"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers." - M. Scott Peck
It's always a difficult experience to see a friend in a hospital bed. They keep the worst cases all the way in the back of the hospital. I use the term hospital loosely, it's really a large complex of tents protected by cement barriers surrounding it. In order to pass through to see him, I have to remove my name tags and rank. We take care of the enemy's casualties as well here and even set aside their own ward. They can't stand to be around Americans, it seems. I overhear a conversation between two officers, '...rifle marksmanship. They need to learn how to hit center mass...'. The workload has been overwhelming for the doctors ever since the ground war started off. I wonder if they ever have a normal day. Do they ever have a quiet day?
A couple more steps down the hallway and I'm at his ICU. I stand outside his door and take my helmet off and rub my head. I take a deep breath and walk inside, eyes darting left and right. I find him in the back corner and walk up to his bed. His face is pale and looks even more worn than usual, his eyes look dark and sunken, his body broken. Next to him is a Purple Heart medal, dipped in his blood and pinned to his gown. He turns his head a bit and sees me. His hand rises, ever so slightly and his eyes wince for a moment. Oh... how painful it must be to even gesture towards me. I put my helmet down on the floor and lean toward him, afraid to even touch his hand because it might hurt him. He raises his hand a bit higher and I take it, surprised at how strong his grip is. I lean closer to him and whisper 'Happy Alive Day, brother.' and he closes his eyes again and his grip relaxes. How peaceful he looks... how deceivingly content his face would be if it had just a touch more color. I touch his head gently, not wanting him to wake up. I'm sure that sleep didn't come easy for him and I'd never be able to forgive myself if I took it away from him. I stand up straight and put my face into my hands for a moment and rub my eyes.
I stand there for a long time, about an hour. During that hour, someone came to check up on him every ten minutes. I kept track because no hospital care in the world is good enough for a friend in need. I tell each soldier that comes by to check on him how much I appreciate it. They all smiled and one even said that I shouldn't thank anyone for doing their job. It was hard to leave the place, but I had to. I stepped out as they were carrying someone in through the double wide doors. I wished him good luck under my breath and my eyes were stuck to a used field dressing that had fallen off the stretcher. I looked up and realized I was under a small sign. It was green with white lettering, like a street sign. It said 'Hero's Highway'. I couldn't think of a better name for the fifty foot strip of concrete blocks that came from the landing pad to the double wide doors. I strapped my helmet back on and walked up to one of the concrete barriers that had a bunch of signatures and 'thank-you's written all over it. A lot of the autographs were from soldiers that took the ride down Hero's Highway. Others were from senators and congressmen. I pulled a marker out of my pocket and thought about what I could add. All I could write was 'Thank you for all that you do.', unsigned.
05-06, 06-07 OIF down.
OEF next. Do they even call Afghanistan OEF anymore?
There's only three acceptable time for a man to cry;
1. When his dog dies,
2. When his dad dies,
3. When he receives a crippling blow to the groin.
Have some shame you pansies.