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A soldier's life at Walter Reed: Ryan Newman sees the other side of the story

Ryan Newman (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   DOVER, Del.
   Ryan Newman, whose team is sponsored by the U.S. Army and who spent Thursday on an emotionally wringing visit to Walter Reed Medical Center in nearby Washington, D.C., says he's talked with Army officials about a tour of Iraq, to visit troops in the field.
   "It's a matter of logistics – it takes a day over and a day back, and there are only so many days in the week, but we've talked about doing something like that, probably in the off-season," Newman says.
   "It's just a matter of timing. I would be interested in doing it (going to Iraq), and would be interested in seeing it.  Obviously it's not the best place to go visit.  Disney World would be really cool too. 
   "But going to see the troops would be what I would be there for, and it's just a matter of aligning it right in the off-season, so it can be effective and efficient for everybody.  I don't want to go over there and see three people and spend a day in an airplane coming back. 
   "I would want to make it effective and efficient."
    Seeing the hundreds of spiffily-uniformed troops Sundays at each NASCAR track is one thing, Newman says, but visiting the injured, some badly injured, at Walter Reed is wrenching.
   "It was my third trip there, and every trip is a different experience – because, unfortunately, there are different people there every time," Newman says.
   "It's really an eye-opening and heart-warming experience to see the typically young men being there and fighting through their injuries. 
    "It's nice to be able to share time and hear stories and trade stories…Even if it's talking about my buddy Don Miller's amputated leg (a pit road injury at Talladega in 1976) and talking about them, so they can share, and enlighten them on what he still does at 70. 
    "It was my wife Krissie's first time there, so it was cool she got to see it as well, and experience it, and spend some time with the soldiers. 
    "It's tough. It's not easy to sit there and talk to a 20-year-old kid who was injured….potentially life-threatening, who had people around him that died, and tell him 'everything is going to be all right.'  But you have to, and we did.
   "It's an honor to drive the race car. You can stand at driver introductions and see all these soldiers wearing their uniforms…and then when you go to a hospital and see a soldier out of uniform that's been injured, it's a different sense of honor. 
    "Without these people we couldn't be here doing what we're doing right now, or have the opportunity to drive the race cars, or as fans, sit in the grandstands. 
    "I walk in the door saying 'Thank you' to those injured soldiers…and I walk out the door saying 'Thank you,' because I truly mean it."

Ryan Newman has made three visits to the Army's Walter Reed Medical Center, including this one last fall (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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