I know him well. He lay in the ICU bed with a concerned look. I approach and he makes eye contact. I must have looked worried because he studied me intensely. I say, Mr S, “I am sorry to see you here.”
We talk, he tells me the story. I knew the story beforehand. His chart was all bad news. He is an octogenarian (medical speak for a person in their 80’s.) Although, my office patients await, I sit, pause and present the “y” in the road. Neither way is good.
Mr S pauses and I wait. He begins: “I was drafted at age 18 to fight in WWII. They sent me to Europe with an M1 rifle. Initially, I was scared, really scared. Soon, as my friends were killed, I became angry. Angry at the situation. This made me a better soldier, as I realized that I would be killed as well. Accepting the inevitable gave me peace. Once home, I stayed in the service and was subsequently sent to Korea for 2 years. It was rough. I wouldn’t trade these experiences, but if given the choice, I would not go through them again. You know, Doc, these experiences have prepared me well for the choices I have to make now.”
Pause, silence. I stand. I shake his hand and hold on longer than usual. “We can talk more tomorrow,-thank you” I say.
My stomach tightens a bit. A poignant moment during the rush to get hospital rounds done before the grind of the office.
I thought of our many 18 year old friends. It is hard to imagine them drafted to the Army and sent to war with an M1 rifle. Killers they are not.
Proud to be an American-for sure.