My husband’s injuries included 12 broken ribs, 3 broken vertebrae, a gash in the back of his head 8 stitches wide, shrapnel lodged between one eye socket and his nose and some beneath his left shoulder blade. Fortunately, he was able to call me from the hospital in Ballad and tell me the news himself. I will always be grateful for that, among so many other things about that day that could have been terribly different. Many others in nearly identical explosions to my husband’s have lost limbs or their lives. There is no logical explanation for why he is still here, why he has all his extremities, why, even though he spent a year recovering, undergoing multiple MRIs to rule out TBI and rehabilitating his back that will, for the rest of his life, cause pain, he is able to function normally.
On the first anniversary of my husband’s “Alive Day”, the medic on his team who was the first to reach him called. I remember that we were giving our daughter a bath. I remember that when I handed him the phone, he stepped out into the hall to talk, that it was hard to hear him over the splashing and happy screeching, that he was speaking in a very low voice, anyway. I know that whatever the words were that passed between them, they were important, and for a flicker of a moment, I could understand the bonds that form between those who answer the call to protect this country, and each other, with their lives. It is a connection that has no counterpart in the civilian world.
How service members who have an “Alive Day” choose to recognize it is deeply personal. Some hold big parties with their friends and families, and some choose to spend it quietly, perhaps reflecting on the events that nearly led to their demises, perhaps choosing not to think about it at all, to just move forward in the most positive way that they can. Some do extraordinary things, like Lt Brad Snyder, who was blinded by an IED in Afghanistan, and went on to win gold in 100 and 400-meter freestyle in the 2012 Summer Paralympics, just one year after losing his sight.