More than half a million people gathered on the National Mall in front of the Capitol to be a part of President Barack Obama's second inauguration. Among them were about 10 wounded warriors who have been recovering at Walter Reed hospital in Washington. Among that group were four Fort Drum soldiers. One, Specialist Jacob Owens, spoke with a reporter after a long day full of ceremony.
Specialist Jacob Owens had a dangerous job when he was deployed to Afghanistan: route clearance. That put him in harm's way in advance of other soldiers moving along roads full of improvised explosive devices. And it was an IED blast in November 2011 that is responsible for his injuries: a broken left leg, a broken bone near his eye, a blood clot in his lung, and a traumatic brain injury.
Owens has been at Walter Reed for over a year now, recovering. He says he was a bit overwhelmed when he found out about a week ago that he'd be attending the presidential inauguration.
"It's just that moment of, 'Wow, I can't believe I'm here right now,'" Owens said.
Owens says the ceremony – and especially the president's speech – were moving.
"I would probably call it, like, on-the-job encouragement, you know, to keep on and to keep pushing hard, you know, no matter what. And you know, after being wounded, it's on many soldiers' minds to say, okay, my body's went through enough, you know, I want to retire, or whatever. For me, I'm just going to keep going, and I'm going to return to duty and stay in," he said.
Despite his own sacrifices during wartime, Owens says he was thrilled to get to say “thank you” to another group of veterans: the Tuskegee Airmen, who also attended the inauguration.
The airmen fought during World War II as the nation's first black military aviators.
"That was a great moment, for me to see the Tuskegee Airmen, I actually got up to go greet them and shake their hands and thank them for their service, as well," Owens said.
Owens says he was happy the inauguration provided a moment of unity in Washington. He says it was great to see everybody on one page, celebrating.