This evening I’m tired.  But I’m inspired.

Today my husband and I went to see his doctors for some routine check ups. It requires we drive a fair distance on the raceway known as “the DC beltway.” Thousands of cars and trucks zoom at impressive speeds circling the capitol of our nation, Washington DC.

We slow down as we approach our destination: the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Every time we go there I am impressed…

Amazed.
Inspired.
Humbled.
Grateful.

As we walk the hospital hallways to our appointments or make our way to lunch in the cafeteria, we pass amazing individuals. Each one volunteered to serve the United States of America.

Each and every one volunteered.

No one forced them or drafted them.

They asked to do the job, to defend the freedoms we so often take for granted.

To defend the Constitution of the United States. A document many Americans have never even read.

Soldiers who probably still have dust on their boots from Iraq or Afghanistan walk by me, smile and nod.

Others, retirees like my husband, pass by a little older, a little slower, still proud to be an American.

We walk towards a young couple with their precious baby girl, just five days old. (I had to ask.) And I’m thinking by the looks of things, that husband finished his deployment about nine months ago.

Another young family passes us as they share a private laugh. She pushes her handsome husband in his wheelchair. He has no legs. He’s beaming down at their little baby nestled in the carrier balanced on his lap. Or where his lap used to be.

There’s a young solider with shoulders broad enough

to make this old lady look twice.
He sits tall and proud in his chair.
He’s lost his legs, but not his strength or pride.

His t-shirt says “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”
He’s known real pain. My pain is child’s play compared to his.

A Marine shares the elevator with us, a huge backpack balanced on his back.

He steps aside so I can get off the elevator before him.

“Ma’am” he says and nods in my direction.

“Thank you.” I smile at him.

My heart packs those two little syllables with gratefulness beyond words, but I try not to let him know. He wants respect, not pity. He defended my freedom. Our country.

And he stands in the elevator proudly balanced on his two titanium legs.

My husband and I are safely back home now.
As I get ready for sleep I say a prayer for the troops, so grateful I live in the “land of the free because of the brave.”