March 29, 2007

Then... and Now

I don’t blog the war. There are people that are involved on so many levels that do it wonderfully, giving voices to our soldiers and their families.

I don’t blog the politics of the war. There are people on both sides as well as in between that have all that ground covered as well.

I hear the news that many think that this war is like Vietnam. And I am here to tell you, whether that is right or wrong, there is one big difference that we should all see…

We treat our Veterans coming home from this War, far differently than we treated those that came home from Vietnam and even Korea.

I called my Dad as soon as the incident I will write about below occurred and he brought to my attention how many Vietnam and Korea Veterans are in places of position to make sure that history does NOT repeat itself.

I go to a gym down the street. I walked in today to work out and I saw a young man lifting weights. He had his iPod on and was keeping to himself. He was tall lean good looking kid, fit,… I figured mid-20s, shaggy hair the way young people wear it now with a light beard. He stood out as there are not a lot of young people where I work out. I am a member of a gym that is mostly retirees. It’s located in a neighborhood.

I didn’t think anything of it. We get kids home from college or visiting their folks frequently. It was nice to see a nice young face though. It mixes things up.

I know all the trainers at the gym, having worked out there for nearly eight years, lifting for the last four. I was talking to my buddy, Willie, who is on staff and he said to me, ‘I’m going to be training that young man over there… in the white t-shirt.”

I replied, “Good! You need young men to train! It will keep you sharp instead of all the middle aged women like me and the retirees and the 80 year olds. This is a good mix up for you.”

He looked at me thoughtfully and said, “I’m training him for free. He just came back from Iraq.”

I didn’t look over at the young man, but mentally reassessed everything I could based on what I had seen when I walked in. As I finished my pull downs I said to him, “Marine Corps?”

“Yes,” replied Willie, “Lost his leg.”

I hadn’t noticed. I didn’t look back to see. No reason to make the young man feel self conscious as I knew he probably already did. It’s odd enough to come to a gym where you are the youngest by 20 years… I’m sure odder still newly missing a leg and having that swirl of thoughts.

I said, “Is he back with his folks? His folks have him here?”

Willie said, “Actually, his folks were going to buy him a membership, but when the gym found out who he was, they insisted they give him his membership for free. When I walked up to him and told him I wanted to train him for free, he looked at me like I was weird and asked why. I told him, “Because… I WANT to. It’s not charity. I WANT to do this.” He was cool with it. We start next week. I WANT to do something for him...”

And that’s the thing. Charity is when you give to someone who is needy. That is not the case here. This is people doing for this young man because they WANT to help. He has asked for nothing. I can tell… he wants to blend.

I remember after Desert Storm, a friend of mine came back after being a POW. This is not blog fodder. I have mentioned it before, but it is THEIR story to tell, not mine. But I will say that he told me it used to really really bother him when people would call him a hero. He would say to me, “I’m no hero. I just got captured and through God’s grace lived.”

He felt a lot of guilt. It is what it is. And PTSD is a terrible thing.

And with this young man, as happened with my friend, people want to help. It is the only thing people know to do. Nobody can fix it, but most would like to make life a little nicer in small ways if they can.

That is what I saw today. What a difference from 30 years ago…

Posted by Boudicca at March 29, 2007 09:42 PM | TrackBack

Beautifully written.

Posted by: CharlieDelta at March 30, 2007 02:15 AM

chill bumps. I'm glad you experienced something so wonderful.

Posted by: vw bug at March 30, 2007 05:10 AM

You gave me the willies....great post.

Posted by: Yabu at March 30, 2007 10:33 AM

great post, bou.

and i think you are kind of cruel and heartless parading your cute self around that gym full of geezers; you are going to give someone a heartattack or a stroke. do you know how much that age group PAYS for arousal. sheesh, turn on the tv.

could be someone's grandpa, bou. for crying out loud, don't y'all have a curves or something?? more chick oriented?

Posted by: shoe at March 30, 2007 11:39 AM


Posted by: Jim - PRS at March 31, 2007 09:18 PM

Thanks for writing this, it makes me hopeful.

Posted by: Michelle at March 31, 2007 09:23 PM

What can I say that hasn't been said? Great to hear stories like that.

Posted by: Jody at April 2, 2007 09:00 AM