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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Real Change

Things can change.

For some, the day just starts normal, then, it all goes badly wrong. Most don’t survive this. Some do, but everything is different.

Airman Colton Read was born just one year before my own son. I’ve never met him. But there are so many fine servicemen and women out there today we will never meet. They’re out there, doing their best for us, who live blissfully ignorant of their sacrifices and who carry on our daily routines with the mantra “that’s their job,” or “I don’t want to think about it.”

But you have to.

You have to give these sacrifices more than just a passing thought. You need to know that there are flag-draped caskets rolling off aircraft all the time – even when our President is not there, standing at attention in the night, to salute them. And there are men and women even here, who are facing impossible situations and just trying to survive them.

These are people like Airman Read. The 20-year-old went into a routine surgery in July to deal with a problem with his gallbladder, but a slip of the knife by the Air Force doc, nicked the aorta and shut the blood flow off to his legs. It was all chalked up to “human error,” but that didn’t change things for Read. By the next day, doctors at Travis AFB’s David Grant Medical Center had amputated both legs.

Medical malpractice doesn’t apply due to federal law, so the newlywed and his wife have no recourse but to rely on the Service to take care of them.

As an image analyst, Read, may or may not, be medically discharged, but as of October 29, the man’s blog had a positive entry in it. He reported the first time he’d been able to walk, albeit with a walker, but he is progressing. He also had his first wheelchair basketball practice.

Still, doctors are afraid he might have an infection in his bones, and so the fight for Colton Read continues.

Things can change. Everything you know, and everything you think you know, can change in a heartbeat, and suddenly the world is different. When you put on the country’s uniform, though, perhaps it gives you strength. Maybe it is a greater kind of magic. So many people are asked to give away and overcome so much, for the rest of us to live out our days in security, how else could it be explained?

Maybe it is simply because they are themselves, strong. They are good and strong and true – even when the nightmares come, even when they take your limbs while you sleep, even when the world fades to grey and somewhere in the distance a perfect disk of light can be glimpsed.

Even beyond this life, and beyond it all. Even beyond change itself.

Strength remains.

If you want to help Airman Read and his family, see his website at the link at the top of this blog.

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