Hometown: Norfolk, VA
Date of Injury: 9/25/2004
Hospital: Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Unit: First Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment Air Assault, Delta Company (this is an infantry unit)
Date deployed to Iraq: First week of August 2004
Location of Injury: On a dirt road south of Fallujah
List of Injuries: Bilateral Amputations of Lower extremities. Many shrapnel wounds.
Jonathan is currently attending college and hopes to be involved in inventing the next generation of prosthetics.
Broken Mirror by Jonathan Bartlett
I wake to a head full of fog and light coming through my heavy eyelids. I try to move but I feel strangely restricted as if someone has secured me to what feels like a soft bed whilst a thick blanket lays over me as well. There are dull pains in my arms and back as well but they are like foghorns in my mind, distant and unseen. Upon moving I discover my movements are limited by tubes going into me! Instantly my eyes open and I attempt to sit up but I can't seem to make it. It is as if someone is weighing my chest down and throwing my feet in the air at the same time. My eyes are assaulted by glaring lights, fuzzy humanoid shapes and a dark figure in sharp detail striding for the door. He is tall wearing a long dark robe, carrying a large sharp scythe and shaking his head. I can see only him until he closes the door. Strong hands help me sit up as the room comes into focus. All around me the expressions of concern on my family and friends bore into me. I look around to discover what they are staring at. However I can't seem to focus through the tears in my eyes.
I try to speak yet am unable to remember how to express my thoughts. I finally manage to open my mouth. The tears flow over my lips then into my mouth like rain onto desert sand, reminding it how to work correctly. After working the solidness out of my jaw my first words are that of a child, very primitive and monosyllabic. I try to move my limbs, to stretch some of this odd weariness out of me when the pain sears into my mind. The pain lights me up like a nuke on a foggy day. I then begin to yell and scream the most obscene and natural curses every soldier is issued when he graduates Basic. After I calm down and my tears have cleared I look about and actually see the source of my pain and my family's woe; I appear to be a mass of bandages from the waist down. I realize to my horror that my legs are mostly missing.
My mind reels with pain and confusion as the implications of my injuries are explored. I'm obviously back in the States, half a world away from my bunk at the base in Iraq. Was it last night? How long was I out? I remember the mission brief, the shower after and the reading before I went to sleep but after that I draw a blank. "I must have caught a bomb", I wonder aloud. "Yes you did son" says the man with the strong hands. He is my uncle Trevor if I remember right. Neither my mother, father, brother, or best friends know exactly what happened and they look so sad. It's too much to bear. It's greater than even the pain. "I'll be alright, it'll hurt I'm sure but I will recover" I say to them. Conversation ensues and I can see my mother and father feel better at my attempts to appear strong but they don't see how empty and fragile those words are.
I feel cast adrift in pain amid all the good words and strong support. My loss is only compounded by the ability to still feel my lost limbs; the pain of my injuries is constantly replaying before my senses. It makes it hard to talk however thinking is all too easy. What does this means to my career as a professional soldier? My heart and soul is in the Army and now I can't do what I love. I feel the way star-crossed lovers do upon parting as it becomes more and more apparent my dreams have been trod on by high explosives. I don't even feel like the same man. Last I slept I was a soldier but when I awoke I am little more than a cripple. I feel broken and shattered. When I look my self, into the mirror image of what I am, the person that stares back at me is shattered and broken as well. He can't seem to stand though he tries so hard and there is so much blood, tears and pain. After my family leaves and I am alone in the dark I crank up my drugs and try to cry the pain away.
Visit Jonathan's myspace page: www.myspace.com/ceobartlett