The Pains of War. sammy
Continued from part 1
When Sammy woke up he was in a bed in what looked like a hospital. Where his right leg used to be, there was a large bandage. Sergeant Davis and Dale were standing at the foot of his bed.
“Where am I?” Sammy asked.
Sergeant Davis replied “You’re in a hospital at Quang Tri.
“I guess I’ve gone and done it now haven’t I?” Sammy said. Dale and the sergeant laughed.
“You went and became a hero and you’re going home. It was the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.” Dale said.
“How are the three guys? Did they make it? Wish I could have gotten the fourth.”
“Yes,” Sergeant Davis said. “They are hurt pretty bad, but they will make it.
Another guy on the other side of them saw what you were doing, and he grabbed the fourth guy, got him out, then went back for you.”
Sammy asked the sergeant what the final outcome was.
“Air support finally made it in. They wiped out the mortars and we had a big kill ratio! They tried to pull an ambush on us and almost succeeded, but we came out ahead!”
The doctor walked up and wanted to know if the hero was awake.
Dale said, “Everyone is talking about what you did, Sammy.”
Sammy touched the bandage and quietly said “My leg.”
The doctor understood and said “That’s the worse of it. We are going to put an artificial leg on you, you’ll go through a few weeks of therapy and then go home. You have a choice to make. You can go to the VA hospital in Washington DC or
there is a VA hospital in Chicago that we can send you to. ”
Without hesitation, Sammy said “Chicago.”
“Yeah,” the doctor said, “I figured as much, I’ve already made the arrangements.”
Sergeant Davis laughed and said “For once in your army life, you have a choice! Another thing, when you complete your therapy and before you are released from the VA hospital, you will be flown to Washington DC to have the Silver Star pinned on you by the President himself! Isn’t that something?”
“Thank you both.”
“No problem. Now get some rest, that means you fellows get out of here.” the doctor said with a smile.
Dale shook Sammy’s hand “See you later hero. I’m proud of you.”
Sammy was flown to the VA hospital in Chicago. As the weeks went by things changed for Sammy. He was getting used to having an artificial leg. The doctor said he would be there for about two months. This would give him an opportunity to
be around other injured vets. They could help each other!
His mother was happy he was back in Chicago where she could visit him every day. And every day when she got off work, she would take the bus to the hospital, visit with her son and then take the bus back home. The next day she would do it
Her daily visits seemed to keep both their spirits up.
While he was at the VA, Sammy began to work with other vets, they would help him with his therapy and he would help them. He really enjoyed what he was doing.
He talked to his doctor about working as a volunteer on a regular basis after he went home. But he would also have to find a paying job to help with the bills at home. The doctor told him he didn’t see why he couldn’t do both. It would be good
for him as well as the other vets. So the doctor was going to set up his volunteer schedule. Sammy thanked him for having that much confidence in him.
His time at the VA was passing quickly. Sammy was getting stronger each day, but something different was happening.
His attitude and perspective on life were changing. He no longer wanted to hang out on that street corner with his friends or lay around and let his mother support him. He was going to be the man of the house; crippled or not. It was time he stepped up and took responsibility. He was both determined and ready. No matter what the obstacle was, he would face it head-on. He no longer wanted to live in the past but in the future and he knew he could
Before his release, two things happened. First, a Mr. Jenkins came to see him from the government and talked to him about what he would do for a job when he was released. Sammy explained to him about his plans for volunteering and some kind of a paying job. Mr. Jenkins helped him fill out a lot of paperwork. He handed Sammy a list of government agencies that would give Sammy a job.
Once the paperwork was processed, all Sammy had to do was pick out the one he wanted.
This was absolutely great!
The second thing that happened after his therapy was finished, Sammy was flown to Washington DC to meet the President and received the Silver Star medal. He was in full uniform and accompanied by his mother. Mom was beaming with pride
as the President pinned the medal on his uniform.
For once Sammy knew he had done something to make her proud! Her real joy though was the fact she had her son home and alive!
The day Sammy got out of the VA hospital, Dale and Mom showed up to take Sammy home. What a surprise! Dale had taken a fifteen-day leave so he could help Sammy get situated. Dale had rented a car for the occasion. Sammy felt lucky to
have such a friend.
They drove home and settled Sammy in. Sammy was sure glad
to be home. His mom was ecstatic!
After a fine dinner Sammy, Mom and Dale sat down and went over the list of jobs Mr. Jenkins had given him. There were several and they all looked good.
Mom said, “That was awfully nice of Mr. Jenkins to do this.”
“Well, when you are a national hero you get special treatment.”
They all laughed about that.
Sammy put his two cents in. “I did what anyone else would have done. Don’t know why everybody is making such a big fuss over it.” With a grin on his face, he added “I was just trying to get away from the noise!”
Back to the list. “Here’s one Sammy; assistant Liberian! Perfect.” Dale said. “It says you work the main desk, sort books and assist customers. The pay is only minimum wage but it’s a start. The good thing is it’s only two buildings down from the VA.” Mom told them the pay didn’t matter as long as Sammy was happy. He agreed.
Among the papers that Mr. Jenkins gave Sammy was a letter with the President’s seal and a recommendation from the President. Mr. Jenkins had told him that wherever he applied, to present the letter and he would not have any problems
landing the job. Dale said “When I go back, I’m going to figure out how to become a hero! With treatment like that, what more could you ask for?” Laughter filled the
Dale returned to his unit in Nam. He called every now and then to check on Sammy and Mom and to let Sammy know what was going on in the war. At Christmas, he was going to take leave and spend Christmas with them. He was becoming like a brother to Sammy, crazy white boy! Mom was telling everyone
she had two sons. They were a family! They even started making plans to move to a bigger place so Dale could have his own room when he came home. If nothing else, it would keep him from having to sleep on the sofa! Every now and then Dale
would send a little money and a letter addressed to Mom and Bro. Mom would beam with pride!
