Harold Horn had lost his legs. It was a roadside bomb south of Mosul in Iraq, and his legs were immediately blasted into a million bits of bone and blood and muscle. The mess made it appear to Harold’s fellow Marines that Harold was surely dead. But Harold raised his head and waved his arm asking for help before slipping into a coma. That was back in July of 2005. Harold’s family in New Orleans went to Walter Reed Hospital to stand vigil while the doctors patched Harold together in 32 separate operations to keep Harold alive. The doctors told Harriet, Harold’s mother, that Harold’s coma was a good thing because it permitted the doctors to operate and operate and operate more. Losing two legs, particularly Harold’s two big football legs, is not an easy thing to deal with, medically, that is. But the hard work paid off. On Christmas Eve, 2005, Harold awoke from his coma to discover himself in a hospital room with three other Marines. Each marine had lost some appendage, an arm, a leg, one had lost his lower jaw. Harold had lost two appendages, two legs. But he felt lucky. Harold thought the guy without his lower jaw was in really bad shape.
In the first week of August 2006, Harold left Walter Reed Hospital and flew by commercial jet with Harriet, his mother, back to New Orleans where Harriet was staying in a trailer with her husband, Jim. Harold learned for the first time that his home, the house he grew up in, was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and that his mother and father had been living in a trailer for almost a year.
Harold was wheeled up to the trailer by Harriet. Harold’s father, Jim, was off trying to get some paid work down at one of the suburban retail stores.
“Mom, stop,” said Harold. Harriet stopped pushing the wheelchair.
“What is it, dear,” said Harriet.
“I just want to look at my new home,” said Harold.
“Oh, this is not your new home. We’re not staying here,” said Harriet.
“How am I going to get into the trailer? Those steps,” asked Harold.
“Oh, jeez. I didn’t think of that. I will go get George. He’s a big man who helps out. Stay here, Harold,” said Harriet as she shuffled off over the dirt to a distant trailer leaving Harold alone in his wheelchair on a dirt patch.
Harold noticed that the dirt was wet and that the wheels of his chair were sinking into the mud. He looked back up at the trailer, his new home. Harold Horn gave his two legs for a righteous cause, he thought. And God took away his parents home and gave them a trailer in the mud. Harold tried not to get angry. His father once told him to always act better than you feel. Harold felt angry, so he tried real hard to not let it reach the surface. He tried hard to look at the whole awful mess and turn it into a beautiful thing. A trailer in the mud. That can be beautiful, Harold thought.