(9 of 9)
I expressed my frustration that such a major ordeal had seemed to have so little effect on me--I was still the same impatient, competitive and self-critical person I'd always been. If I had acted so nobly, why didn't I feel more content? Wain's response struck me at the time as somewhat facile: the good deed, he said, had left me angry at myself. "You're thinking you could have done the same thing and didn't have to lose the hand. You love a perfect win and didn't get that perfect victory that you wanted and maybe deserved."
As I tossed and turned in the early hours of Independence Day, the simple truth of the psychologist's words hit me. It was true: I was mad at myself for failing to pull off a clean sweep. And it was that anger that was preventing me from savoring the achievement of a lifetime: saving my own skin and that of three others. My failure to get rid of the grenade before it exploded was only the first in a long list of wrongs I would have to pardon before I could finally put the ordeal behind me.
I had gone to Iraq for adventure and glory, discounting the interests of family and friends.
I had blithely ridden into danger with little to gain journalistically.
I had focused more on the loss of my hand than on the higher importance of preserving life.
The shortcomings were tough to swallow. But I was resolved to begin the process, keeping in mind Hal Wain's definition of heroism: self-preservation. By that standard, I had scored a perfect win after all.
The prize was the rest of my life.
Go to time.com to see a video interview with Michael Weisskopf and read a bonus excerpt from his book Blood Brothers