21st Century ‘Band of Brothers’


     Following a usually fitful night of sleep (especially given some added remorse over the Patriots’ loss in Superbowl XLVI) I woke up to the phone ringing. I let it ring.. but then- as I began to wake- I went downstairs on second-thought and checked the caller ID. It was Ma.  But- what? Ma’s home?!  Called back… “I’m in the hospital– with your brother.” “Oh, God– what happened?” (It wasn’t serious, or what I fear hearing above all things.)

         Afterwords, I watched– for the millionth time– the video I took of me & Tali (my 11-month old daughter) and sobbed my eyes out. (I hadn’t seen her in two weeks, which felt like forever, and even the priceless time we spent felt numbered from the start. But alas, I digress…

       Today, February 6th, is the day I will go to the PolyTrauma center at the West Haven VA to have my brain examined for the first time since it was smashed inside my skull just over 7 years ago in a violent, point-blank suicide car bombing that left me wounded but “Walking & Talking.” After seven years, those of us who know me best (to include myself) aren’t sure how to segregate between problems caused by PTSD, and those caused by mTBI. As such, TODAY IS A BIG DAY. (And after the phone call and subsequent sob-fest, all I wanted to do was lay back down and sleep the day away.)

       Soon, though, the sun was up, and— with 200mg of Sertraline and 20mg of Adderall now traversing my bloodstream  as with every morning “as directed”— it was out for a smoke, followed by a stop by the “Inbox,” which only led to another sob-fest, but (as with the rest) it was a mixture of pain and hopeful optimism in spite of so much LOSS. And what I read went precisely as follows:  

        “Hi Matt, Please call me Bob, The ‘Welcome Home” is the most heartfelt Brother to Brother embrace a Vietnam Vet can offer another Vet. It took us twenty years to hear it from the American public. We made sure it would never happened again to our warriors, which is why our newest warriors are honored when they come home.  I guess you had to live through that vilification and rejection to fully get that one. Be patient with us VN vets when we say it, its our way of honoring you and your brother and sister Veterans. I just moved to Florida last Oct. after living in CT all my life. Hopefully I can visit with you all when I visit CT in the summers.  I was a regular at the VA West Haven for 18 years. I’m 45 years down range from combat now, and it has been a learning experience. Navigating the readjustment issues of coming home is like visiting a strange country by yourself, you can’t speak the language, and have have no maps. Finding a tour guide makes all the difference, so learn as fast and as much as you can from those who have gone through it. It’s like new guys counted on you when they arrived in country, we learn from others, as always.”   

         Well, folks, all I can say after that is, Thank God for Bob Johnsey, who–overnight– went from complete stranger to BROTHER with his own willingness to reach out to the “new generation” of wounded souls.  But if you can’t understand why this man’s words reduced me to a child-like outpouring of the soul,  you’ll never understand the PAIN and WEIGHT that is carried–and SHARED— by the “brotherhood” that no Hollywood special, no matter HOW moving, could ever capture such as it is felt in the hearts of SOLDIERS like me.. and, for that matter, Mr. Bob Johnsey.

—-M.C.M., February 6, 2012

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