I sit here trying to decide what to blog about next. Like most bloggers, I always feel that the next blog will be the one. The blog of all blogs. The blog so cleverly wrought as to be Pulitzer worthy. I think to myself, I could be the next literary giant. As I stare out in space letting my creative juices bubble up in this cauldron of meditation, a man with one leg comes by. I pause, but keep thinking yes, that’s it, a literary giant. Shortly thereafter, a man with one arm comes by. I pause again, but still I ponder further about this epic blog. Then a man with neither arms nor legs passes by. That’s when my egocentric gaze dissolves into stark remembrance of where I am. The Veterans Administration hospital in Richmond, Virginia.
You see, a few times a month I volunteer to drive a van carrying disabled veterans to their medical appointments here from Charlottesville, 70 miles away. I read or blog while I wait for each of them to finish so we can all ride back together. As a vet myself who is extremely fortunate to be whole and healthy, I am honored to help the less fortunate ones whose service to this country cost them more than just years out of their life. The effect of their time in the military is not merely thoughts of a few fun times or war stories to tell their grand kids. It is with them in the flesh, always. With them in the form of lost limbs, disfigurement, and mental anguish of memories retained that the rest of us can scarce imagine.
These are the real giants. Maybe not in stature, but most certainly in character. Uncomplaining, they hobble and wheel around the facility here asking only for the same guardianship that they gave us when they faced their ordeals on our behalf. They chat and laugh with each other in a sort of club that has a paradoxically large yet exclusive membership. But you needn’t feel excluded, as this is not a club you would want to join. Nevertheless, its members are an elite group. A group with no recriminations, no regrets, and thankfully, no more fears. Except that we might forget them.
I’m reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s tribute to the civil war fallen, which also seems appropriate for this hallowed place. “The solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice on the altar of freedom.”
Go now in peace, you giants among us.