Friday, November 11, 2005

A-rabs, Thanatopsis, and Veterans Day

Yesterday I had the distinct honor of learning exactly what animals in any zoo feel like every day. As I lay in my bed here at Walter wonderful, my wife by my side, I watched as a pack of Arabs went walking by. Now, they weren't wearing their man-dresses, they dressed Western, which meant that they were dressed in business suits. Very well-made business suits at that. After they walked by my room, I went out in the hall the talked to the MP and DC cop who escorted them. I asked who they were, and the reply given instantly made my blood boil.
I was told that it was the Iraqi Deputy prime minister and his entourage.

Now, my blood didn't boil because they were simply on the floor. Thing is, they weren't here to shake hands with soldiers and thank them for their service in Iraq... or more importantly for their service to Iraq. No, this pack of goons just walked by, gawking into the rooms of soldiers who just lay on their beds, trying to heal. Some were with their families like me, others were suffering alone. But everyone that they saw had one thing in common—they’d all been injured in the war on terror. I would've understood, if they were here to meet with the soldiers, to say thank you for your efforts to free my country, to show some offering of respect. But all they did was walk down the halls and gawk.

This time Iraq didn't take anything tangible from me, it didn't take my command, it didn't take my blood or my bones. This time Iraq took one thing that I have always had... this time it took my dignity. I know that these men were foreign dignitaries. I argue that their presence here is an insult to every soldier. This place... this place of honor, is ours and ours alone. It's not here for them to see. Neither is Arlington Cemetery. If the State Department is out of places to send them, send them to fucking Disneyland. Or, better yet, send them back home.

This place, this sacred place, is the place where we put our wounded... our injured soldiers. Here is a place that should be visited by Americans to pay homage, a place to be visited by representatives from our government to pay respects, a place where our leaders come to motivate soldiers and give them the rarest of opportunities... to talk to a general or cabinet member, or even the president one-on-one.
If our dead are placed upon the altar of freedom, then this place surely lies at the foot of that altar. This place, just like Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center, and every other military hospital, these places are all hallowed ground.

Luckily, I had an Army chaplain with me when I found out who they were. This chaplain was no REMF. His time in Iraq, he spent almost every day outside the wire. Pretty brave, considering that he couldn't carry a weapon on those missions, and if he were captured by the enemy he would most certainly be put in front of a black shroud and had his head lopped off. He defended their presence here. Both of us had seen Iraqi medical centers, and he explained that maybe they were here to see how a hospital should be... what it should look like... what sanitary conditions are. Maybe their tour guide intended to show them the number of brave Americans who were badly wounded fighting for them, for their new government, and how injuries that would've been terminal in Iraq were treatable in America. I listened to what he said through tears of anger and rage. His time to leave came along, I was glad to see in him depart. I'll not be confiding in him--ever. He may have spent a year in Iraq or even two, but he doesn't get it and never will.

I'd spent the day before this one nearly dying. Apparently, most of my meds were not well-adjusted, and they did things like suppress my breathing. Although I was very relaxed, I was only taking about five breaths per minute. Try that—try that for a sustained two minutes. One complete breath, one inhalation and one exhalation every 12 1/2 seconds, for two minutes. I don't know how long I was breathing like this, but it was longer than two minutes before anyone noticed. I was put on so many different types of drugs I didn't recognize my own wife. My beloved, my darling wife, who has been with me through thick and thin, and definitely in sickness and health. She stood by my side, and I by hers for the last nine years. And I couldn't tell you who she was—I lost a whole day—and she was the one who knew that something was wrong and rounded up enough doctors to figure it out and make things right. I now take a third of the meds that I was taking then, and my pain is mostly subsided; it's still there, but it is bearable.

The man she called when she couldn't get anyone else to listen sent a doctor because he could not be there himself. That doctor reviewed my meds with her, with my PA, and with my doctors that he could round up and they made serious adjustments. That man saved my life, but it was Carren's tenacity, her unwillingness to give in, that truly saved me.

The doctor that she originally called for help when she couldn't find anyone to listen to her was now in my room. He's a psychiatrist, and he has also been to Iraq. Now, as I lay in bed in rage—enraged to the point that if I had the ability I would've killed—this man was trying to calmly talk me down from this rage. I know what he was doing, but I was having none of it. Those men did not belong here. There are plenty of places in Washington, DC that they should have been taken. Notably, to the National Archives where they could see our Declaration of Independence, and our United States Constitution. They could have been taken to the Washington Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial. They could have been taken to the memorials for the First Infantry Division, the memorials for World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. They could've spent a day or two with the Congress. They could have even gone to the United Nations in New York City to see the place where they sold all their oil to. Instead, they were brought here. To this place, this hallowed ground, where men lie broken, their bodies torn asunder—victims of their enemies IED's, RPG's, and mortars. Again, and I can't emphasize this enough, they were not here to honor us. They did not stop to talk, to shake hands, to share tea. They were here to gawk like children at the zoo.

And I was robbed of my dignity.

It is Veterans' Day. Walter Reed is a ghost town. Where are all the generals, politicians, the dignitaries, socialites, superstars, and athletes? I wish they'd stop coming in here to assuage their consciences by pressing flesh and saying how proud they are of our sacrifices. It's put up or shut up day, a day set aside to honor veterans. A federal holiday...which means that most people, especially federal employees... don't work today. Where are they? I guess they're somewhere behind me, somewhere behind the wall, basking in the security and safety.
Enjoy it. And if I have just one wish today, the son of a bitch at the State Department who approved those ass-hats to come on my ward and gawk at me, will be found smothered… no, make that half-smothered underneath the three day old corpse of a crack whore (with AIDS), wearing a strap-on-dildo (on his forehead, so you know what position he's in.) Not there long enough to die, just long enough for the maggots to grow, for rigor to both set and leave. And I hope his screams are heard and his rescue made during the Macy's Day parade. Not just during, but on the parade route itself. For all to see. That would be justice.


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