An Extra Ordinary Day occurred in Muskego on June 7, 2012 at Acres of Hope and Aspirations that united soldiers and heroes from the Iraq War. To most people, it was just another sunny work day. But to these men, it was day of meaningful and healing connection that was truly therapeutic, especially since it brought restoration, hope, empowerment and strength. Connections such as these should be bridged between those who need it, and those whose continued daily advancement of life and recovery depends on it. As a rehab nurse, it was another memory embedded in my heart to make a difference to those who stood up for our country.
Almost six years ago, 11 surgeries later and daily challenges from his cognitive, physical and neurobehavioral deficits from the traumatic brain injury he sustained from the bullet damage to the brain while in the Iraq War, Noah is a survivor and a “walking miracle”. Each day he lives with challenges and risks because of that bullet. Back in 2006, Winlom “Noah” Woods arrived on a stretcher in critical status and life support in Milwaukee from being shot in the head. His family prepared for the worst. His grandmother was offered to have him placed in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. However, she chose to have him flown to Froedtert Hospital so he could be close to her and her family since she was told he may not make the trip home alive. No one knew if he would live or die. Freedom is not truly free.
Problems with short term memory and attention remains daily deficits from the brain injury but his long term memory of his buddies prior to being shot remains intact. His family remains important but the brotherhood of men bonded together in the Iraq War while defending the freedom of the USA goes deeper and stronger than many who have not experienced this may take for granted and may not understand this soldier connection. A road trip of strength and determination was important to his buddies as it was to Noah. Riding Harley motorcycles starting from Dallas and picking up others along the route would be a joyful and purposeful pathway of a continued journey of healing. Code names used by these men in the Iraq War remained important for Noah’s memory including “Outhouse”, “Mr. Magoo” and “Dubi”. These guys have not forgotten their wounded buddy and made a road trip to Muskego, WI to visit him. The visit was filled with support, laughs and memories of good times and challenging times in the Iraq War. The men interacted with the Creatures of Rehab and enjoyed the Gardens of Hope at Acres of Hope and Aspirations. The nurturing grounds and friendly animals offered comfort, serenity and love back to the men who had sacrificed time and energy in the Iraq War. Reflections of Noah’s night of being shot were discussed in an environment so nurturing and tranquil. Fathers….husbands….sons…American workers….Harley riders….Veterans of the Iraq War….soldiers…. heroes and true bonded brothers reunited. A brotherhood of men bonded together in the Iraq War and not forgotten while defending this country.
Since return from the Iraq War, one of these men has had two children, another has returned to college and another returned again to the Iraq War with a safe return home. Noah is thankful everyday he is alive with all his medical complications. Another buddy “Scuba” has not been able to stay in contact since he is in the Wounded Warriors Base in Fort Knox, Kentucky for recovery from his own injuries including a traumatic brain injury from an improvised explosive device also known as a roadside bomb he sustained in 2009 while serving and returning again to the Iraq War. Scuba also was in Iraq War when Noah was shot in 2006. However, the men got to meet and remember their buddy Scuba at the rehab farm through interacting with one of the Creatures of Rehab, a potbellied pig named Scuba after their Army buddy. These men spent time in the Gardens of Hope enjoying the Creatures of Rehab and letting their troubles float away at the Waterfall of Hope. Another Creature of Rehab, Delarosa, the 26 inch tall miniature horse was a special joy to these men who shared in moments of smiles for his little size but powerful spirit. He was a symbol for the powerful spirit that many soldiers like these men displayed.
The heartwarming reunion, laughs, jokes and hugs gave me goose bumps and lasting memories. These men could recognize my patient’s deficits but wanted the best for him. To them, he was Noah again. The road trip of strength and determination was well worth to all involved. The pictures and memories are priceless. The deep connection made Noah feel like a hero not only for what his buddies had brought him but for what the reunion had given him---the healing power of utmost dignity, respect and inspiration. I feel proud for what these men did for Noah but rewarded for what Acres of Hope and Aspirations may have offered them. For these men who depended on their teamwork, their support, their understanding, and their friendship while in the Iraq War, they felt the same while interacting with all the friendly Creatures of Rehab in the Gardens of Hope at Acres of Hope and Aspirations. It gave them all strength and determination. I, too, shared in the tears of joy, of admiration, and love for the fellow men and women who serve this country and for America. Moments like this remind me of why I became a nurse in the first place— to share in the opportunity to make a difference. It truly was a road trip of strength for all.