Feel Good About America

Rich Galen

11/12/2010 8:31:45 AM - Rich Galen
Yesterday was Veteran's Day which used to be known as Armistice Day in honor of the agreement to stop shooting during, and thus effectively ending, World War I.

At the time it was known as "The Great War" and was also known as "the war to end all wars" at which it has been an abysmal failure.

We didn't know we were going to have to start numbering world wars until World War II came along.

To mark Veteran's Day 2010, the Washington Post ran a front page story about one veteran, Marine Corporal Todd A. Nicely. I read it in the barber shop. When I was done, I felt very, very good about America.

If you read it, you will, too.

Cpl. Nicely is one of three service members of the Iraq/Afganistan era who is a surviving quadruple amputee. He was leading his squad (1st Squad, 1st Platoon, Company F, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines) on a foot patrol in Afghanistan this past March when he stepped on an IED which, according to the piece written by Michael Ruane, blew off "Nicely's helmet and flak jacket" as well as his left hand, his right arm, and both legs.

Cpl. Nicely had met his wife when she was also a Marine. They fell in love, got married, and she left The Corps and moved back home to Kansas when her husband deployed to Afghanistan.

After the incident the Marines tracked her down and a Master Sergeant told her "that my husband had been injured. I asked him if he was still alive. He said yes. He said, 'I don't know the extent of his injuries, but he is injured and he is missing some limbs.'"

She flew to Landstuhl, Germany. When she saw Todd "His [missing] limbs didn't really affect me. I saw him breathe, and I was like: 'Okay, he's still alive. He's still with me.' "

Want to know why I fell in love with the young men and women in uniform I was with in Iraq? Read this next section from Ruane's piece:

Late one night, he woke up and told her: "I don't know what's wrong."

"What do you mean, 'You don't know what's wrong?' " she asked, sensing he meant his injuries.

"Do you want to know what's wrong?" she asked. He said he did.

"Well, baby, you know you're missing your legs?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said. "I know."

"Did you know you're missing both hands?" she asked, crying.

"No," he said.

He was quiet for a minute, then asked, "Did anybody else get hurt?"

She said no.

"Good," he said.

The next time someone comes in to complain that they should have a bigger office, have them read that.

In September, at Walter Reed, in the presence of 50 of his Marine Corps buddies, Corporal Todd Nicely was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, with a V device for valor. It wasn't for getting blown up. It was, according to the article, "for his meritorious work in the weeks before the explosion."

When it was his turn to speak, Marine Corps Corporal Todd A. Nicely, 26 years old, a squad leader, and a quadruple amputee said:

"I just want to thank everybody. I'd like to . . . thank my platoon for getting me back. If it wasn't for you guys, I don't think I'd be alive today. Other than that, I really don't have much more to say."

Then, according to the wonderful prose produced by Michael Ruane, "He rubbed his nose with his flesh-colored left hand, shifted his weight on his legs and added, 'I love you guys.'"

Me, too.