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.

VETERANS DAY |

November 10, 2008

VETERANS DAY
Name: RN Clara Hart
Posting date: 11/11/08
Stationed in: a military hospital in the U.S.
Milblog url: macneillysperspective.blogspot.com
Email: clarahart2@yahoo.com

With all the talk of the elections, the economy, the housing crisis and the financial bailouts, for too many Americans the wars have slipped into nonexistence. I was sickened listening to the radio one morning this past week; reporters speaking with people waiting in line at various polling places found the most prevalent thought in the minds of Americans was the economy. What about our troops? Has America forgotten our sons and daughters who fight on foreign soil? Or their families who struggle silently alone?

For several weeks I have drifted south in a mire of sadness, depression and fatigue. War is what
took me there, these wars most people seem to have forgotten. I walk into work and the war is clearly evident. It is heartbreakingly apparent -- from the patients lying in the beds, to the families sitting in the waiting rooms, to the returning nurses, medics and physicians whose battle has now become PTSD. 

Weeks ago I attended a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. I watched the wife and children of the soldier laid to rest walk toward the gravesite. Tears flooded my eyes as my ears were filled with the sobs of his preadolescent boys.

Recently I cared for a patient, newly arrived from Iraq after being shot. He was a little confused, as most are. His behavior vacillated between somewhat normal and slightly inappropriate; furthermore I seemed to be the only one he listened to. When he flipped off a commanding officer he had just met I stood between the two and admonished him that I didn’t want to ever see that particular hand signal again. I then turned to the CO and shooed him out of the room before the dressing down could begin.

Later that day after hearing “Clara!” bellowed in a frantic, fearful tone, I hurried into his room to find him holding his IV tubing. He looked at me with panic-filled eyes and said “Clara! It’s a trip wire, somehow they got in here and wired me! I’m gonna die." Many, many moments later I finally convinced him it was not a trip wire and he was not going to explode and die. I then carefully moved the tubing into a position where he could not see it, and distracted him with the latest football scores.

Yesterday I listened to a medic talk. Recently returned from OEF, the only way he could sleep at night was with prescribed sleeping pills, and even then he still had nightmares. While conversing I mentioned a MASCAL* I worked as a medevac nurse, a bus accident on a highway. On final approach to the LZ I looked out the helicopter window to see bodies lying on the pavement.  He said, “Yep, I seen that too, only on a dirt road and the bodies were all kids.”

Today another nurse called, one already suffering from compassion fatigue, who had put in for a transfer to another section where the stress was lower. Tired and distraught, she told me her marriage was falling apart, her husband had left, and she was in serious emotional trouble. I told her to go pack her pj’s, hop in the car and head over, promising a slumber party.

Today is Veterans Day. While I personally continue to fight against compassion fatigue and PTSD I will remain where I am, caring for the veterans of OIF, OEF and GWOT. I only wish I didn’t feel as if awareness of our troops has faded into nonexistence and that the wars we fight have been forgotten. You see we pay a heavy price, and for that price is it too much to ask America at least remember?

*MASCAL: mass casualty/disaster

Comments

I haven't forgotten.

Some of us never forget, who do you want me to shake awake out there? All kinds of Veterans - you are one of the best, every once in awhile when the irrational bubbles in me briskly, I think what it would look like if I attacked Wall Street with the power of the American Military - it's only money. But then I remember that isn't what we fought for, we all died with our mothers on our lips... hang on to that nurse, a husband that leaves isn't worth the memory, but all the grieving for the wounded and fallen helps, but it is always the touching of one's heart that helps the healing - don't leave them, the helpers, the healers, and the hopeless but for nurses like you. Take care, go gently and love them all.

Neither have I.

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post - From the Front: 11/11/2008 - News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

http://thunderrun.blogspot.com/2008/11/from-front-11112008.html

I haven't forgotten. The Marine in my extended family has volunteered for Afghanistan after returning from Iraq just this past March. His wife and special needs child will continue on without him again. Another young man I took care of when he was an infant has chosen to retire early from his service rather than put his mother through the strain of a fourth deployment.

My first email this morning was to my brother, a veteran of Vietnam war. The pajama party sounds like a great idea. Thank you for the posting, Clara, and for being on the homefront front line.

