Burns counseled troubled U.S. troops | PostIndependent.com

Burns counseled troubled U.S. troops

Ryan Graff
Post Independent Staff Writer

GLENWOOD SPRINGS- Working as an army mental health specialist is a tough job. It becomes even more difficult when the soldiers who need care are fighting a war.

Michael Burns, son of Richard and Cheryl Burns of Rifle, returned home late last month after serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom in Kuwait for three months.

Burns is a mental health specialist with the Army’s 86th Combat Support Hospital. He joined the Army in 1999 and has already served in two of the largest U.S. military operations in recent years: the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In Afghanistan, he mainly did patient interviews and recommended techniques to relieve soldiers’ stress.

Operation Iraqi Freedom, however, was “a whole different story,” he said.

“Everyone’s carrying live ammunition. You’ve got to have your gas mask with you all the time,” he said.

“A lot of people would come up and say, `I want to kill myself, I want to get out of here,'” said Burns. “A lot of them were just scared to be there.”

Rightly so it seems.

During his time in Kuwait, Burns was nearby during many of the most publicized events of the war.

He treated soldiers injured in a grenade attack by a fellow U.S. soldier, heard Patriot missiles shoot down a British plane, and performed CPR on a soldier who suffered a double amputation after the soldier’s truck rear-ended another vehicle.

Burns also saw parts of the war not covered by the media.

On a convoy in Iraq, Iraqi children came up to the trucks begging the troops for food and water.

“We tried to help kids out we knew were in a bad situation,” Burns said, “We were handing out M.R.E’s and bottled water.”

“Those people didn’t ask to be there,” he said.”They just happened to be born there.”

“It gave me the greatest appreciation of where I live,” he added.

Burns’ wife, Mandy Burns, the daughter of Glenwood Springs residents Rick and Penny Landrey, also had a long three months while she worried about her husband.

“It was hard for me to sit there and watch TV,” war coverage,” she said.

“It was relieving to hear his voice every time he called,” she said.

In addition to the phone calls with his wife, the packages he received from people in Glenwood Springs and the surrounding communities also helped him get through the war.

“It was just awesome,” Burns said of the packages, “It just seemed like everyone would send something.”

“It was really appreciated,” he said.

Despite the time her husband spent away from home and family, enduring the hardships that come with war, Mandy Burns knows he would do it again.

“They enjoy every aspect of being able to help people and do their job,” said Mandy Burns. “It just amazes me these people are able to do it.”

Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext.


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