Yesterday, I picked up a passenger at a location I not only had never been to before… I didn’t even know it existed.
That’s saying a lot.
I’ve been driving professionally on this island for over eleven years now, and living (and driving) on this tiny rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for over seventeen years. It’s a small place and I’ve been all over it.
I’ve been on every major road many many times. I’ve been down most minor roads at least once or twice, and quite often I find myself driving down some secret, secluded, private and/or restricted road that very few people would ever see. But yesterday, I was sent down a dirt road that I’d previously only zipped by the entrance to (off a fairly well traveled country road connecting two populated areas) without the slightest notice.
As my Handi-Van bumped and swayed down the heavily rutted dirt road, I encountered many vehicles. Big trucks, small trucks, a few cars and some large and specialized equipment rumbled by me. I was the slowest-moving vehicle by far. A public para-transit bus, completely out of place. The occupied area was assessable only by going through an automatic gate opened by entering a code into a keypad.
I then entered an area being developed for some kind of non residential purposes. It’s obviously not an official or industrial area, but it’s also unclear how public this place is. Since it’s up against some military (and perhaps quasi-military) installations, it may even be some kind of project only open to people with military connections. My destination was near the end of this road. As I went, I passed by many odd collections of small farm-like operations and enclosed compounds with goings-on that were unknowable from the outside.
My passenger did not deter me from this perspective. This idea that everyone here was connected to the military in some fashion. Right away, she informed me of her connection to the world of the American Armed Forces. Right away, I was struck with the now far-too-familiar face of the wounded warrior in my presence. As one who has been providing careful and caring transport to people of all kinds of disabilities on this island, this island that has the highest concentration of military than any place I know of… I am now quite used to this face.
This very specialized face.
I can’t imagine any other place than this island of Oahu, where one is more likely to encounter this face. This island with bases of major importance to every single branch of the US military. And then some. With the Navy and Air Force at the Pearl Harbor and Hickam joint base, The Army at Schofield Barracks and The Marines in Kaneohe on K-Bay, this small island is pretty completely covered in military presence.
Then of course there’s the NSA and their satellite listening station up near Whitmore village, the huge antenna array out in Waianae valley, and Bellows Air Force Base, Tripler Amy Hospital, Wheeler Army Air Base, Ford Island, The Pacific Fleet Central Command Center… and Kunia Tunnel. The super secret Kunia Tunnel in which no one I know, has any clue as to what goes on. That’s near where I was yesterday.
Where I picked up my passenger with her specialized, wounded warrior face.
She was a Marine. No doubt she was retired, but the truth of the expression “Once a Marine, Always a Marine” was so clearly a part of her face that noting it here, seems to me to be a point so beyond moot, that I barley condone myself in making it anyway.
Ironically, the location where I picked up this Marine, was a shelter for wounded and discarded horses.
This wounded warrior woman, and her specialized face got on board and for most of the journey, I drove in silence while she shared her pain. She was exhausted and yet still felt a need to share, so there I was… there to listen.
I won’t go into the details of what she shared with me. The nature of how the warriors of our world get to be the wounded souls they so often do, is something for another piece of writing. Probably best written by the wounded warriors themselves. Instead, I’m going to end this story and just mention one more thing.
Whatever else is being developed on that dirt road just a few miles south of Kunia Tunnel, there is at least one place within the area that is helping at least one wounded warrior.
I only know this because I picked up one Marine who is being helped, by helping the horses there. She told me exactly that. She told me that coming to volunteer her time, and helping those horses has brought her back from a very dark place. It has given her a reason to leave her small room in Honolulu and get out onto that sanctuary for wounded warriors down that country road.
These people running the place are thus helping wounded and discarded souls who had perviously no where else to go.