"Jeeeezsus Dammit MEDIC, MEDIC over here." I ducked again when I heard the snapping sound of bullets speeding past my head. Occasionally one would hit the ground and throw dust and rock chips up at me or whine off the Hummer I was laying beside. I moved to pull my platoon sergeant farther away from where he was laying. We were way too exposed and I wanted to get down into the little depression that served as a ditch on this damn road we had been driving on.
Our Hummer was crumpled and smoke was rising from the damaged engine compartment. I wanted to get a little farther away from the damaged vehicle in case it caught fire or exploded also. We had been very lucky. Our up armor and an impatient terrorist had resulted in damage instead of death for us. The rest of our patrol was moving trying to either kill or drive off our attackers. I was surprised they were making such an effort to get to us. Usually the IED is exploded and maybe a shot or two is fired then they disappear.
I pulled the Platoon Sergeant farther away from the danger zone. Finally I got to the depression and I pushed him into it. I was crawling toward my little slice of safety when a mule kicked me in the hip. At least it was the same leg I had been injured in before. Damn it hurts. Dust was kicking up around me as the bullets sought out my flesh once more. I made another lunge and then rolled into the ditch beside the Platoon Sergeant. I pulled his battle dressing open and tried to cover the wound on his head. He had a nasty bump on his forehead. I didn't see any other wounds. Damn my hip hurts like a mother. Shit, is it getting dark already?
I opened my dressing and tried to cover the worst of my wounds. "Medic," I screamed once more. Crap, I'm so tired. I can't believe we've been fighting all afternoon it's dark. I'm soooo tired...
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP ... It smells funny here. Why can't I see? "Help," I yell. "I can't get up. Is anyone there?"
I hear running footsteps and then a soft hand lands on my forearm. I smell something wonderful and hear the voice of an angel. "It's ok Sergeant. You're fine. You've been injured and are in the hospital. Relax. Everything's going to be ok now."
I let my muscles relax and lay my head back. "I can't see." I feel a real shaft of fear rush through me. My stomach clenches and my asshole puckers. "Oh Shit. Those rag headed bastards blinded me didn't they?"
"No Sergeant. We don't think you're blind. There were some injuries around your eyes and we had to dig some sand and rock chips out but we don't think you'll be blind. You were shot in the left leg twice and the side once. You lost a lot of blood but you're doing fine now. Just relax and get better now."
I took a deep breath and let it out. God it hurts. I moan, "Hurt." There's a rustling and something is pressed into my hand.
"Sergeant this is a button to push to release morphine into your IV when the pain gets too much. You can't overmedicate. It is set to only allow so much an hour to be requested." That wonderfully soft hand takes mine and places the button in it. She guides me to the side of the bed and says, "Here is where it will be clipped if you need it again."
I press the button. Ahhhhh that feels better already. The pain is less now. I sleep.
I can tell day from night. The noise in the hospital is greater in the daytime and gauze over my face isn't heavy enough to completely block out the light. Wait! Light. I can see light. Maybe I'm not really blind after all. And the pain isn't as great now either. I wonder how long it's been?
Finally another doctor comes in. He asks me questions. He removes the bandages on my hip and leg and side. He pushes on my belly and leg. It hurts but not as bad. Slowly he removes most of the bandages around my head. "Close your eyes," he says. "Don't open them until I say."
They take all the bandages from my head. I'm so scared. "Ok," I hear. "Open your eyes slowly. Let me know what you see. If the light hurts close your eyes and let me know."
It's bright. My eyes squint from the brightness but it doesn't really hurt. I blink my eyes and feel them water. I look out the window with joy and cry with happiness. I can see.
The next day a little short female Sergeant comes bouncing into the room. "Good morning Sergeant Wilson. I'm Sergeant Phillips but you can call me Mandy. I work in physical therapy. I'm going to help you with your walking. You're going to hurt Sergeant. You're going to think this is worse than getting hit and in a way you are right but we have to do it. Today we're going to take it real easy on you but every day we will stress you more and more until you have regained all the muscle and ability you can."
