18 September 2006

"But... I'm a Soldier"

"No, let's wait for him. He says he wants to meet you," said the Liaison Officer responsible for non-US coalition patients. "He'll be right out."

A few minutes later The Soldier appeared from a door further down the hall. Hopping on one leg, the other pants leg empty. Using a cane.

"You guys are all alike - you're knuckleheads. Do you know what a knucklehead is?" I ask as I walk towards him.

He smiles and says no. I point to my head and rotate my index finger. "Nuts. You're all nuts. Why aren't you using crutches?"

"This is my training."

I stick out my hand and introduce myself. We make our way back to his room while he tells me about getting blown up.

I give him a backpack, apologizing that it's set up for American Soldiers, with letters from people back home, American flags on the Blanket of Hope, etc.

"But," I continue, my throat suddenly getting tight, "you stood with us, so you're one of us."

The Soldier can't believe it's for him. I tell him that as an American and a civilian, I want to thank him for his service, for defending our way of life, and for protecting us civilians - who are sitting home on our butts doing nothing.

The Soldier stands at the foot of his bed, on one leg, grinning. Head tipped slightly to one side, truly not comprehending why I would say such an outlandish thing.

"But...," he says finally, "I'm a Soldier." As though that would say it all.

As indeed it does.

At The Soldier's request I have not used his name, nationality, or any further description that would reveal his identity. I have spent many hours with The Soldier since this first meeting. He is, quite simply, a true Warrior. His goal is to be the first amputee of his country's Army to return to active duty, and seems to relish what he calls the "big fight" ahead of him to do so. He also wants to retain his various certifications in order to remain with his unit, which would be a first in any Army.

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