After my retirement and my husband passing away I had a lot of free time on my hands. I felt like I was at a loss at what to do with my life. My husband was in the Military and served in the Korean War. I receive a pension from his Military career each month. One evening on the news I was watching reports of Afghanistan. The images that were shown on the television were shocking. I had seen this in the past but did not pay close attention to them. This was something I did not want to see. I am sure that many of you do not want to see a war and the causalities that are left behind. This particular evening I paid very close attention to the news report. That was when I knew what I needed to do to give a little back to my country for all they have given to me.
The next morning bright and early I was on the Internet searching for Veterans Hospital or rehabilitation centers in my area. I wanted to find a way to visit these facilities and offer my services as a volunteer. I located a toll free number to phone for information on becoming a volunteer at one of these facilities. I called the number and the nicest young man answered the phone. He was so friendly and helpful and answered all of my questions. He sent me information to my email account to read. He even offered me his name and when hanging up the phone said "If you ever want to talk again and need more information please ask for me. It will be a pleasure to help you again".
I spent several days reading the information sent to me. I had a lot of different possibilities of how I could volunteer at a Veterans Hospital. I was not sure what type of position they would offer a person of my age. I located the phone number for the Veterans Hospital close to my home. I phoned the hospital and spoke with the representative in charge of the volunteers. She was so helpful on the phone and arranged a meeting the next morning at the hospital.
The meeting was very informative and answered all of my questions. I was taken on a tour of the facility and shown the different areas I could volunteer in. When I entered the ward of the wounded servicemen my heart started to beat rapidly and tears formed in my eyes. It was all I could do to not break down crying in front of all these men. I decided then that was where I was needed. I was given my answer at this moment to reach out and help these men recover and live a full life again. I was escorted back to the office and signed all the papers to start volunteering at the hospital.
My first day of volunteer work was so rewarding and yet so heartbreaking. I was introduced to some of the wounded servicemen and spent time talking with them. One young man caught my interests and my heart reached out to him. I spent 4 hours sitting by his bed talking with him. He was only 23 years old and was wounded by a bomb in Afghanistan. He was returned home to America minus his two legs and part of one arm. During our conversation he explained to me he still does not know how he lived through that bomb. At times the tears in his eyes told me that he wished he had not.
During the next several months I made a visit to the hospital to sit by his bed and talk to him each day. After the first week he asked if he could call me Grandma Sinclair and I was flattered. His wounds were healing but his heart was crushed. He was worried how he would ever be able to survive in this condition. I look forward to my daily visit with this young man. I saw the progress he was making and could see I was making a difference. His moral started to improve and he was accepting the loss of his limbs. During some of our visits the nurses would help him into a wheelchair and I would roll him outside to sit in the sun. We spent many happy hours talking and sharing life experiences. He was so interested in my life and was curious why I wanted to volunteer at the hospital. I told him of my recent loss and how I wanted to give back something to the service men that served our country.
After four months of visiting with this solider he was fitted for an artificial arm. This was the first stage of his recovery process. The young man still had a long way to go and a lot of work ahead of him. He spent several hours a day in physical therapy learning how to adjust to his artificial arm. I arranged my visits around his therapy sessions. Each day he would show me the progress he was making with his artificial arm. I had wished so hard I could be there during his therapy session. I had not signed up for this type of volunteer work and was not permitted in the therapy room.
In late June when I made my daily visit to the hospital I was given a surprise. This young man arranged for me to attend his therapy sessions. He made a special request with the hospital that allowed me to be with him during his therapy. I was overwhelmed and deeply touched that he wanted me there to see his progress. The doctors at the hospital told me that I had made a major impact on this man's life and if it was not for my caring affection they were not sure he would be doing as well as he was now.
By the end of July he had adapted to his artificial arm and using his arm with no problems. Now comes the hard part of this young man's recovery. He has adapted to his arm now it was time to fit him for artificial legs. He was very scared and said he did not think he could go through anymore. He was giving up hope once again. I encouraged him to try the artificial legs and give them a chance. The day his legs arrived I was at the hospital early to be with him. When they attached his legs he broke down crying. He said he could not stand to see this metal on him any longer and he wanted to die. He explained to me he was sorry but this was no way to live.
I broke down crying and almost left the hospital. Then I got angry and said to myself this is not going to happen. I looked him straight in the eye and said to him "you are not giving up on me now young man. Do you hear me? I am Grandma Sinclair and as long as I am here you will learn how to use these legs and walk again". He was in shock I had spoken to him like I did and stopped crying and said to me "OK Grandma I will". The next few months were very difficult. There was a lot of crying taking place during therapy sessions and a lot of failure at the same time. For this man it was harder for him to learn how to use his legs. On the bars for support he only had one good arm and one artificial. There were many times he fell and had to be picked up again. Each fall made him stronger and I was right behind him pushing him all the way.
During one of his sessions he was so frustrated from falling. He wanted to end the session early and return to his room. I refused to allow this one. I told him to get back up. I then walked inside the parallel bars and stood in the middle. I ordered him with my stern voice to walk towards me. I told him if he fell on top of me he would hurt me. He was scared and afraid to move at first. Then he took his first step, then another, and before you knew it he had reached me. I gave him a small kiss on his cheek and then walked to the end of the bars. I ordered him to walk towards me. He made it the entire length of the bars without falling once. I feel the reason he did this was because he was not thinking about his legs any longer but concentrating on making it to where I was standing.
This day called for a celebration. I knew he could not leave the hospital so I called a delivery service and ordered food. The food arrived at the hospital and we sat outside on the patio in the sun eating and talking. This was the most rewarding days of my volunteer work so far. The next day the Doctor's asked me to have him walk towards me. This became a daily routine in his recovery.
The happiest day was when I saw this young man get fully dressed in his uniform and walk out of the hospital. We have kept in touch over the last year and he came to visit me often. Now I am living in France to be close to my family that is stationed here. We will be returning back to America in a few months and I can not wait. I look forward to seeing this young soldier again and visiting with him. He has made such an impact on my life and I feel like I did the same for him.
There are many more young men just like him waiting for me back in America. On my return to the States I will pick up where I left off. I look forward to returning to the hospital and helping other young soldiers regain their life again. The rewards I receive from volunteering are so heart warming and rewarding. I miss my days at the hospital and look forward to returning there soon. Each one of us can make a difference for anyone with a disability. All we have to do is open our hearts and give moral support. The rewards you will receive will brighten each day of your lives.