Recovery of a Hero Ch. 08byRoadbug©
Chapter 8: The Hero Remembers
This story is a work of fiction only. Any chance resemblance to actual people or events is purely accidental.
I remember that incident in Iraq quite well. It's one of my clearest memories.
5 of us in a Humvee were going to one of the Iraqi government buildings where I was working on the computer network systems when we were ambushed.
As we were driving down the road, an RPG exploded to the right of us. The vehicle was lifted off the ground on that side by the shockwave of the blast. When it came back down, the whole side sagged badly.
Tires are gone, I thought. The Sergeant in charge of my escorts said, "Get out and find shelter, I'll cover you." One of the others grabbed me and the other got the driver as he was unconscious.
We got to an alley that provided some shelter from the ambush, while the sergeant continued firing the .50 caliber machinegun mounted on the roof of the humvee.
The rig was shaken by another explosion, and Sergeant Carson was knocked out of the gun mount. He crawled out and started running toward us and was hit in both legs by enemy fire.
I looked at the other. The driver was unconscious, and the one who'd dragged him clear was wounded in the leg. The last one was checking the leg wound when I said, "Carson's down. Cover me."
I didn't look to see if he did or not, I just got up and started running toward the Sergeant. I didn't hear any bullets go by me as I ran, but that only meant they hadn't seen me yet.
When I got to Carson, I saw that he was hurt pretty bad but didn't have time to do anything about that. I grabbed his sidearm and started lifting him up. That's when I got hit, while I was hunched over a bit. One in the shoulder, one in the back, and one in the left leg. The vest I was wearing stopped the one in the back, but the others felt like branding irons.
I stopped trying to lift Carson and just grabbed his vest with my left hand and dragged him back to the others. Wasn't much else I could do, but let them bandage him and me up.
Then I remembered something. I had a small radio set to the local patrol frequency. It was still in the Humvee. I told the corporal that I was going back to the rig, and got up and hobbled to it. The corporal gave me covering fire as I went, and when I got there, I dove into the back where my equipment bag was.
I opened it up and found the radio. It was intact so I turned it on and immediately picked up a patrol broadcast reporting shots fired.
I contacted them and gave them my personal call sign and told them that my vehicle was under fire. I reported 4 casualties without telling them that I was 1, and that our vehicle was disabled.
They said that they had us in site and were coming for us.
Just then, I spotted an ambush being set up for them and stated, "Negative. There's an ambush waiting for you to proceed, so hold in place for a second."
Amazingly enough, I hadn't dropped that 9 mill automatic. I started shooting at the men that I could see, and they turned toward me and opened up on the Humvee. I'm sure glad these things are armored, even if lightly. I would have been dead otherwise.
I told the patrol that the ambushers were firing on my position and that they could now take them. That they did too. They hit the position with several grenades from launchers and heavy machinegun fire.
I started hunting around for that RPG that had hit us in the first place. Spotting the man, I fired the last couple of rounds from the 9 mill and got him. He dropped the RPG launcher and disappeared inside the door where he'd been hiding. That's about all I remember from that as I lost consciousness.
My next clear memory was several weeks later. I was in a military hospital and was being treated for a real nasty infection. My vision was blurry and I couldn't move much, but a nurse immediately came over to me. Since she was in a military nurses uniform with rank tabs, I knew what kind of hospital I was in. Other than that, I had no clue as to where I was.
The nurse said, "Welcome back to the real world. Your at Madigan Military hospital located at Fort Lewis."
That surprised me. The hospital they'd sent me to was bout 100 miles from where I'd lived before I went to work for The Department of the Navy. I wondered who'd arranged that little thing.
About then, I faded out again. The next time I woke up, the uniforms were different and no rank on them. I figured I'd been transferred to a civilian hospital since I wasn't in the Army any more.
I looked around and didn't see any one but I saw a whole bunch of monitors and such. I was too tired to look for the buzzer to call an nurse, so I just started tapping on my chest. This caused one of the machines to start an alarm at the nurses station, and one came in right away. She saw what I was doing and scolded me for it.
