WASHINGTON, D.C. --- President Obama is meeting with disabled Cedar Falls sailor Taylor Morris and girlfriend Danielle Kelly during a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center this afternoon, the couple said in a phone interview with the Courier today.
“He’s just meeting with wounded warriors, and he’s coming on our floor. So, yeah,” Taylor said. “It’s no big secret, but there’s a lot of Secret Service on the floor.”
Additionally, the couple and Taylor’s father, Dan Morris, have been invited to the White House on the Fourth of July.
“We’re going there for dinner and to watch the fireworks from the lawn,” Taylor said.
Morris is one of six “wounded warriors” being invited to the White House for the event.
Obama’s visit to Walter Reed Thursday is the first time the president had been there since Morris began his recovery from losing portion of all four limbs in a bomb blast in Kandahar province, Afghanistan in early May.
Morris was clearing an area of explosive ordnance so U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers could take defensive shelter as they were about to be attacked by Afghan insurgents.
Obama came to the hospital shortly after delivering a nationally televised address following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act.
Taylor noted he had previously worked on security details with the U.S. Secret Service for the president and Vice President Joe Biden in their travels, but had never previously met the president personally. He has also worked with the U.S. Department of State on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s travels.
The couple spoke to the Courier over their lunch, after a morning of therapy for Taylor and prior to the president’s visit.
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Less than two months after losing parts of all four limbs in an Afghan bomb blast, Taylor Morris stood this week, in body as well as spirit.
The Cedar Falls sailor stood on an artificial leg for the first time at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Monday.
He was balancing his other limbs against support beams as he stood erect. It was a major milestone for a man who lost portions of both legs, his left arm at the elbow and his right hand in early May.
His mother, Juli Morris, was moved to tears as she described the scene.
"You should have seen him look over at himself in the mirror. It was as though he saw himself in a different light," she said, pausing to compose her emotions. "He's an amazingly strong kid for what he's been through. This stuff is just amazing."
Morris experienced the sensation of being vertical again about a month ago, during a visit by his family over Memorial Day weekend. His father, Dan Morris, and brother, Riley Morris, standing on either side of him, each grabbed him by an armpit and pulled him upright between them. He also has become adept at maneuvering into and manipulating an electronic wheelchair.
Morris, 23, a Navy bomb detection and disposal expert and Cedar Falls High School graduate, was wounded in Kandahar province while clearing explosive ordnance for a unit of U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers. They were trying to take up defensive positions as they came under attack by insurgents.
Since he's been at Walter Reed, Morris, assisted by girlfriend Danielle Kelly and his family, has made a reputation for gutting out grueling physical therapy sessions and setting a pace for recovery exceeding doctors' expectations.
Morris has been fitted with a temporary prosthetic right hand that operates on electrical impulses and has been practicing simple motor skills with it, manipulating the wrist and then closing or opening the hand. A video of him eating a brownie was posted on YouTube recently.
A month ago, according to family members, doctors found the electrical impulses in the remaining portions of his limbs were high, and make him an excellent candidate for permanent prosthetics.
"He has a really strong (body) core," his mother said. She said he does upward of 50 situps at a time along with other exercises.
He still faces surgeries so he can be fitted for permanent prosthetic legs.
Meanwhile, he and Danielle have achieved some independence from the hospital, having moved to an assisted-living residence on site.
"It's a two-bedroom apartment that's handicap accessible," Morris said. "It allows patients to live a normal life, if possible, while they are recovering." It allows them to practice simple living skills, aided by a nonmedical assistant.
For Taylor, that assistant is Danielle. Social media sites chronicle stories of he and Danielle racing wheelchairs in the hospital in the evening en route to raiding a freezer of ice cream.
A week ago, he and Danielle toured Washington, D.C., with visiting friends from Cedar Falls. He's also been visited by actors, top U.S. military officers, fellow amputees and a Navy SEAL.
Support for Morris, one of the few quadruple amputee patients in the U.S. military, continues to come in from all over the country. Locally, donations may be made to the Taylor Morris Recovery Fund at any Veridian Credit Union branch. Taylor's progress can be monitored online at www.taylormorris.org. and www.caringbridge.com/taylormorris.
Family members are still planning a mid-October fundraiser in Cedar Falls.