I read every post here on the sandbox. Your posts, in particular, make this war so real for me.

I would like to think that there are many people like me - civilians who care deeply about the men and women who are suffering and risking their lives, but who also feel unable to adequately express that. If I was a soldier, I could say "I know how you feel", but I'm not and I can't.

I treasure your stories, whether they make me cry with pain or with joy. I have a 6 year old son, and when I read your story about the dying soldier calling for his father, it affected me deeply. I literally cannot imagine how much more it affects you.

I am sure that there is nothing that I can say to you right now that will help how you feel after all you've seen and done, but I'll try anyway: You are not forgotten. Even though you bear a heavy cost, you are saving people's lives, and that is more than I and most people have ever been able to do.

Clara, I wrote this after reading your post. I have re-posted this on my blog and e-mailed it around the country to my small but vocal set of friends. Please take this as my small gesture to you and all like you who have been suffering in anonymity. And if I got anything wrong, please forgive those lapses. Thank you and God bless you.

-----------------------
90 years ago today, the powers that be declared an end to "The War to End All Wars". Today, we know that to be a naive cliche, a wistful hope that all the emotions and baseless desires we have would be washed away with the blood of millions. They thought that this type of carnage, this type of destruction would shock people into pacification. Little did they know that the human mind has the amazing capacity to disregard horrific acts when they aren't directly involved, and from those ashes 90 years ago rose an even greater horror.

We all know about World War II and the Holocaust. We try not to think of them daily, if we weren't directly affected, and hope that this type of horror never happens again.

We have had a generation be torn apart by the divisions that the war in Vietnam presented, and have had to live daily with the men ripped up on the inside as they try to cope with the carnage they saw there.

We have had other conflicts up until the present, and each one seems smaller and less significant as time passes. We have moved past these conflicts and with them, we have moved past the men and women who served there. They have been consigned to the aging and wholly insufficient Veterans administration and forgotten by those who just yesterday waved flags and cheered when they walked by.

We have forgotten them, and what's particularly changed this Nov. 11 is that we have forgotten them *during* a war. Two, wars, to be exact. It's not that we hate them or blame them as we did to those poor bastards who stepped off cargo planes in the '70s, but by forgetting them we have done something a little worse: we have diminished their sacrifice. We have equated the two conflicts with our own financial mess, relegating those stories about another 3 Marines being blown up behind the news that Circuit City has filed for bankruptcy. We have pushed them off the front and second pages of our news reports in order to hear what the VP candidate had to say.

It would be easy to blame the media for this, and it has been done. But the media in this country only report what will sell. The news from Iraq has been holding steady for several months, with little or no change, so people don't care. This too is part of the problem, the immediate news drip that makes stories that should be probed in depth or kept updated to ensure the publics awareness flash by before they are digested. That makes us only want more sound bites and Twitters because that's the shiny object in front of our face. When we do that, we miss the human portion and the human cost of these wars.

Even if you didn't support the war in Iraq (which I didn't) you have to respect the job that the men and women who are fighting and dying by degrees have done out there. You have to remember that they are doing a job that no one else wanted and are doing it at tremendous cost. They aren’t just the men on the front lines in Falluja - they are the nurses and the medics who tend to their wounds during and after the fire-fight. They are the grief counselors so overwhelmed by compassion fatigue that they breakdown at work. They are the families of young men and women, some with families of their own, who will never again know the joy of their loved ones presence. They are our brothers, our sisters, our husbands, our wives, our mothers and our fathers.

So please, on this one day, do something for these brave men and women. If it's just a bouquet of flowers at a VA or a salute during a parade, do *something* out their today so those men and women will at least know they are not forgotten. It’s the least you can do, isn’t it?

Mike Gully

I'm one of the one's who haven't forgotten, and never will.
Clara, I greatly admire your dedication to your patients despite the huge amount of stress and pain that it causes you. They're very lucky to have an angel like you watching over them.

As a retired Army soldier to me yestrday was special and saddening as as well. All but few of the folks I work with are civilians wih no ties to the military, so it was just another day to them. However, one gretting card made me smile. While working I noticed a geeting card on a fellow employee's desk. It was a card from his parent's thanking him for his service. At least there are few people who still remember what yesterday was all about. Clara, thank you for taking care of our soldiers and their families.

