After sitting in the sun and listening to him for close to two hours, I asked Kenny Braitman to spend a few minutes elaborating on something he said during our conversation at his permaculture farm in Western Maryland — that having been in the Marine Corps was one of the best things that happened to him, including “losing my legs” in Vietnam.
A partial quote of what Braitman wrote back appears in my Nov. 24 column in The Baltimore Sun. Here’s the rest of it:
“Having artificial legs as a result of wounds from the Vietnam war, I am constantly reminded of that loss. Whether through limited activities, discomfort, pain, or emotion; they all serve as a reminder of what I do have. I spent almost a year in the hospital after being wounded where I witnessed and/or knew many Marines who, through their own injuries, lost eye sight, hearing, use of arms, hands, legs, etc. I know what these losses are like. As a result of this knowledge, I am forever grateful that I have what I do have. It is important to me to voice this gratefulness out loud so I do not take it for granted: not unlike the Cherokee address of gratefulness. Each step that hurts is a step that others can’t make. Each activity that is limited is an activity that I can perform limited or otherwise. I did not die in Vietnam. I have four children and a wonderful wife. My life is good. My prostheses keep these thoughts in my mind and help me focus on what I do have, not what I have lost or don’t have.”