Friday, 31 May 2013

I went to do a round of hospital visits at the U.S. Theater Hospital this morning. When I checked in at the ICU I was told there was one patient who was awake. I approached his bed and the nurse introduced me to the wounded marine and his escort. The young marine was covered with a blanket but it was clear that his injuries were in his legs, apparent by the sickening angles made by the thin poles of the devices and tourniquets keeping his legs attached.

As I started chatting with the young marine he was clearly alert and cognizant of the magnitude of his injuries and how he came to be in the hospital. I quickly glanced up at the sheet of paper hanging off of the vitals machine. The piece of paper indicates the cause of a patient's injuries and a detailed list of what those injuries are. In this young marines case, he walked over a dismounted IED.

After the marine and I chatted for a few minutes, I turned to his escort and asked, "So are you guys in the same unit?" I was taken aback to hear, "No ma'ma, I'm his older brother.  This is my first deployment, I've only been here 10 days". Turns out they were both stationed at the same base out here in Afghanistan and when the word came in that his little brother had been hit by an IED, the command gave permission for the older brother to accompany him first to Bagram, then on to Germany and finally to Walter Reed. I could hardly hold back my emotion when he showed me his bed of pillows and towels and blankets, next to his brother gurney so he could stay as close as possible.

But what squeezed my heart even more than the older brother's obvious love for his younger, was the way they both talked about the future. How there was a really good chance the marine would keep his legs and that he would walk again some day. And well, if he had to lose one leg than at least it would just be below the knee and if he had to lose them both, well he knew other guys that were worse off, but really, he was going to walk again because there was a really good chance they could save his legs.

My God, to hear both this marine and his brother so positive about the future, about how the marine was going to try and stay in the military, even if they did take his legs, and how they joined the marines because they loved the idea it was the most physically difficult branch, I couldn't help but think to myself how lucky and honored I was to even meet these two incredible brothers. They are representative of all that is honorable and brave and noble in the U.S. military and what makes every second of this job worthwhile.

I hope this post in some small way serves to salute them.

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