By John Rutherford, Producer, NBC News, Washington
There's a very moving ceremony at the Pentagon honoring soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, but few people know about it, and for good reason.
About 10 times a year wounded soldiers are brought down a Pentagon corridor lined with their Army colleagues, who cheer and applaud and shake their hands as they pass by.
A friend sent me a column by Joseph Galloway of McClatchy Newspapers in which Lt. Col. Robert Bateman describes the ceremony:
"They pass down this corridor of officers and applause, and then meet for a private lunch, at which they are the guests of honor, hosted by the generals," Bateman wrote in part. "Some are wheeled along. Some insist upon getting out of their chairs, to march as best they can with their chin held up, down this hallway, through this most unique audience.
"Some are catching handshakes and smiling like a politician at a Fourth of July parade. More than a couple of them seem amazed and are smiling shyly."
I asked Jim Miklaszewski, NBC's Pentagon correspondent, about the ceremony. He said it is closed to media coverage, at the request of the soldiers themselves.
"Not all of them are open to coverage," Jim said. "And since the soldiers come through as a group it's too awkward to try to isolate those who would give permission for us to cover the event."
Jim said the likelihood is slim of ever getting permission to cover this ceremony, so I can't give you a first-hand account. But I can let you know that it occurs.
"For 24 minutes, soldier after soldier has come down this hallway - 20, 25, 30. Fifty-three legs come with them, and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down this hall came 30 solid hearts."
1. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Frost, 24, of Waukesha, Wis.
2. Army Spc. Steven Koch, 23, of Milltown, N.J.
3. Army Sgt. Robert Rapp, 22, of Sonora, Calif.
4. Army Cpl. Jose Paniagua-Morales, 22, of Bell Gardens, Calif.
5. Army Sgt. Gabriel Guzman, 25, of Hornbrook, Calif.
Washington Producer John Rutherford is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He also posts stories on the military at www.fieldnotes.msnbc.com (click on "John Rutherford" under "categories") and at http://john-rutherford.newsvine.com/. The tribute gallery can be found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22802019/.