May 25, 2008
Name: RN Clara Hart
Posting date: 5/26/08
Stationed in: a military hospital in the U.S.
We said goodbye to one of our medics today. He’s a young man hardly out of high school, willing to help, eager to please and hungry to learn anything he can from this old trauma/medevac nurse. He watched me put in an IV yesterday saying, “You’re my new hero! You did that so quickly, and no bloodletting! I’m in awe!”
My droll response, “I’ve probably been doing this as long as you’ve been alive.”
“No way, ma’am," was his endearing reply. I simply smiled and shook my head.
I will hold this memory of the innocence of youth, which only a young man such as he can have. And I will grieve for its loss. This young man will get on a plane today, Memorial Day, to go train up before heading to Iraq. Once he returns stateside after his deployment, Memorial Day will hold new meaning for him. I know that the young man I now know will be forever gone.
I recently had a conversation with another soldier, a conversation which began when I walked into his office and saw that his computer’s screen saver was a photo of him and a friend at a grave site. When I inquired, he told me the story. The grave belongs to a battle buddy, KIA in Iraq. Every September he takes leave and makes the trek to the cemetery to be with his dead friend. He said he has nowhere else he wants to spend that day in September, the day his friend died and he didn’t.
As we continued to speak, I learned about a completely separate incident in Iraq, one where he lived and no one else did. He walked away the sole survivor of an ambush so horrible he wasn’t even able to put it into words. He's a handsome man in his 20s, made far older by his memories.
I chatted with a Marine who unexpectedly asked if I liked the group Nine Inch Nails. Unsure how to respond, I said “Um, I’ve heard some of their stuff." He said they have a song called “War" and it was playing on the day he was out on patrol. Not sure where the conversation was going, I nodded my head and pretended I knew exactly what he was talking about. “I can’t listen to that song anymore. Yeah, out on patrol one day we hit an IED. I’ve hit ‘em before and they suck but usually it’s not too bad. But that day, the day I was driving, when we hit that IED my buds in the backseat were blown to bits. So now every time I hear that song I gotta turn the radio off.” He stated all this very matter-of-factly, as if we were discussing the weather or the latest baseball score -- another young man scarred by memories.
It’s Memorial Day and while I want to remember, I don’t want to remember. I don’t want to remember my friends killed on September 11th, or the others who've died serving our great country. Those who I’ve worked so hard to save only to fail. I don’t want to remember the broken bodies I try so hard to fix. I don’t want to remember the scarred hearts that may never be mended.
I, as much as anyone, want this war to end. My Soldiers, my Marines, my Airmen, they all tell me the U.S. is doing good things. They assure me OIF and OEF are making a difference. I try to take solace in that knowledge. I try to take that information and be encouraged and hopeful. But somehow when I think of my own memories, the memories of the hundreds, if not thousands, of patients and their families I have met and cared for, it doesn’t seem to be enough.
Please don’t get me wrong; I am neither anti-war nor pro-war. I have only the utmost respect for each and every person who wears and has worn the uniform of our U.S. military. You are all truly my heroes and will always have a special place in my heart. Simply put, while Memorial Day is a day to remember, there are many memories I’d rather not.