I was so dry in the mouth, I couldn't talk. I tried miming drinking with my left had and she got me some water.
You ever tried drinking with a straw when you mouth is so dry you can't even hardly swallow? Not what I'd call fun.
I slowly sipped a little water from the cup and swished it around in my mouth. It felt wonderful.
After swallowing the drink, I asked, "How long?"
The nurse responded by saying, "You've been here for 3 days. According to your chart, you were wounded in Iraq about 2 weeks ago."
I whispered, "Where?"
"The Seattle V.A. Hospital. You were transferred here from Madigan."
"How bad?" I asked.
She said, "You lost a lot of blood when you were hit, and developed a bad infection. We're only just now getting it under control."
About then, I lost consciousness again. When I woke up next, I felt real fuzzy. I couldn't concentrate at all.
I wasn't sure how long I was awake when another nurse came in. She saw I was awake and got me a drink right away. I could barely draw water up the straw, I was so weak. I felt dizzy too, and couldn't focus my eyes well.
The nurse put the water down on a small table next to my bed and said, "You gave us quite a scare, Mr. DeShade. That infection came back, and then you had a bad allergic reaction to one of the medications they used to try to stop it. We thought we were going to loose you for a few days."
I couldn't concentrate on what she was saying but I remember it now. I don't know how long she was there or what else she said after that either. It was like I had a fog bank in between me and the rest of the world.
I don't remember how long this went on or what happened. The only clear memory is the 2 nurses who gave me drinks. I also remember that the second one would take me outside now and then so I could have a cigarette and she'd get me coffee too.
My next clear recollection was when a man I recognized and 2 women came into my room. I don't remember what I said to them, but the nurse came in and talked to them for awhile. After that, they left again and the nurse got me up like she would when she was taking me outside for a smoke.
Shortly after she was through, the man came back. I seemed to remember him wearing a military uniform. Desert camouflage, I think.
He took me out to the waiting area where the other 2 women were. Then we went downstairs and to the vending room where a young girl ran up and hugged me. She said something, but I don't recall what. I asked her, "Do I know you? I don't remember to well," or something like that. I'm still real hazy about that time.
I don't remember if she said anything at all, but one of the women from the ward gave me a cup of espresso which I was happy to except. If you've never had hospital coffee, you don't know what a joy any other coffee can be.
While I was drinking it, the man and the girl came over and sat down with the other 2 and me. They were talking about something although I didn't pay any attention to what they said. That coffee was much more important to me than what they were saying.
When I finished it, they got up and the girl started pushing me toward the front exit. I remember her looking at the man and saying, "My job now." I remember that very clearly and I was happy she was there. I had been lonely and depressed when I was thinking clearly, and these people were the first visitors I'd had that I could remember.
They took me to the smoking area out front, and the man took out one of my cigarettes and gave it to me. He said something about playing cards when I asked him if I knew him, but I'm not clear about it.
We sat there for awhile and I smoked a couple of cigarettes. I did remember that I didn't get to come out much so I was determined to enjoy this trip as much as possible.
As we sat there, I saw my aunt Donna, who was one of the few relatives I still had in this area. She and my uncle had come to visit me. I got real excited and started saying, "Aunt Dee, aunt Dee. You came to see me." I was real excited, since I hadn't seen her for several years.
She said something to me, but I don't recall what. Then she started talking to the others there. I went back to smoking and smiling at my aunt now and then. She'd been my favorite relative since I was a small child, and I new that if she was there I'd be all right.
After awhile, we went back inside. The man who'd come to see me took me up to my room with aunt Dee following. When he left, Aunt Dee stayed for awhile.
She asked me, "So how bad is it this time, Dar?"
I said, "Real fuzzy. I can't think right and can't move my arm. I want out of here, aunt Dee. I can't go outside unless someone takes me and I got nothing to do. I hate it here. Can you help me? Please?"
She said, "I'll try. Those others that were here want to get you out too. They said that you got shot helping George when he was wounded. The young girl out there said that she'll take care of you for as long as you need. It seems that you saved her big brother and she wants to pay you back."
