The poem spoke to me powerfully because I've been struggling since Memorial Day to find words to define or convey something of what I felt and experienced during the long days and nights spent during the month of May with my father at Walter Reed.
Thus in silence in dreams' projections,
Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals,
The hurt and wounded I pacify with soothing hand,
I sit by the restless all the dark night, some are so young,
Some suffer so much, I recall the experience sweet and sad, ...
Being there for my dad in a place and at a time when many young men and women were brought to the ICU gravely injured (six from Iraq one night), watching most of them "graduate" to the wards, seeing their predecessors farther along in their recovery moving confidently around the hospital with new prostheses/high tech wheel chairs, babies in laps, wives/husbands by their side, sharing a quiet moment of concern or hug with a soldier's parents, wife, brother, sister.
It was a layered emotional experience ... desperate hope for recovery, palpable pride in service and sacrifice, and what seemed to be uniformly high morale in the face of very difficult challenges.
And, my bedside vigil paled in comparison to the four year (and counting) investment in recovery made by one soldier's parents or to the sacrifice and commitment offered by the capable caregivers called up to serve from their "other lives" ... reservists who hadn't expected to have to set aside their families and practices, leave sheet covered furniture behind in empty homes .. to spend months on end filling in, without complaint, the gaps in the military's medical staff . A staff stretched beyond capacity by the critical care needs of young soldiers (and sailors and Marines) wounded in conflicts difficult to explain or comprehend.
"I recall the experience sweet and sad..."