Friday, December 24, 2004

 

A Must Read Email From An American Soldier!

The Banty Rooster (thebantyrooster.com)
December 24, 2004

A Must Read Email From An American Soldier!


Welcome Powerline and Instapundit readers! Glenn and the PL guys were very kind to link to this letter. They got a couple things wrong: first, I am Brian Mattson, and Cpt. Dan is my brother. I was emailing them through my father's email account (Richard) which is how they made the mistake. But at any rate, thanks for stopping in! Without further ado...

The below-referenced Captain Dan Mattson reports:

It made my day, and I'm pretty certain it made theirs too. It's Christmas Eve, though it didn't feel like it. There are some good decorations in the hospital, but we had no Christmas music in the OR today, and no snow on the ground. No nativity scenes or festive cheer in this part of the world. Then, after a routine for here but hardly routine day in the OR, my day was made. I'm referring to the interaction I witnessed and helped facilitate between a young injured soldier and a high ranking official. Here is how it happened:

I was reading foxnews.com at around noon when I told the anesthesiologist that "the Donald" was in town on a surprise visit. No, not Donald Trump, but Donald Rumsfeld. He laughed cynically and said no way would he come here. Well, at around 1600 I was in the OR and I was told that Rumsfeld was downstairs, and we could go down there if we wanted to. I was not in a position to leave, obviously.

Well, the timing worked out well, because I was taking my patient to the recovery room when we wheeled the stretcher through a mob of dignitaries, to include 3 and 4 star generals. I knew the Secretary was nearby, and it turns out he was in the ICU. The patient drew enough attention because of his bruised, banged up face that the 4 star came over to get his story from the surgeon. I was doing some charting by the bedside when Mr. Rumsfeld came over and heard the kid's story from the 4-star. Rumsfeld looked concerned and kind of kept his distance from the gruesome site. He said something like "bless his heart", as if talking around him.

That is when I, without any thought, piped in with "Sir, you can talk to him, he's awake." He told the soldier, named Rob, how proud he was of his service. The soldier was in a bit of disbelief, because he couldn't see with one eye patched and the other swollen shut. He said he wanted to talk to Rumsfeld. That's when I said "He's standing right to your left, Rob, that's his voice you hear. You can talk to him." The kid was nervous at that point, but sputtered out how honored he was to talk to him. Mr. Rumsfeld replied, "No, it's an honor for me to talk to you."

Then remarkably, the young soldier, who had just lost his left hand and right eye from an explosion, came to the defense of the Secretary of Defense, stating "Mr. Rumsfeld, I want you to know, that you are doing a fantastic job. I know that you are taking a lot of heat for the problems with getting armor for vehicles. I want you to know that things are vastly improved. Our vehicles are great, and I have never searched through junk piles for scrap metal."

At this point, Rumsfeld looked choked up, and I had a lump in my throat and and watery eyes. It was moving. What makes a man who has been so close to death, and maimed for life, come to the defense of the Army's highest ranking official? Loyalty, I dare say. Did Rob think Mr. Rumsfeld was having a self-esteem problem? In his greatest hour of need, his thoughts went to the emotional needs of another. I found it quite amazing, and moving. The Secretary took out a coin and gave it to a bystander for him, as if he didn't know he could touch him. Finally, the soldier said, "Man, Donald Rumsfeld, I wish I could shake his hand."

Even at that, I felt Mr. Rumsfeld needed some prompting, so I picked up the kid's arm and looked at the Secretary, and he reached out and took the kid's hand. After the entourage left, I took the coin and placed it in the soldiers hand, for him to feel and hold. I said, "that's not one you'll get every day." He was happy. I told the person caring for him to make certain that coin went with him to his room. I was assured that he would. I told Rob it was an honor to care for him, and then went on to do my next case. I'd like to see him tomorrow, but I heard he is flying out tonight.

I am grateful that I was placed in a position to help what could have been a mediocre interaction, fantastic. Judging by people's facial expressions, it was truly unique. Someone took a picture as this was happening, so once I get a hold of it, I'll send it along.

Update on Saturday, December 25, 2004

Several readers are quite in the dark about the "coin" Rumsfeld gave the soldier. Here Cpt. Mattson's explanation:

"...commanders often give a one of their coins, as opposed to an actual award, as a reward and morale booster to soldiers. The coins are quite heavy and have detailed designs and color. Each one is unique. They are usually inscribed with "Commander's Coin" or "Sergeant Major", or in this case "Secretary of Defense." I didn't get a great look at it, since it wasn't my prize, but it was certainly a treasure. "

Reader LZ also explains:

"The tradition of the coin giving dates back to Vietnam actually when soldiers would tote along a piece of "lucky" ordnance that had helped them or narrowly missed them. At first it was small arms ammunition, but this practice grew to much bigger and more dangerous ordnance as time wound on. It became then actually a dangerous practice because of the size and power of the ordnance being carried, so commanders banned it, and instead gave away metal coins emblazoned with the unit crest or something similar. The main purpose of the ordnance had been when going into a bar, you had to have your lucky piece or you had to buy drinks for all who did have it. The coins worked far better in this regard as they were smaller and not as lethal! So, if you go to a military bar, whip out a challenge coin and slam it down on the bar, those who lack one buy drinks! Obviously you have to be careful about this tradition... However, Commanders and units give out coins for this and as momentos for services rendered or special occasions. I happen to have 3 coins, one from USMC Plans and Operations Staff that is in the shape of a China Marine emblem, one from USNA, and one from the UMINN NROTC unit. Hope this helps. "

Other commentors have posted links where one can read more; apparently, "coins" are a no-brainer among the military culture. A "best-kept" secret, I guess!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?