Ivy and I are back in California for several days before we fly back to Budapest this upcoming Tuesday. Yesterday Ivy and I spent the day working at a cafe in El Dorado Hills (near Sacramento) and two men sat down at the table next to us. Since it was pretty quiet in the cafe I ended up hearing a lot of their discussion.
One of the men was a journalist in his fifties and the other was a young, good-looking guy about 21 or 22 who had a big scar across the back of his head. As I heard the journalist ask the young man, named Jeff, a number of questions--and heard some of Jeff's story--I was moved and very impressed. He spoke articulately, in a polite, matter-of-fact way. He looked like a regular college kid but his early twenties have been very different than what your average university student experiences
Jeff joined the marines right out of high school and ended up in Iraq. In Fallujah, Jeff was shot in the head and almost died. He said he views the surgeons who operated on him as "the true heroes" and that he went through seventeen surgeries (I'm unclear how many of those were in Iraq or elsewhere). He said ten percent of his brain was removed in the operations. He's thankful he's able to do most everything he could do before getting hit, but he struggles with some memory loss and headaches (no kidding). He's very thankful for his mom, who's been a huge support throughout the lengthy re-hab process.
Looking ahead, he'd like to be a police officer and he's grateful that he's able to get back into shape (which he described as running lots of very fast miles). I'm incredibly thankful for guys like Jeff. I hope that all of their sacrifices in Iraq (of their blood, limbs and lives) will turn out to be worth it.