Last night I drove all night to get to a VA medical facility in Marion, Indiana in time for my 7:30 appointment this morning.
Why I was there and my comments about VA medical facilities and their treatment of us I'll leave for another blog. Maybe tomorrow I'll have time for that one.
While I was sitting in the waiting room another man sat down beside me. We started talking about when and where he served. He said he was a Marine. His right eye was gone and the face and skull around it were deformed because of an obvious injury. I didn't ask how or what happened because some of us don't like to talk about or remember some things.
What I did ask was if he was in Vietnam. He said he was. I asked when and he said he spent 18 months there in 1967 and 1968. I told him that's when I was there and we began to talk about places and things. He was in recon. Tough and dangerous work.
We talked about the kids in Iraq and the PTSD they would face. We both talked about how loud noises still make us jump after 40 years. He said something very profound during our conversation: "You never know who the drunk sitting at the bar might be, or the homeless guy on the corner... He might have saved your life once."
I asked if he ever made it to Danang and he said that was where they took him when he was hit and lost his eye. That was the third time he was wounded and it was the one which finally sent him home. I told him I might have been the one who carried him off the chopper and took care of him before his surgery. We talked about MAG 16 and the hospital and then it was my time to see the doctor. I told him Semper Fi and walked away.
After I'd finished talking to the doctor I came out and we happened to be walking along side by side for a minute. He said to me: "Doc, if you ARE the one who carried me and saved my life, thanks."
I don't remember feeling any better than that in a long time.
I just nodded and our paths parted. He was right... You never know who the drunk at the bar might be or the homeless guy on the corner. He may have saved your life once.