September 27, 2004
In June of 2004, I was at home flipping the channels on my television set. I came across a documentary of United States servicemen who are patients at Walter Reed Army Hospital. The program showed the patients, all of whom were amputees as a result of injuries sustained during the wars on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. I immediately became interested and concerned about them. I viewed the program, the more I watched and listened, the more I wanted to do something to help boost their sprits.
I contacted Walter Reed Hospital and requested to visit the troops. Once the plan got in motion regarding my request, I decided to take copies of my current novel, Departures with me. Since it is a really funny novel and I knew even though my heroes had gigantic problems, at least Departures would provide laughter. It was my opinion that my gregarious personality and Departures would be the best medicine for them. I then contacted my editor, Kara Cesare, my publicist, Kathleen Coppola, both of Penguin Group NAL, and my agent, Cherry Weiner, requesting permission to make the trip to Washington—with books for the G.I.’s. I asked them to give me a bill for the books because they would be my gift to the troops. All parties agreed it was a great idea and an even better idea that Penguin donate books to the troops free of charge.
I was extremely excited and during the entire summer, I waited patiently like a child waiting for Christmas for the approval from Walter Reed Hospital officials as to whether I would be welcome. In September, all systems were “Go.” Hooray!!
On September 25, 2004, I entered the hospital with my test reader and assistant, Regina Johnson. It was a beautiful sunny day. I wasn’t a bit nervous—just anxious to communicate with the troops, listen to their stories, tell a few of my own, let them know how grateful I was that they had put their lives on the line for me and our country, and, for the opportunity to thank them personally.
September 25, 2004 was a very moving and rewarding day for me. I was very well received and thanked profusely for coming. I was hugged and kissed and very much appreciated by the troops. However, there were many I could not see because they would not come out of their rooms. They didn’t want company. I was sad for them. Most of the ones I met (I went room to room) were in great spirits, though they had very significant injuries and many had been hospitalized for months and would remain under the confines of Walter Reed for even longer periods of time. So many were missing arms, legs, feet and I met some with neurological problems due to massive head injuries. I also attended a barbeque on the grounds and had an opportunity to meet, chat with and distribute copies of Departures to additional wounded troops who were ambulatory or in wheelchairs.
Most of the G.I.’s I met still had that great morale and were not only glad to be alive—but willing to go back once they were better. I met a twenty-one year-old gentlemen, missing one foot. He assured me he would be fine once his prosthesis was on and he had all intentions of going right back to Iraq to finish the job he ad started and save his country from terrorism. His last words to me before I left were “Hey Adrienne—we’re gonna get ‘em.”
I met a female troop in her early thirties. Her hand had been blown off. She missed her husband and five year old daughter. We had a long talk and she assured me she was proud to have served her country and she held me in her one arm as I cried. I assured her we appreciated her and were grateful she was alive. After a longer chat, the bottom line is I have adopted her. Yep, she’s going to visit my family at our home. I’m planning on keeping a lifetime friendship with her and while she is at Walter Reed she has an open invitation for us to provide some family life for her. My family and I are looking forward to her first visit with us.
I’d like to take this opportunity to say that we civilians, at home with the luxury of seeing and speaking to our families every day, should count our blessings. I listen to the news every day and when I hear the number of soldiers wounded and killed while protecting us, it saddens me beyond words. But when I would hear wounded, I had never associated the word or understood it until I actually saw the wounds. They are devastating and heart wrenching.
Since May of 2002, I have done book signings all over the country. I have autographed thousands of copies of Departures, Connecting, Lust Lies and Two Wives, The Bitch Tried to Steal My Husband's Body and Arrivals and met many people across the United States. September 25, 2004 was the most important book signing I have ever done and I plan to return to Walter Reed. I had originally self published Departures in May of 2002. I was quickly acquired by Penguin NAL and Departures was revised and released September 7, 2004. I had the option of debuting the book at Barnes and Noble, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania immediately after it’s re-release. I declined. The first book I autographed, I wanted to sign at Walter Reed—with my heroes.
I extend my warmest regards to the troops and their families and wish them well. I also thank them for their daily sacrifices and their protection of myself, my family and my country.
Author of Departures, Connecting,
The Bitch Tried to Steal My Husband’s Body, Lust, Lies and Two Wives and Arrivals
P.S. Every troop I met on September 25 has a way to contact me. Yep—you know they have my home telephone number, E-mail and website. You know what—they loved the fact that I was “touchable, totally absent an ego and willing to stay in tuned with them to see how they were getting along.
HEY PENGUIN and CHERRY WEINER: I’M PRETTY PROUD OF YOU GUYS, TOO.