15 Sep My Heroes Have Always Been Soldiers…
Ever since I was kid I always wanted to be a soldier. I’m sure it was a combination of countless hours of watching Rambo and/or Commando (sorry Arnold, Rambo won every time in the classic “who could beat who” argument). But more importantly it was the time I spent alone shifting through my father’s old Army duffle bag from Vietnam and looking through old photo albums of uncles, cousins, and relatives who had all served their county. Dad never talked much about Vietnam, but it was very evident the military was one of the sources of his strength. At ballgames during the national anthem as a kid I would look around at most people slouching not paying much attention…but if you saw my father he would pull ramrod straight and a stone look of strength and emotion would come across his face until the end of the National Anthem.
So it was pretty obvious the path I was going to take…did Army ROTC, received my commission and did my initial commitment with a couple deployments to Iraq thrown in. It was during these deployments that my love for the American soldier grew….I myself did nothing heroic and/or noteworthy, but to have witnessed the amazing feats of courage and heroism these men and women did will always stick with me and be a constant source of motivation and inspiration for me.
Fast forward to January of this year. I had been out of the Army for 2 1/2 years…but I would always keep tabs on friends and old Army buddies who were still serving. One of them was an old ROTC buddy of mine, Derick Carver. Carver was a freshman when I was a senior, I loved this kid from day one. He was a complete meathead, much like myself and seemed to be more concerned with beer consumption and lifting weights than first year studies. He was a hoss..the only thing that matched his strength was his heart and sense of humor. At a formal dining inn ceremony for ROTC, Derick shaved a receding hairline into his head and did a skit where he mocked me without mercy, but that’s just Derick..very special kid.
After a few years we lost contact but got back in touch as he was prepping to go to Afghanistan for his deployment. Some 5-6 years later after I had gotten out of the Army, Derick was now about to lead his first platoon into combat complete with Ranger tab on his shoulder and airborne wings on his chest, the true definition of a barrel-chested freedom fighter. After just a few weeks/months in country Derick and his unit were on a dismounted patrol hunting the Taliban when a daisy chained IED exploded. The IED was rigged for a vehicle, so just imagine the damage it could inflict upon dismounted personnel. Derick was caught dead square in the blast and would lose his leg, others heroes on that day would lose their lives from the explosion.
A few days later Derick would arrive in Walter Reed to begin the surgery/recovery/therapy/surgery/recovery/therapy process. I was fortunate enough to be in DC for work a few days after Derick arrived in Walter Reed. I was scared, I didn’t know the extent of the damage, I had heard various reports. I was worried…I didn’t know how Derick was doing or if he wanted company. My heart was heavy as I entered the door. I met his beautiful wife for the first time in Derick’s room. Just imagine what she had been going through..if you want to see what strength is all about, go to Walter Reed visit with the soldiers and visit with their wives.
Derick was in rough shape, he had his leg at the hip, had multiple broken bones, and there was a jar full of shrapnel the doctors had picked from his flesh. He had just gotten out of surgery when I saw him and he was a little foggy, he had the nerve to apologize to me for being a little out of it…but there was still that smile and light in his eyes. As he recounted his story to me, he remembered everything in vivid detail. As a sat in amazement and listened to his story….. wanting to offer some sort of help, someway to take away the pain…in classic Carver mode; Derick jumps to the point in the story of returning to the combat hospital;
Derick told me he looked at the Doc and asked; “Doc don’t bulls@#t me, how does it look”
Doc replied “Son, there is nothing we can do for your leg”.
Carver replied “no sh!t Doc, I don’t care about my leg but how does my d!ck look?!”
See what I mean about Derick? How can you not love this guy? He assured me this was only a temporary setback, he would most assuredly kick the recovery/therapy thing dead square in the ass, be back in no time, and he was going to spend the rest of his career helping other wounded warriors.
Fast forward 9 months and look at Derick now…
The guy is simply amazing and an inspiration to all. I am a lucky man, growing up I wanted to be a soldier, these guys were my heroes. In the Army I was surrounded by heroes, and now after getting out of the Army, my friend Carver is my hero and each and every time I step foot into PSKC, he is on my mind. When I want to quit, rest, stop…I think of Derick.
Not because I feel sorry for him, but because if he was there training with me he would be kicking twice the amount of ass with only one leg…..use this story as your source of strength and motivation. When you want to feel sorry for yourself, go a little slower, lift a little lighter, think of Derick…he didn’t let you down, the least you can do is return the favor.