NEW YORK — Their faces are young and strong, but their bodies sit in wheelchairs or stand on artificial limbs.
They laugh and smile as Roger Waters holds court in a rehearsal hall. The wounded servicemen are waiting to rehearse their set with the former Pink Floyd frontman ahead of Wednesday’s “Stand Up for Heroes,” the annual fundraising benefit that supports wounded veterans through the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
They are excited for the chance to perform with the rock great, but these young men are not the only ones with admiration in their eyes.
“I feel a great sense of empathy for the people that live on the sharp end of conflicts and the ones that actually get injured,” the 70-year-old Waters said at Monday’s rehearsal. “I get so much more out of it than I put into it.”
Throughout his long career, Waters has written music about victims of conflict, with both “The Wall” and “The Final Cut” having a direct connection to war (he lost his father in World War II and his grandfather in the first World War).
Last year, he played a touching version of his seminal “Wish You Were Here” while accompanied by 14 wounded soldiers he met at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Waters wants to do his part to help returning veterans wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts because he feels that all too often, they fall through the cracks.
“I’m not a U.S. citizen, but I pay taxes here, and I wish a far greater percent of my tax dollars went to look after these guys,” Waters said.
He joins Bruce Springsteen (who’s performed at every one of the benefits), “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld and other guests.
The Bob Woodruff Foundation was started by the 52-year old ABC journalist after he was seriously injured by an improvised explosive device while covering the war in Iraq in 2006. The foundation helps returning veterans and their families reintegrate with society.
“I never imagined any of this when I woke up out of that coma,” Woodruff said. “You wake up in the hospital happy to be alive, but then realize we’re not the same anymore.”
He added: “I wanted to create a way to help these guys because this was a new kind of war.”
Not long after, he was approached by Caroline Hirsch, who made the “Stand Up for Heroes” benefit a part of her yearly New York Comedy Festival.
She said she was proud to do it.
“These soldiers will be coming back and need to be taken care of for the rest of their lives; we cannot forget what they have done for us,” Hirsch said.