I took the opportunity to write something the other evening, and I wanted to share it with you. It was quite synchronistic given the “Sack Lunch” email that follows (below).
This war has produced over one-million new veterans, and hundreds of thousands continue to serve. Tens of thousands will sleep on the ground tonight, praying to stay alive but willing to do what is asked of them, and comforted only by the knowledge that we support them, love them, and wish they were safe at home.
I think it appropriate at this moment to point out that the individual in story, Rhys, is a former Navy Corpsman. He worked for a very “special” SEAL unit (you have seen them on television with Pirates). He has deployed to combat (several times), has lost friends while trying to save their lives with medical aide (his job), and he has engaged the enemy. He is 27 years old, which means he and his country have been at war for a third of his life, and he has focused on nothing but war for 8.5 years. He is my colleague and because of what we do, his entire life is focused on right action at the point of wounding on the battlefield.
On Tuesday night, very late, our young friend Rhys told a story that inspired me to be a better person.
He said, that with all of his air miles he is frequently upgraded to business or first class. I was thinking, “Yeah, me too. It is so nice when you can get it, and I usually scramble to be first in the seat, grab a drink, sit back and relax while all the rest of the cattle are boarding.”
Really quite ridiculous and selfish.
Rhys interrupted my thought as he continued his story. Anytime he is upgraded he will look for a uniformed service member boarding the plane, and he will exchange tickets with them. He said this with tears in his eyes-he really meant it. He said, “It is the least I can do for them. The very fact I am on that plane, and in that seat is because of them”.
I suddenly felt very small and forgetful. Like so many of this “next great generation” I was inspired by his example and in awe of his insight and respect.
The next day, a friend and I were upgraded to first class on the flight from Tampa to Chicago. I looked at him as we sat down and grabbed a glass of orange juice, “You know, if anybody in a uniform walks through that door, I am giving them my seat”. He replied, “I know, if that happens we are giving away two seats today”. Not to spoil the story, but nobody in uniform walked through the door. We traveled first class.
I kept thinking to myself about the gesture Rhys made as a matter of routine and how absolutely powerful it was for a young man to have such wisdom and compassion. I could not get over how moving it was. Not that it is so out of this world unthinkable-but I have never thought to do it. Now and forever more-I will be thinking it, and more importantly acting on it.
This brings me to the next part of the story, because there is a leg from Chicago to San Diego. So, I put it out there, “If there is a uniform, it gets my seat”. Only problem is, I didn’t have a seat in first class from Chicago. I was on the wait list, and I was five or six passengers down-not much chance of it on a sold out aircraft. I thought, “Next time”.
I walked to the gate, people were piled up everywhere waiting to get on the plane. As I approached the mob I heard my name being called, “I’m getting a first class seat!” I did…I stood there with a grin on my face while the agent printed my ticket, “3B” for me. Then, I heard a baby crying. I looked to my left and a young mother stood at the counter trying to quiet the child with a frantic look on her face. Another gate agent was desperately trying to find her a seat on an already overbooked aircraft of worried passengers. “3B,” that beautiful golden colored ticket began burning my hand. I knew I had to give it up. I asked the gate agent, “If I give you this, will you give it to this mother and her child?” The response (with a smile) “Yes, and I will even give you another seat, how’s 31C work for you?”
Okay, “31C” for me.
I shuffled to the back, stowed my gear and sat down in a hot stuffy plane.
I pecked out a few emails and wished I could sleep through the 4.5 hour flight. I still don’t understand why it takes that long to get to San Diego from Chicago. To make matters worse, the in-flight movie was “Elf” which I didn’t like when it first came out…seven years ago. Now I was going to be forced to watch it for what must be the 17th time.
About thirty minutes into the flight..while watching Elf, the Purser makes an intercom request, “…we have an extremely ill passenger and we need to know if there are any physicians onboard the aircraft…please ring your call button”. No response.
Watching Elf, a few minutes later, “…is there a nurse, or EMT, or a paramedic on board? Please ring your call button.” No response.
Watching Elf, a few minutes later, “…is there ANYONE with ANY medical training or experience onboard? Please ring your call button…” No response.
I think, “Well, I probably qualify for the last category, and no one else is moving.” I get up and walk to the back of the plane…it didn’t take long from 31C.
There on the floor of the plane was a flight attendant (off duty) flying home for Christmas, who had taken ill. She lay there, in the fetal position, vomit on the front and poop down the back of her legs. “What happened?” I asked. The other flight attendant filled me in, “She has had 35 diarrheic bowel movements in the last 4 hours, 4 since she got on the plane, and she just doubled up on the floor after she came out of the lavatory. “Okay…” I’m thinking, “…not good, but that explains what I’m looking at.”
