After wanting to do so for a long time, this evening I was finally able to prepare and drop off a dessert for the Wounded Warrior and Family Dinner here on Fort Sam. I had been nervous about going, because I was not sure what to expect. This is where the Army sends Soldiers and their families live so that the wounded Warrior can finish recovery and attend any related therapy to regain as normal a life as possible. That said, there are a great deal of amputees and burn victims, among other equally as devastating trauma victims, reside here. Below is my letter to these fine and heroic men and women and their courageous families.
Dear Soldier and Family,
Tonight, I was privileged with the honor of preparing and bringing a dessert to the monthly Warrior and Family Support Center dinner. I was nervous about bringing it, because I was apprehensive about meeting you. Because I am a coward. Seeing people suffer has always affected me deeply. I see you running through my neighborhood with the special prosthetic every morning. I see you at San Antonio Military Medical Center, wheeling yourself out of your appointments with your faithful spouse. I see you outside the Center for the Intrepid when I am driving to another Well Baby. I would see you limping through the lobby of the hospital, as I waddled by during the latter part of my pregnancy last year.
But, the Center is where you learn to function. You all are there. Relearning so much. Trying to adapt and overcome.
So, tonight, I did it. I walked inside. And I saw you. The older Soldier, balancing on one prosthetic, striding your bike and ready to ride. I saw you, the nineteen year old, wheelchair-bound outside waiting for your ride. The gentleman, leg mangled and casted, with his wife, who offered to lead me to the right building. You, who from your wheelchair, stretched out your hand and introduced yourself. Asked how many children I have. And your wife, who told me her name and how wonderful children are. Teased you about how you are like having a second child, as you sped off to chase a friend.
I saw you adapting and overcoming.
I followed you over to the Warrior and Family Support Center, and realized there is practically a whole town over there. Fisher homes, barracks, a park with a playground. There is a building for you all to gather together. I parked. In the time it took me to walk in with my dessert, apologize for the crumbled mess that didn’t bake properly, empty my bag of the coffee cake, and return to my car, you were only just getting into your wheelchair to go inside.
I fed you tonight. What an honor.
When I walked inside, I saw you, too. The young men, practically kids, sitting with no arms, no legs, across the room. Laughing and talking. With your wives. Your girlfriends. Your children.
As I drove away, I rolled down my window, and called to you and your wife.
“Thank you so much for your help! God bless ya’ll!”
And she said it. It was like a kick in the stomach.
“No problem, sweetie.” She looked me in the eye. “Thank you for all you do.”
ME?! I don’t do anything. I live here, in this house and complain about stupid things. Roaches. Tendonitis. Babies that don’t sleep and wail all day. Complain about my husband, safe for now, being so far away. I live here. In this house that has four walls and is my own. With my children. Most of the time, with my husband who has come home safely three times and, God willing, will come home safely a fourth time. I walk. I write. I feed myself. I do nothing, but be selfish sometimes.
You. You gave everything you had. You did not want to be a hero; you just followed orders, earned a paycheck. You threw yourself on a grenade to save your brothers and sisters in arms. You stepped on an explosive, not knowing it was there. You woke up lying down, bleeding and burning in wretched pain. And today, you smile. Some of you stand. You walk through the pain of an artificial leg, strap on an arm everyday. You look in the mirror that, to me, shows the burn scars of a hero, and get past the immense change of your appearance.
You let your family help you. At first you are angry, then you accept it. Life is different for you. You will never go back to the normal that existed before you left this country that day. No, you are brave enough to move through the physical, emotional, and spiritual agony and pain to regain a new normal.
A normal that I saw tonight. The selfless help for a lost woman. The nineteen year old who laughed when I offered to let my four year old bedazzle his wheelchair and leg brace. Yes, you laughed, that would be awesome! She would do great! The two older Soldiers who rode off on their bicycles, with three prosthetic limbs between the two of them. The young man with emaciated legs, driving his wheelchair across the street to go to his barracks.
You. You are my biggest hero. Because you have moved forward, despite nearly impossible odds, and fought again. Fought a personal war so horrible, so hellish, and won. You were sitting and standing tonight, happy. Kind. Confident.
You were there. What a testament.
Please. Do not thank me. I am a selfish, weak human being who feigns confidence from the title Army Wife. I am no hero. I merely support.
You are my hero. Despite the scars, pain, and seeming impossibility, you have won. It may not feel like it, but in my eyes you have won. Because you are still here, smiling. And I would bet that annoys the hell out of the enemy.
So, thank you. Thank you for protecting me. For protecting my country. For embodying freedom. Thank you for protecting my own Soldier, for whom I take every breath, get up every morning, and continue to run this family.
Thank you. For fighting. For falling, and then standing up to fight again. And winning.
God bless you. God bless your family.