The wounds on Chuck’s legs were getting smaller and the scars were getting bigger. We were all looking forward to the day he would get out of bed and walk down the hall. First, he had to be able to get his legs over the edge of the bed. When that day came, the physical therapy train was right around the corner calling "all aboard." Give the man a wheelchair and he thinks it is a racecar. Chuck had other ideas as to what he was going to do with his time. He would ask to go see other soldiers on the floor. He wanted to meet them and see if there was anything he could do to help bring them and their families together. He shared his idea of ValOUR-IT with several of the soldiers. It was healing for him to help and for them to know there was a fellow wounded soldier reaching out to them.
Everyone who visited with Chuck (and there where quite a few,) heard of his ideas. He was gaining support for the program. As the weeks passed he was being approached by more and more folks. Civilians, active and retired military members, corporate and private business owners were interested. They wanted to assist in program to give a soldier a voice through a computer/laptop. Chuck was a busy fellow. He was managing medication orally and through IV’s, having tests and x-rays, preparing for the next round of surgery and becoming very familiar with the pain of physical therapy.
Each day he had an appointment with a physical therapist who was teaching him to strengthen his legs or move a thumb or arm that was stiff and had decided it was comfortable not moving. For the physical therapist, telling them “not going to do that” is not a patient's option. The first appointments were short... the therapy lesson did not take long but the resulting pain required additional medication. There was eventually medication that allowed Chuck to have physical therapy and reduced the pain before he began.
The images that were imprinted into my mind in those first hours Chuck was in physical therapy were like viewing what drives the soldier daily. The room was filled with soldiers who have every type of injury war can deliver and you cannot help but see those injuries. It is the place where you see physical, emotional and psychological suffering being replaced with hope, desire, strength, innovation, and determination. Every soldier in the room demanded of his self to endure, strive for excellence and go the extra mile every day since he put on the uniform and today was no different from the first day. Watching Chuck take each day of physical misery laced with lots and lots of swear words and replace it with hope in the reality he has a future and he was going to make it happen pushed Carren and my confidence level up as we waited.
Waiting was what Carren and I did. We also did quite a bit of walking, talking, phoning, writing, answering mail and email. We talked with other family members and helped where we could to acquaint them with the services the hospital had to offer to them and their wounded soldier. As we found out information, we shared it with others. There were meetings designed to assist the family members so we attended them. We visited the Red Cross and other services to have questions answered and to share our experiences, which helped to relieve some of our stress. We also made it a point to attend the chapel to pray for our families and loved ones back home and all the wounded in all the hospitals across the nation. Carren and I even took some time out to laugh.
I will insert a funny side note here: One evening when we arrived back at our room we turned on the TV and began to watch a show that kept us up past midnight. Whatever, we were doing was not much fun so I decided to play volleyball in the room. Not having a volleyball I grabbed a bag of plastic bags tied them up together and delivered the first volley to unsuspecting Carren. With her quick reflexes Carren reached up to protect herself, rolled to the side of her bed, slid to the floor onto her back and wacked that bag ball all the way across the room at me on the other bed. Did I say she swore too? Grabbing the ball I delivered a second volley and the laughter began. We continued to play for about 20 minutes. One of the best moments, we shared during a stressful time. My daughter in law/love is wonderful.
Begin again? There’s more surgery? How was Chuck to begin again after just a few weeks of recovering from another painstaking surgery followed with the tedious suffering of physical therapy? He would see the progress vanish as another surgery took place and a new building block emplaced. He continued to get better and stronger as several of his other wounds reduced in size and reached an end to their repair. Chuck does not often relate to you that long after the physical pain of skin and bone has healed, the pain of nerve damage never ceases. It is what drives the emotional pain, which beckons Chuck’s strength not to lose hope.
Some people get tattoos to tell a story. Men of war wear the scars of war as their tattoos. The stories that accompany those tattoos are inspiring and they come from heroes. Chuck had made it his internal drive to give the wounded a way to tell their stories to families and friends and anyone who will listen by starting a program that would fill the need of a wounded soldier. Many folks helped to get VALOUR-IT up and running, many have supported it in the past and continue to support it this year. I hope you are among those who have given a voice to those who cannot use their hands, eyes, arms, backs, or legs to be heard.
Thank You for reading and supporting VALOR-IT,