUSTEREN: Then what happened that you recall?

KOLFAGE: I was thrown on the ground. I thought I was dreaming, I didn't think I got hit by mortar. And I tried standing up and I couldn't. I just looked at my hand and my whole thumb was pretty much chopped off by shrapnel and my right-hand looked like was chewed up like a dog or something. It was really bad, real bloody.

SUSTEREN: In terms of your right hand, this has been amputated, right?

KOLFAGE: Yes.

SUSTEREN: Where is it amputated?

KOLFAGE: It's right there, just about my wrist.

SUSTEREN: And this is a prosthesis Walter Reed has fit for you?

KOLFAGE: Yes.

SUSTEREN: Do you have any phantom pain on your hand?

KOLFAGE: No, I never had any phantom pain on any of my amputations. I luck out pretty good with that.

SUSTEREN: This prosthesis — do you know what this made out of?

KOLFAGE: This is carbon fiber that slips on my arm. It's called a myo-electric. There are two sensors on the inside.

SUSTEREN: I don't think the camera can catch the two sensors that are inside. What do you sensors do inside?

KOLFAGE: They read small amounts of electronic energy from your muscles. I fire my muscles and the sensors will pick it up and the hand will react in different ways to my muscles.

SUSTEREN: Can you move these fingers on this prosthesis?

KOLFAGE: Let's put it back on. There you go.

SUSTEREN: Oh, that snapped on. And what is that right there?

KOLFAGE: This is the battery. This is electric. I just charge it over.

SUSTEREN: All right. So, what can you do with it?

KOLFAGE: Well, there are bolt sensors, like I was explaining earlier.

SUSTEREN: So you're doing this with the muscle in the part of your arm that you have?

KOLFAGE: Yes.

If I use this muscle real slow it will open my hand up. It's the same muscle that you use to open your hand up, up here. The muscle down here — if I go like that, I will shut it.

SUSTEREN: How long did it take you to learn that?

KOLFAGE: A couple of days. Like I was saying, they hook you up to a computer and you have a little mock hand on the computer screen. And they have the wires hooked up to your arm, and you just play around with your muscles trying to get it down.

SUSTEREN: Do you have advice for other whose are amputees. This is relatively knew for you since September, but you seem to have a fabulous attitude. What's the best advice you can give them?

KOLFAGE: Just keep your head up. You know, at first it's pretty hard, it's pretty rough. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel. It only gets better I you have a positive mind.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there a word to sort of describe how you feel these days about what happened to you?

KOLFAGE: I feel really motivated.

VAN SUSTEREN: Really? Why? I mean, that's good to hear. I'm delighted to hear that, but...

KOLFAGE: There's a lot of other people in the hospital and they only lost maybe a hand or just a foot or something. You know, they get all down, and it's like — I try to talk to a lot of people. I mean, I lost two legs and a hand and I'm still smiling. So, it's not really that bad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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