Honoring the Losses of War: “The Sergeant Lost Within”


Commenter Reg, who blogs at Beautiful Horizons,
reminded me that it is more than the war dead whom we should be honoring today, it is also the many who have suffered grave injuries. Perhaps the article printed over the weekend that best and most painfully depicts the terrible costs of war that are not fatal—not quite anyway—is this story in the New York Times Magazine.

It takes us into the world of Sgt. Shurvon Phillip, a man trapped inside his body, unable to move much, and only barely able to communicate answers to “yes” or “no” questions, but who appears to be cognitively intact—to a greater or lesser degree anyway. Sgt Phillip is a marine who joined the reserves seven years ago when he was 17, partly as a way to pay his community-college tuition. He was riding back to his base after a patrol when an anti-tank mine exploded under his Humvee.

Shurvon Phillip is one of the 900 or so soldiers who have come home with what is called serious traumatic brain injury—or T.B.I., “which essentially means dire harm to their brains.”

Here is the story’s opening:

“You want to wear this or this for therapy tomorrow?”
Sgt. Shurvon Phillip’s mother asked, holding two shirts in front of him. On one wall of his bedroom hung a poster of a marine staring fiercely, assault rifle in hand and black paint beneath his narrow eyes. Shurvon’s eyes, meanwhile, are wide and soft brown. He sat upright, supported by the tilt of a hospital bed. He cannot speak and can barely emit sound or move any part of his body, and sometimes it’s as if the striking size of his eyes is a desperate attempt to let others understand who he is, to let them see inside his mind, because his brain can carry out so little in the way of communication.

He gazed at the two shirts and, with excruciating effort
and several seconds’ delay, managed to jab his gnarled right hand a few inches toward his choice, a black pullover with writing on the front.

Here’s the rest. It’s very much worth your time.

Commenter Woody (who blogs at GM’s corner) reminds me that there is a national minute of silence to honor our war dead at 3 pm today, local time.

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