Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I saw this moving quote from a Walt Whitman poem , The Wound Dresser, on the wall of the north entrance to the Dupont Circle Metro Station in DC today:

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, ...

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.

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..."

Death of a Retired General Officer

This message went out from General George General W. Casey, Jr., Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, today:

DEATH OF A RETIRED GENERAL OFFICER 17 JUN 09. "It is with deep regret that the Secretary of the Army and I inform you of the death of General John R. Guthrie, United States Army, Retired. He passed away on 25 May 2009 in Washington, DC. As a mark of respect to the memory of General John R. Guthrie, the national flag will be flown at half-staff at all installations, activities, and vessels of the Department of the Army in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its territories and possessions, from reveille to retreat on the day of interment 30 June 2009."

I am so very proud and grateful that the Army my father served and loved for more than 39 years has accorded him this amazing honor. His example of people centered leadership (in partnership with my mother for almost 58 years) will continue to guide and inspire me for the rest of my life as it has to this day.

Senator John Ensign

I am more than tired of sanctimonious holier than thou politicians who undermine "traditional marriage" by their own actions while denying full marriage equality to those who only want the chance to make the deep and lasting commitment that these folks seem unable to keep.