"Right now, I can't take you home with me," she said. "Mick lost his little girl recently, and the medical bills forced him to sell his house. He's staying with me right now, so I don't have any room. If you want, I'll check out those people who were here and see how reliable they are. If they look good, and if you want, I'll get you set up with them."
"Really?" I asked. "They want me to stay with them? Why? I don't know them and I barely remember the man. I just can't remember real good right now."
"I know Dar. It's not your fault. They gave you some medication and you had a very bad reaction to it. I was told that it affected your mind and that your right arm is paralyzed. I was also told, though, that you should recover in time."
"I don't understand," I said.
Aunt Dee said, "That's ok. It isn't your fault. I'll do my best to get you out of here as soon as I can. I have to go now, but I'll be back in a couple days." She bent over and kissed me on the cheek, and said, "I love you Dar and I won't forget you. Trust me on that and I'll get you out of here."
She left after that.
The next clear memory was when she came back with uncle Jim. They came into the room and told me that I was leaving. I wouldn't be coming back either as the hospital had released me.
I got real excited, and I think I was a bit of a problem to get dressed. It didn't help that I couldn't stand or move the right arm, but aunt Dee and uncle Jim were patient with me and got me ready to go.
When they took me downstairs, we went to the patient storage and got what little I'd had when I was brought in.
After that, we left the front entrance and went to the bottom part of the parking lot. They got me into a car and off we went. Aunt Dee asked if I was hungry and I said, "You try eating back there."
She laughed at that and said, "I take that as a yes. Since we have a long drive, I'll get you a hamburger. Think you can handle that?"
"Don't know," I said. "Arm don't work right and other hurts."
Uncle Jim said, "Get him something and I'll help him. Be a shame if he starved with a hamburger in his hand."
We pulled into the drive through of a fast food place, and aunt Dee got me a burger and some fries and a Coke. The fries I had no trouble with, but uncle Jim had to help me with the burger and the drink. I just couldn't lift them to my mouth and I couldn't bend over much either.
As I ate, we got on the freeway headed north. I don't really know how long we went, but we took an exit and started east. We went through a couple of towns, and then we drove up to a huge house.
When we pulled in, the 4 who'd visited me at the hospital before came outside. After Jim got me into my wheelchair, the little girl ran up and started pushing me. She said, "I'll make sure you get taken care of while you're here. You took car of my only big brother, so I'll do it for you."
I didn't say anything that I remember but she took me inside and showed me around the house. One of the places she took me was a large room with a lot of books on shelves and a desk with a computer set up on it. There was also a hospital bed and a large bathroom with a bathtub.
"This is your room now," she said. "Since you can't climb the stairs, we set this up for you for as long as you want."
I asked, "Can I read the books? I didn't get to read much at the hospital and I love to read. Can I use the puter too? I couldn't have one of them there either."
She said, "The computer is my old one and it's yours now. And you can read all the books you want. They were my dad's and I'm sure he would have been happy to share since he loved to read too."
"Thank you," I said.
After looking over the room, we went into the kitchen. There was a pot of coffee already made and she got me a large travel mug and filled it for me. Then she took me out back.
There was a good sized pool in back, with a fence around it. She said," The fence is so you don't have an accident, but any time you want to come back here, just tell me and I'll bring you.
She pushed me up to a table where I could set my coffee and got out my cigarettes and helped me light one.
I don't know how long we were back there, but after I finished my coffee she took me back inside. We went to another room with a large sofa and a few chairs. Aunt Dee and uncle Jim were there with the others.
Aunt Dee looked at me and asked, "Well, what do you think?"
I said, "I like it here. I get a big room with lots of books and even a puter. I miss mine but they have one just for me. Will I be staying here now?"
She sighed and said, "For now, yes. I hadn't decided until we got here, but I think you'll be all right with these people. They seem to care and that's what you need right now. Not a house full of people with barely enough room to breath."
The little girl ran up and hugged aunt Dee. I didn't here what she said, but aunt Dee hugged her back and smiled.
