This is my last update letter. I am leaving the Tampa VA facility tomorrow and heading back to NYC. I am stopping by Ft Bragg to welcome my buddies back as they arrived home this past Tuesday. It has been a long strange journey and yet now I face my hardest challenge of all in the past year and half – finding a decent affordable apt in New York!! My choices are Union Square, Upper East and mid-town East if anyone has a lead send it my way. I start back at work on Monday June 4, 2007. Prior to that I will be getting settled in, spending time with friends and family, conducting my follow up medical appts and starting rehab….oh yeah, and sneaking down to Club Med for a week of fun in the Caribbean sun.
I arrived here in Tampa on Feb 1st in a wheelchair. I am leaving 3 months later on my own two feet without a cane. I still move slowly, have trouble with my balance at times, have a noticeable limp, and some pain when I sit for an extended period of time. But I will continue my rehab at least one hour everyday at the VA in NYC on 23rd and 1st. They claim to have a poly-trauma rehab team and a gym with state of the art equipment, so I will start there and see how it goes. I am also exploring private care options just in case. I am officially medically retired from the military on May 31, 2007 – 18 years and 7 days after graduating West Point. This time it is permanent.
Although I am far from back to normal, I can get around fine and even did a 20 yard dash in 5.99 seconds. Not exactly ready for the NFL Combine, but definitely better than last Fall. I went to the golf range last weekend just to see what would happen – I only managed to get three balls into the air. Those that have played with me in the past will know that is probably not injury based. Along with an actual round of golf, my next big goal is to actually run. The deficiencies in my left foot and leg prevent that right now, but hopefully by year’s end I will manage a trot.
I also threw out the first pitch at a Yankees game. My two goals were to not fall down off the mound and get it over the plate. I did not fall over, but the pitch was high and outside. I kept telling everyone that the guy gave me the “pitch out” sign. Joe Torre has invited me to be his special guest at a Yankee game of my choice this summer. U.S. Army Major Thomas Deierlein, of New York, waves after throwing out the… – MLB – Yahoo! Sports
Although my baseball fantasy was fun, on a more serious note, I am lucky to be alive with a second chance at life and blessed to have gotten some of the best medical care available anywhere in the world. Yes, there were issues at Walter Reed and here in Tampa, but they were paperwork and bureaucracy based not medical care based. All the doctors, nurses, technicians, and therapists I have had the pleasure to deal with were true professionals and compassionate, caring individuals. My rapid recovery is my proof. I still owe some anonymous doctor in Baghdad last September a debt of gratitude. I learned only recently that apparently as I nearly bled to death (they gave me over 8 pints of blood) he administered an experimental drug called Factor 7, a blood coagulant that could have caused organ failure and DVTs (blood clots in the veins). Thank goodness that is all behind me now. On the brighter side during Tom 2.0 I will no longer take my health or fitness for granted and may in the end lead a longer more healthier life by staying focused on eating well and staying physically active.
Many many people sent me letters, notes, email and gifts. Tons of folks dropped by for visits over the past 7 months . I cannot thank everyone in this note, but rest assured they were a CRITICAL part of the healing process. I am fortunate to have friends and family like you.
Tom Deierlein Foundation:
The foundation is going well and a group of folks have now stepped up and are making this take off. A very basic website is live (thanks to Jason Merriman) and we are planning our next fundraiser. A special thanks to Doug Weaver and Upstream Group who donated $5,000 three weeks ago – a VERY generous gift. Abdullah and his mother Sanaa arrived in Michigan last Thursday and his surgery should be this week or next. The Foundation paid the travel expenses. I will send more info in a couple of week on the new Army contact in Baghdad for those that want to continue to send goods, but if you want to donate, see the site for my temporary address: www.tdfoundation.org. I will be sending the new guy some stuff in early June (once he has had a chance to settle in).
There is an MSNBC article coming out within a couple of weeks that features the Foundation and a Parade.com video interview I gave two weeks ago that discusses the Foundation.
Although this is my last update I will use this email list to send out updates on the Foundation. Here is what CPT Bill Billeter (my replacement) said about the clothes we sent over three months back:
There is a local Iraqi District Council member who has dedicated much of her time to locating and assisting the refugee families who have fled to our area from all over Iraq. This area is a little safer than most, so we have several hundred of these families here — Sunni, Shia, whatever. They often arrive here with little besides their clothing, a few small suitcases, and a carload of children. Jamilia, the council member, invited many of these families to a local government office that was secured by Iraqi Police for the purpose of giving out food and water. And she invited us too. So, we loaded up one of our trailers with many of the clothes, shoes, stuffed animals and school supplies that you and your friends have sent us. There were hundreds of Iraqis there with their families. We pulled up and opened the trailer, and you would have thought we were giving out gold bars. Hundreds of them gathered around us to get whatever we had to offer. And they were grateful. I saw li ttle kids holding stuffed animals bigger than they were. I saw families helping their children try on the new clothing and shoes.
We have not thanked you and your friends for sending us these things. We have been busy here and there are never enough hours in the day. Please thank them for me. It was a great event and a great day, and all the boxes of gifts that you guys sent us made a big difference.
I was only able to take a few pictures, but here is a picture of SGT Plows giving a stuffed animal to a tiny little person. It is a cute picture, and very meaningful in this environment. As you know, many of the Iraqis are fed lies about us by the insurgents and radical Imams and those who want us to fail here. They are told that we are oppressors and infidels. And, unfortunately, many Iraqis believe the lies because they don’t get to interact with us and find out the truth. On that day, with the hundreds of refugee families, they got to see us for who we really are.
Thanks again everyone for the love and support you have given me over the past year and a half. I am looking forward to getting back to New York, back to work, back to my family and friends, and back to my regular life prior to this surreal experience. I will leave you all with one last quote I learned back in 1985 when I first entered West Point. Never has it seemed more appropriate or more real to me than now as I launch the new and improved Tom 2.0:
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”