Saturday, October 9, 2010

Born on the 4th of July

For those of you of my generation, remember the movie "Born on the 4th of July?"  It was one of those "classic" Hollywood movies about know the type of movie; the vet returns from war as a victim.  Tom Cruise starred in the movie, which was released in 1989.  The movie is described as a biopic about Ron Kovac, a paraylized Vietnam veteran who came home and became an anti-war activist because he felt "betrayed" by his country.  The movie won 2 Oscars, including one for Oliver Stone as "Best Director."  Well, in these days, we have an interesting contrast to the "vet as victim" mantra that Hollywood and popular culture try to portray. 

I'd like to introduce you to Army Staff Sergeant John Wayne Walding.  He's a real-life veteran, who really was born on the 4th of July.  SSgt Walding just graduated from the Army Sniper school, which is a great accomplishment.  But what makes it even more impressive is that SSgt Walding lost his leg in a 6 1/2 hour fire fight in Afghanistan in April 2008.  Walding and the other members of his Special Forces team were awarded the Silver Star for their actions that day.  Walding was shot in the lower leg and, in an article on the Army website, described how he had to use his boot lace to tie his leg to his thigh to keep it from flapping around.  Walding was determined to stay on active duty, and he's done so.  In fact, many of his classmates in the sniper course did not know he was an amputee.  He passed the extremely tough course without any specal accomodations, scoring well in all the exercises. 

Now compare the two stories.  Granted, SSgt Walding wasn't confined to a wheelchair the way Kovac was; but SSgt Walding never considered himself a "victim" nor did he decide his country had "betrayed" him.  He's made of better stuff.  He decided he wouldn't let the loss of a leg stop him from accomplishing goals he set for himself.  The path may have been more difficult, but he accomplished those goals anyway.  SSgt Walding sees himself as a soldier, not a victim.   Now I ask you.....which is the more healthy point of view? 


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