Stories From a Soldier
Soldier's are all Around us Listen for Their Stories
Veterans Our Heros
There is much conviction, or a sense of duty to share the stories learned from our veterans. They deserve our attention, and we should never forget them!
Learning the stories held captive in their minds and hearts is essential.
During my employment at The Veteran's Hospital, I gained access to their world of secrecy and survival. This insight was a blessing that changed my life forever.
Soldiers train to put on confidence, courage, and unimaginable strength armor. But they must remove their protector badges long enough to breathe and heal.
As they contemplate the loss of their brethren in arms, they work hard at putting the pieces back together. This work is continuous as service changes soldiers. Those who return make it their call to remember the lost. They must do the job of healing.
This hard work is necessary as they continue soldiering onward. Servicemen and women are a family, holding the hearts of their comrades close. They share their stories and their own, honoring the legacy of loss and service.
In the hospital's safety, they can exhale the staunch stoicism of harbored memories. Here they are safe to speak of the peril responsible for filling our history books. We are attentive and amazed as we sit in awe! Their sacrifice and dedication to preserving our freedoms is humbling. They are due much honor and respect for their service.
The heartbreaking invisible ambiance of actual heroism forms from their memoirs of tenacity as they describe the realities of war with such honesty. Bound by learning life lessons and traumatic experiences, they become a group with an unbreakable bond. The hidden pain entwines them as brothers and sisters. Once you stop long enough to listen truly, they offer the entry key, and their trunks unlock!
These heroes then open the floodgates; the truth pours out once they open. Their words of haunt form a tapestry of honor that weaves itself into a telling blanket of sadness and pride. It is always a privilege to listen to witness pain and glory from those who served our country.
Crossing the threshold of the Veteran's Hospital for me brought a curiosity and a desire to learn more about the plight of these veterans who provided our protection. How do we live a life of freedom yet remain unaware of its costs? Sadly, I had a minimal grasp of the truth and sacrifice I honor, but I now realize why we must seek and share their treasured legacies.
In the hospital, there was an accepted code of communication. It involves a genuine sense of solemnity, respect, and familiarity with a secret language that is essential in times of war. I was a tad shy as a therapist walking the halls among these heroes. I felt inept at first, not being well versed in the rich history of wars responsible for the allotment of our freedom. These men and women deserved my best work as a token of my appreciation for their service. I wanted to become their sounding board and their biggest cheerleader, and this I did.
The experiences awaiting me behind those doors were unlike any place I had worked previously. While working at the VA, I learned fast the distinct secrecy that went with this new territory. And once I understood they were private in their sharing and kept it that way, I allowed their realness to draw me deeper into their world, always craving to hear more stories from a soldier.
Veterans Describe Their Reality
For a short time, I was in the nursing home section awaiting the new opening of the spinal cord unit. I worked with these ancient, almost feeble frail men, I thought. At first, they brought to mind an innate want to hold them and nurture them.
Little did I know the impact of their stories and how honored I would be to share a part of their world of painful memories. How I remembered I was forever the child in their eyes, and these fantastic men and women had sacrificed their youth for my freedom.
They found out I played guitar, so there I sat with a guitar in hand; I played for those men, survivors, and servants of past wars. I played a few patriotic and even somber tunes, either requested or ones I thought might be enjoyable. One day as I finished, I looked up to move my capo on the guitar to change the key, hoping it would invite them to sing along. It was then that my eyes met his.
He must have been a patient for some time as he looked weathered, slumping down in his wheelchair. I noticed a single tear falling down his dark brown cheek. It was moving past his whiskers and wrinkles at a snail’s pace, unnoticeable to most. He recognized I saw it, straightened up as best he could and wiped it away. My heart ached for him, and yet I did not know why? I did not know the story, not yet anyway.
After I finished, the nurses’ aides came to retrieve them to go back to their rooms. I approached him; he had rolled over to a window and was gazing out into a courtyard, and he was in deep thought. I knelt by him and attempted to start my inquiry. “Hello, sir,” I said. I then asked, “I am sorry. Did I upset you this afternoon during our therapy group time, singing these songs?” He looked into my eyes, cupped my chin in his hand, and said, “oh no, dear one, you touched my heart. You’re beautiful rendition just took me back to the war, sweetheart.”
I didn’t want to pry, but this sweet ’man’s kind and loving demeanor had me clinched at heart. It was like I, too, went back in time, and I was sitting with my grandfather as he was sharing a story while bouncing me on his knee. Even though this man’s skin was much darker than my fair Irish freckled face, I felt like his granddaughter at that moment.
