clay watched as another soldier died in front of him. other soldiers were injured, but not critically. they all stood there crying as he took his last breath.
i did my best to just listen as he talked about it. in our next several conversations he said he was still struggling with it. i tried to remind him about all of the good things in his life that give him strength and comfort. i told him all he has to do is go over those things again and again to remember that they still exist, despite all the bad things.
the advice that seemed to help him the most came from our close friend who works in a hospital.
“It’s healthy that you talk about this stuff instead of trying to stuff the feelings like they don’t exist. Look at the gore, feel how awful it is, then let it go so you can do your job, and keep yourself healthy, safe, and sane. It’s what we do in healthcare…”
Got two letters today. One was from our godson, who is in third grade. He sent me a copy of the letter he wrote to President Obama:
“Personally I am glad you are President. I really would like you to stop the wars because one of my godfathers is in Iraq fighting in the war. I just want him to be safe.”
That one got me.
The other was a letter from Clay. (When I get a letter from him, I can’t open it right away. Instead, I put it on my nightstand and save it for bedtime, when I can be alone in the calm and quiet). He wrote:
“Everyone here refers to me as ‘that guy who always gets mail!’ I feel bad for most of the guys because they receive little or nothing from back home.”
That one got to me, too. You see, I’ve enlisted our friends and family to go to the card store and pick out funny cards to send him whenever they can, to help take his mind off the mess around him. I tell them they have no idea how important it is to him to get something that reminds him of anything-but-where-he-is. He told me that the day he saw two soldiers get terribly maimed by an IUD, he got a package from my mom – and that it “saved” him. I understood what he meant.
I’ve bought all the humorous cards I can find in my area, and am constantly looking for funny ones elsewhere whenever I get the chance. I write small and try to cover every square inch of the card with whatever I can think of. I sometimes carry a card around with me and add to it as the day progresses, or hand it to a friend to add a few words.
It kills me to think that his buds get “little or nothing”.
Ok, so the meds my doctor prescribed started to wig me out after about a week. I thought, “Well, I haven’t been on it that long, so I shouldn’t be that big of a deal to stop.” And I was right – it took about 24 hours and I started feeling normal again.
On my way to the airport today, I got pulled over for speeding. I was doing 9 mph over the speed limit and got a $75 ticket from the nice State Police officer. When I first saw him coming after me, I thought I was going to fall apart. I was already running late and knew I’d now probably miss my flight. Thank God my sense of humor suddenly returned from wherever it has been banished to for the last six months, because as the officer was walking up to my car, all I could think of was Lloyd Bridges in the movie AIRPLANE!
I toyed with saying it to the Statey, but thought better of it – not really wanting the roadside sobriety test it was sure to trigger…
I met a lady today with two sons currently in the Army Infantry: one in Iraq the other in Afghanistan. She told me she once saw one son on the news while they were reporting on a big firefight in Sadr City. The camera was following him as he engaged in some of the heaviest fighting of the war. It allowed me a bit of much needed perspective.
Clay has made it clear in our last several conversations that the facilities where he’s at are quite lacking. The temporary modular units they are living in weren’t meant to last the six years they’ve been there, and are falling apart. The hummers he drives are falling apart, too. Some of the towers he mans have been condemned, and one has actually fallen over. But hell, it’s war, right?
He has a cough that won’t go away because of the ever-present dust and blowing sand. I sent him some supplements today that are supposed to ‘promote pulmonary health’. Hmmm. But he sounds good, and talking to him makes all my pain go away.
I get to talk to him a few times a week, and am incredibly grateful for it. When he calls he gets 15 minutes. This stilted computer voice comes on and says “You have 2 minutes remaining”, then he counts out 60 seconds, then 15, then he hangs up on us. When we hear the 2 minute warning, we speed up our conversation and try to cram in as much as we can.