Editor’s Note: We have a very special guest blog today from Colonel John D. Folsom, founder of Wounded Warriors Family Support. WWFS’s mission is “to provide support to the families of those who have been wounded, injured or killed during combat operations.”
By Colonel John Folsom
Many years ago someone, perhaps a young soldier, wrote in red chalk on a wall of the Presbyterian Church in Newton, Pennsylvania, this verse:
“In times of war, and not before,
God and the soldier men adore;
When the war is o’er and all things righted,
The Lord’s forgot and the soldier slighted.”
Two years ago I again visited my fellow Marines hospitalized at Bethesda Naval Hospital after they were evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan. Thankfully, there were very few I saw on this visit; only three.
Two of the Marines were in good shape with only minor wounds. Both would make a full recovery and be returned to duty. Their spirits were high and they talked of returning to their units as soon as possible.
The third Marine was not so lucky.
He was in bad shape. His head was scarred, his left eye gone. His left arm was in a cast. Both of his legs were in traction and held immobile by devices that encircled his legs with stainless steel rings and screws. The screws kept his legs centered inside the rings. The pain was excruciating. He was sedated, yet conscious and lucid, although his speech was a little slurred. The doctor told me that he most likely had traumatic brain injury, as well.
I asked him what happened.
This young Lance Corporal, although by training an admin clerk, had volunteered to serve as a gunner on a HUMVEE. He volunteered for one of the most dangerous jobs as the gunner is exposed to gunfire and shrapnel from mines and improvised explosive devices. He must be constantly on alert and must swing his gun to acquire potential threats.
He was deployed to Camp Fallujah and was on a convoy mission when their vehicle rolled over an improvised explosive device. The IED detonated under them. The driver and assistant driver were killed instantly. Although he survived, his legs were shattered by the blast.
He will never be able to return to active duty and will be medically retired, eventually. “Eventually” as he would have to undergo months, perhaps years, of painful therapy and rehabilitation.
In the room were his mother and young wife. His mother sat near his bed and looked as though she were in shock. She said nothing and never looked up. Her head was lowered and she did not look at her son as he spoke.
His wife stood silently at his feet as she held her hands to her mouth to keep her sobs quiet. Her eyes were filled with tears as she looked upon the shattered body of a once strong, young man and knew that he would never be the same, physically or emotionally.
The young Lance Corporal was all Marine. He spoke with confidence of wanting to get through this as fast as possible so he could rejoin his unit. He probably knew that would never happen, but still, that was his unbroken spirit in his broken body that came through.
I didn’t stay long. But, before I left, I gave his wife my card and told her that when she and her Lance Corporal were ready, so, too, would our organization be for them.
There are fewer news stories about our wounded and the effects on their families. You don’t read or hear much about them, but this is the ongoing story for many Americans.
We must not let military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan be treated as “old news” and, likewise, we must not forget the families of our wounded and killed. They need our moral and financial support so that their lives can be made whole once more.
Our military families must be kept in our collective consciousness; we cannot allow ourselves to forget that, “When America goes to war, our families go to war.”
About Wounded Warriors Family Support:
Wounded Warriors Family Support brings military families happiness. How? We mitigate our veterans trauma by allowing them and their family to find peace and solace in family-friendly resorts that we provide free of charge.
photo credit: thanks to gluemoon via flickr for the image