Chainsaw doesn’t consider himself to be a tall man, though he is just fine with his height. I have never considered him to be a short man, that’s just the way it is. Let’s just say that Chainsaw is no Liam Neeson, but he is a Tom Cruise. Perhaps not quite as good looking, but he could certainly curb-stomp the brother in a Manhattan minute.
The first time Chain was shot in the noggin, it was with a .45 ACP bullet. He was in a very tight-quartered linear target. In fact, it was inside a jet airliner. When the assault forces crammed aboard and began to sling lead, a stray bullet hit Chain in the high forehead, where it glanced along the slope of his head and careened off, slamming into the bulkhead of the aircraft. If Colin Rich had been one inch taller, he would not be here today—fact that!
When Chainsaw was struck in the back of the head on the Afghan/Paki border, the .308 bullet struck very low to the back of his Kevlar helmet. If Colin had been one single inch taller, again, he would not be alive with us today.
And so it goes: I am in the Twilight Zone! It was a very bumpy ride to Walter Reed, and I felt every bump in my very sore head. I’m in the neuro ward, and in very bad pain waiting on a room. I vividly remember a young female soldier trying her best to help in any way she could.
“First Sergeant, the chow hall is closed, but I bet I can get you something, if you want.”
Last thing I ate was a half of a Big Mac. Yet another food fantasy: chocolate and orange juice…orange…but I just love the combo!
Off she goes. I wish I could see her today. She was good to me.
Time ticks by very slowly when in miserable pain. Another nurse was checking this and that, blah, blah.
“Hey, excuse me, but I am in really bad pain. Bad!”
“I’ll see if I can find a doctor, First Sergeant!” she said.
Ain’t we in a fucking hospital? I think. Isn’t that where doctors work? Go find one, bitch.
Then, out of nowhere, I heard, “COLLLLIINN!” I knew the voice instantly—my firecracker sister-in-law, Ms. Jeannie S.! It was impossible for me to put in words the feeling of relief I felt…impossible!
She’s a very fast/loud talker, and just what was needed to distract me from the current pain I was in.
“Miss, you’re going to have to keep the noise down, or you’ll have to leave.” (Classic hospital bullshit rhetoric.) Then came the young soldier returning with chocolate cake and a cup of OJ—are you kidding me!?!
Unbeknownst to me, my family was notified that I was returning. Still trying to figure out why no one ever told me. As it turns out, my wife and two daughters, along with my wife’s boss and her two kids, were about an hour out. Again, a very strange sense of relief, hearing that.
Nurse: “First Sergeant, where are your medical records?”
Me: “Last I knew, with the flight bitch…I mean nurse. She never passed them on, BITCH!”
WTF! No medical records? Don’t even get me started.
Nurse: “So what happened? In detail.” I tell all of the “blahs” as I remember them.
“Is the bullet itself, or any metal, still in your brain?”
“Negative,” says I.
One of the many “blahs” is that the bullet passed through the helmet, hit my skull, bounced off of my skull, and exited about four inches from its entry point, shattering that portion into five fragments. The force pushed them into my brain. All but one—the deepest—had been removed. The last fragment remains in place to this day.
“We need an X-ray to make sure there is no metal in you before we can give you an MRI,” said the nurse.
“I’m telling you, I HAVE NO METAL IN ME!”
“We MUST do this!” she said.
Down to the bowels of Walter Reed for X-rays I went. There, with the grace of God, I go. Sitting there in pain, I heard a voice I knew, saying my name: Kurt U., another former Delta bro and friend of mine, who just happened to be waiting for X-rays himself.
We talked. I gave him the basic “blahs” and we went to take care of the business at hand. Of course, no metal was found, but I was informed of a 3/4″ chunk of skull still in my brain.
“No shit, Sherlock—just like I told you.”
I was pushed in my wheelchair back to the neuro ward, and was surprised to be greeted by the inbound crew. It was a group hug kinda moment, and I just had nothing to say for a brief moment. It was a feeling that I had never felt—an intense relief.
To this day, I can’t explain it, so I group those things into the, “I got a dang TBI” category. So a few days ago, I was in the middle of a gunfight. Now I’m in the middle of the exact opposite, with a fucking hole in my head. To say I was a bit…confused would be a helluva understatement.
We managed quite nicely to get one of the random hospital workers to snap a quick group hug photo. Talk about Kodak moments—ours certainly was one.
Another overwhelming element was adrenaline overload. I know now that I was literally still in shock.
The weekend was great. It flew by, distracting me from reality enough, at any rate. The weekend was over now and it was me there still, but where do I go from here? Where do I go? Right back from where I came. FUCK! I left my fucking company downrange.
That was an issue that bothered me immensely and for a long time. It had been days since I had slept more than a cat nap. I made it through the very long, sleepless, painful Sunday night.
Doctors are funny, and I mean that in a most endearing way. These two women, Deborah W. and Lisa M., walked into my life Monday morning and went right to work trying to put things right.
However, unlike Flight Bitch…I mean nurse…they were the very definition of pleasant bedside manner, a totally foreign sentiment.
There will be no more to follow. This has taken much of my energy, this spilling my guts. It’s a new tactic I’m trying: relief through open expression, cathartic and purging.
Each entry I’ve made has, at one point or another, kept me up for days…blahs suck!
One final note: The last picture will be of me, at the ripe old age of 21-22, at my chosen profession at the time. Take note of the proper safety gear: helmet, ballistic chaps, and steel-toed boots. No one had to tell me back then, “While flirting with disaster, do it as safely as you can.”
That really did take a lot out of me. Happy New Year, all!
Geo’s note: Colin “Chainsaw” Rich and Ms. Hotpants Nance live in North Carolina, where they are opening up a pizza bar and restaurant. Among the things that motivate Colin to continue to rise above his plight are his two wonderful grandchildren (photo below).
I think of Chainsaw often. I maintain a personal notion that there, but for the grace of God, go I. However, it is with a sense of profound pride and admiration that I shall concede that, instead, there, with the grace of God, remains Colin Rich.
Love ya madly. Mean it, my brother.
Chain, chik, cheers, chum!
Featured photo courtesy of Colin Rich. Colin celebrating ANZAC day.