"Why are they being injured like that? For what reason?"


I live by myself in a condo in Alexandria, Virginia not all that far from Washington D.C. I am a totally disabled veteran (IU) so I do not work. I am also retired from the Smithsonian Institution and the Coast Guard. My kids are grown and live out of state so I have a lot of time to myself. I decided to go grocery shopping today at about 2:30 pm and something happened that I want to share with you.

While I was standing in line at the checkout counter, a young and very pretty African American woman was standing behind me talking to someone on her cell phone. She was about 25 years old. I turned around thinking that she was talking to me and saw that she was wearing a black fleece pullover sweater with Water Reed Army Hospital logo on it and another logo that said "Cardiac Unit".


I waited for her phone conversation to end and asked her politely if she worked at Walter Reed. She smiled at me and said "Yes. I work in the Cardiac Unit and my patients are mostly older retired Army people." I took her to be a nurse, but I could be wrong. She continued "I am not military. I am a civilian worker there."

I then told her that I was retired Coast Guard and a disabled veteran and that I write for VT web site. I then asked her, "Are there still plenty of young people coming into Walter Reed with massive injuries?" She was a bit surprised that I was so blunt, but then after a second or two, she said, "Yes. I don’t see them all day. They are all on a different floor than the one where I work. But they keep coming in."

Then she said, "There is a big push on right now to do what we can for the PTSD people. That is the real emphasis now. But there are certainly many severely injured soldiers still coming in."

We talked for about a few more seconds about that and then she looked at me sincerely and said, "I see a lot of young people that are still pretty much teenagers coming into the hospital with arms and legs blown off. Why are they being injured like that? For what reason? I saw a nineteen year old boy last week with all of his limbs missing. Why?"

I swallowed hard. I could not answer the question. I checked out my food, turned to her and said, "Thank you for what you do at Walter Reed." She smiled at me and I took my cart full of groceries out to the car. As I sit here at home after unloading groceries and putting them away I cannot but help think of her question to me.

"Why are they being injured like that? For what reason?"

I do not know either.

CWO3 Tom Barnes, USCG (Ret.)


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