We sat there and the others chatted for awhile, with the girl always right next to me. She would make sure my coffee cup was full and that I could reach a plate of cookies easily. When the man, who's name was George, I was told, moved the plate she grabbed it and moved it back.
I only ate a couple, but I remembered that little thing more than anything else that day. That, and her smile. Whenever she looked at me, she'd smile.
After aunt Dee and uncle Jim left, she took me back to my room. She showed me the computer and the books that were back there. By the time we'd checked all the shelves, I had at least 10 that got put on a night stand by the bed. I also remember that the computer was almost brand new. It wasn't some kids cast off.
I'm a bit hazy about the next couple of weeks, but I remember when she got a letter and got all excited. She'd been invited to tryouts for the junior Cheerleaders squad at the high school where she'd be going in the fall. Then she got depressed because she thought that with me she wouldn't be able to go.
I told George, "I want her to go to that tryout. She's given me all her time since I've been here, and she deserves it. Can you help? I don't want her to miss something she wants so bad.
George said, "I'll make sure you have a ride there and I'll pick you up after. Sally (as I'd found out was the girls name) won't go if you don't, so I'll get you both there."
I thanked him and told Sally, "You go to that tryout. If you want to join the squad, then go. I want you to." She smiled and hugged me. That kid sure wasn't shy about hugs, but I loved it. With that and her smile, I felt better every time she walked into a room. She was one of those special people that would light up the whole world with her smile.
It was about then that I realized she'd gotten my heart. I loved her like a daughter. I didn't have any kids of my own and I realized that she filled that hole in my life now.
The day of the Cheerleader tryouts came, and Janny (Georges wife) and Erica (the middle sister) got me ready to go. When Sally pushed me out the front door, George was waiting in Janny's car. They helped me get in and then George put my chair into the trunk.
We drove about 5 miles, and pulled up to a medium sized school with a track next to it. George and Sally got me into my chair and she pushed me toward a group of girls of about her age. 2 of them waved at her as we came up and walked over to us.
Sally introduced me to them and said that their names were Sandra and Shelly. She told me that they were her best friends.
I said something about them having to come over to visit sometime, but I don't remember exactly what I said. Sally then went over to get signed up for the tryout.
The other 2 girls stayed with me and started chatting. One asked me why I was in the chair and I told her about the incident in Iraq with George.
They both squealed and the other said, "You're the one who saved George in Iraq! Well that settles it, Sandra. We have to help Sally with him no matter what. George was always nice to us kids, and I like him."
Sandra agreed with this. I started to wonder what was up with these 2 but Sally came back then.
Shelly told her, "We'll help you with Mr. DeShade today. I'll get in line now and Sandra can get in the middle, so when I'm done I can come over here and sit with him."
I said, "Only if you call me Dar. I'm not a mister, I'm Dar."
Sally giggled at that and told the others, "That's what he told me the only time I called him Mr. He did it to Janny and Erica too."
After that, Sandra and Shelly got into line to wait for their turns at the tryouts. Sally sat with me. We watched each girl as they took their turns, and soon Shelly was back with us.
The girls chatted while they waited for Sandra to take her turn. I didn't pay much attention to what they said as I watched the tryouts. There were some real good performances for the age group.
When Shelly got done with her turn, Sally said something about being nervous. I told her, "I know they look good, but I've watched you practice and swim. You'll do fine and better than fine. Just trust your self and don't worry about the others."
When Sally's turn came, I saw that I'd been right. She did a tumbling routine, and none of the others had done anything like it. I was sure that Sally and her 2 friends would make the team with no problems. The other 2 that I thought were sure wins were twins.
They had done their turn as a duo, and were quite good. Most of the rest were also good but I thought that my 3 were the best and the twins were next.
When the tryout ended, the director told the girls to go to the gym in the school and shower up. A few left right away, and she noted it on her clip board. Bad mistake, I thought.
Sally, Sandra and Shelly pushed me to the gym. The director came in behind us and called to us to wait a second. When she caught up, she asked about me. Sally explained what had happened to me in Iraq, and about the drug reaction.