September 16th, 2008
01:11 PM ET

The new man in Iraq: Answering the call

[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"]
Cal Perry
International Correspondent

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.

Filed under: Cal Perry • Global 360°
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    I'm glad the son got better and is working for the NY Yankees. I feel for him losing his arm in a war that should have never happened. Its bad enough to lose a limb; its worse when it didn't have to happen in the first place. I wonder how well Bush sleeps at night or if he even cares.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    September 16, 2008 at 9:22 pm |
  2. kathleen

    Nate, maybe you can explain to me how the death and maiming of more American service men and women honors the deaths and maiming of the four thousand plus who went before.
    Didn't George Bush, from the deck of a carrier, all dressed up to look like a service man, proclaim " VICTORY!"
    I agree with Tyrone completely and I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks this war was just, especially as Bush has admitted there were no WMD's

    September 16, 2008 at 6:44 pm |
  3. harish

    People extol the kid for bravery. Their job is done.

    What is not talked –
    what it means to loose your body part and the associated agony. Was it worth – where we are in iraq now vs. where we should have been.?

    Other people justify by saying – that is what military accepts.

    Non- military people need to shoulder the burden – to prevent young kids being blown out, who have no say, because they are in military.

    September 16, 2008 at 6:28 pm |
  4. Lee

    In response to Tyrone's – Sept. 16's two blogs. I see you are what I call a "savage liberal" taking any opportunity to spew the liberal party line regardless of appropriateness. In this case a story of the heroism of Capt. Ordierno and, indeed, Gen. Ordierno. Neither of these men were making political statements by what they did and was reported. They were both making statements of character, honor, and patriotism. The General and probably the Capt. have both served under Democratic and Republican Administrations and displayed the same character and honor in each case. That is their job. It is simply dispicable to use such a story to dish out you hate messages, Tyrone. I could say something hateful here and become like you. Instead I find you pitiful. I will pray for you.

    September 16, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  5. linda

    Just want to honor our military and let you know we love you and support you. I thought this was to comment on the story above not turn this into a bashing party. My nephew served twice in Iraq and believes we must complete what we set out to do. Many people there are grateful for what we have done, and I know one specific little Iraqi girl owes her life to my nephew. He didn't just risk life and limb for one of our own helicopter pilot's but valued the life of the little Iraqi girl caught in the cross-fire and grabbed her too. We value life in America, but also in less fortunate countries where tyrants have brutally ruled and spilled innocent blood.

    September 16, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  6. Truth

    Funny how a general has his son serving in the war, but the stupid President who caused it ALL does not have any personal investment or family members serving. Tells you a lot about what Bush really believes in....MONEY!

    September 16, 2008 at 6:07 pm |
  7. Linda Hendrickson

    Dear General Raymond T. Odierno:
    I was very moved to read the story of your son, his struggles and his successes. Thank you for sharing your information with CNN and know that we are behind you.
    Please see us safely through the remainder of our troops' time in Iraq. I do not want the death or our son, or any other military member or civilian supporting our efforts, to have occurred in vain.
    For your son, for our son, for all those that have left us and those that continue to serve us, serve them well.
    Thank you.
    Linda Hendrickson

    September 16, 2008 at 6:07 pm |
  8. Lois

    Appreciate the story about Odierno and his son. My son is currently an Army captain serving in Iraq. Comforting to me to know that his commanding general knows what it is like to be the parent of a deployed soldier.

    As for our presidential candidates, some of their sons are also serving their country in the military.....while some others disrespect our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. Who would you trust to take care of your military kid?

    September 16, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  9. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT




    September 16, 2008 at 6:02 pm |
  10. nate

    We need to win this war in Iraq to honor the sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform!

    September 16, 2008 at 5:22 pm |
  11. Tyrone


    Iraq was never a threat to the security of America. No way should we have sent American troops into Iraq. The Iraq war has cause the needless death of American troops. 4118 American troops dead 90,000 injury 50% of 90,000 lost of limps 45% of the military returning from Iraq can't find jobs 23% are losing there homes 33% facing divorce! 3,000 family orphan! And John McCain voted against the GI bill. President Bush should be impeach for American troops needless death. And McCain should be made to retire. Both are out of touch with America and the world! And both President Bush and John McCain's family should be made to live in Iraq! They want to liberate Iraq LET THEM LIVE THERE! The American troops volunteer to serve there country and they put there trust in our government. And our government failed and disrespected American troops worse then any other government in our history! Only the American people can speak for the thousand of American troop kill needlessly in the Iraq War. Americans need to send a message to the republican party and McCain . NO WAY NO VOTE! Someone must pay for the horrible judgement of Bush and McCain!

    September 16, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
  12. Tyrone

    McCain The Hero

    McCain is always talking about how he is the only American candidate for President that REALLY fought for his country! Refering to him being a POW. There are many Americans that have not serve in the military but love there country none the less! This talk of patriotism and GOD and country as if . Only white republicans and McCain can claim those words. IS SICK AND DISRESPECTFUL TO ALL AMERICANS! Was McCain such a moral hero to his first wife? Who he play around on and divorce while she was disable after a car accident! Or was Cindy McCain his wife. Who stole drugs from the poor! There are commercial of other POW survivors that say.That just because a America was a POW does not quatify you to be a American PRESIDENT! McCain is too old and out of touch with the country and the world! Voting for the Iraq war then not ever given the troops proper armor to fight the war. Is criminal and disrespectful to human life! McCain and Bush should be imprison for abuse of power AND STUPIDITY! They attacked the wrong country! Books from President Bush former staff are being written. Telling the truth about President Bush lies about Iraq threats!Mccain not my hero nor the hero of the dead military that gave there lifes thinking there country was RIGHT!

    September 16, 2008 at 3:30 pm |
  13. Minou, New York City

    Cal, thanks for this story.
    I read the WSJ and NYT articles about the hand-over today. The human being behind the military persona often vanishes in the haze of sober facts. So this was a nice thing to learn about the new commander.

    September 16, 2008 at 3:08 pm |
  14. Cindy

    Great story. I would have never have known about Odierno's son if it weren't for you telling it here. Thankfully he made it through that tragedy and seems to be doing well and moved on. Hopefully his dad will do great in leading our troops in Iraq. He knows what it's like to have his son almost die so I am sure he'll always do what's best for the others there.


    September 16, 2008 at 1:22 pm |