Red Winged Black Bird on a fence post in a field.

Feeling Guilty


Category: General

Author's Note: The following writing may come across a bit whiny.

The Iowa National Guard and Iowa Air Guard have been in town lately to help with the bit of excess water we've had lately. Their presence is greatly appreciated and they have been a big help. It makes me feel guilty.

For the past several days I have been helping to feed the troops during the day. It was not much; caterers brought the food and we just set it out and then cleaned and disinfected the tables. (If you know what's in flood waters you know why disinfection is so important.) My longest day of this service was about five hours, after which I went home and slept for about six.

Regular visitors to my little web site know that I have a damaged heart. This damage restricts my stamina. As a result, I can't always do much in the way of physical labor. Though the diagnosis was made seven years ago, the symptoms go back about twenty-nine years. They definitely go back to an April twenty years ago when I was kicked out of the Army.

That was a pretty rough time for me. I was raised with the belief that the only I would make something of myself was through military service. My discharge says, "General, Under Honorable Conditions," but it also says, "Failure to Adapt to a Military Lifestyle." See, they didn't make the heart diagnosis, but they were referring to the symptoms. They didn't know what to do with it, so they sent me on my way. I didn't even make it through boot camp. It was very embarrassing.

Now I see news footage of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and I always feel that I am letting them down by not being there. Our Guard troops have come to help with the flood and I can't help with that. I couldn't even go down to the river to help sandbag when the entire community gathered together.

So here I am, two-hundred and ninety-five pounds with shoulders out to there and I can't do more than wipe down tables. Sure, any job that needs done is a respectable job, but it really rips it out of me. There is the hope that it is just the tiredness that is making me so whiny about the situation.

Some of my fellow volunteers, most of them in their early twenties, also complained about being tired from the work. I suggested that if the asked the troops nicely, the troops could explain how stamina can be built in basic training. The youngsters didn't seem receptive to the idea. At least I can have some pride in the fact that, when it was the time to do so, I at least enlisted.

We all have our parts to play and we all have our limitations. I've done well in other pursuits and I guess I contribute to society (though you wouldn't know it by this web site!) As an optician I helped many people see better and I taught a batch of other opticians who continued the work. (One of those opticians has traveled to Africa a couple of times to fit glasses to children there as well as train opticians there.) The day of September 11th I drove ventilators half way across the state so they could be used in a National Emergency Response Hospital. Now I work in academia. That sort of sounds productive-ish.

Still, I can't help feel that I should do more. I feel the need to stand proud with my chest out, defying any force, whether natural or man-made, to harm my people and my homeland. I can't help but feel that I cannot reach who I want to be.

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