Blog of Obscurity

A Very Munchkinly Blog

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Bob Dole: One Soldier's Story

I heard Senator Dole recount this story Sunday on Meet the Press. It's about a soldier who returned injured from Iraq:

Craig had been badly wounded while on patrol in Iraq a week or so before Christmas. He suffered severe damage to his C-1 vertebra and was paralyzed from his neck down. Now lying in an intensive care unit at Walter Reed, he couldn't move a muscle. He was hooked up to all sorts of medical machines, with various tubes running to his body, an electrocardiogram monitoring his heart, a respirator helping him to breathe, and a tracheotomy in his throat.

Nevertheless, the young man's eyes brightened as I stepped up to his bedside. His mother introduced us: "Craig, this is Bob Dole." Craig's sister joined us around the bed. Craig couldn't speak, but he could hear me and seemed to respond with his eyes.

Looking at Craig, I felt a wave of emotion sweep over me, nearly overwhelming me. It was like seeing a mirror image of myself sixty years earlier. He was tall and muscular, about six feet, one and a half inches, and about 185 pounds, almost identical to my World War II height and weight. For a moment I was back there, in a similar hospital bed, encased in plaster, unable to move, paralyzed from the neck down.

I just stood there at Craig's bedside. I could feel my heart thumping loudly in my chest, my emotions rushing to the surface. I knew the tough road Craig had before him — and his condition was far worse than mine had been.

I reached out my hand — my left hand — touched the soldier's arm, and said, "Good luck, Craig. You're in a great hospital. They'll take good care of you." We stayed only about five minutes.

I looked the young man in the eyes one more time, then turned to his mother, put my arm around her shoulder, and said, "We'll pray for Craig's recovery. Please let me know if I can help."

Unfortunately, a few days later Craig Nelson, another American hero, passed away. I grieved for that family and became more determined that this book would do something to help others understand their pain — and the trauma that so many others have endured because of war.