All went well – no, GREAT – on the trip out to SBP. Tim is the most gregarious, up-beat person you can imagine. Also very bright, and empathetic. Gabe is a little more timid (or seemed so in contrast to Tim) but also a really sweet young man. What was really interesting was the metamorphosis that occurred during our 10 hours together…..
I met Tim and Gabe at Landmark Aviation (FBO) at San Antonio. They were in the FBO terminal building when I landed, and it was obvious which of the passengers in the terminal were my pax; Tim stomping around in shorts and one metal leg, and Gabe in a wheelchair. We went thru introductions and some light banter as I was re-fueled. We then loaded and boarded my PC12. Both soldiers were impressed with the style in which they were going to travel. I told them it was the least we could do for them given what they had done for us. It was odd, but the looks they gave me made me think this was the first time they had heard that remark.
We stopped in SDL for fuel/pee/stretch/whatever on the way out (they had hinted about bladder endurance). When they disembarked at the FBO, there seemed to all of a sudden be a more jovial camaraderie going on. 2 hours later we arrived at SBP and were greeted by the host organization, AMPSURF.org. It was only then that I found out both Tim and Gabe were returning surfers, having also participated last year, and were greeted by “old friends” who swept them off to the hotel – with wide grins on both their faces. But what happened later was even better…..
At 6:00 p.m. we were all meeting at the hotel lobby to ride over to a restaurant where a “meet and greet” would take place (with food and beers). When it got to be about 6:15, Tim and I were in a discussion with Dana Cummings (founder/host with AMPSURF.org) when in comes Gabe – not in a wheelchair, not on crutches, not even his cane! Just walking in, grinning and basking in the glow of all his buddies (old and new). It was then that it finally hit me – what you’ve been “selling” all these years – the powerful recuperative effect of having your friends and extended family nearby seriously out-powers the best medical facilities around!!! Gabe did not experience any miracle; he was able to move around into and out of my plane on his own. But it was not until he was surrounded by that emotional support that he chose to cast off the crutches (figuratively and literally) and step-out on his own. And the pride and compassion the swelled in Tim as we watched was evident. What a moment…
They don’t need us – but we sure can help, and it is most rewarding to do so.
Keep VAC in there for them – and for us!