Sunday, July 14, 2013

On the way

(My backpack and daypack hanging out before check-in).

So I'm at JFK hours and hours early before my Aeroflot flight.  I took a car service to the airport and my driver was a Vietnam War Vet!  I thought that was an interesting coincidence.  

When he picked me up, he asked me if u was going anywhere good.  I said "Southeast Asia" and he turned away and sighed.  He then said that he was a marine and was over there for years - and didn't want to go back.  He then told me about his time there - which he did VOLUNTARILY after his best friend was killed there while he was in college. He asked to leave school for four years so he could go and serve.  How amazing is that?  I could never imagine doing that and I told him that really spoke to the kind of man that he is.  He did three tours and was injured three times - once when he was shot in the leg in the jungle and once after being shot down in a helicopter.  He was a teacher and would try to write on the board but wasn't able to hold the chalk.  He went to the doctor, who asked "When did you break your neck?"  He laughed thinking that it was a joke but it turned out the doctor said that his neck was fractured in three places, which led to lasting nerve damage - which explains his inability to hold things now in his right hand.  Unbelievable.  He assumed this must have happened after that helicopter crash in Vietnam.

His story was really amazing and he talked about how it bothers him when people make casual statements like "I can imagine what that was like over there.". He, rightfully, said that no one can ever really imagine what it is like to have groin rot and gangrene and see snakes and death and have jungle rashes and not be able to shower.  It sounded like another thing people "can't imagine" is how to wrap your mind around why the guy next to you gets blown up, yet you are still alive.  He made an analogy, saying that in life everyone gets dealt a hand of cards - some get 52, some people get ten extra and some only get three.  It isn't fair but that's the way life is, and there is no answer for why.  I guess he felt like he got a few extra cards in his deck.

It was really cool talking and when he heard I was nervous about the flight, he really did a good job explaining why I had nothing to be worried about. He said that if anything happened over there, I could call and there would be a marine there to get me, "though there might be some blood and guts.".  I'm assuming they wouldn't be my guts ;). He gave me his email and said that he wanted me to write him when I was over there to let him know that I am ok.  I thought that was awesome and I know that I will definitely write to him.

By the end, I got out of what felt like my family member's car.  I totally forgot I had to pay and he didn't ask me for any money.  Thank goodness I remembered and was able to get it together enough to actually pay him.  He forgot to!  He said it was ok, he know I would pay when I got back if I forgot.  

Anyway, I felt like that was a nice start to the trip.  I'm like so early that I can't even check into my flight yet.  I'm sure there will be more to come on here in my next two days of travel on the way to Luang Prabang. 

No comments: