Major Pulido, we can’t save your leg.” The surgeon’s words seemed to echo in my hospital room.
This was the fourth Army medical center I’d been transferred to since the explosion in Iraq. I’d had so many operations. Skin and bone grafts. Surgeries to repair my abdominal wounds, my left arm and hip. My shattered left leg. It wouldn’t heal. But why were the doctors giving up?
I’d gone into the military willing to sacrifice for our country, to give my life even, for a higher purpose. But I wasn’t ready for this. To be crippled at 36. I couldn’t do that to my wife, Karen, and our daughter, Kaitlin, only three. I was supposed to provide for my family, not be a burden.
That was how I’d been raised. To my parents, especially my father, there was only one honor higher than serving your family: serving your country.
Papi immigrated to the United States from Colombia. He cherished the freedoms he found here and was so proud to be an American. He’d joined the Army in 1970 and served for 30 years.
I would spit-shine Papi’s boots for my allowance. He taught me to polish them until I could see my reflection: thick, wavy hair, intense dark eyes. I looked just like him.
Saturday mornings he’d tell me stories about the Army–the camaraderie, the sacred bond between soldiers. “You never leave a man behind,” he said.
Sometimes in the news there’d be stories about vets who couldn’t get the services they required and ended up on the streets. “That’s not right,” he’d say. What was happening to me wasn’t right either.
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