Attitude is Everything
Joseph Kinney July 24, 2008
Thirty-nine years ago I was shot in an ambush while a Marine on a nightpatrol in Vietnam . I had potentially fatal wounds to my chest and aserious wound to my right leg. To put matters bluntly, I had never beenmore terrified in my life. Would I die? And if I died, would I go toheaven? I also thought about the buddies I was leaving behind. Somehow, I wanted to believe that they would be better off without me to slow themdown.
The next morning I woke up at a hospital in Da Nang . The doctors told methat my days as a fighting Marine were over. Somehow, I felt that I hadmore to give but wouldn't get the chance.
My history is relevant only because there are huge differences betweenthen and now when it comes to our Wounded Warriors. For the past couple ofyears I have had the privilege of knowing Col. Jack Cox ( USA , ret.) who isa stalwart in the Wounded Warrior Program at Fort Bragg. He has been agreat friend and mentor, and has taken the time to introduce me to some ofthis generation's wounded.
There are at least two important differences between my generation and theyoung men I have seen at Fort Bragg 's Womack Hospital which is near whereI live.
For openers, the Army acts as if the wounded person is going to remainforever a soldier. That is their basic operating assumption movingforward.
Second, the attitude of these kids is amazing. These brave warriors, nomatter how badly wounded they are, believe that they will soon be backwith their units fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Today, there are 17 Marines who are amputees fighting in Iraq . I amcertain that there are as many soldiers doing the same for the Army.
Recently, I received a widely distributed email from Col (Dr.) BrettWyrick. He was a trauma surgeon at Balad Air Base in Iraq .
He wrote: "If I ever hear (anyone) griping and complaining, I jump intothem pretty quickly, now. Most people over here have nothing to gripeabout compared to Marines. Marines are different. They have a differentoutlook on life . .
"One Marine Private was here for several days because he was a lowerpriority evacuation patient. He insisted on coming to attention anddisplaying proper military courtesy every morning when I came through on rounds. He was in a great deal of pain, and it was a stressful to watchhim work his way off the bed and onto his crutches. I told him he wasexcused and did not have to come to attention while he was a patient, andhe informed me he was a good Marine and would address '. . . Air Forcecolonels standing on my feet, sir.' I had to turn away so he would not seethe tear in my eye. He did not have 'feet' because we amputated his rightleg below the knee on the first night he came in.
"I asked a Marine Lance Corporal if there was anything I could get him asI was making rounds one morning. He was an above the knee amputation afteran IED blast, and he surprised me when he asked for a trigonometry book.'You enjoy math do you?' He replied, 'Not particularly, sir. I was nevergood at it, but I need to get good at it, now.' 'Are you planning on goingback to school?' I asked. 'No sir, I am planning on shooting artillery. Iwill slow an infantry platoon down with just one good leg, but I am goingto get good at math and learn how to shoot artillery.' I hope he does.
"I had the sad duty of standing over a young Marine sergeant when herecovered from anesthesia. Despite our best efforts there was just no wayto save his left arm, and it had to come off just below the elbow. 'Can Ihave my arm back, sir?' he asked. 'No, we had to cut it off, we cannotre-attach it,' I said. 'But can I have my arm?' he asked again. 'You see,we had to cut it off.' He interrupted, 'I know you had to cut it off, butI want it back. It must be in a bag or something, sir.' 'Why do you want it?'I asked. 'I am going to have it stuffed and use it as a club when I getback to my unit.' I must have looked shocked because he tried to comfortme, 'Don't you worry now, colonel. You did a fine job, and I hardly hurtat all; besides I write with my other hand anyway.'
Now, please tell me that these young guys aren't the Greatest Generationthat has ever lived.