Mandy was so nice until she began working on me. Damn she's an ogre. She won't let me stop or rest and will not let me take it easy at all. I love her. I hate her. When we're working she's a stone cold bitch. After therapy sometimes she sits with me and we talk. She's such a sweet person then I wonder how she can be so mean when we're working.
Over the course of the next month I sweat. I hurt, I curse and I cry. Finally the day comes when I can walk with crutches. I move slowly and painfully across the room. Now I get better rapidly. I am called before a medical review board. "Sergeant we have recommended you be discharged and retired from the Army with a 40% disability. You just can't perform all your duties with the shorter left leg. I'm sorry Sergeant," the Major said to me.
I feel anger, loss and yes, even a little fear. The Army has been my life for almost six years. I was going to make it a career. I loved the Army and my friends. We were making a difference. Now I have nothing. I'm a nobody all at once. I have to go home and try to start over. Oh, sure I managed to get a two year college degree while I was in garrison but so what? I have no real training and what I am trained for I can't do now. Who wants a disabled Military Policeman? I can't even get a job as a police officer now.
Time passes and I complete my out processing. I decide to return home in my dress uniform. At least I can have the pleasure of wearing it one more time. I catch an Army shuttle bus for the ride to the airport. People stop to stare at me. Many smile. Many more come up to me and shake my hand. Most of them say, "Thank you for your service." Damn it feels good.
I have a three hour layover in Atlanta. Damn people sure are nice. An older gentleman sees me waiting and takes me to a bar for drinks while we wait. He fought in Europe in WWII. We share memories and get maudlin remembering old comrades. Finally they announce my flight and I leave my new friend. I am so excited about going home. I haven't seen my parents except for a short visit while I was in the hospital for almost two years. It will be good to renew old acquaintances but I am still upset I have lost my career.
Finally the aircraft banks and begins the approach to the airfield nearest my home. I look out the window. I feel my chest tighten and my eyes water. I will not cry. I won't, I won't. This is a very small airport. I walk out of the departure lounge and see wall to wall people. Where are all these people going I wonder?
When I exit the security area a loud roar goes up. The crowd surges forward. There is my mother and father. My sister and her husband. A beautiful woman throws herself into my arms and hugs me. I can't breathe. DAMMIT I WILL NOT CRY.
The woman finally releases me and turns to face the crowd with me. She has wrapped her arm around my waist. God she's still as beautiful as I remembered her. She's wiping tears from her face.
I look down at the woman hugging me. "Linda what are all these people doing here," I croak.
Linda looks up at me and smiles. "They're here to welcome you home Larry. We've all missed you so much. We were terrified when we found out how badly you had been injured. We wanted you to know how much you mean to all of us and we wanted you to know how glad we were that you came home to us."
I walked farther into the crowd. I couldn't believe it. Women were crying and touching me. Men shook my hand and many hugged me too. Oh, shit, there's a bunch of my old teachers. There's old Mr. Patterson, the Principal of the high school. He walked up to me and shook my hand. He stared into my eyes. "Larry I was wrong. I am so proud to know you. I'm proud I helped guide you in school. I don't know how I could have been so wrong about you but I am so glad I was. I should never have said you would never amount to anything. If there is ever anything I can do for you just let me know son."
I finally managed to maneuver through the crowd. We left the airport and headed for the parking lot. It looked like a funeral or huge convoy as all the cars tried to leave at once. We filled the access road and clogged the onramp to the interstate as we headed for my home.
Finally I am on the small secondary road leading into my small home town. We round the last curve and top the last hill. Oh, shit, look at the banners and all the people. Our car drives slowly down the main street. People are screaming and yelling at me. I smile and wave. There has to be more than the fifteen hundred population of our small town on the street and in the convoy. Where did they all come from?
.... There is more of this story ...