“You need to send my number to the VA…. I have it on me…you know where it is?”
His intelligent blue eyes were bright and testing me, an impish smile behind the tears.
“You don’t have your dog tags on.” I smiled and flicked the blanket on his chest gently.
“Phooey! Must a-got shot off.” He turned his head in disgust. “But I can tell you my number. Wait…. What is my number? I can’t remember….”
I wiped the tears off his face some more, tears that came partly from a fear of losing his identity. He had asked me earlier to keep them from running down his nose, because they tickled.
“They have to have my number at the Army hospital.” There was an urgency in his voice.
“We’ll take care of you here, anyways.” I smiled again.
“Yes. Yes, they will.” Then, after a puzzled pause, he suddenly began rattling off a number quickly, with relief in his voice. He wanted me to repeat the last four. I did, holding his hand.
“You’ll get that to them?”
I repeated it again and assured him that I would.
“The field doctor came around earlier, and I told him I was fine. But I don’t know, now. Maybe it was that bomb blast…. Sometimes they don’t tell you how bad you are hurt.” He looked up at me trepidatiously.
“But they will tell us. We’ll tell you.”
He didn’t quite look sure. I leaned a little closer, wiping the tears off his nose some more, “I’ll tell you.” He relaxed, but started to cry a little harder. So I brushed back his thin hair again and told him, “I think you’ll be alright. And here’s what I know — I’ll tell you….” He listened, heard me, and stopped crying.
“Did you know Harold?”
“No, I didn’t have that privilege.”
“Harold was my uncle. He was five years older than I and we were close. He was right here when he was killed. He and Delmer. You know cousin Delmer? He’s the field chaplain that goes around these parts….”
“Yes, I think I’ve met him, though I can’t remember for sure.”
“Delmer was with him.”
As they were getting ready to move him from triage to a hospital room, he asked, rather anxiously, “Will they let my sweetheart be with me there? In the Army hospital?”
“Yes, of course, she’s right here. She won’t leave you.”
This is a true story. The wounded soldier is my 92-year-old Grandpa, not suffering from shell shock or bomb blast injuries, but from dehydration brought on by infection somewhere in his aging body. His sweetheart, my Grandma, was there the whole time; but, for whatever reason, I ended up being the field nurse standing by his bedside sometime shortly after the Battle of the Bulge, where Harold was killed. My Grandpa actually never saw overseas combat action…but for a couple of entire days, in his own mind he was somewhere in Europe many years ago…. In fact, he rode to the local hospital in a “Navy Field Ambulance” — as I couldn’t think up anything else that would satisfy him why the blue wheelchair van didn’t have a big red cross on it…………