Friday, July 15, 2011
A comment I read today from a wounded warrior, a combat medic, after a visit to BAMC, put my life in perspective.
"What we witnessed today is such a small snapshop of what's out there. My heart is broken...I witnessed and cared for thousands who came through my tent in just a few months. It's been a decade. My service dog stayed by my side as I cried myself to sleep...she knew."
It got me to thinking about our warriors who suffer, endure. Those who struggle each day with pain and grief and anxiety and the horrors of war, trying to get through the tunnels of darkness to light. Eckhart Tolle said, "If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you, no humility, no compassion." That I completely agree with. I know people who have lived a good portion of their lives and have never known pain. It is true, they have little to no depth and no compassion or caring. They are shallow and hollow, and it is all about them.
"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, an have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, an an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen!"
I see this sensitivity, an understanding of human life, and a certain gentleness in the way our wounded warriors touch or speak to a therapy dog or their own service dog. Not only does the dog become a catalyst to opening doors for them, the dog is just the medicine needed. Perhaps it is in their dog that they rediscover love, for the dog certainly, but also for themselves. This is the first step of the journey. The first step in attending to the wounds in themselves.
Today I have received over 20+ phone calls and it is only mid afternoon. I have received 60+ emails and assorted text messages. Phone calls overlap and notes are carpeting my desk and floor. I am exhausted but I keep on. Why? Because I must. Because I want to. Because I don't want one more warrior to be a statistic, to be one of the 18 that kill themselves each day. That is just plain wrong.
One email, from a female warrior new to our program, told me that her landlord was extraordinarily rude to her telling her she could not have a service dog where she lives. Hasn't she been through enough? A nurse deployed, who witnessed horrific things we can't even imagine, now suffers multiple panic attacks weekly. She tended to the wounded. Some wounds healed others did not. Some wounds will last a lifetime.
Wounds to the soul and spirit may not be visible to others but are a consistent reality to the PTSD sufferer.
She asked what I would do. This I chose not to tell her. Instead, I told her to ignore the person and to leave that up to us. That is our job. I told her that we only allow happy endings. She has been through enough. The best gift for those who judge her would be to let them walk in her shoes, so that then, and only then, would they know and understand.
So today I ask why one service dog can snuggle close to a warrior as she cries herself to sleep, when on the other hand an ignorant landlord tells another warrior she can't have her service dog in housing.
What would I have said ~ 'Poof...you're gone!'