Wounded American Vets Share Personal Stories

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from August 14, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: We learn something about the wars in Iraq from correspondents every day. But what about the situation on the ground through the eyes and ears of American troops, who have seen it all up close and personal?

For their firs t hand views, I'm joined now by Army Staff Sergeant Ramon Padilla, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Marine Corps Sergeant David Emory Jr. is an Iraq veteran. And Marine Corps Lance Corporal Tim Lang also a veteran of the war in Iraq.

All are amputees. All are recovering from war injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here in Washington. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.

Sargent Padilla, let me start with you. You were in Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan, where you have a lot of Al Qaeda and Taliban. It is a pretty rough area. Isn't it?

STAFF SGT. RAMON PADILLA, U.S. ARMY: Yes, sir. We're close to the Pakistan border in the northeast. There is a lot of Taliban, a lot of foreign fighters that come — well, that train in Pakistan and come and fight in Afghanistan.

ANGLE: Pretty rough terrain there?

PADILLA: Yes sir. We are in the (INAUDIBLE) Valley, which is a lot of mountainous terrain. You pretty much either go up or down. There is no level ground.

ANGLE: A lot of places to hide, no doubt.

PADILLA: Yes, there are a lot of shrubs, a lot of rocks. There are a lot of places to hide down there. It's very hard to locate the enemy.

ANGLE: Tell me what happened to you. I gather that you would not be alive if it were not for your buddies. What happened?

PADILLA: It was about to dinnertime. I went down to call my soldiers to come in and have some dinner. Sure enough, I told them to hurry up and come up and eat dinner before I get shot. A half second or second s later, there was a RGP round that came down and exploded in front of me.

The shrapnel cut my left arm, severed it. It lodged into the right side of my head. I tried to go down into one of the safe houses we have, but I just saw rounds bouncing aside of me. I tried to go back up. Same thing, I saw rounds. So I stood there. All I did was pray that someone would come up and get me.

Sure enough, Sergeant Daniel Richardson, he just ran up there, grabbed me, and ran back down the hill. Another sergeant also came up there to help me out. They took me into a safe house.

ANGLE: So your buddies ran through a hail of gunfire to rescue you.

PADILLA: Yes, sir. They ran through countless rounds going over our heads, hitting the ground. When I was in the safe house, there was a sergeant, Raul Padilla — he has the same name as I do. That was funny. When I got to the unit, there was another Padilla there. He put a tourniquet on and pretty much stopped the bleeding and saved my life.

ANGLE: It sounds like you were lucky to get out. Sergeant Emory and Corporal Lang, you were both in Iraq. I know there wasn't much contact with people in Afghanistan, much more isolated area. In Iraq, it is a different story. How did the people treat you in Iraq? How were you received by the Iraqis?

SGT. DAVID EMORY JR., U.S. MARINE CORPS: The city I was in, there was a fair share of people that were willing to help us out with stuff, let us know when there was someone in the area that was not supposed to be there.

ANGLE: Tip you off to someone who might be dangerous?

EMORY: Exactly, sir. Then there are the people who give you the evil eye when you walk by, just stare you down. A lot of them helped us out though.

ANGLE: Corporal Lang, what was your experience?

LANCE CPL. TIM LANG, U.S. MARINE CORPS: My take on it was that everyone was the enemy. We would walk through the streets and everyone would give you the eye. You never knew who was going to be the enemy.

ANGLE: Where were you?

LANG: I was in Fallujah.

ANGLE: That was a rough area when you were there?

LANG: Yes, sir. There were a few people we met, just a very few people, when we would go in houses and search houses, that the people would be really eager to help you out. But the majority, when you are out on the street, everything was like they were very upset that we were in their territory.

ANGLE: Let ask you all to answer the same question. You about Afghanistan, you about Iraq. I wonder if you feel like you're making a difference. I served in Vietnam. A lot of time there, people were just trying to stay alive, and did not always feel like they were actually making a difference. Did you feel like, Sargent Padilla, you were making a difference in Afghanistan?

PADILLA: At first, it feels like you are not making a difference because it is kind of hard. You are brand new in there, and you're talking to people and they pretty much do not trust you, because you are new. Little by little, you can tell you are making a difference. Some of the coastal trust you and the enemy tends to not get closer to those cities. It does bill feel sometimes like you're making a difference.

ANGLE: Sargent Emory?

EMORY: From my point of view, we would find weapons caches and stuff, but they have so much ammunition to use against us, it doesn't really feel like it. From the higher up perspective, they tell us we are doing a good job and we are making a difference. But, I would say overall, we probably are. We have taken quite a lot of ammunition from them.

ANGLE: Let me ask you one other question here at the end. I will start with you, Corporal Lang, is — there's a lot of debate here about the war. And in September, there will be a lot of debate about whether or not we should stay. What do you think would happen if the U.S. left?

LANG: If the U.S. left, there is still going to be a civil war, just like there were before we got there. It's not going to change that. They're still going to be running around blowing each other up. There would be less of us dying. To me, it is just a problem that is never going to be solved.

ANGLE: OK, not much time left. Sergeant Emory, same question.

EMORY: I feel if we leave, I'm afraid they will come over here and do what we do over there. Be fighting over there and be walking down the streets, and see the stuff that we saw over there.

ANGLE: The terrorist acts you're talking about?

EMORY: Yes, sir.

ANGLE: Afghanistan is a very different thing. I've got about 15 seconds left, very different kind of fight there.

PADILLA: Yes sir. But I think if we leave there, it will create a safe haven for the Taliban and al Qaeda. I also believe that if we leave, they will also come to the United States and try to bomb us.

ANGLE: Gentlemen I have to go. Thank you very much. We are all very grateful for your service.

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