I didn’t meet SSgt. RD at a biker rally, elk hunt, gun club or Hooters restaurant. Mostly because I don’t ride, hunt, shoot or want that kind of burger combo. He didn’t meet me in any of my worlds either. Our paths crossed through Cup of Joe, where a civilian can buy a deployed troop a cup of coffee.
I appreciated his service. It meant something to him that I cared. Other than that, we had nothing in common. What are the chances we’d became good friends? Well, I learned that beating the odds was his theme. I learned other things too from “fun” animal facts to something very important. It’s knowledge that may make you want to take action at the end of this post.
Never ask about elk hunting
This should be number two on your list right after, “never cut the blue wire.” Apparently, procuring fresh elk-meat is more hands-on than my online grocery order. As RD described in detail the prepping and dividing of elk amongst the group of men gathered under a large tree, I had visions of an Amish hit squad.
“Gina, you eat hamburgers. Where do you think they come from?”
“My hamburgers are magically formed from cows who die a sudden, natural, painless death in a lush meadow while baby bunnies frolic nearby.”
Why soldiers fight
When Osama bin Laden was killed, RD made a list of his fallen brothers and put a bottle of Jim Beam on the table. He wanted to do one shot for each buddy. He drained the bottle and passed out before he got halfway down the list.
Whenever RD walks through airport security he lights up like a Christmas tree from the four bullets that couldn’t be removed, the confetti of shrapnel plus the metal rods in his shoulder and spine.
This is a picture of the interior of a vehicle he was riding in. That hole was made by an enemy sniper. RD felt the air around the bullet as it flew just in front of his face.
He also has PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Once, after a difficult period, he begged his wife to leave him because he thought she could have a better life without him. She refused.
One day I asked him why he puts his body, heart and mind through all this. Why does he fight?
“You have to understand….we don’t love war, we fight because we love what we left behind… We do it for our wives and kids, for our friends and family and for their kids, we do it for the guys next to us and their wives and kids… we do it for you Gina. It’s what’s behind us… is why we fight so hard.
The battle now
No troop I’ve met ever wants to talk about his medals. But I asked RD to please tell me. Among his awards are 2 Purple Hearts, 2 Bronze Stars, and 2 Army Commendations. Now this decorated and dedicated soldier is facing what may be his last battle. He may be forced to retire on medical grounds.
RD loves the Army. With passion and resilience he wants to use his hard-earned knowledge any way he can to benefit his brothers and sisters-in-arms. I don’t know what the odds are once you get to a medical review board. I know he’s doing all he can to continue to be allowed to make a difference as a soldier.
This post is my way of fighting for him. I know the chances are small that one civilian and some blog readers can sway the United States Army. If you would like to fight for RD too, if you want to keep brave soldiers with passion and resilience in our Army, please say so in the comments. As a taxpayer, if you don’t want all that hard-earned knowledge just walking out the door, leave a comment. This way he can share it with the review board. And maybe, just maybe, we can beat the odds together.
*UPDATE- Click here for the update to this story: When Uncle Sam Breaks Up With You. I posted on September 18, 2013. Yes, it took that long.
© Gina left the mall, 2012