09 November, 2005

Caring for the Warfighters

I have recently been enjoying the privilege of getting to know Carren Ziegenfuss personally. Not only is she a brave and strong Army Wife, but she's a ton of fun to talk and laugh with.

But not all of our conversations have been laughter-inducing. Interspersed, are discussions of how Chuck's doing or what it's been like for her these last five months. And I am struck by the fact that as much as my heart aches for each case of severe injury our military is coping with, getting to know someone who's living it hour by hour is another matter entirely. The desire for a way to magically fix it all becomes almost overwhelming. And there is more than that. It drives home the impact of the injury--what it does to all the people who care about the injured soldier, and how it turns their lives upside down for a long time.

To talk to Carren is to see what this kind of thing does to a soldier and his family. As I've written many times here, it's not just about the physical wounds--And I'm not thinking in terms of mental debilitation. Just that going through something like this has psychological impacts and mental/emotional components. People are changed by these experiences--in some ways for the better, some for the worst (at least temporarily), and some that are merely transitional as the person struggles to adapt to a new reality.

I've also had brief conversations with some other families of wounded soldiers recently in areas un-related to Valour-IT, including a parapalegic veteran's wife. What do you say to her as you offer her family a desktop computer? A computer is such an insignificant thing against the lifetime of a young man who will never run with his 4 children again, who is adjusting and learning to live without being able to take a step. What do you say to relieve her burdens, to soothe a heart that is required to be so strong and brave? You dare not cry when you speak to her, for what right do you have to tears when you can hang up the phone and she must still face the challenges of the days that stretch ahead?

Just stop and think about your loved one: consider how he or she might respond to a traumatic injury such as CPT Z or the soldier I described has been through. What would be the impact on you? What would be your loved one's response to the situation? What emotions would he/she be coping with? How would all your lives change (both temporarily and permanently)? What would be the burdens you would have to take on? How would you all cope?

Now, consider those who find themselves in this situation because of the job they have undertaken... for you.

They have cared for us. Now we must care for them. It is more than filling a need... It is a moral imperative.

Thanks to Mudville Gazette's Open Post for a link.