I met up with Amanda on Friday at the hospital and she came back on Saturday and Sunday.
Because the Landstuhl and Kleber facilities are transitional facilities, there's always a lot of coming and going. New outpatients can arrive at any time of the day but often do so in the early evenings.
Something about seeing the gear from the new arrivals makes me sad every time I see it. I've often tried to explain why, but it's hard to describe.
The soldiers here are outpatients and certainly in much better physical shape than the hospital patients... but when I think about all they're been through just getting here - not to mention what they may have experienced downrange - seeing the gear always brings tears to my eyes. I know. I'm a wimp.
Maybe it's because they are so valiant and never complain. Well, correction. All soldiers complain.
Maybe it's everything they've been through to get to this point.
They have been to a CSH, then sent to the hospital in Balad for a few hours or maybe a few days. They never know what's going on until somebody tells them to get on a helicopter or a plane. Then they get swept away to Germany without the opportunity to go back to their FOB and pack additional personal items.
They fly all the way here in a medevac plane, are driven from Ramstein AB in a bus to the hospital where they are processed through DWMMC and their Liaison office. Then they are driven over to Kleber. The whole time they are dragging around their gear - packs, body armor, etc.
I've seen guys so tired they were standing in this hallway at Kleber wearing their body armor. They simply couldn't carry it any more. I've had to uncurl their fingers from their packs and put them on the floor and then remove their body armor for them.
And then there's the orientation at Kleber. They need to know where they are, under which command they fall, the regulations at the barracks (including dress code, bed check and morning formation), meal times at the DFAC, how to be issued new uniforms - a million things. There's an orientation video that explains it all.
Finally, they are given a room.
So I guess they are happy to see someone like Amanda standing at a table in the hallway making Leberkäse sandwiches.
Or Mrs. G. from the Mudville Gazette, who brought a huge pot of her delicious homemade vegetable beef soup on Sunday (but who wouldn't allow me to take photos).
Amanda explains that Leberkäse is kind of like a big loaf of hot dog meat and that each soldier should take a roll, slice it open, and put some mustard on it while she cuts him a thick slab.
Later, Amanda and I go to the TV room to watch DVDs with the guys. Considering most of them have not watched movies with females in a while, they are very understanding of our frequent emotional outbursts.
They're usually pretty quiet with the exception of an occasional low-key, "use your knife, a$$hole", or "yeah, RIGHT" when confronted with unrealistic scenes.
We, on the other hand, blurt out all kinds of stupid stuff. Sometimes we leave the room to make some more sandwiches for other guys and miss things. But they patiently fill us in on what has happened during our absence.
It's one movie after another until we realize it's almost 2am (!). We've got more work to do on Sunday, so we finally head out.
To be continued...