All the stuff from days gone by (really gone by) as well as recent training courses; every story, every lecture, every example and class came back. I knew what to do… Okay, I know it wasn’t like she was missing legs or anything, but it was ugly and messy.
To shorten this part of the story, I took charge, got her cleaned up, got a bag for her to vomit in (instead of her sweater), got her warmed, got warm water into her (which she vomited again), coordinated with the Purser who was in contact a physician on the ground, got them to open the med case, got vitals, got permission to administer 25ml of phenergan IM (from the case)–and only dropped the ampoule once trying to open it, and spent the rest of the flight attending to “my patient”. She did well, obviously dehydrated, slept a little, vomited on my hand (and apologized) didn’t manage too well with the water-but was stable and comfortable until landing.
I handed her off to two SD paramedics, gave a version of a 9-line report, grabbed my gear and deplaned.
There’s more…and a lesson.
As we deplaned, an elderly woman in front of me struggled with her roll on.
It was really more like a drag-on. I carried it for her (I know you’re thinking “stop” with the story already…but it really did happen this way).
As we waited for bags to come off the carrousel, I tried to make conversation. “What brings you to San Diego?”
“My nephew is going to become a Marine on Friday, he is graduating from MCRD”.
Now I am invincible… “Let me get something for you to give him.” I reach into my bag and take the new key fob I’d just purchased from SOMA (Special Operations Medical Association). I purchased it the morning before, and I already had it on my key ring. I handed it to her and said, “This is the symbol of a great number of men and women who devote their lives to the service your nephew is now entering. The people who are behind this organization will be there to care for him if he is injured, they will fight for him and provide for him if ever he needs it. They are an amazing group of people in uniform, and they stand beside your young Marine; if he gets hurt, they will be there. You take this and give it to him on Friday. You tell him everyone who stands behind this symbol gives it to him under one condition…that he brings it back home personally, safe and sound.”
She cried…and that made me cry. “He has never had anything like this” she said. My husband and I just adopted him last year, his father is gone, and his mother is too ill to care for him, even to travel to his graduation, we have been taking care of him since he was 15, and he has lived a really horrible and troubled life. All he has ever wanted to be is a Marine, and this will mean so much to him.”
It was a good and meaningful day.
The lessons for me:
If you put it out there, it will come to you. Remember, this all started with Rhys’ example. That example started my day with an “intention” to be of service, to do something great. God gave me every opportunity, because I asked.
If you turn your heart to the service of others and God, you will live a life of infinite promise and possibility. How many more chances could I have been given? How much fuller could my life be on this day?
If you live, even for a moment, with the full knowledge and acceptance of, “Thy will be done…” and “Ask and ye shall receive…” your life will be filled with miracles.
There is a formula for life and we all know it; deep in our hearts we know it. Sometimes the world just steals us away and we stop listening…we ignore what we know is good and right. It is a choice. It has been some time since I’ve had a day like this…because I had forgotten what is possible. Thanks to one young man’s example…I remembered to ask and receive.
Now read the story (attached) from a great ER doc who works with me frequently.
Subject: SACK LUNCHES
(This one gives lot’s of goosebumps….)
The Sack Lunches:
I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight. ‘I’m glad I have a good book to read. Perhaps I will get a short nap,’ I thought.
Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation.
‘Where are you headed?’ I asked the soldier seated nearest to me. ‘Petawawa. We’ll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we’re being deployed to Afghanistan. After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached the east, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time…
As I reached for my wallet, I overheard a soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. ‘No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn’t be worth five bucks. I’ll wait till we get to base.’ His friend agreed.
I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. ‘Take a lunch to all those soldiers.’ She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. ‘My son was a soldier in Iraq ; it’s almost like you are doing it for him.’ Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, ‘Which do you like best – beef or chicken? ‘Chicken,’ I replied, wondering why she asked. She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class.
‘This is your thanks..’ After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room. A man stopped me. ‘I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.’ He handed me twenty-five dollars. Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand and said, ‘I want to shake your hand.’ Quickly unfastening my seatbelt I stood and took the Captain’s hand. With a booming voice he said, ‘I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.’ I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.
Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.
When we landed I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars!
Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base.I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars. ‘It will take you some time to reach the base.. It will be about time for a sandwich. God Bless You.’
Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers.
As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals. It seemed so little…
A veteran is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America’ for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.’
That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.’ May God give you the strength and courage to pass this along to everyone on your email buddy list….
I JUST DID.
*****End of Forwarded Message*****