Written By: Brian Gilman, Colonel, USMC (Ret.), WQW Executive Director, December 2020
I broke my finger last week. In fact, I crushed it – opening a gash in the soft tissue to the bone, severing a tendon, and breaking the top 2 bones across the joint. Four days later I underwent surgery to repair the damage and the best the doctor could do was fuse the joint. Since the surgery, my hand has been immobilized in a hand brace. It doesn’t hurt much at all, but the hand brace has rendered my left hand pretty much useless. As a result, the simplest things like tying my shoes have become somewhat difficult. Even taking a shower has become a chore as I have to first wrap my hand in a plastic bag to keep it from getting wet – rendering my hand a nearly useless claw. Try gripping a bar of soap when your hand is wrapped in a plastic bag.
As I’ve adapted to this new, although temporary, reality I’ve thought a lot about our wounded Warriors and Carl Von Clausewitz. Carl Von Clausewitz was a Prussian General and military theorist who authored the military treatise On War. On War is a key text used by the military service war colleges to teach military theory to mid-grade officers and senior enlisted members. In his text, Clausewitz describes the Friction of War. He explains that friction, in the context of war, is the accumulation of circumstances, unanticipated events, and other factors that make the simplest of things in war difficult.
My broken hand and the way in which it has made even the simplest things more difficult makes me think about how the Friction of War must linger over the lives of our Nation’s Wounded Warriors. My broken hand makes things like tying my shoes and typing this blog harder, but it’s temporary – my hand will heal and be mostly normal again in very near future. The friction associated with my injury will quickly pass. Although I am a combat veteran, I am not a Wounded Warrior, so I cannot pretend to truly understand the struggles they face as a result of their wounds. For our Nation’s Wounded Warriors who have sacrificed limbs, eyes, brain matter and organs in defense of our freedoms, I can’t help but to think that the friction of war lingers on forever for them.
Because they have Warrior’s hearts, Wounded Warriors will adapt and stoically lean into the difficulty, but the friction will never fully subside. Their sacrifices and the ensuing friction were born in defense of our freedoms and way of life. Because of this, we owe them more than our gratitude – we owe them every opportunity to relieve the friction and the difficulty that their wounds continue to bear. Like the friction that lingers over their lives, our responsibility to do this lingers on forever.