I was at Walter Reed with my son today. We were at the physical therapy clinic for an elbow injury he’d sustained playing baseball. I recall being at a VA hospital years back and there was a sign. It read:
“The price of freedom is visible here.”
Today that message was so evident. While casualty reports have fallen from the headlines, I looked on as four survivors of war worked to survive; period. I was struck that three of the four service members I saw, who were dealing with traumatic injuries, were women.
One young girl, perhaps in her 20s, had lost a leg, had a brace on her arm and visible scars on her face. Another walked in with a cane, her hat pulled down low and her service dog beside her. The third I saw walked in and someone helped her put her arms on the table where they were carefully (and almost lovingly) wrapped in warm compresses. The man I saw, had on a helmet type device and was using a video game to track and locate visual targets (I suspect as the result of a brain injury).
The young lady with the dog sat for her therapy near where I was sitting with my son.
She didn’t look up.
She went through the therapy with a soft voice, lowered eyes and her attentive companion watching her every step. At one point the therapist left her for a moment and her dog’s leash became tangled. I jumped up and went to her to help get things right.
She looked slightly up and said “Thank You”.
I wanted so much to hug her to me, rock her, take her injuries to my older body so she could experience the fullness of the health I had as a young officer when I was her age. I couldn’t…but I wanted to. All I could do was say with all sincerity
“Please, don’t feel like you have to thank me.”
The meaning was felt…as she looked up into my eyes for the first time.
Don’t talk to me about women in combat. Go to Walter Reed and then say you fear we can’t handle it. Go to Walter Reed and see warriors of both sexes. Go to Walter Reed and sit there all day long and see if you can pontificate about who can and who can’t handle this. Go to Walter Reed.
“The price of freedom is visible there”
and the cost is being paid by everyone who chooses to wear the uniform.
But it’s okay if you can’t get their Sir or Ma’am…we got you.
Lieutenant Colonel (Ret)