27 July, 2009

Dude, Where's My Leg?

I've met some of these guys briefly, but I doubt they remember me. Other of the names are familiar because they're on the Valour-IT roster. But I know them. I know their type.

And I love them. Each and every one of them... the ones who know my name, the ones who don't, the ones I'll never meet,those whose names I've never seen.

I read this article aloud in the USO this morning and laughed so hard I had to lay my head on the desk at times. In other moments my throat suddenly tightened a bit and tears threatened as I tried to explain these special people to a fellow volunteer and talked about some of the wounded warriors I've encountered.

At a restaurant with a friend, Blanchard, now a student at George Washington University, stabbed his prosthetic foot with a steak knife and pretended to howl in pain. At Kings Dominion amusement park, he removed his leg before getting on a suspended roller coaster where riders' feet dangle freely. As the ride coasted to a stop, he started screaming loud enough for those in line to hear: "Do not get on that ride! It'll rip your legs off!"

Murray says laughter helped him keep his "mind off the fact of what an absolutely horrible situation you are in -- how you went from being a big, bad-ass terrorist fighter to having your mother pushing you around in a wheelchair."

I told my fellow volunteer about triple amputee Brian Anderson's "75% off t-shirt," of Chuck's right nut and "half the man I used to be" comments, the guy who joked at Fran O'briens as he held a steak knife aloft ("They're giving us knives?! Don't they know everyone at this table has PTSD?!"), the outrageous slogans I saw handwritten on the protective helmet of a vibrant young Marine missing a huge section his skull and brain ("I'm missing half my brain. What's your excuse?").

And later today I found this in my mailbox: "Seventh Logrolling Title, 1st with a Prosthetic Arm." It wasn't just any contest, but a World Championship.

If by some chance you don't understand why sweet little "Fuzzybear" turns into a ferocious lioness when our military personnel are denigrated, when people act as if the wounded can only be ignored or looked upon with hand-wringing, when pats on the head are passed off as "supportive," then read the links.

There can be no response but admiration and love mixed within the tears... and motivation to do what one can to put a bit more lift under their wings. They're inspirational, not because they have it so hard (they do) and succeed in spite of it (they often do), but because they are proof of the indomitable human spirit, a living lesson for all who struggle and fight, a reminder that regardless of your circumstances, life really is what you make of it.