Two Soldiers, Scarred by the Same Battle, Reunite 10 Years Later

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Robert's Story: A Compassionate Lie

Martha Raddatz has covered the war in Iraq extensively and wrote a book, "The Long Road Home," about the same battle in Sadr City.

PHOTO: Robert Miltenberger, shown here in his 2005 interview with ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz.
ABC
Robert Miltenberger, shown here in his 2005 interview with ABC News' Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz.

She sat down with Miltenberger several times since the battle and in 2005 he told Raddatz that he thought about Young and others often, telling her the memories were "haunting."

End of Iraq War Bittersweet for Soldiers, Vets

In 2004, three months after the battle, Raddatz first interviewed Miltenberger and he told her the compassionate lie he told Young that day was the hardest part.

"I had one soldier he kept saying, 'I'm paralyzed, I'm paralyzed.' I said, 'No you're not, everybody's just laying on you.' There was nobody laying on him," Miltenberger recounted, his voice quaking.

That lie told in the middle of combat to try and calm a severely wounded soldier still haunts Miltenberger. He and his wife, Belinda, traveled across the country from their home in Cameron, La., to try and find some peace for that survivor's guilt all these years later.

A Reunion

On the morning of the reunion, the Youngs are watching television in their new apartment that Claudia has made so full and fun with movie and music posters, life-size superheroes adorning the walls, and mementos of their life together. Although Young does go out in his wheelchair at times, today he lies in his bed, his wife by his side.

A photograph of Pearl Jam on stage is propped up by the bed. Eddie Vedder wrote the music for the 2007 Phil Donahue documentary about Young titled "Body of War," which showed Young dealing with the excruciating physical effects of his injury and PTSD, as well as his work against the Iraq war. Young met his wife, Claudia, after she saw the documentary and began visiting him when he was in rehabilitation in Chicago after the embolism.

When the Miltenbergers arrive, Robert sits in a chair next to the bed and the meeting starts slowly and awkwardly at first, but Young breaks the silence first.

"I bared no grudge against you," Young tells Miltenberger.

"Well, I lied to you," Miltenberger answers.

"You were just trying to help me," Young says.

"I was feeling guilty because I didn't get shot," Miltenberger says.

It is then Miltenberger reveals just how deep this pain goes.

When asked by Raddatz if he really thought Young would blame him, he gives a shocking answer.

"No, pull a gun from under the thing and shoot me," Miltenberger says.

Miltenberger explains with his voice cracking, "I just think the worst, every time, any situation."

"I would never shoot anybody, much less you," Young says.

Both wives watch anxiously by their husbands' sides. Belinda has been married to her husband for 23 years and she cries throughout the reunion, overcome with emotion, knowing how much he has struggled over the past few years.

Both wives tend to jump in when needed. In Young's case his speech is slurred since the embolism. For Miltenberger, his wife explains her husband's emotions when he cannot.

Belinda Miltenberger says the pain comes because "Tomas got shot and he didn't."

"He feels like he should have protected them from getting shot. He couldn't stop them so he feels like he deserves to get shot himself," Belinda says. "He doesn't bring it up. He doesn't speak about it."

Robert Miltenberger adds, "It brings up emotions that you don't want to feel anymore."

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