Saturday, December 09, 2006

Still My Friend

We had a rough day at work a few days ago. In short, two KIA (killed in action) and three WIA (wounded in action). One of the wounded was brought to the largest medical facility in country. It was devastating to see him in the hospital that way.

Here’s a soldier who I’ve been in charge of for a number of years in the past. I, and my fellow sergeants, groomed and mentored him for leadership and taught him everything we could. At the start of this deployment, there was nothing else we could teach him that he couldn’t learn on his own. He always led by example, took care of his Joes, made the missions happen. As a friend, it was like having a stand-up comedian with you 24-7; an exceedingly intelligent comedian at that. He would do anything for any of us if we needed him to. From helping us with computer problems (yes, grunts are smart) to just going out and having a few beers. You can always count on him for anything.

Patrolling here is just a matter of pushing your luck. Yes, the equipment is second to none, the prior training can’t be matched, and the Army has gone out of its way to try to insure our safety. But it all truly boils down to pushing your luck. His luck finally ran out and they (he and his soldiers) got hit. Please realize that’s just the way things happen here. You can be a total dirt bag of a person, soldier, whatever, you go out in sector every day and you’ll leave here without a scratch. You can also be God’s gift to the Army, a super stud, and so on and get smoked your first hour in sector. It’s just the nature of this place.

Anyway, as I’m standing in the ICU covered with dirt, blood and four day old stench, I realize a few things. One, angels are truly among us. Some just happen to be wearing surgical gowns and fatigues. They had just brought my soldier out of surgery and were talking to him as they were going on about their business. Said soldier was still sedated from surgery. These angels were taking care of other wounded soldiers, catching up on paperwork and involving the wounded in their conversations as if they were part of the family. Two, it didn’t occur to me that they had involved me in their conversation and they seemed to know who I was there to check on. Three, they also knew when and why to just “let me be” and spend time with my soldier.

I started talking to him and “catching up” with recent events such as home, family, football, deployment, rumors, and the like. I was laughing out loud recalling some of the funny things that had happened to us on previous deployments, bad things we had suffered through, and plans for when we get home. It didn’t seem unusual or out of place for me to do so. The medics had already spun me up on all the damage so I knew what to expect. But it was still unnerving to see it happen to a person with you’ve known for so long. I talked to him about how things were here compared to where he’s been stationed at and complained about work. All in all, I was there for almost two hours catching up. When I was finished, I taped one of the patches from my uniform to him along with a short note to let him know that I had seen him and I’ll see him when we get back to the states.

One of the nurses found all this unusual and asked me about it. It seems that most people visiting are too rattled to say anything significant to the wounded. I told her that I was just spending time with my friend who I haven’t seen in a little while. The fact is, no matter what happens, or what injuries he may have suffered, it doesn’t stop making him my friend. Whether it’s here, or back home, he’s still my friend. I’ll be there for him & his family. The patch thing is because I didn’t have anything else of value on me at the time to give him a reminder of the fact that I was there. He’ll understand when he comes out of sedation.

When all was said & done, I pointed out to her that my friend will be counting on me to be there when he gets home. The note and patch would reassure him and his wife to that fact. I guess my point is that it’s easy to forget the important things in our lives and allow situations to overwhelm our priorities, so don’t.


Anonymous Judee Dufresn said...

I am so sorry for all the incredible pain you are all going through. This could be a movie, I have never been so affected by words, I can really feel a touch of what you are feeling through your description. To have a friend and leader such as yourself, is the greatest gift in the world. I stand in awe of it and continue to lift you and your unit in prayer. You are the angel. Judee Dufresne

7:08 PM  
Blogger Beach Girl said...

Coconut - I published your comments at my blog - didn't use your name but will be happy to go and do so. I didn't want your comments to get lost and rather felt that my readers will appreciate your perspective. I did say comment was from reader with boots-on-the-ground. Let me know by comment at blog and I'll give your blog the "hat tip" will not publish your response unless otherwise allowed by you.

11:04 PM  
Blogger Beach Girl said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. We who cannot be there physically are with you and your men through all the dirt and work. I know you probably don't know we are there but you are in our hearts. Thank you for allowing us into that very private and most reverent of places.

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, this was a profoundly powerful post. You tell it like it is over there and you do it so well.

If there is anything that I can do for you guys - my full support and prayer may not be enough. If there's something you guys need, please email me and send me a mailing address and I will send it no matter what it is.

7:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done sir. Most people don't have a clue outside of their daily routine what truly is important. The sad thing is, your friend had to end up wounded to begin with. God speed to you both.

12:44 AM  
Anonymous fasternu426 said...

When bad things happen, good friends are there. I don't know either of you, but you seem to know what leadership and friendship truly are. I continue to pray for all of you guys and gals deployed and otherwise. THANKS! Bravo-Zulu

7:19 AM  
Blogger Melyssa said...

Your post reminded me of one of my very favorite versus. John 15:13.

Thank you for serving. May we never forget Freedom isn't Free.

12:32 AM  

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