There have been some gloomy days recently, between the holidays away from family, the cold weather, and the slow tempo that makes us wonder, "what good we are doing here?". During our morning meeting, I was reminded of why I am here.
Army Specialist Menard belongs to the "Fightin' Fifth" 5th Engineer Battalion based out of Fort Leonardwood, Missouri. His commander in Ghazni (at his left shoulder, see Dec 8 Milestones post) visited him in the hospital to present him with his service medals, and forwarded some photos to us here in Ghazni. They are my favorite deployment pictures.
When I first saw these pictures, I didn't even see the medals. For me, his marks of bravery jumped out at me from his body. Do you see the hole in his neck? I couldn't get enough oxygen in him becuase blood was pouring out of the breathing tube I placed. So I asked the surgeons to cut a hole in his neck to see if bypassing his larynx would help us stop the bleeding from his throat. I fought to give him oxygen through that hole in his neck for two hours, my hand never leaving that tube in his neck. My textbooks tell me he should be brain dead from the lack of oxygen. I don't know how much he will recover, but a smile and thumbs up is a start!
Do you see the scar on his chest? Right through that opening was where I saw his heart stop, where I prayed and waited anxiously to see if the drugs, shocks, and blood would somehow start his heart up one more time. And each time it did. I am so proud of that little heart! It just would not quit and kept on fighting back to life. I'm glad it's safely behind his ribs and skin again, quietly pumping his blood without needing our hands to squeeze it.
I hope one day he'll be walking around without a hole in his neck, his scar hidden beneath his clothes. I like to imagine that one day he could be mistaken for an ordinary person were it not for his medals. Maybe they will help others understand that he is a hero. But I knew it a long time ago.