Listen to this post:
My experience there has been life altering, I am certain. To what degree remains open. Never what I expected, but that's Spirit's way.
Arriving by a circuitous route, I was disappointed to see something official about to happen: a podium, semi-circle of chairs behind, audience rows, people gathering and a woman touching my arm to hand me a program. "We're presenting Segways to veterans injured in Afghanistan and we'd love for you to stay."
And, so I did – somewhat uncomfortably as a peace-seeking Quaker. It's where God planted me, I understand, in the midst of soldiers.
I was mesmerized as each of the 31 young men and a sprinkling of women zipped up to the presenter on their new Segways. I'd always thought of the two wheels as a lazy way to tour a city. They stood or sat tall, hiding emotions. When each was assisted disembarking, I grew heartsick. All had leg injuries. Many were amputees; some doubly. They were bionic miracles raised from the still-raw battlefields.
One of the dignitaries, Air Force General Hal Hornburg, noted, "In the past, they would not have been here today. The Segway is to give them some degree of freedom taken away" by war.
Segs for Vets founder Jerry Kerr, himself injured, remarked that the vehicles "empower vets to take back their lives. Today is all about showing commitment to our nation's heroes. Not enough can be done, but today's present brings them much closer." To independence, I think he would have said.
When seated, the semi circle of steel parts, shortened pant legs, canes and braces was stunning. More so when you recognized such youthful faces.
What are we doing to these young men and women? my heart cried.
I had a hard time stomaching a Marine colonel's challenge to "think of what we've accomplished." Again, my heart answered: broken young adults ... on both sides.
Then, we were invited to congratulate the recipients. I was near the first in line, looking each person directly in the eyes, grabbing whatever hand was available and simply saying: "Thank you." Almost without exception, each responded, "Thank you, mam." I could tell they were not used to people looking them straight in the eye. I wanted to recognize their wholeness in God's eyes. I connected with the young man from Maineville ... just minutes from my house. He got a good chuckle that I just happened to be there. Farther down the line, I grabbed a very young hand and almost could not let go. Neither could he, I suspect. I don't know what it was, but it was beyond me.
Afterward, I fled to a private area unsure whether to throw up or cry. I was numb and under some spell the entire rest of the day. I looked at others differently, still haunted by the encounter.
I attempted to tour the Alamo under this fog, feeling connected to the fact this ground is a shrine. First as a church community, then as a testament to the Texan fighting spirit and loss of life. For me, however, it represents the place I got up close and personal with the ravages of war.
I will be piecing this lesson together for a very long time, and, as I do I will continue to carry those 31 soldiers in my heart. I really did not want to wash my hands yesterday for fear I would lose that connection.
• When have I felt placed somewhere by God?
• How did I respond?
• How was I able to surrender to the experience?
• How did it become part of me?
• How has it changed me?
just a mere tourist,
passing through a new
city on no particular day
arriving at the biggest
that something else
though quickly sensing
some higher purpose
in my being there
spun way out of
my comfort zone,
as a peacemaker
the harsh realities
in my heart
one I had not