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He was burned over 85 percent of his body and lost both arms below the elbow when a bomb blew up the military vehicle he was driving in Iraq. But retired Army Ranger Michael Schlitz exudes confidence and exemplifies the spirit of self-preservation.

Schlitz, a veteran advocate for the Gary Sinise Foundation, talked in detail about his harrowing experience to a crowd of about 100 retired servicemen and backers of Darby's Warrior Support who gathered Sept. 21 at the Country Club of Little Rock. The occasion was the third annual Warrior Salute Benefit Dinner.

Darby's Warrior Support provides combat veterans of the 9/11 generation free, all-inclusive Arkansas duck hunting trips in luxury accommodations, plus scholarships for severely wounded and permanently disabled veterans seeking college degrees. The veterans come from a multi-state area.

The group of mostly men swapped stories over cocktails then sat down to a steak dinner and words from Schlitz. He said people often ask him how he endured his six-month hospital stay and the 96 surgeries following the 2007 bombing.

"I remind them that I am just one story," Schlitz said. "We have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of veterans who've been injured ... to protect our freedoms."

It was Schlitz's second time to address Darby's Warrior Support, which was established by board president retired Col. Shawn Daniel and board member retired Sgt. Maj. Dennis L. Smith. Schlitz's connection to the group is through Smith, with whom he served.

Schlitz lauded the group for its work with war-wounded veterans who need an outlet for their pain. "It's not about the fishing. It's not about the hunting. It's all about the camaraderie," he said.

"We've said things and done things that only we can understand."

Gallery: Warrior Salute Benefit Dinner

High Profile on 10/01/2017

Print Headline: Combat veterans convene to hear injured Ranger's talk


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