THE DANCE |
January 10, 2012
Name: RN Clara Hart
Stationed in: a civilian military hospital in the U.S.
Handsome date. . .check.
Tickets. . . .check.
Formal gown. . .check.
Shoes to match the formal gown. . .check.
Jewelry and other accessories. . .yes, have those too.
I am ready for the Marine Corps Birthday Ball.
For the past three years I have attended the Wounded Warriors Marine Corps Birthday Ball. This year was to be no different and I was very much looking forward to it. Every year I have attended I have left the evening with the knowledge that I did make a difference. I have seen the smiles and heard the laughter of Marines I thought surely would die. Handsome in their dress blues whether still seated in wheelchairs or proudly standing tall on prosthetics, it’s hard to reconcile these faces with the ones I remember. Pale, anxious and scared faces were what I saw when I first encountered them.
For many of the medical staff attending the Wounded Warrior Regiment’s Marine Corps Ball is an opportunity that fills us with hope. Hope that we are doing a good job. Hope that these young men so horribly injured can move forward in their lives and be happy. That the smiles and laughter we see and hear are coming from the same people we busted butt to save.
I have a photo of myself and several other nurses with one of our most severely injured Marines, taken at last year’s Ball. It made the rounds to other staff members. Every single person had the exact same reaction, “That’s Dwayne??” “Oh my god, he looks awesome!” It’s an incredible experience, to be able to see that person looking awesome when you know where they’ve been and what they’ve overcome to get there. That, perhaps, is the single most reason I look forward to this particular ball, I know where they’ve been because I’ve been there with them.
This year I had one Marine in particular who I’d promised a dance to. Older than his physical years he arrived without his legs and soon lost one of his arms. One day, for my entire 12-hour shift I answered the question, “Ma’am, are my legs really gone?” or “My legs are not there anymore, right Ms Clara?” Over and over I answered that question. Repeatedly I said, “No baby, they’re not, but this time next year you and I are gonna be dancing at the Marine Corps Ball.”
From then on whenever this Marine saw me, no matter if I stopped in to visit him or if he saw me in the hallway his comment was always the same: “Ms Clara, don’t forget about our dance.” “Absolutely not” was always my quick response.
Unfortunately five hours prior to the start of the Ball, after spending many pennies financing my endeavor, I found out I was unable to attend. The reason?
From a letter I wrote the Ball organizers: Thank you to the organizers of the Wounded Warrior Regiment's Marine Corps Birthday Ball for exponentially raising ticket prices so it's cost prohibitive, overselling the event, not having enough seating, allowing corporate VIPs to attend and forgetting who really matters. I was more than disappointed to learn, even though I bought tickets, that my name was not on the attendee list. I was told I could still attend but when cocktail hour was finished and other guests were being seated for the ceremony and dinner, my date and I would have to remain outside at the bar.
I was saddened to miss an opportunity to see all the Marines I had cared for this past year now looking healthy and handsome. But most of all, DW, I'm sorry I missed our dance.