A Hand Up...

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Returning home after the blast.

It's deathly quiet. Everything is slow motion and voices are but echoes from a distance far away. The smoke and dust fill the area, blinding, choking me; making it almost impossible to find the screams. I am running; yet, every step I take seems to slow me down. I call out, hoping that I will get help in finding him. I worry that I too will become the next one to fall - shot or blasted from this earth by the explosion that awaits me.

There. Behind the blasted truck, he lays alone in the field, blood flowing from the wounds suffered from the explosion, thrown from the safety offered by the armored truck. His screams tell of his pain and agony. I fall beside him, calling to him. I let him know I'm there to help. I ask his name; telling him he'll be okay. I search his body for the holes that seep the life giving fluid. His leg is torn below the knee. I can understand his pain; but, I do not feel it. I can't imagine it; but, his grip on my arm tells me it grows unbearable. I dress the wounds I see; asking him questions; telling him all is going to be okay. I tell him we'll get him out of this forsaken field. I scream for the medic; but, he is busy working on the others that lay in the distant. Their screams mix with the shouts and orders from those who fan out to protect us and engage the unseen enemy. The ones who created this chaos; this destruction in this land so far from home. The rain begins to fall as we wait. Time seems not to care that we need to evacuate this wounded warrior.

I startle as I wake from the images of that day. My sweat mixes with my fear as I sit upright. I tremble from the chill. I see you wrapped in the poncho, being carried from the field; growing sick as I watch you depart in the ambulance. I cried to hear of your death. I do not know you; but, I was there with you. I tried to help. I did the best I knew how. Or did I? Was it me who failed to save you; who failed to return you home? Am I the cause that your sons have no father now?

The hot coffee eases my nerves; doing little to ease the headache. It will be with me all day. It doesn’t matter; I have more important things to do then worry about a headache.

The classroom buzzes with whispers and laughs as I enter the room. "Good morning," I speak as I move to the front of the room. I loosen the knot of my tie and take my customary seat on the front of the desk.

"How are you guys today? Anyone want to share with the group? Any stories, jokes … keep them clean …"

They sit, silently. Nervous; some shuffle in their seats. Most look down at the table top or the floor. Every now and then, an occasional head looks up to make eye contact. I wonder if they have accepted me yet as the group leader. Not really a leader; more a facilitator, trying to give them a voice. I hope that by me letting them talk and tell their story that I can give them a way ahead. I hope by giving them a hand up that they will continue to put one foot in front of the other. I pray they will mend.

"Okay, if none of you have anything, let me share with you one of mine."

And, so it begins. The healing that I seek; that I hope they will find in my words, through my revelations of my experiences. I hope they will open up and begin to express the anger, the fear, the doubt they hide inside. It will take time; different amounts for each of them. But, I am there ... with a hand-up.

HUMMV after an IED Blast
HUMMV after an IED Blast

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