- Category: Coffee with a Slice of Life
- Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2019
- Written by Dianna Flett
There is a sign at many VA hospitals that reads:
"The price of freedom is visible here."
While casualty reports have fallen from the headlines the cost of freedom is evident in the halls of any veteran’s facility you visit. As I walked into the physical therapy clinic at Walter Reed Military Hospital, I saw four survivors of war as they worked to adjust to their post deployment normal. Each was carrying the burden of a life that weighed as heavily as any ruck I’ve ever worn.
One warrior, a young woman, was missing her right leg, had a brace on her arm and visible scars on her face. Another who looked to be in her 20s, was sitting at a table with her cane propped against the chair, her hat pulled down low and her service dog beside her.
The third I saw was with one of the therapists at a table. I watched as the therapist lifted the woman’s tattooed arms to the tabletop. There they were carefully and lovingly wrapped in warm compresses. The man I saw, had on a helmet mounted device and was using a video game to track and locate targets (I suspect as the result of a brain injury). His wife sat nearby holding their small baby in her arms. The woman swayed and hummed and never took her eyes off her husband.
I was led to sit at a station near the young lady with the dog. She didn't look up. She went through the therapy with lowered eyes and a face that twisted with the movement of her arms. Her therapy dog would often sit up and look at her and then lay down at her feet.
At one point the therapist left for a moment and the dog's leash became tangled. I jumped up and went to help set things right.
The young woman lifted her head slightly and said "thank you" so softly I could barely hear.
I wanted so much grab hold of her, to hug her to me, rock her, take her injuries into my older body so she could experience the fullness of life I knew at her age. I couldn't...but I wanted to.
All I could do was say with all sincerity:
"Please, don't feel like you have to thank me."
The meaning was felt...as she looked up into my eyes for the first time.
"The price of freedom is visible here" and everyone who chooses to wear the uniform or chooses to love someone who wears the uniform pays a price in different ways.
Remember our fallen this Memorial Day.
Speak their names to your children and tell them of the uncommon courage of men and women who serve. Those we have lost to selfless service deserve their moment of respect.
Dianna L. Flett
Lieutenant Colonel (Retired)