Josh McElroy is a BHPS board member and works as an instructor at Central Kentucky Riding for Hope, site of this year’s Summit in October. Josh is also an Army veteran and is a Medical Operations Section Chief for the National Guard.
Since the outbreak of COVID19, nearly 20,000 National Guard troops in 50 states have been activated, according to the Military Times. They are assisting at drive-through testing sites, hospitals, with data entry, clean-up, and other tasks.
In Kentucky, there have been over 3,100 cases and nearly 200 deaths from the virus. McElroy contributed this report as he works from the barracks near Lexington:
As we enter what seems like the eleventeenth week of social isolation in our country, I am entering my fourth week of support to our local hospitals through my National Guard unit. We have heard “Thank you for your service!” quite a few times. Over the last 18 years, I’ve heard that phrase countless times. I know that many of the American civilians say it with gratitude for what they believe a service member has done. Some people have a good idea what it entails. Others don’t really grasp it.
Let me paint a picture:
You are moved into a small area. Sometimes you have one room to yourself, if you are lucky. Most times you have a small space where your bed is. The few feet around that bed belong to you and only you.
You see the same three to five people every day, all day. You are not allowed to go out of a very restricted area. If you do leave that area, you have to have Personal Protective Equipment. Going outside your wire without PPE is dangerous. You can’t just walk around wherever you want. You visit the same locations, sometimes in a specific order, other times at random but always the same location.
You can’t get “normal” items all the time. Stuff like toilet paper. You must ration things that on a normal day you wouldn’t even think about, because you don’t know when you will be able to get more.
There is an enemy out there. Somewhere. Ninety percent of you have never seen the enemy. You have never faced them in combat, but you know someone who has. You have a friend who has been or is outside the wire now.
People are dying every day. You know that, sometimes you even know someone who dies. But you can’t go to their funeral, because it’s too far away. It’s outside your wire. You’re not authorized.
You get to video call your extended family in a few days; your nephew’s birthday is coming up. But you won’t be there. You can’t just leave and go see them. That would be dangerous. In the meantime:
- You find new things to do.
- You take up a weird past time.
- You read a LOT.
- You watch a LOT of movies.
- You just sit around a LOT.
You get into your routine. Some of you face the enemy daily. It is your job to fight. You get up knowing today could go bad. Your friends all pray for you. You and the few people who are like you, those who “get” combat see this routine differently than everyone else. You aren’t scared, not really. Nervous is what you are, because you don’t want to make the people around you scared. The less they really know about the enemy and what it can do the better.
Everyone around you is stuck here, too. You see them at the store, you see them around. They always look at you a little differently; some with admiration, some with pity. Some are buying up stuff that you really could have used. That’s irritating. But you know it’s their way of coping.
You’re headed back outside for a few days, into the fight. Everyone is wondering when they can go home. But no one has any clue. Someone up the chain of command must know something, but all you get is rumors. So you will just keep in the routine and stay vigilant. You’ll talk to your family when you can. You’ll watch more movies, maybe read another book, practice guitar.
More people will die before this trip is over. You just selfishly hope that its not one of your friends. You pray that no one in your family gets sick while your away because you won’t make it there in time. If it isn’t your job to fight, you’ll just do what you can. Until you get to go back.
Now maybe America grasps what they have been thanking us for all these years.
Just my eleventeenth week thoughts.