Wednesday, July 18, 2012


If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. If you want to touch the future, touch a life. ~Author Unknown

The world is hugged by faithful arms of volunteers -Terri Guillemets

It rarely is difficult for me to write my feelings about anything, as the words pour out and when read later I wonder where they came from.  But this time is different. I sincerely doubt that I can do it justice. But feel it necessary to try. I want to try for you.

Yesterday was one of those 'oh so few days', where you seem to remember the smallest detail.  I had had a call from the Medical Director at the San Antonio VA Polytrauma, one of only five in the world, asking if we would have time to visit three active duty warriors that had multiple combat related injuries, saying that they would definitely benefit from a visit from a TADSAW AMBASSADOR THERAPY DOG.

 I never say no to a request of this nature, setting everything aside to honor the request. Having spent the precious day enduring and endlessly cleaning up after a broken water heater in my attic had decided it a good time to escape the chaos and go do something productive for someone who really had problems.

With walls and ceilings and floors and plaster, dripping and collapsing, and giant equipment dragged into my home to suck out the water, it had done me in.  It was time to face a different kind of reality, a reality that could suck the life out of you if you let it.

My TADSAW AMBASSADOR THERAPY DOG, Kelsie and I found a parking place and then raced into to the VA Polytrauma in 100 degree heat, so as not to burn Kelsie's feet on the burning asphalt.  We arrived breathless and hot!  But duty had called and here we were.  We were greeted with open arms by staff and given room numbers where visitation was 'greatly needed'.  Rarely if ever do we know what the issue is, what the patients needs are or what we might expect.  But I have gotten used to that and find it almost a welcome challenge to reach out to a total stranger with no warning as to the issues involved.

The first warrior we met was a young man  who had lost a good portion of his leg from an IED blast.  His cousin was there as his support system. We visited with them for 20 minutes or so. Despite the visible pain this warrior was in, he wanted us to stay.

 He laid on his side and never stopped petting Kelsie on the top of her head, under her chin and on her shoulders.  The diversion and conversation seemed to help him, but his time with Kelsie provided a definite morale booster. We visited about his dogs he had had in his past and what they had meant to him....the love they shared....and the tremendous bond they had had together.  One of those bonds where nothing else is needed or important.  Each reading the others thoughts and feelings, the dog he had 'once upon a time' had almost come back to life in the moments spent with him in his room.  As we left, he had a smile on his face and a most gracious thank you for us taking our time to spend with him.

Next on our list of rooms, we met a young lady who had had brain surgery and was sitting on the edge of her bed, swinging her legs back and forth. When we knocked and entered she said with a huge smile, "Oh great, I have been waiting and waiting for you."  She visited about her little dog and how she missed him and couldn't wait to get better so she could see him.  She smiled as I coerced her to finish her 'Boost,' because she was a bit dizzy. I told her 'once a mother always a mother.'  The smiles never stopped, and her enthusiasm at having a four footed guest was more than obvious. She thanked us over and over and over again for visiting with her and indicated she hoped to see us again soon.

Our next visit was to a Vietnam veteran who struggled, as he swung his legs over the side of the bed to pet Kelsie, as he told us of his experiences with Military Working Dogs in Vietnam and how they were treated when the troops left and were unable to bring them home. I will not share the details because as most of you know the outcome was not pretty. His deep and strong voice was that of a Colonel or General.  His stature gave the same impression. We visited for a while and then bid him farewell as we headed down the hall to meet B. a hero that should have been wearing a cape and on the 'big screen.'

A male nurse was in the room with him, as we quietly knocked and asked if it was a good time to enter.  As Kelsie and I walked into the room, we saw a young man beaming from ear to ear.  Lying on top of the sheets, it was all too clear that he had lost both legs and an arm.  He kept smiling and using his one remaining limb, pulled himself into a seated position in the center of his bed.  I pulled a chair close to the bed, covered the seat with Kelsie's  red, white and blue flannel blanket and gave her the 'up' command.  She got into the chair and B. was able to reach her with his one arm, while balancing on his trunk.

As he began talking about himself and his personal dogs, and ultimately his injuries, you instantly knew that he was an extraordinary individual.  He had stepped on an IED and admitted there is no way he should be alive today.  He spoke of how he had had multiple transfusions and ended up in Germany until he was stable enough to make it to Walter Reed.  On route to Walter Reed the plane had to land to get more blood for him.  There is no reasonable way he should have survived.  But without blinking he said that there is a reason and that reason quickly took my breath away.  He beamed as he spoke of how he was going to go to work with the Wounded Warrior Project and do everything in his power to help other severely wounded warriors overcome similar injuries and illustrate to them that life does go on and that there is a reason.  He was inspiring, affable, endearing, and real.  He is an American Soldier. 

B. told us that he hated having someone look at him and tell him they were sorry this had happened to him.  He spoke of telling his friends and family what had happened to him at the time of the blast and the look in their faces told him everything he needed to know and everything they did not need to know.  Sympathy, pity, and that 'deer in the headlights' kind of look was not wanted or necessary or remotely helpful.  He said, "A simple thank you would be sufficient.  And that really isn't needed.  I would do it all again, if I had to. It was my job."  Right then and there I realized what all our heroes fight for...what it means to them...and what, and how, it should translate down to us, but rarely does. 

Later that afternoon I read a posting on TADSAW's facebook page reaffirming  exactly what I had heard from B. 

 "What non service members need to understand is that we as service members are willing to protect your family as we protect our own.  It is not something that we want credit or commendations for, as much as acknowledgement that we did our job, and now we may need a little help.  Pity is the most useless of emotions ~ inside we are who we are regardless of how war has left our outside appearance, or our ability to deal with certain situations.  At our core we would still fight for what we believe...please give us something to believe in."

Please give us something to believe in.  Please give us something to believe in.  The words still reverberate in my head to this day and I doubt will ever escape my thoughts.  Please give us something to believe in.

Imagine being that severely injured and your sole focus is in helping others.  B. is rare.  Rather than moaning and groaning or angry about his plight and his life with no legs and only one arm, he wants to get better to help others overcome adversity. He has been selected from up above to remain on this earth ... perhaps another angel on this earth to show us all what really matters.  Helping others. 

You hear over and over again that this is our purpose...helping others.  But how many of us actually do it?  How many of us ever stop thinking of ourselves and our own issues and broken water heaters long enough to even care about anyone else?  How many of us love people we have never met?  How many of us, despite others trying to demolish the good we do, continue forward helping others...for the right reasons.  Not to just to get your name posted on the 'I did something great for someone else list."

The nurse came in and B. indicated he was having a 'little pain' and needed his medicine.  We packed up our bag and I kissed him on the cheek and said 'thank you'.  He said that before we left he had to show us something.  He struggled to turn himself toward his bedside table to reach his telephone.  He, with great pride, shared a video of himself, doing one armed push ups.  To his knowledge, he was the only triple amputee that had ever done this. 

There is my Saturday!    Please next time you see a wounded warrior, simply say thank you.  It will mean everything to them.  And smile and treat them like a friend.  For who could ever have a better friend?

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