I Cried Today
by James Glaser
May 6, 2009
Yesterday, started off as a real good day. I felt good, and I had lots of energy, Everything at work turned out just fine. I was even lucky. I needed to make one more compound miter, and I eye-balled it, and surprise, it fit fine. Days like that are a blessing, and I crave them.
After work I took a ride out to Lowes to look at picket fences. I was pricing them for some future use. On the way home I headed down Tennessee Street, and a couple blocks past the VA Clinic I saw a guy rolling along in his wheel chair. I stopped a ways up in a driveway and waited for him. I had no idea of who he was, or if he needed help, or if he even wanted help.
Veterans can be pretty touchy, and I have learned over the years it is best to talk to a guy, kind of feel where he is at before you ask him if you can help.
I have to admit, this guy was rolling right along and as he got closer, I could tell he was young. I could also see he was missing both legs. One high, and the other at the knee. How do you start a conversation with a guy rolling along in his wheelchair when you are blocking his path with your truck? I know it was dumb, but I said, "Hey, you got any water? He thought I was asking him for a drink, but I was really asking him if he needed water. Like I said it was a dumb way to start talking, but he stopped, and said he had a plastic bottle with water, but none to give me.
Well, by that time he was stopped, and we started talking. He rolled over to a shady spot and took a drink, but said the water was hot. I got him a bottle out of my truck. It wasn't cold, but was kind of cool. He thanked me, and I asked him if he had been at the clinic. The conversation went on for a while, and I learned his ride never came. His cell phone battery was run down. I offered mine, but he didn't know the number, just the number on speed dial.
After a bit I figured out the guy was blind, but that wasn't entirely true. He could make out shapes, and he told me that is why he didn't run into my truck. I offered him a ride, and he took it. He was going to the other side of town. I opened the door, and asked him how I could help, and he said, "stand back." He got as close to my truck passenger seat as he could, and he put one hand on the seat and the other on the door frame, and lifted himself in. It was quick. I said that wheelchair had made him strong, but he said with out his legs he was lighter than he looked.
Nothing happened on the ride across town, other than I learned he had been wounded in Iraq, he was thinking of going to school, but didn't know what for, and he was being treated for PTSD at the VA. The guy had a great smile, and his laugh made you smile. The guy was upbeat. I'm guessing he was maybe 23 or close to it. The only negative thing he said is that it was hard pissing. He had a cup in his wheelchair for that, but it was a hassle. I dropped him off, and he thanked me. All I had to do was steady his chair and he flipped himself right in it. He said he could do it without me holding the chair, but it was safer with a little help.
I waved goodbye, but then knew he couldn't see that. I drove home, and sat in this swing we have, and looked at the flowers. After a while I realized that tears were coming down my cheeks. I felt so bad for this young man. And it wasn't just him I felt bad for. There are thousands of men and women, who have life long injuries from every American war we have had. Yes, there are still WW II vets rolling around in their wheelchairs, and others from every war since.
Some how, disabled Veterans seem to fade from view. You might see a couple at a Veterans Day parade, or at the VA if you have an appointment, but most of them are out of sight, so they are out of our minds too.
But they are there. Vets without legs, without arms, some without arms and legs (but they usually die early) blind vets, paralyzed vets, stressed out vets, deaf vets, burned vets, and veterans who are in such pitiful shape they are hard to look at.
I cried, and I hate to cry, but you know what, we should all cry a bit. We should all cry a bit, because America has learned nothing from all of our wars, and still today, even with all of his words and promises, President Barack Obama is sending new troops off to war. Many of them will die or suffer for the rest of their lives, just like the veterans of our past wars.
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