By Edmundo Braverman | Wall Street Oasis | wallstreetoasis.com | September 9, 2011
When I got the opportunity to spend a few days aboard Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany this summer I jumped at it. First of all, I don't get back to America much (I've only been twice since moving to Paris in 2008) so I was looking forward to a little slice of home less than five hours from Paris. Second, Ramstein was my last stop before landing in Saudi Arabia for the Gulf War back in August of 1990, so I was anxious to see the place again.
I'm pretty sure Ramstein is the largest US military base in Europe, and maybe even the world. The place is enormous. And it was just like being back in the States. You pay for everything with US dollars, everyone speaks English, and they've got so many restaurants and fast food joints it's unbelievable. The sight of a Popeye's Fried Chicken almost brought a tear to this New Orleans boy's eye.
We ate at Chili's and Macaroni Grill. Taco Bell. Burger King. Johnny Rocket's. I took my kids to see Kung Fu Panda 2 at the multi-plex (you read that right) and it was $9 for all three of us. The base exchange is a friggin' mall to rival anything you'd find in the American suburbs. It was just like being home.
Beneath the veneer of fun and games, though, lies the real purpose of the base. And for someone who was in the business, it was impossible to miss the subtle (and none-too-subtle) cues that we are at war. And some of the guys I encountered there have paid a heavy price.
I was struck by the number of injured vets I saw. The number of handicapped stalls in the men's rooms. The kid in line at Subway doing his best to cover his burn scars with his popped collar. The thousand-yard stares on the faces of the guys waiting to catch their flight back into the shit. Young guys who will suffer damage the rest of their lives.
And I was struck by how lucky I was. Back in my little war, it was a relatively easy thing to come to grips with the fact that you might die. We all got our heads around it sooner or later. But I honestly can't remember ever thinking about losing my legs, or being blinded, or having to shit in a bag for the rest of my life. Looking at some of these guys, I get a definite, "There but for the grace of God go I." kind of feeling. And I think I would've preferred death.
I didn't really think about it again until my boy Mike Corrado released the following video a couple weeks ago:
It's hard to imagine what life would be like if you were permanently maimed. Easy is not a word I think could ever be used to describe it. It's a hell of a sacrifice these guys make.
If you're interested in helping out an injured Marine and his/her family, you can donate to the Semper Fi Fund. I'm a big supporter as a former jarhead, but other organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project are great too.
Didn't mean to bring anyone down, just maybe to provide a little perspective. These guys lay it all out there for us. All they ask is to not be forgotten.
If you can help these guys out, please do.