[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/16/art.odierno.jpg caption="US Defense Secretary Robert Gates hands over the Multi-National Force Iraq flag Gen. Ray Odierno while outgoing commander Gen. David Petraeus looks on during a Change of Command ceremony at camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq"]
As General David Petreaus handed over control to the new man in charge: General Raymond T. Odierno – it was like watching a speech you've seen a thousand times: 'Gains have been made . There's still work to be done . We need to maintain security gains: Thank you to all the troops who have sacrificed so much. '
That was the point when I flashed back to a meeting I had with General Odierno in January of 2007.
We were sitting at the time in his command center – he was the number two in command in Iraq at the time- and he started telling me a story I'll never forget.
He was at home, between his first and second tour in Iraq, when in the middle of the night he got the phone call that every parent who has a son or daughter in uniform dreads.
His son had been wounded horribly by a rocket-propelled grenade in Baghdad.
Anthony Odierno, a captain at the time reportedly tried to help his fellow soldiers – even though his left arm had been completely blown off. General Odierno was tearing up as he told me this story. His son nearly bled out and died on that street, and struggled through multiple surgeries in Germany before returning home to the United States.
As I watched his father giving his speech today, taking command of nearly 150,000 US troops still in Iraq, I could not help but wonder where young Anthony is today.
So, we spent the morning finding out. Turns out – he's working for the New York Yankees!
As if that wasn't enough, on July the 4th of this year, with one arm, he took the mound at Yankee Stadium, and in front of tens of thousands, he threw out the first pitch. When asked to comment before throwing out the ceremonial pitch he said, "I'm throwing it out for all those that are still serving our country."
From a young Captain who nearly gave his life, to his father, the new commander of US forces in Iraq. That’s the true definition of sacrifice that General Petraeus spoke of today in Baghdad.
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