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Injured Sailors Flown To Brooke Burn Unit

May 21, 1987

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AP) _ Two sailors burned in the attack on the USS Stark arrived at Brooke Army Medical Center on Wednesday after being flown from Bahrain via West Germany.

A small group of reporters was on hand as Petty Officers 3rd Class James R. Wheeler, 28, of El Paso, and Lawrence M. Bareford, 23, of Fredericksburg, Va., arrived at Kelly Air Force Base about 8:30 p.m.

The mothers of the two men met them at the hospital.

Ray Dery, a hospital spokesman, said the men would be admitted in critical condition and that physicians would dress the wounds and feed the sailors intravenously to replenish lost liquid.

Wheeler suffered second-degree burns over 35 percent of his body and Bareford had second-degree burns over 20 percent of his body, said a Navy spokesman in Washington who asked that his name not be used.

There were 37 sailors killed Sunday when an Iraqi warplane fired two missiles and hit the frigate, part of a naval task force patrolling the Persian Gulf.

Wheeler’s family said they talked to the sailor early Tuesday, but had a difficult time understanding him, said Wheeler’s mother, Jan.

″It was kind of hard to understand him, but I think he said, ’I’ll see you Friday, mom,‴ she said in a telephone interview from El Paso.

″He has a respiratory problem and is on a respirator,″ Ms. Wheeler said. ″He had lung damage, which must be healing because they were going to wait before they moved him out of West Germany.″

Wheeler’s brother, John, said the sailor was an engineering student at the University of Texas at El Paso and decided to join the Navy two years ago.

″He wrote a few letters. He seemed like he was enjoying the experience being oversees, but he was homesick,″ John Wheeler said.

The Army Burn Center, which is operated by the U.S. Army Institute Surgical Research, has a long history of treating military and civilian burn victims at the 40-bed unit.

The staff of 240 treats and researches burn trauma at the same time. The burn center was established in 1943 in New York and moved to Brooke in 1946 and in 1949 was given permission to study burn trauma, Dery said.

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