Last week I learned more then I cared to about the liver, pancreas and gallbladder. Extreme abdominal pain put me in the Rockdale Medical Center Emergency Room where I was diagnosed, almost immediately, with pancreatitis. Pancreatitis has a 30 percent fatality rate with the initial treatment stated as, “We plan to starve you.”
And starve me they did, to rest an inflamed pancreas and irritated liver. Morphine reduced the pain but not the problem. Once things “calmed down,” a hunt and peck endoscope procedure failed to find a favorable area to slice open the pancreatic ampulla for bile drainage. However, the hunting and pecking discovered a gallstone blocking the bile duct from the pancreas and liver. Bingo! The gallstone was eliminated then the following afternoon laparoscopic surgery removed the troublesome gallbladder. The liver and pancreas and surgeons and nurses and Pete are now happy campers. Stick a few bandages on the incisions and let me get the heck outa here!
Home, sweet home
We open the screen door and spotted a large manila envelope propped against the front door. The return address identified the sender as DMS on East Fairview Road in Stockbridge — DMS meaning Davis Middle School. The envelope was jam-packed with personalized letters and cards from middle-schoolers thanking me and all veterans for their service and for participating in another Veterans Day Patriotic Program which included a Huey helicopter, a performance by Rosie the Riveter, a flyover by three Stearman biplanes, and a letter of appreciation from U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson.
As I absorbed the phraseology in the cards and letters I became teary-eyed and felt a big lump in my throat. Perhaps, just perhaps, the lyrics written by middle-schoolers rendered Vietnam worth the effort. Thus, the students’ comments will finish this story since their expressions of gratitude to all veterans are superior to anything I could have come up with.
Sydkni Haley: “Dear Veterans, thank you for being brave enough to fight for our country. Not many people would do that. You all are amazing at what you do. Keep going, and don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you love! Words to describe S.O.L.D.I.E.R. - Sincere, Outstanding, Loving, Daring, Incredible, Exciting, and Reliable.”
Rylee Breese: “Roses are red, Violets are blue, you are one that served, and we thank you. Dear Veterans, thank you for fighting for our country. The USA and its citizens owe you its gratitude.”
Navione White: “Thank you soldiers for serving our country and being our heroes. Your fellow citizen, Navione White.”
E.B. Spivey: “Dear Veterans, thank you so much for helping our country. We would all probably be dead without you.
Not only is it hard physically to be in the service, but also emotionally hard. You left your family and friends to be a soldier, and for that I appreciate you. I bet your loved ones could not wait to see you.”
No Signature: “Dear Veterans, in my dictionary you’re the awesomest persons in the United States of America. I guess that makes sense, and hopefully it does. Okay, I have a joke: why aren’t there any knock-knock jokes about America? Because freedom rings? Get it? I crack myself up. But the only reason that joke is true, is because of you. Oh, that rhymes. Oh, I’m good. Thank you.”
Emma Moon: “Thank you for your wonderful service to our country, and thank you for coming out to our school and speaking to us about our very important veterans. P.S. My great uncle was in WWII and he’s still alive at 93 today.”
Sydney Palmer: “Dear Veterans, first of all how are you? I hope you’re great because I am. Do you know why?
Because you protect me. You keep me safe and you give us our freedom. You have sacrificed your life so that we may have better ones. I can only imagine what you have gone through. Leaving your family and friends behind so that people who don’t even know you can be protected. I truly owe you a debt of gratitude for protecting my country, my family, and my freedom.”
Danielle W: “Thank you for speaking at our school. Your friend, DMS orchestra member, Danielle W.”
Kyla S.: “Thank you for everything you’ve done for our country. You fought strong to help our country and all I want to say is ‘thank you’ for everything you have done.”
Mackenzie: “Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light. Thank you, Veterans, you have kept me and my country safe. You are brave by risking your life for people like me whom you don’t even know. So I want to say thank you. And I will. Thank you.”
No Signature: “I thank you for your service. At ease, soldier!”
Only from the mouths of babes
Veterans are ‘at ease’ these days, plus we’re ‘at ease’ with the knowledge that the vast majority of Americans fully support our service and sacrifices. It is nice to be appreciated and even nicer to be respected.
When discussing cards and letters for military personnel, their location doesn’t matter, be it a sweltering jungle, the hot sands of Iraq or a cold Afghan mountain top, a soldier 10,000 miles from home looks forward to any type of correspondence from the ‘real world’. Even with access to the internet, many of our current soldiers spend long deployments in the solitary hell of no contact, no mail, and no hope of reading words of encouragement.
Make a soldier smile this Christmas. Contact your local Red Cross office to discuss their ‘Holiday Mail for Heroes’ program then send a letter or card to a soldier per the Red Cross instructions. UPS and the US Postal Service DO NOT deliver mail addressed to ‘Any Service Member, or ‘Any Wounded Veteran’ nor does Walter Reed Army Hospital accept letters or cards any longer addressed in such a manner.
Take time this year to brighten Christmas with a card full of ‘make me feel good’ emotion, for you and a soldier. These men and women of the United States military, less than 1 percent of our population, are doing a job very few others are willing to accept or consider. Send a card this year; the recipients have earned it.
Thank you to the students at General Ray Davis Middle School. You are a great assembly of great American young people.
Pete Mecca is a Vietnam veteran, columnist and freelance writer. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or aveteransstory.us.