One dinky column is certainly not even close to enough to convey my personal experience from last week. I try not to ever get too political here, either. Humankind and the act of being human to each other piques my interest much more than ranting a personal opinion. But sometimes I just gotta say my piece.
I am honored to be a guy from a rock band that means or has meant something to some people. Sometimes this fact hits me at gigs. Other times, I get a cool "dude-nod" from some person on the street or at an airport. And sometimes it is much, much more than just me realizing that some people like the rock.
Last week, I was given the chance to visit Walter Reed/Bethesda Hospital in Washington, D.C., in joint concert with the Wounded Warriors, the USO, and Monster Energy Drink. These are the times when being from a rock band transcends all of the dumb stereotypes and just gets plain real.A couple of years ago, I had written here about our VA Hospital here in Seattle, and about the chance my band Loaded got to visit some ailing soldiers there. There is a connection we all have as humans, and that connection sometimes can get forgotten or pushed back for when we aren't "so busy" or whatever. There are some guys up there, I found, who may feel a bit forgotten. This goes way beyond one's personal views on politics and ideals -- this is about being a citizen of the world and taking care of your brother (in my view, anyhow).
This "war" in Afghanistan is still raging on. Yes. Our young people are still getting injured, killed, and/or badly maimed in the name of ridding the world of the Taliban over there. Is that the mission now?
Uh. President Obama. Let's get the fuck out of there now.
I've also written here before of my good buddy Tim Medvetz and his personal goal to get a different veteran/amputee to the summit of the world's seven highest mountains. I am glad to report that Tim and Marine Staff Seargant Mark Zambone have summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. They got to the top of that peak two Mondays ago, and Mark had trained so damn hard for this. Mark Zambone was a "Hurt Locker" guy in Afghanistan, and got hit by a bomb on his fifth deployment. Zambone knew he was good at his job, and just wanted to keep people out of harm's way. Mark is now a double-leg amputee above the knees, but has not seemed to miss a beat in his goal of being a leader. Inspiring human stuff.
I got to see some dudes last Friday in the "Amputee Alley" section of Walter Reed. The moniker is morose, but fitting. These young people are fresh from the battlefield, and the strides in onsite triage have escalated right along with the caginess and stealth of IED's and suicide-bombers.
These late-teen and early-20-something soldiers have seen the horror of war, and are dealing with the nightmare of combat, alongside the new battle with a missing limb or more.
I met a young man from New Mexico who had been amputated from above the belly-button.
President Obama: Make our withdrawal from Afghanistan as important as the economy and health care. My two cents.
Afghanistan and the U.S. have the strangest relationship. We helped them try and stave off the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. We built out the same cave system that we would later try and rout bin Laden from. We have been friends with the citizens of this country. We were heroes. Bin Laden is dead, right? The Taliban will seemingly never go away, but they have always kind of been around. I thought it was al Qaida that we were after.
I know that missions can change or whatever, but it is a hard thing to reconcile when you go and see the human damage. On both sides, I am sure.
But back to Walter Reed and the human spirit. You just get the overall feeling that these guys are going to be OK somehow. They have already seemingly come to grips with their different situations, and some even joked with me about their different incidents. One guy from the 82nd Airborne told me that he asked his jumpmaster if his being thrown 50 feet through the air counted as a jump from the plane. You kind of end up in awe of the human spirit with guys like these that I met.
I was truly honored to be in their presence.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Try to get up to your local VA. Pay a visit to some young people who may very well be in a terrible fight right now. Don't let them feel like they are doing it alone. If you are schoolteacher, maybe have your kids paint some pictures and send them up. If you are a rock band, go up there and bring your acoustic guitars and band T-shirts.
And even though they'd probably rather fly under the radar, I want to thank Monster Energy, Walter Reed, the U.S.O., and all those soldiers . . . for all their relentless service. Makes me glad to be a part of this human race.