The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

MEMORIES |

May 25, 2008

MEMORIES
Name: RN Clara Hart
Posting date: 5/26/08
Stationed in: a military hospital in the U.S.
Email: clarahart2@yahoo.com

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.

Framed_nurse_arlington_natl_cemeter

Comments

Clara,
My definition of a hero is one, who when things were at their darkest hour, sucked it up, rose up and triumphed. You have done so much, for so many, while dealing with your personal traumas while dealing with our wounded service men and service womem. So I can honestly say, "Clara, you are my hero." Thank you for being there to take care our own.

Mike,
CDR, USN (Ret)

At times it takes more "courage" to listen to the stories of those "hurting". So many try to tell their story only to have the listener walk away or get that lost look in their eye. All those guys want is someone to hear their story. You obviously listen with your heart and care with your soul, so to you I say thank you for all of them. You have more courage than most.

I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech;
The moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.

---
It seems that every soldier becomes his own Ancient Mariner. My we have the strength to learn from them.

Clara - Thank you for this post. For your service.

"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."

This I can't fathom but only admire the noble spirit that drives this matter-of-fact attitude. How do these guys do it? Shaking my head...

Regards,
Crazyfinger

Not enough flags flying at half staff today, I am so glad that you were here to write and I could read and share with you this Memorial Day. I knew you could do an IV perfectly, you care so much. I have my post up, and am off to the cemetery - I will tell them you still care.

Clara Hart,

You continue to write some of the best blog entries I have ever read. This one hit close to home with my own son, who is a medic, currently serving in Afghanistan.

Hon, you are one person, and you can only do so much. As for the rest of us civis, we pray for all of you. Memorial Day is no different than anyother day for prayers for us. Please remember that and know you have done much more than so many more of us could ever possibly do. You were able to get close, when many of us are not excepted to.

I have always appreciated your thoughtful and touching insight as nurse to our wounded. It must take a tremendous toll on your own psyche to see and hear these things first hand, because simply the reading of them usually moves me to tears. Hats off to you and the men and women caring for our veterans.

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