Archive for the ‘Myrna’s Thoughts…’ Category
This Memorial Day I am grateful for so many things, my job, my family, my friends, my country. As a former journalist I am also thankful for the many people in the Armed Forces who shared their stories with me. Before moving to Phoenix, I lived in El Paso, Texas. Fort Bliss is there and in the 8 years I worked there as a television news reporter and anchor I witnessed so many incredible and heartbreaking events. So for today I would like to share a couple of my experiences, so that we can all spend a little time remembering that today, Memorial Day is MUCH more than a 3-day weekend, an excuse to barbecue or an all day drink fest.I remember the day I first met the handsome young Marine who came back paralyzed from the waist down. I was there when the military plane carrying him landed at Fort Bliss. They told me him would never walk again. He was 19, a former high school football hero from El Paso who joined the Marines, against his mother’s wishes. He wanted a better life. He felt the Marines would give him the discipline, the maturity and the education he needed to marry his girlfriend and raise a family.
When he came back paralyzed he feared his pretty young girlfriend would leave him. She did not. In fact her own mother told me she was shocked at the changes in her daughter. She was at her boyfriend’s bedside day and night, cleaning him, caring for him, keeping him company. Loving him.
That young Marine looked me in the eye and told me not only would he walk again but that he was going to do so because there was no way he was going to be pushed down the aisle in a wheelchair on his wedding day. Everyone smiled at the thought and hoped for it to happen but it seemed impossible and contradictory to what the doctors had told him.
More than a month later, I got a call from his mother saying physical therapy was going better than expected and that he was going to try and take his first steps the next day. Would I like to come? I JUMPED at the chance and showed up with a top-notch photographer. Not only did we capture him taking his first steps, we captured the look on his fiancé’s face, his mother and the faces of everyone who witnessed it. Everyone was crying, men, women, mother, photographer, me. How on earth could it be that this young Marine, high school football star and soon to be husband had defied the universe? I still get choked up thinking about it. Here was this young man, HALF my age doing the impossible. He was WALKING. His face was a study in concentration. Each painful step cost him dearly. Something we take for granted every day – he did not. He was determined to master the art of putting one foot in front of the other. I was and still am SO grateful to him for letting me witness his victory.
In case you’re wondering, he was wounded in Iraq shortly after the U.S. invasion following September 11th. He and his fellow Marines were just turning in for the night after a long, hot day of patrol when he heard it, the blood-chilling and unmistakable sound of a home-made grenade rolling into their camp. He pushed his fellow Marines out of the way and tried to throw himself on it to save their lives. He did. That’s how he became paralyzed.
He will tell you he’s not a hero. He will tell you he is just a person who was looking out for his friends. He will tell you he is no one special. He couldn’t be more wrong. He IS a hero. He is a hero to me, to his family, his fellow Marines whose lives he saved and to this country. After he could walk again, the first thing he did was marry his beautiful young girlfriend.
He wanted to rejoin his fellow Marines against both his mother’s and wife’s wishes. He felt is wasn’t fair that his fellow Marines were out there still fighting while he was now perfectly healthy and ready to go back and protect this country, our freedom and his fellow Marines. The Marines told him, no. He was honorably discharged.
He is the reason I am free. He is the reason I am proud to be an American.
I realize today is a day to honor those who have fallen. As a reporter I witnessed so many heartbreaking scenes of caskets arriving at Fort Bliss draped in the American flag. So many young, strong brave people marched into Iraq only to be shipped back home to their families. An American flag their comfort, their companion. I spoke with the heartbroken mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, boyfriends, girlfriends of those who did not make it back alive. I saw the anguish in their eyes, the exhaustion in their bodies. I listened as they explained to me what their favorite foods had been, what their nicknames had been, what their dreams had been.
Freedom has a price. I witnessed what the universe charges for our freedom. The all-too-painfully high cost of living the precious way that we do. It was paid for by warriors HALF my age. Many of those who did not make it back alive to hug their loved ones weren’t even old enough to drink. They paid the price. They paid it willingly. They did it for me and for you and even for those who do not appreciate what it is they are doing. Willingly given to them, paid for one precious soul at a time.