Army veteran Scott Winkler sat in a wheelchair in the front row of a North Naples memorial service Monday. He listened as Marine Cpl. Bobby Joseph told the crowd how he was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq on Veterans Day six years ago.
Both men shared the stories of their injuries at the Naples Memorial Gardens, where about 700 people attended a Memorial Day ceremony. Winkler and Joseph are two of the country's 1.6 million veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, about half of whom have filed for disability benefits for war-related injuries, according to the Associated Press.
"Memorial Day is not about barbecuing," Joseph said during the service. "It's the guys that fought for our country and are 6 feet under and still fighting, or veterans."
Following the explosion in 2006, Joseph, a 2001 Naples High School graduate, suffered nerve damage, traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"We all veterans have it," he said, referring to the disorder. "Some hide it. Some don't. Some work with it. Not all wounds are visible."
North Naples resident Larry Bullington, who served in the Army in the early 1960s, said he and his wife, Marylouise, have attended the ceremony for about four or five years, but had never heard Joseph's story.
"It's tough to listen to people like Bobby," Bullington said.
Following the ceremony, staff at Hodges Funeral Home screened "Warrior Champions: From Baghdad to Beijing," a documentary about wounded veterans who trained for the 2008 Summer Paralympics.
The film features Augusta, Ga., resident Scott Winkler, who was in Naples this week with his family to share his story. After being paralyzed from the chest down after a 2003 accident in Iraq, Winkler trained and qualified for the shot-put event, where he eventually placed fifth out of 17.
"Like I say, there is life after injury," he told a group of about 20 who stayed to watch the film. "As a soldier, you're meant to push through, suck it up, drive on."
Naples resident Bettina Farrell, who brought her three sons to hear Winkler speak, said the documentary made her think of her 16-year-old son, who is thinking of becoming an infantry officer.
"That just shows you the dangers that lurk," she said. "They are giving themselves as a gift to this country … It's a wonderful message for young boys growing to be men."