I am happy to introduce Wren Meyers as today’s guest blogger for the Soldier Story Saturday. Wren is a Twitter friend of mine who has always impressed me with his positive attitude. He continuously goes out of his way to make anyone and everyone’s day. You can follow Wren on Twitter by clicking here and here. I promise he will make you smile! Wren is also a Marine Veteran and I know you are as appreciative of his service as much as I am! Now that you know about Wren, here is his story.
Of all the places to get a perspective on the life of a Wounded Warrior, the most unlikely might be backstage on the opening night of the staging of the Nutcracker by a professional ballet company. If you haven’t waited for the first strains of the overture to finish before starting to walk across stage, in character, as if you’re going to a party, then you won’t know of the excitement.
Throw in a cast of children and parents of dancers, some of whom are dancing in the a major production for the first time and you will have an idea of the electric atmosphere on the night of December 8th, 2011.
The stage at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, Virginia is a gorgeous building modeled on the famed La Scala . Tonight the hum of excited voices builds as we near the opening curtain.
And backstage we see nervous kids, talking excitedly, moving with that boundless energy, excited to be dancing, some a little terrified of performing for a large crowd. We wait for the standard announcement before these performances; thanking the sponsors, administrative details and welcoming the audience to the ballet. Normally we hear the orchestra start on the overture that last couple minutes before we’re in the show. No matter if you’re ready or not, the show opens.
But on this night the atmosphere backstage has a different dimension. For standing beside us in the wings is a color guard and instead of the overture we hear a medley of the anthems of each of the Armed Forces. Our guest of honor waits with us until those finish and strides smartly on stage. Sgt Faris Amra, USMC, represents all the Wounded Warriors, of all services, for this ceremony.
The first notes of the National Anthem begin as we are still huddled in the wings and in costume, yet a few of us snap to attention. And this is when I feel the full brunt of the sacrifice of these brave Wounded Warriors. I’m nervous and excited to perform, full of butterflies and excitement and I”m immediately transported to the nervousness and fear they felt when they were serving to protect the right for me to enjoy performing.
Now I’m not concentrating on how my performance will go and whether I’ll hit my cues or get a laugh, I’m finding my eyes filling with tears. All the men and women who have sacrificed so much for us are now before me, no longer relegated to a headline or a listing in a blog post or on a tweet. They are now faces and names and neighbors and sons and daughters. All represented on stage by this lone Marine.
The tears come for me because they didn’t while in uniform or serving in an organization dedicated to stopping Improvised Explosive Devices.. They didn’t come while reading situation reports or hearing new casualty lists but they come now while I’m standing in the wings of the Hylton Performing Arts Center. My stage children are perplexed at my tears and I let them come until the last strains of the Anthem fade and the color guard marches back offstage.
Then it’s show time. And the show must go on. And it does, and after the curtain calls and the amazement at the professionals is over and we enjoy the thrill of a performance well done, we walk out to the foyer and see the audience steaming around the dancers in costume and tutus. And tonight, the three Wounded Warriors.
We hear a piper playing, and we see the Marines, resplendent in their dress blues, standing proudly. One stands on a leg with a prosthetic device below his knee, one is missing his left arm and one sits in a wheelchair with both legs and his left arm missing. They respectfully take questions, offer handshakes and smiles and pose for pictures.
They seem more comfortable than those who meet them, perhaps because they’ve had more time to adjust and know deep down they are still whole in their souls, if not in their bodies. I know that they see my eyes searching, asking the questions I can’t seem to actually say out loud. We make slightly awkward small talk and they graciously greet all those who wish to talk to them and then they head out.
I’m struck by their courage, then and now. They don’t shy away from the questions that everyone wants to ask, they are still complete spirits now housed in bodies altered by war and they brought great dignity and grace to our night. These Warriors were fearless then and remain so, still proud, still such shining representatives of the United States Marine Corps and the nation.
The night was marked by graceful dancers and gracious Marines. It was a truly memorable opening night.
If you are interested in contributing a story to the Soldier Story Saturday series, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org If this story or any of the other stories featured in the series have moved you enough to donate to my Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser, please click here to do so. Thank you.