Friday, August 14, 2009

Taken for Granted, the Wheels are Still Turning

As I was taking a breather from work yesterday afternoon, reading the latest issue of The Stranger, Seattle's free weekly local entertainment newspaper, I looked up to see a man walking across the street towards where I was standing. As he was approaching I noticed he had a familiar look about him - maybe it was his haircut or the way he carried himself in public. Everything seemed fairly normal about the man, except for a couple of very noticeable characteristics. He had no arms. 

On his right arm he sported a carbon fiber prosthetic with a hook at the end. His left arm was completely gone a few inches below his elbow, and by the way he limped to one side, I am guessing he had a prosthetic leg as well, although it was hard to tell due to his jeans. 

The familiar look I noticed was soon verified. As he walked past I studied the T-shirt he was wearing. It read "Marine Corps Instructor." You see, Marines are identifiable by the confidence they have in everything they do, including "simple" tasks such as walking. For him, walking wasn't so simple, but it didn't stop him from exuding an unmistakable air of confidence.

I wondered about the horrible day he experienced when he lost his limbs, probably in the heat and confusion of combat in either Iraq or Afghanistan. I wondered how he felt when he woke up in the sterile and unfamiliar hospitable bed overseas and realized he would never see his arms or fingers again. I began to wonder, how would I react to such a situation, having no arms, at least below the elbows, and missing a leg? Simple things would no longer be so simple. Things like brushing my teeth, eating, playing the guitar, riding my bike .... all of these activities I take for granted because they are easily accomplished with the tools I have. 

Having experienced war and having "fought for my country" in the first Gulf War, I didn't experience the horrors of what our troops are experiencing now, nor do I ever want to. But what gets me is it seems like no one pays any attention, including myself. When I saw the man walk past I was so enveloped in my own thoughts I forgot to call out to him and say, "Hey Marine, thank you." 

It won't happen again. 

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