30 Americans Killed in Afghanistan. My mind immediately starts racing, who do I know in that province? What was that SEALs name that did a United Through Reading a couple weeks ago? Where there any MarSOCs or any other Special Forces in the crash? What about our volunteer who is a Chinook pilot, I haven’t seen him a while? I’m searching news websites for pictures, e-mailing friends and asking coworkers.
Just a year ago these were just stories, this year this is my life.
Every day I get a chance to help troops, and in this situation I feel absolutely helpless. I can’t do anything to make it better. I can’t take away the pain those families are feeling. My heart aches for them.
I don’t think I knew any of the troops killed that day; I’m honestly still not 100% sure, but even if not, it does not make it any better. There are still 30 families hearing the worst news of their lives wondering how they’ll make it through. I read in an article that they interviewed a widow on the Today show and it was heartbreaking to listen to her as she had to correct herself from describing her husband as “is” to “was.” Then there’s the 10 year old boy who lost his father and posted a picture to CNN because he didn’t want anyone to forget his daddy.
I just finished reading a moving book last week written by a Navy SEAL called, “The Heart and The Fist” by Eric Greitens. He was a humanitarian volunteering in Rwanda and Croatia, then realized he wanted to do more and became a Navy SEAL. He explains his reason for joining the SEALs:
We can certainly donate money and clothing, and we can volunteer in the refugee camps. But in the end these acts of kindness are done after the fact. They are done after people have been killed, their homes burned, their lives destroyed. Yes, the clothing, the bread, the school; they are all good and they are all much appreciated. But I suppose we have to behave the same way we would if any person – our kids, our sisters, brothers, parents – were threatened. If we really care about these people, we have to be willing to protect them from harm.
These fallen heroes did just that. They tried to make the world a better place for all of us.
And a good life, a meaningful life, a life in which we can enjoy the world and live with purpose, can only be built if we do more than live for ourselves. – Greitens
This all still left me with a hollow feeling of what can I do to somehow make sense of this. I can remember on September 11th when the world was crashing down around us and no one had any idea what was going on, I came home from high school and my mom simply said, “these chairs need painted for Angela (my sister).” We spent the afternoon not talking about the fear or uncertainty, but painting chairs. The horrific acts of September 11th were beyond our control, we couldn’t change the outcome, so we did something productive for someone else. We found silence in our minds and some comfort in our hearts by working with our hands for others.
Today was my first day back from vacation and I had the honor of visiting the Wounded Warriors' housing and making them smoothies with my coworkers. For 2 hours even though I was surrounded by literally suffering - these men have been blown up and have holes shot in them, I had a non-stop smile on my face. At first they were a bit timid and shy, but even while limping they offered to help us carry boxes. Then once the blenders got whirring, they came out of the woodwork! I loved putting a smile on their face, and letting them crack me up too! We were waiting on some of the other soldiers to show up and one of the Wounded Warriors said yeah they’re all the guys with concussions to which another soldier quickly responded, “Yeah they probably forgot how to get here.” :D
I worked at a smoothie shop for 6 months during my senior year of college, but I don't remember a single customer. Today's smoothies made in the middle of a warzone, in the middle of summer, in the middle of a room filled with wounded soldiers, I'll never forget. It wasn’t much what we did, but damn it felt good.
Across the globe, even in the world’s ‘worst places,’ people found ways to turn pain into wisdom and suffering into strength. They made their own actions, their very lives, into a memorial that honored the people they had lost. - Greitens