The job at the library was going good. Sammy did his volunteer work at the VA on his days off. He really enjoyed working with the disabled vets and helping them through their therapy. The therapist even let Sammy solo every now and then. All
the vets liked him and they were becoming fast friends.
It was during his volunteer time that Sammy acquainted himself with a young lady named Linda. She was the assistant to the head therapist. They talked a lot and shared their lunch every day. They even went out to dinner on occasion. Well, not
exactly dinner; a fast food place cause neither one had a lot of money. He also took her to his house for dinner several times. Mom got to the point she expected her for dinner on Sammy’s volunteer days. Linda even called her ‘Mom.’ When Sammy
was at the VA, Linda would sometimes go pick up Mom and take her shopping and just mess around. When Sammy would get home, all he heard was ‘Linda did this and Linda did that’ from Mom. Sammy would just shake his head and laugh. It was obvious things were getting serious between Sammy and Linda. Mom made the comment “Our family is growing!”
With the passing of time, Sammy learned to deal with his impairment. He had learned to ignore the stares, the comments, and the giggles. He and Linda talked
about it and he told Linda he was worried she would be embarrassed to be seen with him. She was so beautiful and full of life that he didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable. She assured him “I’m proud to be seen with you. You are strong,
brave, and very handsome and I love you very much. I don’t care what people think. They are just ignorant!”
When Sammy finally proposed to her, she said a definite yes. They would wait until they could afford to move into their own place before they started their family. Until then, they would have to live with Mom. That was ok because Linda
and Mom got along great.
Linda refused to get married without her brother Dale, so they had to plan the wedding around his availability to come home on leave.
Mom walked around singing all the time; she was finally going to get to be a grandma!
One day the administrator Mr. Albright came up to Sammy and asked him to stop by his office before he left for the day; he had something to discuss with him. Sammy was worried he had messed up or something. A thousand things started going
through his mind and none of them were good. Was Mr. Albright going to tell him that he didn’t want him here anymore? This was not good! He could see all his plans fading. He would not be able to help the vets anymore!
He couldn’t wait; he had to face it now! He told the therapist that he was going to take off early because he had something to do. He walked down to Mr. Albright’s office and knocked on the door. He heard Mr. Albright say come in; Sammy was
suddenly filled with fear.
“Are you leaving early, Sammy.”
“No. I mean yes. I’m sorry, Mr. Albright, but I couldn’t take the not knowing anymore. If I’ve done something wrong, please tell me and I’ll fix it!”
Mr. Albright started laughing. “Sit down Sammy. This is not bad news it’s good news. I’ve been watching how you work with the vets and how you care for them. I am impressed! Everyone here including the medical staff like you and we want
you to join us full time. Yes, I know you are not a certified therapist, but we can remedy that. We’ll get you in classes and get you certified.
“You can work here part-time while you do your certification. That would be about the same amount of time you spend on your other job and volunteering. We would start you out at a good salary and you will make more after you receive your certification.
“When you and Linda get married and yeah it’s all over the hospital and everyone is happy. I just wonder what took you so long! Anyway, when you do get married you can have the wedding here in our rose garden. Everyone here will want to be
able to go. I will arrange for the kitchen staff to cater to it. You will probably have the biggest wedding in history.”
“I don’t know what to say, Mr. Albright.”
“Don’t worry about it you’ve earned it!”
Sammy was overwhelmed! He didn’t know what to think. He couldn’t wait to get home and tell Linda and Mom. Dale would be excited too when he heard about it.
Dale gets out of the army in three months and he has decided (well Mom has decided) that he would come live with her, Linda and Sammy. When Linda and Sammy get their own place, then Dale would continue living with Mom. She tells everyone that she will finally have both her boys and her daughter with her. She was so happy. One big family!
As Sammy walked out of the hospital, he passed a patient’s room and the TV was kind of loud. He heard ‘Good morning, Vietnam.’ He stopped, leaned against the wall and looked down at his artificial leg. His thoughts went back to that day in the
jungle when he lost his leg. He wasn’t sad, but smiled and thought how his life had changed since that day. For once he was truly happy.
The three guys he saved found out his name and address. Ever now and then he gets a letter from them. They have promised to come to visit as soon as they can. Sammy was looking forward to that day! Sammy walked out of the hospital whistling.
A few years have passed. Things have changed! Sammy was promoted to head of the physical therapy department with salary and benefits to match. Linda moved up as his assistant; wonder who is assisting who! They moved to a nice home in a good neighborhood and are raising two beautiful boys.
Mom and Dale moved to a nice neighborhood close to Sammy and Linda. Grandma, of course, does the babysitting. Mom can’t work anymore so her three children take care of her; she wants for nothing. Dale certified as a therapist and is working in the VA. The perfect setting!
Occasionally Sammy makes a trip to the old neighborhood and drives by the street corner where he and the corner rats hung out day after day. Sammy had always been told that he would never amount to anything, that he would never accomplish a thing. Look at him now!
Fate or whatever you want to call it gave him the opportunity to change his life. With hard work, perseverance, dedication and the love of two good women and a caring brother, Sammy has overcome the perils of war.
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