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And Finally: Finding the Words

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News February 2016
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This is usually the month of found and renewed love by many of our fellow men and women. Resolutions, promises, changes and new lives are planned this month.

The thing that has made this difficult for me since my accident is the realization that there are things in my life I can’t change, no matter how much I may want to. Since then, I’ve learned that although there are things I can’t change, there are many things I can change.

Trying To Ease The Pain

One of my current struggles is finding something energizing or motivating to say in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. When it comes to terrorism, who is to say is the greater victim — the innocent person who is killed by the bullets directed at the unwitting crowd? Or is it the soldier taken out by the sniper, improvised explosive device or suicide bomber? 

Maybe it’s the soldier/sailor returning home with the memories/nightmares of a life lived that never should be experienced by anyone.

I see soldiers in rehabilitation gyms every time I visit the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Long Beach, Calif., or San Diego, and it would be an insult to call them victims. But I will not exclude them from the list of the adversely affected.

One victim they all have in common is the husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, mother or father who gets left behind when any of the above souls gets prematurely extinguished.

What words of motivation can ease the pain of those left behind? I’m struggling this Valentine’s Day with finding something positive and romantic to say about the remains of terrorism. I won’t argue with anyone about whether or not this is war.

I really wish there were some way we could talk out all our disagreements. As long as human history, there has been fighting and death in the name of one thing or another. Rule, religion, territory, freedom, you name it, people have killed and died for it.

A New Plan

Why am I writing about terrorism in a column read by many paralyzed veterans?

I guess it’s because when I really think about it, in some way or another, we’re all connected by war. World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Sarajevo, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan all stand out in the eyes of the American veteran.

The Boston Marathon, New York City and now San Bernardino are part of the list of American targets of terrorism. I’m not saying to give up the fight, but we need a new plan.

And, as long as we’re making a new plan, maybe we should think about getting new planners, too, and maybe they should come from the victims left behind. I think for far too long the planners have been people who are so far away from the problem maybe they no longer see it.

Our husbands, wives, sons and daughters have an interesting perspective on war, and maybe on how to fight or not fight it. I also know that for every period of war there is a period of peace twice as large. For every warrior there are 10 champions of peace.

I’ve written before about the fact that life goes on, with or without you. That sentiment rings true today. But I’m beginning to think that maybe I was wrong regarding the tone of the remark.

At first, I was feeling that life was going to leave me behind if I kept myself isolated. Now I’m wondering if that phrase means life won’t be destroyed, no matter how hard some may try.

Do It Again

All that has ever been destroyed has been rebuilt or replaced.

Just as there is someone waiting to take the place of a terrorist leader, people carry on and children grow up. Most importantly, the love is remembered.

As I wonder what words are most appropriate for the moment, maybe they shouldn’t come from me as a teacher, philosopher, writer or leader. This time, it’s only fitting that I speak as a veteran — a frustrated, angry, paralyzed veteran, wondering what he served his country for.

And then, I head out in my wheelchair and I see the mother and father, walking their children into the theater, playing with their families outside the local ice cream shop, twirling their pasta at the restaurant, and I remember exactly what I fought for. Not only that, but I would do it again. And I have a strong feeling the men and women reading this would line up right beside me.

So yes, I guess there are things in my life I would change, but there are also things I would never change, like lining up next to defend our way of life against those who would see
it destroyed.

And as this month rolls in, there is one phrase that is in the forefront of my mind. All gave some, some gave all. And in some cases, all was cruelly ripped away from them. This month, my message is for them.

Wherever you are and wherever you may be, my glass is raised for you, and Happy Valentine’s Day. 

Scoba Rhodes is a U.S. Navy veteran and author of  Rules of Engagement: A Self-Help Guide for Those Overcoming Major Personal Trauma.   

 

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And Finally: Finding the Words

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