Operation Proper Exit Continues to Provide Healing and Closure

Retired U.S. Army 1st Lt. Edwin Salau and seven other wounded warriors speak, as part of Operation Proper Exit, to an audience of U.S. Soldiers, stationed at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Oct. 15, 2009. Operation Proper Exit is a therapeutic program that brings injured Soldiers seeking a sense of closure, back to the place they were injured. Salau was injured by a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire, Nov. 2004 and lost his left leg. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod/Released)

Operation Proper Exit is a groundbreaking program that affords wounded Troops and veterans from around the US to retrace the last steps they took before being injured.  Sponsored by Troops First Foundation and The USO, Operation Proper Exit finished its fourth tour in April and the fifth group is out right now.

As reported by NBC Chicago, the current crop of soldiers is accompanied by the Union League of Chicago’s COO Jonathan McCabe, who is using a Facebook page to provide updates on the mission.  One participant is Staff Sgt. Brian Beem, who had the lower part of his right leg amputated after being injured in Baghdad in 2006.  Like most of the men, Beem seeks a sense of closure from the experience: “I’d like to see (if) the efforts put forth actually did something and be able to hear from other soldiers, whether or not things are better or things are worse,” Beem told CBS affiliate KTVA. “I’d like to be able to see some kind of end product for what we did.”

We hope his experience will be like that of Sergeant (Ret.) Juan Arredondo who, on last month’s trip, reunited with former colleague Command Sergeant Major Robinson.  “Sgt. Arredondo and I were deployed to Korea and Iraq together. I remember when he was injured. Seeing him today makes me feel some sadness, but also joy at the same time. He is here, in Iraq, standing,” said the command sergeant major to Spc. Crystal M. O’Neal.

“I’ll never forget when we redeployed, and he met me and the other guys getting off the plane. We were so happy to see him there, recovered,” he said. “Moments like that and this one, today, are priceless.”

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Operation Proper Exit IV in Photos

OPE IV Baghdad

Participants of Operation Proper Exit IV pose with the USO logo and USO staff at Camp Sather AB USO, Baghdad. (USO Photo by Rick Kell)

Center Manager Terry Benson welcomes participants from Operation Proper Exit IV to Camp Sather AB USO, Baghdad, including Rick Kell (center), of the Troops First Foundation. (USO Photo by Richard McCarty)

OPE VI Baghdad

Participants in Operation Proper Exit IV meet the staff and receive orientation at Camp Sather AB USO, Baghdad. (USO Photo by Richard McCarty)

OPE IV Baghdad

Duty Manager Richard McCarty and Center Manager Terry Benson talk with a participant of Operation Proper Exit IV, at Camp Sather AB USO, Baghdad. (USO Photo by Rick Kell)

More than two-hundred soldiers turned out to greet six wounded warriors participating in Operation Proper Exit as they made a stop in Camp Prosperity, Feb. 2, as part of their seven day tour of the forward operating bases in Iraq. Prosperity is currently home to a number of units charged with the administration and security of the International Zone who welcomed being given the opportunity to thank those who came before. (Photo courtesy of the Texas Army National Guard.)

Representatives of the many units actively working on FOB Prosperity, including the 336th Military Police Battalion, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 571st MP Battalion, stood ready to welcome the return of six soldiers wounded during their tours in Iraq as part of Operation Proper Exit. The program brings wounded soldiers back to Iraq as part of their healing process and is run through the USO and the Troops First Foundation. (Photo by Texas Army National Guard 1Lt Darryl Frost)

More Images from Operation Proper Exit III

Crew members of a US Army BlackHawk helicopter hold an American flag as they pose with five returning Wounded Warriors at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. (left to right): Captain Sam Brown, Sergeant First Class Josh Olson, Sergeant First Class Mike Schlitz, Sergeant Bill Congleton (Retired), and First Lieutenant Jim Kirchner (Retired). (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Sergeant Bill Congleton (Retired) spreads his arms wide as he prepares to greet comrades of the Oregon National Guard at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. Congleton, who lost a leg in a IED blast in 2004, returned to Iraq with a group of Wounded Warriors with "Operation Proper Exit". (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Sergeant Bill Congleton (Retired) hugs a comrade of the Oregon National Guard at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Sergeant First Class Mike Schlitz (left), who lost both arms and was badly burned in a IED blast in 2007, and returned to Iraq with a group of Wounded Warriors with "Operation Proper Exit", talks to soldiers at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Sergeant First Class Josh Olson (left), Captain Sam Brown, and his wife, Captain Amy Brown are all smiles after arriving with a group of returning Wounded Warriors on "Operation Proper Exit", at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

First Lieutenant Jim Kirchner (Retired) (second from right), who suffered severe injuries in a mortar attack in Iraq in 2005, and returned with a group of Wounded Warriors with "Operation Proper Exit", chats with soldiers at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Sergeant Bill Congleton (Retired) (second from right) poses with comrades of the Oregon National Guard at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, December 29, 2009. Congleton, who lost a leg in a IED blast in 2004, returned to Iraq with a group of Wounded Warriors with "Operation Proper Exit". (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Operation Proper Exit III – A Photo Essay

Five US military Wounded Warriors prepare to re-deploy to Iraq prior to boarding a US Air Force C-130 on the third “Operation Proper Exit” tour, from Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, December 28, 2009. Co-sponsored by the USO and the Troops First Foundation, the program is designed to help bring closure to wounded service members who have been injured in combat. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Captain Sam Brown of San Antonio, Texas (right) hugs his wife, Captain Amy Brown, who surprised him by unexpectedly showing up at an event to honor US military Wounded Warriors, at Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, Iraq, December 28, 2009. Attending are (left to right): Sergeant First Class Mike Schlitz, Sergeant Bill Congleton (Retired), and First Lieutenant Jim Kirchner (Retired). (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Five US military Wounded Warriors prepare to re-deploy to Iraq prior to boarding a US Air Force C-130 on the third “Operation Proper Exit” tour, from Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, December 28, 2009. Co-sponsored by the USO and the Troops First Foundation, the program is designed to help bring closure to wounded service members who have been injured in combat. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Five US military Wounded Warriors prepare to re-deploy to Iraq prior to boarding a US Air Force C-130 on the third “Operation Proper Exit” tour, from Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, December 28, 2009. Co-sponsored by the USO and the Troops First Foundation, the program is designed to help bring closure to wounded service members who have been injured in combat. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Five US military Wounded Warriors prepare to re-deploy to Iraq prior to boarding a US Air Force C-130 on the third “Operation Proper Exit” tour, from Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, December 28, 2009. Co-sponsored by the USO and the Troops First Foundation, the program is designed to help bring closure to wounded service members who have been injured in combat. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Sergeant First Class Josh Olson (right), who lost a leg in a 2003 RPG attack in Tal Afar, chats with military personnel who welcomed returning wounded warriors at an event at the Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, Iraq, December 28, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

US Army Chief of Staff Major General Joseph Anderson (second from right) holds a discussion with a group of Wounded Warriors (clockwise from left): Sergeant Bill Congleton (Retired) of Sutherlin, Oregon, Sergeant First Class Mike Schlitz of Moline, Illinois and Captain Sam Brown of San Antonio, Texas, at the Al Faw Palace, Baghdad, Iraq, December 28, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)

Captain Rob Brown, of San Antonio, Texas, assists Sergeant First Class Josh Olson, of Spokane, Washington, with his crutches as they exit a C-130 and are received by a US Air Force Honor Guard, on arrival at Sather Air Base, Baghdad, Iraq, December 28, 2009. (USO Photo by Mike Theiler)