Resenting your own team

While visiting wounded soldiers performing physical therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center some years ago, we met a bitter young man whose wounds had resulted from friendly fire.  Although an accident, he was struck down by his own team.  In his mind, as he looked down at his amputated leg, he was even denied the bragging rights to say he lost it for his country.  Rather, he blamed his injuries on his country — and those are hard feelings to fight.  Being wounded in the service of one's country does not automatically instill a sense of patriotism.

My wife, Gracie, walked over to him as he lay on his back while working out on a physical therapy table.  Seeing her only from the waist up, he rudely snapped at her as she greeted him.  The physical therapist working with him looked embarrassed and quickly tried to cover for Gracie by telling the young soldier she was welcome there and had a lot of practical advice worth hearing.

Disbelieving the therapist, he snarled back with a hateful comment.  Momentarily stunned, she regained her composure, and while holding on to a railing, she propped one of her prosthetic legs beside his head as it rested on the low workout table.

Not only did he notice her artificial foot beside him (encased in a beautiful shoe, I might add), but his eyes turned to watch Gracie balancing on her other artificial leg as well.

"You're not the only amputee in here, big guy," she said, looking him squarely in the eye.

The soldier in him quietly nodded at her, and the two of them went on to participate in meaningful conversation.

Ten feet away, I listened to a man who, although missing both legs, cracked jokes with a contagious sense of humor.  The soldier's face quickly clouded over, however, when I pointedly asked him how things were back home.

Looking down at his new prosthetic legs, he whispered out, "My marriage is on the rocks, and it doesn't look good."  The loss of his legs didn't keep him from joking, but the wounds of his heart silenced the laughter.

I asked a mother if her son's father had been up to the hospital.  Looking over at her son's newly amputated left leg, as well as the halo device holding the pins piercing his right leg, her jaw tightened as she flatly said, "He left years ago, and good riddance."

How many of us deal with deep wounds caused by those "on our own team"?

How many of us have caused damage to the ones we love and swore to protect?

Sometimes "friendly fire" wounds are compounded with the shame of the wound itself.  We feel as if our wounds come with dishonor, and our fists clench with a rage — and we want to strike the ones who hurt us.  One only needs to watch five minutes of the news each day to see the fury erupting in our country over the feelings of mistreatment. The protests on our streets reflect that being wounded by those on the same team can leave injuries that take generations to heal. 

In moments of clarity, we can also realize with horror how poorly we treated those counting on us — and the guilt and shame fill us with despair.  In our pain, we might even lash out at people who are simply trying to encourage us.

Instead of cowering or pandering, my wife propped an artificial limb on a physical therapy table to help a hurting young man gain perspective and, hopefully, demonstrate that he can move past the horrific injury that altered his life.  She firmly confronted him with the awareness that his sense of unfairness, heartache, and great loss was not unique to him.  Others endured and even flourished in tragic circumstances.

In a quiet corner of a military hospital, a teachable moment for our nation's current challenges occurred.  When gripped with resentment over wounds that should not have happened, we discover that the path to recovery is flanked by those walking in their own healing.  Their successes help inspire our own.

Enough of those successes could even heal a nation.

Peter Rosenberger hosts the nationally syndicated radio program Hope for the Caregiverwww.hopeforthecaregiver.com

While visiting wounded soldiers performing physical therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center some years ago, we met a bitter young man whose wounds had resulted from friendly fire.  Although an accident, he was struck down by his own team.  In his mind, as he looked down at his amputated leg, he was even denied the bragging rights to say he lost it for his country.  Rather, he blamed his injuries on his country — and those are hard feelings to fight.  Being wounded in the service of one's country does not automatically instill a sense of patriotism.

My wife, Gracie, walked over to him as he lay on his back while working out on a physical therapy table.  Seeing her only from the waist up, he rudely snapped at her as she greeted him.  The physical therapist working with him looked embarrassed and quickly tried to cover for Gracie by telling the young soldier she was welcome there and had a lot of practical advice worth hearing.

Disbelieving the therapist, he snarled back with a hateful comment.  Momentarily stunned, she regained her composure, and while holding on to a railing, she propped one of her prosthetic legs beside his head as it rested on the low workout table.

Not only did he notice her artificial foot beside him (encased in a beautiful shoe, I might add), but his eyes turned to watch Gracie balancing on her other artificial leg as well.

"You're not the only amputee in here, big guy," she said, looking him squarely in the eye.

The soldier in him quietly nodded at her, and the two of them went on to participate in meaningful conversation.

Ten feet away, I listened to a man who, although missing both legs, cracked jokes with a contagious sense of humor.  The soldier's face quickly clouded over, however, when I pointedly asked him how things were back home.

Looking down at his new prosthetic legs, he whispered out, "My marriage is on the rocks, and it doesn't look good."  The loss of his legs didn't keep him from joking, but the wounds of his heart silenced the laughter.

I asked a mother if her son's father had been up to the hospital.  Looking over at her son's newly amputated left leg, as well as the halo device holding the pins piercing his right leg, her jaw tightened as she flatly said, "He left years ago, and good riddance."

How many of us deal with deep wounds caused by those "on our own team"?

How many of us have caused damage to the ones we love and swore to protect?

Sometimes "friendly fire" wounds are compounded with the shame of the wound itself.  We feel as if our wounds come with dishonor, and our fists clench with a rage — and we want to strike the ones who hurt us.  One only needs to watch five minutes of the news each day to see the fury erupting in our country over the feelings of mistreatment. The protests on our streets reflect that being wounded by those on the same team can leave injuries that take generations to heal. 

In moments of clarity, we can also realize with horror how poorly we treated those counting on us — and the guilt and shame fill us with despair.  In our pain, we might even lash out at people who are simply trying to encourage us.

Instead of cowering or pandering, my wife propped an artificial limb on a physical therapy table to help a hurting young man gain perspective and, hopefully, demonstrate that he can move past the horrific injury that altered his life.  She firmly confronted him with the awareness that his sense of unfairness, heartache, and great loss was not unique to him.  Others endured and even flourished in tragic circumstances.

In a quiet corner of a military hospital, a teachable moment for our nation's current challenges occurred.  When gripped with resentment over wounds that should not have happened, we discover that the path to recovery is flanked by those walking in their own healing.  Their successes help inspire our own.

Enough of those successes could even heal a nation.

Peter Rosenberger hosts the nationally syndicated radio program Hope for the Caregiverwww.hopeforthecaregiver.com