I know a man that fought in Vietnam. He was the radioman in his platoon. The radioman would follow second in line to the platoon leader so that the radio was close by. One steamy morning as the platoon moved single file through the jungle, the platoon leader tripped a booby trap that was made from an American hand grenade with a four-second delay.
Four seconds… one… two… three… four…
It was just enough time for the radioman to pass the center of the coming explosion. The man behind him was killed instantly as he took the full force of the detonation in the face. The radioman was hit from behind. The radio pack he carried was shredded as the shrapnel tore through it. The pack took the brunt of the damage, protecting his back and saving his life, but his legs were not so lucky. He remembers flipping in the air to land in the hole created by the grenade. Looking down, still conscious, he found himself in a pool of his own blood. His legs had been shredded, much like the radio pack.
He drifted in and out of consciousness as doctors fought hard to save his life. He heard them talk about amputation but no, they would try and save his legs. The doctors tried a new type of skin graph as part of the reconstruction. It worked, but the doctors said he would never walk again. After he started walking, the doctors said he would wear braces and use a cane for the rest of his life.
I remember when he took those braces off. I remember when he left the cane behind. I remember watching him water-ski when I was still too young to understand what a miracle it was. However, a few years later as I drove the boat one sunny afternoon, I had begun to grasp a bit of how much effort it took for my father to get up on one ski and slalom for the first time. Last I heard, the doctors said he would be in a wheel chair by the age of fifty. My father is nearly 20 years past fifty now, and while his walk is not very straight, it is certainly very inspiring.
I would like to thank my father and all the veterans that have fought for this country, and thank you Radio Man for doing your duty and proving to me that no one can tell you what can or can’t be done!