Award-Winning Actor Visits Wounded Troops

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2007 - Award-winning actor Robert Duvall certainly wasn't gone in 60 seconds when he stopped at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here yesterday to visit wounded servicemembers.

He did discover, however, that his 2000 movie "Gone in 60 Seconds," was a favorite with those he talked to. "What is it with that movie?" he asked after talking with several troops who said they loved the film.

"I think 'Gone in 60 Seconds' was on (Turner Network Television) the other day, so I just watched it," Army Spc. Brent Hendrix, a Walter Reed outpatient, said in providing a possible explanation.

Duvall's visit was a welcome surprise, said Hendrix, whose right leg was amputated below the knee after his Stryker combat vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Iraq's Anbar province on June 27, 2006.

"I'm all about him," he said. "Most times you sit there, and you think about celebrities, ... and you wouldn't ever think they'd come by here and see us. They really do appreciate what we do and what we continue to do."

That sentiment was echoed throughout the physical therapy room as Duvall worked his way around amid the hubbub of on-going rehabilitation sessions.

Duvall was sincere and heartfelt, said Marine Cpl. Kenny Lyon, also a Walter Reed outpatient, who lost his left leg above the knee when his operating post north of Fallujah, Iraq, was hit by a mortar May 1, 2006.

"I really enjoy it when people visit," he said. "It's just good for the patients and other people who have been here less time than me. Some of them think this really sucks and they see people come in. It really puts a sparkle in their eye, and it's nice to see."

Despite repeatedly being stopped in the halls by those wanting to meet the screen legend, Duvall also managed to visit servicemembers in the occupational therapy rooms and in Ward 57, an in patient ward housing mostly orthopedic patients. Most of the amputees are treated there.

"We have so many people coming to visit ? VIPs, general officers ? it just seems like sometimes people walking in off the streets to say, 'Hi,'" said Retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Dan Cordell after visiting with Duvall in his Ward 57 room. "It's nice that people care."

Cordell was injured while working as a contractor in Iraq.

Duvall played down the significance of his visit, saying it was an "honor and a privilege" to be able to talk with these "wonderful young people," and that he's impressed with the care they're receiving.

"I'm just a layman. I don't really understand the specifics of what you have here, but it seems wonderful what's being done and the treatment these people are getting," the actor said. "It's very thorough and scientific, specific, and loving at the same time."

The son of a career Navy officer, Duvall marveled at the persistence the wounded warriors displayed. "So many of these young men and women, they want to go back," he said. "They want to go back to the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's amazing."

Amazing perhaps, but very telling, said Alan Geoffrion, who accompanied Duvall and his wife, Luciana Pedraza.

Geoffrion, who wrote the western novel "Broken Trail," said he and his father-in-law, both Vietnam veterans, once had doubts about an all-volunteer military.

"Last night we both ... agreed that this is probably -- well, not even probably -- this is the best military our country has ever fielded," he said. "They're brighter, smarter (and) more skilled. They need to keep them back in active duty. I think it's terrific that the services are willing to do that."

The former Navy signalman also wrote the screenplay for the television movie version of his book, which recently garnered Duvall an Emmy award for outstanding leading actor.

"I wanted to come and do this," Geoffrion said. "You come here thinking you're going to help them, and you wind up they help you a lot more."

Celebrity visits really do help the servicemembers and their families, though, Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said.

Lynch spent yesterday at the hospital visiting about 50 of his wounded soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division, which he commands out of Fort Stewart, Ga. He'll soon head back to his other position as commander of Multinational Division Center in Iraq.

"I think -- and I'm a fan of Robert Duvall, as well -- when they see him on the screen and see him in person they can relate, because he's always doing action adventures," Lynch said. "At least on the screen, he's doing what we do in life. To me, it's personally inspirational that he takes the time to come and visit these great soldiers."

Duvall wrapped up his visit with a tour of the new Military Advanced Training Center, which was officially opened during a Sept. 13 ceremony.

Award-Winning Actor Visits Wounded Troops [ ]