A Warrior's Wounds Healed by Papago Indian Medicine
Staff Sergeant Ray Daniels is a veteran of multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his last assignment, his platoon was sent out to capture Taliban chieftains in a nearby village. Ray sensed it was a trap and tried to warn his superiors. They firmly believed the intelligence was good and that the terrorists could not possibly have the arms and numbers to stop a heavily armed mobile infantry platoon.
It was indeed an ambush and the platoon took heavy casualties. Despite being heavily wounded, Ray struggled but was only able to save one member of his squad.
Ray awakened in a hospital room, attached to leads and tubes. He did not know who he was, where he was, or how he got there. When he was ready to travel, he was medically evacuated to Evans Army Hospital in Fort Carson, Colorado, the home of the 4th Infantry Division. All the other wounded soldiers received mail, calls, and visits – but not Ray. He listened to the words of what happened to him in Afghanistan, but the words were meaningless as he had could not remember any of it. Tired of being pushed and prodded and constantly asked questions he could not answer, Ray left the hospital and boarded a bus with no goal or destination. He had but twenty dollars in his pocket.
Professor Joe Redmond is an elder of the Tohono O'odham Tribe of southern Arizona and Northern Mexico. He recently lost his beloved wife to incurable and painful cancer, feeling somewhat guilty because none of the traditional herbal medicines he and his family knew were able to help her. His teaching specialty was Cultural Anthropology, specializing in American Indian Culture and Lore. No longer able to stand before classes to share his knowledge, he does so with his grandson and other youth of the tribe.
Joe spends time in the diner where his daughter works as a waitress. He watches an individual wearing an army fatigue jacket get off a bus catering to Hispanic travelers in the truck stop across the way and watches as he marches across the parking lot, almost getting hit by a semi and a speeding car. He recognizes someone walking while paying attention to possible land mines or improvised explosive devices.
When the man enters the diner, Joe sees his eyes and recognizes someone suffering from severe shell shock. He spent time in the US Special Forces in Vietnam. Caring deeply for a comrade in arms, Joe goes to the soldier and joins him. Finding the man dazed and without money, he has his daughter bring him food and introduces himself.
The bus departs while Ray is eating and Joe knows he is stranded – and broke. Without thinking twice, Joe decides he must do his best to help Ray overcome his physical and emotional wounds. He invites him to go home with him, determined to use what he knows to ease Ray's pain and help him regain his past.
In the following weeks and months, Joe regales Ray with American Indian myths while showing them the beauty of the Sonora Desert, its plants and animals. He feeds him food laced with herbs and spices to assist Ray to regain his strength.
As Ray listens and learns, bits and pieces of his memory return. He and Joe go to Montham AFB in Tuscon where Ray is placed on convalescent leave and gains access to his back pay. Joe learns the doctors are holding something back, something to do with Ray's family.
To make matters stranger, a black government SUV is seen in the area with federal agents seeking Ray, no explanations given. A reporter from a newspaper in eastern Tennessee also seeks Ray. Joe learns she is a facilitator for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, where Ray's passport says he was born.
Realizing how out of shape he is, Ray goes out into the morning coolness to exercise. As he starts The Daily Dozen, he hears many voices counting cadence with him. He knows they are his comrades and is agonized as he cannot see their faces.
During a trip into Sonora, Mexico, to visit members of Joe's family and replenish his supply of herbs and medicines, the discussion turns to methods of finding things and helping restore memory loss. Ray instantly wants to take part in such a ritual. As Joe's grandson is ready for his Vision Quest, it is decided that both will participate at the same time.
The problem is that, even with the most experienced of healers, the drugs involved can be lethal if not properly gathered, prepared, and monitored.
Joe takes Ray back to the air force base and Janet Catsclaw, the Cherokee tribal facilitator, catches up to Ray. Joe and Ray have heard the official versions of Ray's action in Afghanistan and Catsclaw explains why he has heard nothing from family – he has none. His parents died in a fire thought to be arson, set by the Vietnamese boy they adopted.
What choice does Ray have? He either regains his memory and has a life or is discharged from the Army and put out on the streets or turned over to a Veteran's Administration medical facility.
The time and place is set, on the slopes of Mount Baboquivari, a place the Papago believe is the center of their people. Ray and Joe's grandson, Rudi, are prepared in a sweat lodge. When Rudi sets off for his Vision Quest, Joe and other curanderos add datura and other herbs to the smoke, keeping an eye on Ray to ensure he's okay.
The visions come. Ray discovers his totem is a Jackrabbit. Having heard in so many of Joe's stories that Rabbit is a brave creature, Ray is pleased and selects his own Totem Name of Brave Rabbit.
Ray first visits a place with towering pines and is shown the horse farm where he grew up. It is the first time his father, mother, adopted sister and brother become real to him and the sorrow of their passing finally fills him.
He is carried by a giant eagle to a far place where he sees himself and his comrades prepare for and set off on the raid. He cries out in agony as he sees his mates ambushed and slaughtered, urging himself to do everything he could in spite of his own serious wounds to save his squad members. Only one other man survives and reinforcement arrive to find them huddled under a burning Humvee.
Janis Catsclaw has stayed by his side throughout his vision as she has determined, in the fashion of her people, that Ray is her lifelong companion
Rudi successfully completes his quest so the group disperses to their various homes.
Ray is ready to face life and says farewell to Joe, who will always be his family. He and Janis depart the reservation to see what their future will be – and perhaps find out the truth about Ray's family’s death.
Ugh. You got stuck writing a synopsis. Help is on the way.
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