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Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction

The following is a piece of writing submitted by Michael K on August 12, 2008

License Plate

The license plate on my car doesn't look quite like yours. On the left side of the number there is a small black line drawing of a man in a wheelchair, and to the far left of that drawing there is a military insignia with the words "Purple" and "Heart" on either side of it. The drawing of the wheelchair reminds people to leave for me the parking space closest to the door, and the Purple Heart reminds them to pause for a moment and give me a respectful and reverent nod as I wheel on by.

I lost a leg and part of a hand in Iraq. It still sounds unbelievable to me when I read those words on the page. I lost a leg and part of a hand. Sometimes I think these are the least of my losses. The loss of independence, the loss of dignity, and the loss of a decent night's sleep...but even these aren't the worst of my losses.

You can't understand the horror I relive every time my eyes close at night. You can't understand that haunting, terrifying, eternal moment that changed everything. Because you weren't the one who saw the mine in the road ahead of you...and froze.

Have you ever experienced that moment of uncertainty, that moment when you aren't entirely sure you're really seeing what you think you're seeing? Of course you have. But for you that split second indecision wasn't a moment of life or death. The life of a battle comrade didn't hang in the balance, weighed out by your measure of uncertainty.

You don't replay that moment over and over like a horrifying slow motion film loop that never ends.

The purple heart and the little black drawing serve to remind you to leave a space for me, and to give a nod of reverent respect as I wheel on by, but for me they only serve to raise a question which will haunt me for the rest of my life: Do I deserve one, and not the other?

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