“May I ask, what you were thinking, sir? He said, well, child, I was in the Second World War. He went on; this was a war before you were even a thought, little one.” He referred to me as cute as I was young but married and had a baby girl of my own, yet he saw me as an innocent child. He shared, “I was a young man once, like you. I was proud to fight for my country in another part of this God-given world. It was in a foxhole, honey. I was with my buddies. We were in the fight. I turned around, loading my weapon when it came like a firebomb. We hit! After the smoke cleared, I saw my buddies strewn around me. It was a bad baby! Blood was everywhere, and my buddy’s arm rested at my feet.” The tears now welled in both of our eyes as he continued, “I scurried about try in my best, but they were all dead!”
This sweet man looked at me as if to say, I am sorry to share such horror with you, but the compassion in his eyes was phenomenal as he retrieved this distant memory with such clarity and definition. He stopped, took a breath, and said, “I was the only one spared; my Lord spared me that day, but see, a big part of me died there—in that hole.”
His gentle demeanor seemed to shake it off as he said, “my life is a blessing tenfold, with a beautiful family and children and grandchildren, and I am thankful to my Lord. I loved those men. They were my brothers, and I guess I feel the guilt today. I suppose I went on living’ in honor of the boys. They were and will always be my friends and a part of me.”
He looked into my eyes as I was now shedding crocodile tears, to no avail. He again touched my cheek and tried his best to wipe my tears with his sweet, shaking hand. He said, “I love this country, and I would do it all again. I never understood; why me? Why was I spared?”
I hugged him tight and was about to return him to his room, then I said, I know why. He is a magnificent man, a sacrifice, and still honors His Lord and Savior.
He lived to honor God and his brothers. He is my hero and yours; his story matters then and now and for eternity. His savior spared him; he had a light that was to shine for many years. His glow was for himself and his buddies left behind. His face was shining as he shared about his brothers and how God allowed him here to share and honor their stories. His legacy lives on in the levels of a soldier.
The stories that unfolded as I worked with the servicemen and women changed me forever. Respect and appreciation remain a constant for me always. A Captain shared with me why his fingers had become so crooked. He would share that they took a hammer to his knuckles when he was in a prison camp. One by one, they would crush them to torture.
Another story came from a medic who struggled with addictions post the Vietnam War as he got shot in the spine retrieving a fellow warrior from the fields. He now lives his own life as a person with paraplegia that uses a wheelchair. This soldier lost himself for some time and yet could break free and learn to embrace his inner strength. He knew he didn't leave his soul in that war-torn country. He participated in sports of all kinds and taught martial arts and self-defense to others with and without physical disabilities.
There was a special memory from my vault of a fantastic man, a golden knight named Dana Bowman. Dana lost his limbs and his jump partner Jose his brother in arms, in a tragic accident at an air flight show. After hitting in the air at ninety miles an hour, he instantly lost his legs and best friend. Another casualty of this tragedy was his marriage, as she was too young and selfish to handle the trauma. On the day of his accident, Dana's wife left! He could have died with his friend gone, his wife, and his legs, but he picked up the pieces and moved forward.
Today he is a motivational speaker and has helped many in the wake of his storm; Dana Bowman is one of my heroes! He is your hero. I received a blessing to be on that mountain and ski next to him as he continued for those who lost their lives or would meet their challenges. I continue to have much love and respect for Dana.
Within a year of this horrific accident, this soldier would soar down the mountains of Colorado skiing on a brand new pair of prosthetic devices, the same year of his significant loss. Skiing the Colorado Mountains was fabulous but not nearly as moving as the legacy of unimaginable pain on the landscape! New life witnessed carrying the burdens of the old we will never forget, and we thank you, all of you, for your service!
Why They Served, Why We Serve
I, like you, have struggled in this life; some would even call us brave as we battle life’s changing events. We can answer this claim with, I’m not brave, not compared to these men and women who died for our country or sacrificed so much, and when I think of the cross, my Savior took for me, suffering for my sin, well, I am in awe.”
We do it because we can because we must; we do it because of men and women who taught us how to fight with joy and confidence in living a life in service to our Lord. My past had a call to help them at their lowest point, and their many stories changed my life. Do it because they taught us how to live! Do it because Jesus died for me, and you, and them.
We don’t always live as our examples do, perhaps not as brave, but no one can ever take a soldier’s story from their memory, and no one can take their faith unless they give it away, and no one can take your ability to serve, no matter what.
I feel like a soldier involved in their testimonies. They play in my mind, and I gain strength as if alongside them in their battle. They took us with them; we, the people, are why they serve!
We all have a story to tell as we remain in our battle, a spiritual struggle. The reports from those veterans became another reason to serve our King. We are One Nation Under God, and I am blessed to have learned from those who served in the past and blessed to help many in the present.
The war rages daily; we can do much to serve as we live for Christ and help others in our battles here on earth. We will lose matches, but we will win the war and reunite all the soldiers in heaven! Everyone has a story to tell; make yours count!
God Bless America and God Bless All Of You This Day, and be listening for the Stories Of a Soldier!
© 2013 Kathy Henderson