July 4th at LRMC


I hope that everyone had a safe and happy 4th of July.

For most of us the 4th of July or Independence Day is a day off of work.  The post office is closed and we celebrate the independence from Great Britain with baseball games and car races, barbecuing hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks and concerts in the park.  We take the young ones to carnivals with cotton candy and rides; we line up to watch our local town parades.  We try to remember to fly our American flag and then we catch some wonderful views of fireworks and maybe listen to the great patriotic songs such as the “The Star-Spangled Banner”, “God Bless America”, “America the Beautiful”, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, “This Land Is Your Land”, and “Stars and Stripes Forever”.

Some of us take a minute and remember our heritage and customs by ringing replicas of the Liberty Bell while others decide to make it a day to remember by becoming a citizen of our nation or reenlisting in the military.

President John Adams wrote his wife, “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America.  I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.  It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

President Adams was off by two days.  From the beginning, we celebrate independence on July 4, the date shown on the Declaration of Independence, rather than on July 2, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress.

As everyone was leaving Thursday night and saying have a nice 4 day weekend or have a Happy 4th of July I thought about the patients that would still be arriving at LRMC.  I could not provide them with hot dogs and hamburgers, a parade in their honor, or shoot of fire works but I could be there to show my support.

So I let the chaplain’s office know that I would be there to work.  They were happy to hear it, as they also had a VIP coming through.

I was at work at 7:30 A.M. and it was rather quiet.   Gary Sinese and the Lt Dan Band are here to perform at Ramstein for the 4th of July.  Gary Sinese came by the hospital and visited many of the patients.  He did not come by the Wounded Warrior Ministry Center so I did not get to see him, but I did hear about it from all those that were out front when he came in.

We are now almost completely moved into the new WWMC.  The old storage room has a lot of work to be done.  The old WWMC will now become another badly needed storage room and all the rooms need a serious clean-up/sorting job done on them.  I will not get it completed by the time I leave.  The work never ends here.

I waited on several patients for the 4th of July.  Many of them came in saying Happy 4th of July before I could get it out of my mouth.  Two were particular funny to me.  One had a visible hand injury, so I helped him with a pair of shoes.  He had tried to put them on himself and he could not get it, so as I bent down to help him, his buddy said something to the fact of him already getting sympathy.  The patient I was helping said yeah no one thinks I can do it myself.  I told him to take all the help and sympathy he can get now because later we expected him to work hard to get the hand back in tip top condition.  His friend said yeah he was injured also but since no one saw his they did not help him.  He had TBI.  He was also trying to find a pair of shoes but as he stated, “I am picky.”  He decided to not take a pair and would try to find a pair at AAFES.  His friend reminded him that they were going on a tour on Saturday and if he could not find a pair that he would have to walk in his combat boots all day.  I told him to take the pair that was a size to large and that way he would at least have a pair and he could always return them if he found a pair he liked and fit him better.

When they came in, I was trying to hang an American flag.  I could not reach the ceiling where I wanted to hang it.  The guy with the hurt hand said he could help and I told him no, that I would do it later.  While I was working on his friends shoes I caught him on the step stool trying to hang the flag!  I got him off the stool and told him that once he got better he could come back to help but for right now, STAY OFF MY STEP STOOL!!  He then tried to convince his friend to hang it, but that was not going to happen either since I knew his friend was there with TBI.  I have to get that flag up by Monday or they will be back trying to do it again.  Trying to hang an American flag on the 4th of July with wounded troops and a step stool that was two steps too short may not be a typical 4th of July, but it is a great 4th of July.

Our VIP visitors came through and got a tour of our new WWMC.  They only stayed about 10 minutes and were gone.  They did not introduce themselves other than to say they were from the Pentagon.

