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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day Is For Dorothy


They load them on the plane roughly, it seems to me. But that is the end of it. They are rough men with tender hearts steeled against their task. Leave them to us, now.

The men with wounds that won't show later, except at the beach or to a lover, look sheepishly around them. Can you be ashamed to have all your parts? They look it. Their bandages are still pink, and they want to get up. Lie still. You've done nothing wrong.

I know many things about the inside of a man. I was trained to pull men whole from their mothers, like some Greek deity on a vase. They showed us the pictures in school of the parts meshing seamlessly, like a damp watch made by Einstein himself. When the doctors let us trail them around the hospital, finally, we saw the faces in the trim white beds whose watch ran a little fast, or slow, or made a bit of a whirring sound. What prepares you for the watch smashed, or plunged into the sea, or its hands pulled off? Nothing. The surgeons are in a hurry, always. I handed them the tools as they edit the men. They cannot write. It's as if they are trying to see just what a man can lose, and still be a human man.

There are the bottles and pills and blankets to be attended to. Then I sit next to the worst of them, mummies still alive, lost to sight and sound. There is nothing to do but put my hand on their arm. It is the hand of every mother and wife and daughter and girlfriend and nurse and stranger I wield. Of every human woman that ever walked and talked. I know their face is just a smear on the back of the bandages, and it's a long way to Okinawa. Let them feel our hand one more time.

6 comments:

Matt said...

Thanks, Sipp. We don't talk much about it, but there is a self-imposed stigma to having all our exterior parts intact. Sometimes I wish; but I won't do that today.

Casey Klahn said...

yes

Bob said...

Amen and amen.

Sam L. said...

Made my eyes water. I knew a Medevac nurse.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and heartbreaking. Thanks for reminding us.

Bob in Manassas, Virginia USA

Philip said...

Medevaced from the Persian Gulf to Bethesda via Germany, loaded with morphine pretty much the whole time. Spent second leg of the trip over the Atlantic dressed in a hospital gown, wrapped in blankets, on a litter stacked on a rack with the other wounded. The main amusement was watching the aileron cables overhead go back and forth between naps.

I don't remember much except that it was cold, that an Air Force Major flight nurse with reddish hair checked on me to do whatever was needed (like emptying "the bag",) and that the guy below me died on the flight.

I only made the trip once. I found out later that the medical team went through that twice a week.