Friday, October 12, 2007

Seeing the cost of war up close

It was brought to my attention that the story of Taylor visiting the National Naval Medical Center is not on the blog. I have been meaning to do this now for awhile, but with Kevin being down and out, I just haven't had the time.

Good news, Kevin did have his open heart surgery on Monday, Oct 8th *one year to the date that Taylor was sworn in as the mighty Marine she is, so we figured this was a good omen* and Kevin is doing wonderful! He will probably even be able to come home on Sunday. We are so proud of how strong Taylor's dad has been through this, and how brave he has been. He says it is because of the courage of Taylor.

Last Oct. Taylor had to go to the National Institute of Health for a weeks worth of medical testing. Word got out by a retired Gunny of her and that she was going to be in the DC area. He got in contact with the National Naval Medical Center and I got a phone call from a SSgt. wanting to know if there was a way that Taylor could get into the hospital to visit our wounded heroes. HECK YEAH was Taylor's answer to that.

I had talked with Taylor ahead of time about going there, as I was told flat out that she would be witnessing some heavy duty things. She assured me she wanted to go, she wanted to encourage her guys to get well.

We got to the NNMC and as we were ushered into an office, Marines just swarmed Taylor. All shaking her hand, teasing her and treating her just like one of the guys. I immediately felt at ease with these guys. I was pulled aside by a Lt. Col. who wanted to talk to me a bit, he was concerned about how Taylor was going to actually handle what she was going to see. That was the first time I started to feel a bit nervous and after him explaining to me just how badly some of these guys were torn up, there was a slight twinge in me wondering if I was doing the wrong thing. I glanced at Taylor and she was this tiny little thing in the middle of all these big bad Marines, but she was standing tall and holding her ground.

We went up the floor and there was a slight buzz going on with her being there. There was one young man that had heard Taylor was coming and he just had surgery. His roommate was not doing well, so he had his dad get him into a wheelchair to bring him out to the hall to meet her. I was taken back, and on the verge of tears of this. This young man grimaced in pain sitting in that wheelchair, but he did so, so that he may meet my daughter. Amazing.

We were all standing around and I looked around and I didn't see Taylor. I asked where she was and they told me that they had taken her into a room already. I really wanted to be in there with her, because I just didn't know what she was going to see. I walked into the room and and what I saw made my heart go right to my throat. I started screaming in my head to get my daughter out of there. That is, until my mind really comprehended what my eyes were seeing and most importantly, what Taylor was doing.

The very first room Taylor was taken into, was of a young man who suffered a gun shot wound to the head. There is no mistaking what his injury was. I was overcome and started to cry. You can hear about wounds, you can hear about the guys coming back hurt, but unless you actually see it for yourself, you have NO idea. As an adult, I was trying to take it in and I was trying so hard to not leave the room. I looked at Taylor and she was standing right beside the head of the bed. This young man couldn't talk and he even had a hard time with his eyes focusing in on one area.

Taylor was talking TO him, not AT him. She stood there, looking at him, not in fear of what was in front of her. She stood there with pure compassion for one of her fellow Marines, one of her fellow Americans. She talked to him, and while he could not talk, he made sounds. Taylor would wait until he was done making those sounds, and she then would talk to him again. This went on for a few minutes, and as she got ready to leave, she went to shake his hand not realizing he had no control. She held out her hand, then looked down at his hand knowing he couldn't raise it up. She took her other hand and brought his hand up to hers, and then she placed her tiny little hand around his and held it. She laid it back down and rubbed the top of his hand, and as she walked by his legs, she stopped. She turned around, put her hand on his leg and looked at his face and said very clearly, very Marine like, 'Don't give up, don't ever give up' The room was completely silent and by now, I couldn't contain my tears. I had just witnessed something I can't ever describe to do justice to it. As she walked by me and headed out the door, I looked and saw that there behind me, were a whole bunch of Marines that had bottlenecked into the doorway and hall and I can say, I was not the only one that had tears free flowing.

Taylor went from room to room like that. She saw men that had no eyes, no noses, gapping holes. She saw up close and first hand what war costs to the human body. She never once looked away from these men, she was never afraid to talk to anyone. She stood there as tall as she could stand, and talked to these wounded Warriors with pure admiration.

She went into a room of an amputee. I could feel the unease in the room. I don't think he wanted us in there and I can't say that I didn't blame him. He was polite to Taylor, but in a very distant way and in a way to make his displeasure known. He was pretty straight forward with her. I am not sure what made him do it, but all of the sudden, he threw back the covers and lifted what very little was left of his leg. I got upset, as this is the one thing Taylor told me she didn't want to see. The man stared at his leg, then stared at Taylor. I can't say what he was thinking, but his face was speaking clearly. He was angry. Taylor stood there for a few seconds looking at it, then looked up at him and just as defiant as he was being with her, she said to him, 'well you know what? It could have been a heck of a lot worse'. I was ready to throw up and thought to myself.........this is NOT good. He glared at Taylor and then, then.....he broke out into the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. It filled his whole face, heck, it filled the whole room! He said to her in a completely different tone he had been using, 'You know what little lady? You are right, it could have been a heck of a lot worse'. Again, there is just no words to ever describe the feeling. When we walked out of the room, I was told that was one of the few times that young man had smiled. As we walked by the door, she looked back and he was still smiling. She stopped and sent of a perfectly executed salute to him, and he did the same back. AMAZING!

That day, my daughter was shown the horrors of war. The cost of it to the body, to the soul. These guys however, also showed my daughter how strong the body and soul are, no matter what they are faced with. They never treated her like a sick child, she never treated them like a wounded being, they treated her as a person and she looked past and beyond their wounds and saw them as what they are......people. Living, breathing, hurting but strong beings.

There was a young man being presented the Purple Heart and the Commander of the hospital asked that Taylor be present for it. I couldn't believe it. I stayed out of the room as I felt I was intruding. This young man earned the Purple Heart and his family and the people close to him needed to be there for that, not squeezed around because I was in there. As the Commander was presenting the Purple Heart, he spoke of what it meant and what this young man had done and he had Taylor standing right next to him and the young man. He spoke to Taylor of this young man, so she knew of just what exactly it means. He then gave the man his Purple Heart. He then turned to the young man and explained to him about Taylor and her courage. He spoke of things she had done and things she had been through and then he presented her with the National Naval Medical Center coin. Only it wasn't the little one, it was HUGE. The young man shook Taylor's hand and told her it was a great honor to have her there and an even greater honor to be able to witness her presentation.

When she got out into the hall way, she was mobbed by all these guys wanting to see her huge coin. They were all jealous of her and a few tried to bribe her to get it!!!! haha

All of the guys that were involved in her tour and getting her around, at the end of the visit, presented her with an extremely large matted and frame picture of the hospital. Each of the guys had signed the mat and wrote little notes to her on it. It is a priceless gift and one that hangs in her room and she is so proud to show it off to all the come visit. These guys were the best and I am so thankful for them.

That day, once again, Taylor grew stronger and she became more determined to help out in any way that she can and will continue to do so.

I might also mention, that this is the day that she got to meet Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell, the one that had her come down to Camp Lejeune to spend with the Wounded Warriors.

I have tried to figure out how to get the pictures on here from the photobucket site, but when I put them on, they are huge and I can't get them smaller. If you go to the links on the right hand side and click on Taylor's photo's, it will take you to her pics and these ones are the last few pages I believe.

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