Friday, February 12, 2010
Five uniformed wounded soldiers, just in from Iraq, were waiting in the lobby of the hospital after painful occupational therapy, physical therapy and group support sessions to take them back to BAMC (Brooke Army Medical Center), when a young man walked in and unprovoked verbally began attacking these American heroes with voluminous hate and bitterness.
These young men could have 'leveled' this guy in a heartbeat. But instead, a six foot two, hundred and seventy-five pound American soldier from Samoa, simply told him that 'he was pleased that he had given all to allow this person to exercise his right to freedom of speech.' A soldier fighting for America, fighting for the horrors after 911, fighting so that we can live in a free country, made a conscious decision to preserve the rights of this person to say what he chooses. Now that is an American.
After witnessing this and collecting myself, we had a few minutes before the next soldier group support session. Gracie and I went outside for a final visit to the grass. We came back in and settled in the TV room with two soldiers and a James Bond movie.
Gracie jumped up on the sofa between Jeffrey and me. She laid her head on the lap of this soldier she had never met, curled up, took a deep sigh, and snuggled closely. Jeffrey put his arm around her and quietly began stroking her fur with his fingertips. His eyes never left the television, but his heart had been captured.
So as not to break the spell, I took a piece of paper out of Gracie’s therapy bag and began taking notes, writing a grocery list and a list of calls I had to make. Gracie lazily turned over onto her back and ‘her’ soldier began petting her tummy, the place she loves the most. I pulled out my camera and took a photo of Gracie exposed for all the world to see and Jeffrey’s hand resting on her soft pink belly. Her breathing was slow and peaceful, as was his. I went back to my notes and soon looked over to see that both of them were fast asleep, Gracie tucked under his arm. I wrote in my notebook, “Gracie is a blessing that in a moment brings love, and hope, and much needed rest.”
As I scribbled this down I remembered someone asking me how I can do this. I told her, in a double negative that my high school English teacher would have fainted over, "I can’t not do it.”
It’s not what I do, or how I do it, it is quite simply who I am.