|Seeing Teddy come back through KAF this time not wounded|
Some of us USO girls were at the DFAC (dining facility) on base when we saw this soldier who was probably 125 pounds soaking wet, all bandaged up, and in obvious pain, with sweatpants on him that were HUGE. And it was way too hot in August 2011 for sweatpants. We came to call him "Brock Puppy," because he was so sweet and young. We knew we needed to do something for our wounded warriors who were medevac'd (medically evacuated) to KAF and stuck there recuperating until they were deemed fit enough to go back into battle at their FOBs (Forward Operating Bases). So, we stopped by the wounded warrior barracks with blenders to make them smoothies.
|The 10th Mountain Crew's "It Was Not Our Time" picture|
including Schuh, Brock Puppy and Teddy
It was incomprehensible to me that their biggest complaints were not the pain they had from shrapnel in their sides or bullet holes in their shoulders, but that they wished they were back with their guys on the FOB. They missed feeling "useful." I jokingly said, alright I can put you to work! Come volunteer! They took me up on it, and came by every day to volunteer. During one shift I asked Schuh to change the movie in the movie theater and handed him 2 remotes. He gave me a look of 'this is confusing how am I supposed to work this,' so I gave him an encouraging slap on the arm and said, "you got this!" His eyes turned HUGE as he took a deep breath and said between gritted teeth, "THAT'S THE ARM WITH SHRAPNEL IN IT." I felt so badly! I wounded a wounded warrior! He was fine of course, and they all made it a big joke with putting tape on his arm to warn me which one was his "bad arm." A few days later while working the front desk he worked a piece of the shrapnel out of his arm, and I held it in my hand. It was this tiny piece of metal no bigger than an earring back but as sharp as a razor blade on all sides. I had been in country for already a year at that point, but in that moment it all became very real what was going on outside the wire, far away from my plushy big base. (Schuh would later be awarded USO Volunteer of the Year in 2012).
They were a great help at the center, and a lot of fun to be around. They made me crack up when one of the girls was driving the USO van, and they joked that they survived the fire fight, but now were going to die from bad driving in a minivan. They volunteered through the pain. They claimed it helped them to have something to do to take their mind off it. They were so fantastic that when one of their other friend's was wounded several weeks later, he brought himself to the USO to volunteer. He'd been told it was the best way to recuperate. (That was the very sweet, Malm).
After about a month, they returned to their FOBs to get back to duty. We were sad to see them go, but knew that's where they wanted to be. A few months later they came back through our base to return to the states. It was so good to see them happy and healthy and going home! (See picture above.)
Almost all of them are now out of the Army 5 years later. All of us USO girls are no longer at KAF. I find myself talking with the USO girls about that same concept our wounded warriors mentioned 5 years ago; we miss feeling "useful." It's not that you're not happy with your life or loved ones, or friends, or career even, it's just that feeling of not being instantaneously needed and like what you're doing is bringing about a change in someone's life right that second. It’s something you don’t know that you’re missing until you’ve experienced it.
I remember when I attended a TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) retreat weekend many moons ago that I was on a “God high.” I was ready to run the world. One of our leaders warned us that while we had changed, the world we would return to after that retreat weekend had not. If we didn’t temper our enthusiasm, we’d be disappointed in everyone and everything come Monday.
Now multiply that weekend by 21 months, throw in some life-altering experiences, and amplify the danger, stress, and fun by about 1654 percent. It’s a difficult high to come down from.