Bound to SubmitBy: Laura Kaye
To the beauty of second chances and the healing power of forgiveness.
As Kenna Sloane stood on the stage in front of the applauding audience, one word kept echoing through her brain.
Keeping the smile plastered on her face, she looked out over the ballroom full of women from a local business and professional organization.
Since being medically discharged from the United States Marine Corps two years before, Kenna had become something of a motivational speaker. She didn’t feel particularly motivational or inspirational, for that matter, and she certainly hadn’t set out to be any such thing.
It had started when her physical therapist at Walter Reed asked her to speak a few times to the new amputees. And then her nephew’s teacher invited her to speak to his school assembly around Veteran’s Day. One of the kid’s fathers turned out to be a reporter for the local paper who pushed her to do a story until she finally agreed. Though the Baltimore Sun wasn’t just any local paper. It was big. And so was the story. After it ran, the invitations came in from all over. And though some part of her always resisted agreeing, another part wondered how she could consider turning them down.
Because she was alive when others weren’t. She could share their stories when they couldn’t tell them themselves. She could perhaps offer other veterans and their families the hope that was so hard to grasp onto in those early months after a serious injury.
It was her duty. One way she could continue to serve. The only way she could continue to serve.
The long minutes after her speech passed in a blur of congratulations on her talk and introductions to dignitaries in the audience.
“Thank you for your service, Miss Sloane.”
“Fantastic speech, Kenna. Truly inspirational.”
“You’re a real survivor, Miss Sloane. Thank you for sharing your story.”
Kenna was grateful for everyone’s appreciation—being thanked for her service and sacrifice meant a lot. But it was also hard to hear sometimes.
Hard to hear because so often—too often—she felt like such a damn fraud.
Everyone thought she’d adjusted so well—to the loss of her career, to the loss of her best friend in the Corps, to the loss of her right forearm and hand—but on the inside, she felt like a disaster. Grief, regret, guilt. And so much pain that sometimes she had to give into the promising lure of the narcotics her doctor prescribed.
She should be stronger. She should be able to fight all this. She was a damn Marine—and always would be, whether she still wore the uniform or not. At least, that’s what she tried to remind herself.
“How did it go?” Sierra asked through the car speaker phone not five minutes after Kenna pulled out of the hotel’s downtown Baltimore lot. Her sister was one of the few people who understood even a little of the inner turmoil Kenna tried to keep hidden from the world.
“Fine. Good. It was a nice crowd,” Kenna said, her hands at ten and two on the steering wheel. One hand real, the other hand part of her myoelectric prosthesis. The hand was matte black and connected to a black and silver forearm shaft that cradled and covered the small stump of forearm that remained. Her gaze dropped for just a moment to the way the almost skeletal-looking fingers wrapped around the wheel.
Be thankful for what you have.
Because the prosthetic’s cost of over fifty thousand dollars had been mostly, and generously, covered by a foundation.
“You there, Kenna?” Sierra asked.
“Yeah, sorry. How’s Jake?”
“He’s good,” her sister said, a smile clear in her tone. “He lost a tooth at school today and I’m waiting to make sure he’s asleep so I can play tooth fairy.”
As Kenna maneuvered through Baltimore traffic, she couldn’t help the small smile that crept up her face. “How much does a tooth earn these days?”
Sierra chuckled. “I’m giving him two bucks. The little bugger’s losing teeth so frequently lately that I’m half convinced he’s yanking them out for the cash. How was physical therapy? Didn’t you have an appointment this morning?”
And there went that smile. Kenna didn’t question the effectiveness of physical therapy—the muscles in her residual limb were stronger, which enhanced her ability to control the movement of the prosthetic—it operated in part based on the electrical signals her remaining muscles generated. She also had more mobility in her right shoulder, and her neck and upper back pain had improved a lot.