For several months now there has been a service project in the works. It was to be a BBQ with the wounded soldiers staying at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I had been planning to be the person in charge of this big event, but due to the 21 last days of nonstop trade shows, I had to hand off and watch from the sidelines. Steph did most of the work, with lots of help from other friends. I took several pictures of the event, but have chosen not to post them. We had a very fun time, and there are some cute pics, but it just doesn't seem right to post them.
It was a fun day. There's no question about that. But more than anything, it was a humbling day. I got the chance to sit and talk and eat with several of the soldiers. Before today there had been several jokes about me and my love of of men in uniform. And how could this not be a great day, when really, it was all about flirting with soldiers?
Today I talked to a young man from New York, complete with a thick awesome NY accent, who at first wouldn't look me in the eye. I thought maybe he was just a bit shy or uncomfortable talking to a stranger. But after a few minutes I realized he was trying to hide his amputated leg under a table so I couldn't see it. I just kept on talking, hopefully making it clear to him that his injury or loss wouldn't scare me off. After several minutes of trying to get the guy to talk to me, he asked me why we were there. I told him we just wanted to come meet them and hang out for the day. He gave me a long hard look before his eyes teared up and he just said, "that's really awesome." He still stayed a little shy with me, but I could tell he loved that a girl would sit and talk to a "guy like him."
Before long I talked to a few more guys in a small group. One had a cane, one was in a wheelchair, and the other was standing, and at first I couldn't see an injury on him. But then he turned around and his injury was painful to see. Scars lining the entire side of his face, and he had no ear. At one time he had been a good looking guy, and still was, from the right. He got a kick out of debating pistols with me for a minute. He was wrong, and I was right, but I doubt he cared much. (The M9 does NOT come in a 40 cal.) I think he just liked that I was talking to him.
We had an unexpected surprise in the middle of the day. A few of the Miss America contestants showed up to sign autographs and meet the men. Needless to say, the men were enthralled. I had to laugh when a few of the guys chose to stay and talk guns with me rather than go fawn over Miss Maryland. It will probably be the only time or place in my life where I will be more popular than a future Miss America.
As if the day's events weren't humbling enough just to meet these young men, (and I do mean young, I don't think I saw one soldier over the age of 30.) all wounded in combat, and all facing a different and difficult life ahead, I called my dad on my way home. He didn't have good news to share. A life long family friend (my dad's friend since childhood) has a terminal/malignant brain tumor. He's slowly deteriorating and dying painfully. It was very hard news to hear.
It was a humbling day. A day to realize how many blessings I have, and what a good life I enjoy. I've lost people in my life that I loved so much. I miss them. I miss them a lot. Today brought back every painful emotion of losing them. I can't wait for next week when I get to go see my little sister and nephews. I am grateful my baby sister called me just to chat so many times this week. And I love that my brother knew where he could turn for a little bit of help this week. After a day like today, you remember how much they really mean to you.
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