Commentary

May 30, 2014

What I learned from amputees: it wasn’t what I expected

Chaplain (Maj.) Jeff Granger
65th Air Base Wing Chapel

LAJES FIELD, Azores — A number of years ago, I had the privilege to serve as a chaplain in a training program at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, formerly known as Brooke General Hospital.

The program included rotations through a number of different sections on the medical campus.

I served two rotations at the Center for the Intrepid, a world-class rehabilitation center. Due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I met a number of amputees and burn survivors who were adjusting to life after their injuries.

I was new to the hospital ministry and had a lot to learn. As their chaplain, I assumed that my role with these men and women would be to help them through the grief experienced from their loss. My first week there, I felt like I was a visitor at a funeral parlor – you know the awkward feeling you get there? You realize it’s important to be there but you don’t really know what to say. I was uncomfortable. But, I soon learned my preconceptions were actually misconceptions.

These men and women at the Center for the Intrepid were determined to go on with life and had similar concerns to others I have met and counseled. Their concerns included navigating the military medical system, planning for life after the military, waiting for medical evaluation board determinations and relationship issues that began growing even before the deployment that was cut short.

Some were celebrating life events; one had recently become engaged, and one man was home to see his child who was born while he was deployed. These service members all faced the normal challenges that are common in our military communities.

At the Center for the Intrepid, adjusting to life’s newest challenges was a shared experience.

I remember a particular conversation with a group of amputees who were sharing what it was like getting used to the new normal. One mentioned that he had gotten out of bed at night and forgotten he was missing a leg and fell down. As others chuckled, many confessed they had done the same. It seems it’s a rite of passage for those who lose a leg. I wouldn’t have expected to hear them laughing together, but the conversations flowed very naturally between these wounded warriors. The conversation illustrated for me the attitude they shared – these men and women were facing a challenge, not dealing with defeat.

I read a text on positive psychology that year and it referenced a study to understand how cancer patients dealt with grief. Interestingly, the researchers encountered a problem: in their cancer treatment center, they were unable to find a large enough sample of patients struggling with grief. Just the opposite was true of their population: these patients became stronger as they focused their energies and rearranged their lives to battle cancer. Extraneous activities that may amuse but ultimately distract from meaningful life were abandoned. Significant relationships too often neglected when life is smooth quickly become a high priority and these relationships become closer and more meaningful.

Just like the cancer patient study, my experience with wounded warriors at the Center for the Intrepid proved uniquely instructive.

I learned that, oddly enough, life’s challenges can actually make life richer and more fulfilling.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
U.S. Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis

Red Flag offers B-52 crews training that ‘can’t be beat’

U.S. Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis A B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 69th Bomb Squadon, Minot Air Force Base, N.D., taxis for take off during Red Flag 15-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 15. T...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle

‘Thunder’ rolls at Fort Irwin

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle Airmen assigned to the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., look on as an A-10 Thunderbolt II departs from the National Training Center at Fort I...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd

Hill activates their first F-35 fighter squadron

U.S. Air Force photo by Alex R. Lloyd Lt. Col. George R. Watkins addresses the audience and squadron members during the 34th Fighter Squadron activation ceremony July 17 at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The 34th FS will be the fir...
 

 

Nellis celebrates successful Vacation Bible School

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The Nellis Chapel has done it again with the 18th and best year of Vacation Bible School ever. This year’s theme of Science, provided by Gospel Light’s Son Sparks Labs, proved to be engaging and fun for all 192 children and volunteers. Discovering the light of God in a...
 
 

The unseen leader

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho — Over the years, I’ve seen many leaders come and go. The ones I admired, I took note of the traits I wished I had, as well as the ones I already possessed. It took me a long time to realize some of my personal and professional weaknesses were...
 
 

Donald Rumsfeld visits Nellis

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Kleinholz Former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld interacts with a service member during a book signing and meet-and-greet at the Base Exchange, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 16, 2015. Rumsfeld is the youngest and oldest individual ever to sit in the Defense Secretary position,...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>