Robbi Perna - Author and Lecturer
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Honoring the Members of our Armed Forces

          A very happy Sunday afternoon to all my followers.  In honor of our upcoming holiday that honors our Veterans, I'm devoting the next two weeks' posting to special previews from Once A Soldier.  I'm asking each of you to consider purchasing and downloading the book from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers.  All my royalties benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. Please help me support the men and women who have sustained severe injuries while defending our freedoms.
* * * *
            Marco opened his eyes to pain so intense he had trouble focusing on his surroundings.  Guiliana and Jake stood by his bedside, but Ay’ana was nowhere in sight.  No surprise there.  He knew the only way she’d hold his hand and cry over him was in his dreams.
            “G,” his voice rasped deep in his throat, “when…”
            “Don’t try to talk, Marco, just rest.  I’ll stay with you.  Jake has to go by the office, but I’m not moving from your bedside.”
            “Plea …se, go…‘mmm fine, dreammmmmmm...”  Marco’s eyes closed again.  The next time he opened them, an orderly dressed in scrubs with a stethoscope draped around his neck, stood at the foot of the bed studying his chart.  He observed the man in silence for a long moment before he managed to force the words out of a mouth dehydrated from the medications.  “I know you, don’t I?”
            “Probably not, Colonel.  I just have one of those faces.”  The man turned and winked at him as he walked out.  As he did, Marco noticed his footwear.  Hand tooled boot tops showed above the sterile shoe covers medical staffs wore around the hospital.  Wow, some dream, although I can’t quite recall all the details . . . or maybe it’s the drugs . . . better living through chemistry.
* * * *
            Days passed and with each one, Marco got a little stronger.  He moved into a room two weeks after his surgery and had to contend with official visits.  He knew they were only doing their jobs, but it didn’t add to his peace of mind.  Admit it Domenico, you’re scared.  What happens if the staff weenies don’t give me the time I need to prove I can cut it?  He stared out the window at the bleak winter day.  The weather matched his mood.
            “Colonel Domenico?”  Marco looked away from the window to see a young man standing in the doorway.
            “Yes, ah, Larry Clarke isn’t it?  I recall …”
            “You’ve got a great memory, sir, I wasn’t sure you’d remember me.  When we met, I was still a Norwich cadet and scared stupid over all the talk I’d heard about Ranger training.”  The young man looked sheepish.  “I made it through on my first try, but I owed a lot of the success to the pep talk you gave me.”
            “Thanks, positive feedback is always welcome, especially right now.  Come in and grab a chair.  Tell me what’s going on in your life.”
            Marco watched as Larry crossed the room with the uneven gait unique to someone who wore a prosthesis and eased down into the bedside chair.  He knew this wasn’t going to be a feel good story.
            “I branched Engineer, did all the things required of new engineers, and completed two deployments—one to Iraq and the other to Afghanistan.  The last one didn’t…  Well, I’m doing fine now and working with the Veteran’s Administration…”  He broke off at the alarmed expression that crossed Marco’s face before he got himself under control.  “Oh, I’m not here on an official visit, I only wanted to stop by and see you.”
            “I may yet need your official visit, but until then, let’s talk about you.  Tell me what happened.”
            “I deployed in support of the ongoing operation in Afghanistan.  Two of my squad members and I sustained injuries during a firefight in Helmand province.  They transported us to Germany first and then here to Walter Reed.  I spent the better part of six months in recovery and therapy.  I knew from the severity of my wounds, I would never see a battlefield again.  I didn’t want to do it but I accepted the medical discharge.”  Larry shook his head and waited a minute before he continued.  “I was very disappointed, but even more scared.  I didn’t know what my next step should be.  However, as soon as I was coherent, physical therapists showed up at my bedside and so did personnel from the VA.” (Special preview will conclude next Sunday.)

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