Understanding the warrior spirit
I opened my eyes. I knew I wasn’t dead, not yet, anyway. The world came into view. For a second, I thought the enemy had stopped firing at us. They hadn’t. We were all deaf from the RPG blast.[i] It had detonated two feet from my face. My left arm was burning. I looked down and saw what was left of it. It was blown off about midforearm. I could see my jagged, splintered bones jutting out from a bloody, scorched, flayed-open stump. I knew I had lost my left hand.
My right hand was killing me. I raised it up in front of my face to get a good look at it. It was blown off at the base of my hand. There were a few uneven bone fragments sticking out where my palm used to be. It looked as if some of the skin that used to be my hand was dangling, shredded to pieces like someone had removed all the bone and flesh from inside. It hung like an empty glove that had gone a few rounds with a garbage disposal. I thought, “Fuck, both of them!”
I wasn’t done assessing the situation, though. I looked down and saw that my left leg was blown wide open, my femur split in half like a jagged, splintered water hose. It pumped out huge amounts of blood with every heartbeat. Imagine a coffee cup full of blood, hot blood. Now imagine that every time your heart beats, you toss about that much blood out of your cup and down your thigh. The coffee cup would fill up again in between heartbeats. I knew I only had so many cups of coffee left in me.
My leg had almost been blown in half. I took one look at the gleaming white bone sticking out of a sea of red, and I knew I was dead if I didn’t stop that bleeding. How was I going to get a tourniquet on my leg and both arms when I didn’t have hands? The fight wasn’t over yet. I knew I needed to use my head.
Trauma sucks. Even for combat veterans. I don’t think anyone would disagree. I do, however, think combat veterans have unique resiliency and fortitude to deal with trauma. Somewhere along the line, I feel America’s perspective changed towards combat-wounded veterans and the trauma we experienced. Where once we were venerated, now we are often pitied. I speak from personal experience. I was no stranger to war on the day that I lost my arms and nearly bled to death, in Fallujah, Iraq. I was injured during my second deployment to Iraq, having taken part in the invasion in 2003 prior to that. There wasn’t much I hadn’t seen or experienced by then.
I remember waking up in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) Bethesda Maryland Hospital. I think the ICU staff thought I had sustained a serious head trauma because of my attitude. I was happy. Too happy. It didn’t make sense to them, and I don’t blame them for being confused. Hell, I used to tell my teammates that if I ever lost an arm or a leg, they should go ahead and put me out of my misery.
From the outside looking in, I should have been devastated. Both my hands were blown off completely. My left leg was wrapped in plastic, the tissue of my thigh and shin shredded to oblivion. Skin grafts were in the near future for me. No less than six suction tubes connected me to the wall. I could see my injuries, and I could remember every bit of the sights, sounds, and pain associated with taking a direct hit with an RPG. What a horrible thing for anyone to have to go through. Right? Yes, perhaps, if you allow yourself that perspective. But that’s not my perspective, and perspective is the hallmark of resilience.
First Responders First
I’m very excited to announce that Retired Police Sergeant and Former U.S. Air Force Captain Michael Sugrue will be working on a book chronicling his story of trauma, survival and ultimate recovery. He’s teaming up with well known author and world renowned Psychologist Shauna Springer PhD. Michael Sugrue will be the first author and “Doc Springer” will be second. His hope is to further help his fellow first responders, veterans and active military; many suffering in silence Dr. Shauna Springer is a graduate of Harvard University and is one of the world’s leading experts on PTSD, Trauma, and Moral Injury among veterans. She co-hosts a weekly podcast on these topics in collaboration with MilitaryTimes. Her work has been featured on CNN, VICE, Dr. Oz, NPR, NBC, CBS Radio, Forbes, The Philadelphia Tribune, Washington Post, and Military Times. She is a regular contributor to Psychology Today.https://www.docshaunaspringer.com/Shown below are two of Dr. Springer’s latest books!
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