Stan

"On this Veterans Day I am at a loss to do anything productive for the cause other than to say Thank You to those I know who have served and sacrificed."

Clara,

I sent this yesterday to all Armed Forces Personnel I know, both active and retired. There are many of us who do not, will not forget. I remind my kids regularly, much to their chagrin (they're 17 & 15) of the sacrafices you all make. They have friends whose family members are deployed. I have them listen to The News Hour on PBS when they read the never ending "Honor Role" of those who have given the Last Full Measure. I apologize for those who seemingly do not care. I make it my business to, respectfully remind them.

God Bless You and all of your comrades everywhere in the world.

Bob

Vermont

We haven't forgotten, Clara, and we appreciate your sacrifices as well as those who go in harm's way. However, I want to remind you of something that I re-learned when I came back from my war, 40 years ago: The rewards of service come from inside, and don't include an entitlement to gratitude.

I'm just 42 days back at home from a year on the edge of the sandbox and 5 years overseas, and I see how easy it is for the public to focus on their own concerns. Here's a news flash: those personal and local concerns are part of America's most serious, absolute #1 national security issue: The Economy. Without a strong, healthy economy, we won't be able to support our troops, even if we remember and/or want to do so. We're all on the front lines, in one way or another.

In the meantime, keep your chin up. Some of us are with you all of the time, and all of us are engaged some of the time.

Clara. Thank you. I sincerely mean that. Thank you for your efforts, for your compassion, for standing by the men and women and families who are bearing the brunt of this conflict. Stand strong - for all of those involved, and most of all for yourself - please stand strong.

Clara,

I'm glad to read your post. As a civilian RN, I often wonder about the RNs who are dealing with the war.

We are lucky to have you doing what you do. Thank you. Hang in there. You are making an incredible difference.

I Refuse To Forget.

Thank you Clara, for your unending support of our troops. You are such an inspiration to me.

Dear Ms. Hart,
Nor do I forget or ignore. I salute you for what you are doing and I salute the men and women in your care.
I think millions and millions of Americans feel the same way.
Thank you.
Sincerely,
Andrew S.

Clara,
My daughter is an ER nurse, and I know what she goes through in a typical 12 hour shift, and how stressful it is for her. I can only imagine the magnitude of stress on your job. You are one of God's angels on earth, and what you do for the people who give so much for us earns you a special place in our hearts, and theirs. I am distressed, as you are, by the casual way in which we send our young to die and be maimed, only giving it thought when we are somehow directly involved. We should all remember that we are ALL directly involved whenever someone wears the uniform and suffers on the alter of freedom. Thank you, and thanks to every serviceman or service woman for doing what you do. Let's all work politically for better treatment of our vets, from repatriation policies, to medical care, to G.I. benifits. We owe you everything.

I have not forgotten the war, Clara. Nor the warriors and their care-takers. I think of all of you involved in this struggle every day. You are not keeping faith alone, although it may seem so at times.

I had to look around (shame on us!) but I found a number of sites with pictures and articles and videos - many of us remembered Veteran's Day. Keep writing! One way I remember is reading the blogs I can find!

The pages you wrote in the book "The Sandbox" should be required reading in this country. Thank you so much.

Thank all of you veterans of all wars. And - everybody keep writing! I'm thinking some of you have a Pulitzer in your future!


I flew my flag on Nov 11. I honor in silence the names read on TV of our brothers and sisters who have died for us. I pray for our troops, both active and wounded, and for the innocent. Most especially, I pray for the dying so that not one will die alone. I thank God for you, Clara.

Clara, thank you so much for the post.

We do remember and pray for you!

Even though there are no vets in my immediate family, we all respect and praise your efforts. You are NOT forgotten.

I add my thanks...

Clara, hang in there. Thank you for what you do.

Personally I have not forgotten nor will I ever forget what our brave troops are doing and have already done.

Liberal scumbags living comfortably in this Country made free by these brave Men and Women continue to badmouth our troops, I guess that is one of the rights made possible by our brave troops sacrifices.

I wish Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid could spend just one day in the boots of a real American, an American soldier.

Thanks you for your help in healing these brave Men and Women that need our support.

Bill

Clara, God bless you for what you do. I will pray for you every day from now on.

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