It’s not everyday that you get to rub elbows with some of the most courageous Americans alive, but that’s what happened to me the other day when my daughter Ashley and I visited our wounded warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
This is the second time I’ve been there, and after I leave I am utterly uplifted by the experience. After being among these splendid men and women I realize that my worst day will never be anywhere near as bad as some of the worst days these badly wounded warriors went through while battling for freedom in a foreign land, and in the aftermath that has left them terribly disabled.
When I have a bad day, I whimper, I cry, I wimp out -- I complain about the unfairness of it all. But these Americans to whom fate has dealt the cruelest of blows remain upbeat, are getting on with their lives and actually looking forward to getting back to their units -- or if that is no longer possible, going home to be with their families and getting on with their lives.
When you sit there and listen to their recollections of the horrors they’ve endured in behalf of their country you begin to understand that nothing you have gone through even begins to equal their ordeals.
Their upbeat attitude, in spite of some of the most terrible wounds imaginable, is a lesson in the real meaning of courage and selflessness.
As you move among them and see a warrior who has lost a leg or an arm, you find yourself astounded to be thinking that that man or woman is lucky. Most of the wounded have lost both and arm and a leg, mostly on the same side because of an IED explosion. Some have lost both legs, and both arms.
One young man I saw had lost the entire lower part of his body, yet when I approached him he literally jumped up, by pushing on his arms. And he was smiling and thanked me for coming by. There was no self-pity. He was filled with plans for the future, and spoke of going back to school and getting a college degree and having a career in communications.
As he spoke I wondered just how I would be if I were in his situation – and I doubt that I would have that kind of optimism and the guts to face the future with confidence that I could overcome such a terrible disability and face the future with determination.
It is amazing to watch how well these wonderful men and women adapt themselves to their new circumstances. I watched one young woman who had lost a leg. She wasn’t sitting around bemoaning the loss of her limb. She was skipping rope, thanks to her new prosthetic leg.
As you move among these courageous men and women you begin to appreciate the caliber of our all warriors now in harm’s way. You’ll understand that what you are seeing in the courage of the wounded and their determination to overcome the awful consequence of their disabilities are mirror images of the character of all our men and women now in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They are an extraordinary breed and the hope of this nation’s future.
If you want to begin to appreciate what your fellow Americans in uniform are doing for you and your freedom, when you come to Washington go out to Walter Reed and visit these heroes to whom we owe so much. You’ll be filled with awe and wonderment, as I was.