When I left work I knew that the patients that had all flown home on the 4th of July with Red, White and Blue pillows or blankets.  It was not easy to find 32 of them, but each went home with one.  As many of our SoL members know, you use the scraps from your other projects and not too many of us use red, white and blue in our projects.  So, there are limited items here in those colors.  Those colors are the most popular along with the themed military service pillows.  I have about 7 Marine pillows left and none for the other services.  An LHCP camouflage comfort pillow went out yesterday also.  I think I know who made it but I don’t want to be wrong.  So if you made one know that it is gone.

Kathi, Brian, and their boys and I went to Ramstein for the 4th of July evening events.  We listened to Gary Sinese and the Lt Dan Band.  They were fantastic and had the crowd singing, clapping, dancing and screaming.  I loved to watch the little kids as they danced.  There were 7 children all standing on a bench next to us.  Since kids usually copy each other, they all did as the first one did until the rhythm got into their soul and then they would take off doing their own thing and then the rest of the group would follow that one.

I found a Purple Heart recipient sitting behind me.  As we got up to watch I noticed his arm was scarred from his injury.  He looked young but his eyes told a much different story.  I could not help but to look at his eyes several times during the night and wonder what he had been through.  He wore a baseball cap very low on his head and face, so I had to wonder if he had more injuries.  I saw his wife next to him and I secretly thanked her for sticking with him through his recovery.  So many don’t or can’t for what ever the reason.  In fact one of the young men that had been in early during the day said he got to look forward to a divorce when he got home.  My heart sank to my stomach.  I know that it is not an easy task by no means for the family members.  Having been a caretaker for a family member going through 22 surgeries and the caretaker for another with serious health problems for about 2 years, I understand the hardships it can cause.  I think the most difficult is the patient hating you for the care you must do and know is necessary.

As the Lt Dan Band began to sing God Bless the U.S.A by Lee Greenwood, I stood in silence as they got to the verse, “And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.”  I drifted to our honorees, Daniel, Justin, Maria, Nathan, Hoby, Randy, Ross, Sam, LeRoy, Robert, Peter, Laura, and Charles.  As the second verse was sung I was thinking of Kyle, Andrew, Christopher, Eric, Ben, DeForest, Dustin, Toccarra and Merideth.  Their faces were all flashing in front of me, but I knew I was forgetting the names.  I think I was the only crazy person in the room with a tear rolling down my face as that song was being sung.

As the band was finishing up with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Gary Sinese finished it by saying there was no valley low enough and no river wide enough for him or the Lt Dan Band to show their respect to the military and all those that served to protect the U.S.A.

We then walked to see the fireworks.  I have seen fireworks on rivers, fireworks in baseball fields, fireworks at the nation’s capital, but I think watching these will stick with me for a long time.  We were up on a small hill over looking part of the flight line where they had C-130 aircraft parked.   Having flown on these in and out of Bosnia they are not my favorite aircraft, too damn cold, but they have been around since the mid 50’s.  They have been modified over the years for a variety of missions.  You often will see them in fire fighting or aerial spraying; they are often used for natural disaster relief missions or low-level operations (these suckers can get low).  Anyone that lives close to a military base knows what I mean when I say the “Sound” of freedom.”  It is the sound when one of these beasts comes over your house and you just know the plane is going to come sit on your roof top.  Everything shakes and rattles, but as long as they are flying we are safe and free.

As the fireworks started, I thought of our troops deployed and the only fire in the sky they would be seeing would be tracer rounds.  Not the kind I would hope for everyone to see on the only holiday really for our nation as a whole.  As the fireworks rained down behind the C-130’s, I could not help but wonder if our forefathers could have imagined such a show in the sky with such a force on the ground in a foreign nation.

Today I worked 6.5 hours thanks to the man who stole my heart 27 years ago.  Without his support, these trips would be impossible.  We have been separated during birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and for over a year at a time.  We always said once he retired we would not miss those special moments again.  Well, he knows how important these trips are and I could not do it without his support.  Hun, I hope you enjoyed your 4th of July.

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