Volunteering—Remote Area Medical

In downtown, the coffee shop is closed on weekends. Train tracks shine silver, polished twice each day. The Hall of Justice is the nicest new building in town. A lighted sign on Center Street advertises the free medical clinic this weekend in a warehouse that serves as a church.

We left our hotel in pre-dawn darkness. My wife and son and I arrived an hour before the clinic opened. The parking lot in front held more cars than for an Easter Sunday service. People waited in line at the door. We drove to the back of the building to park in a field with volunteers from three states away.

While my wife recorded vitals and completed patient histories, my son and I worked our unskilled station checking for completed forms and directing people to medical services, to dental for extractions and prosthetics, or to vision for eye exams and glasses. When I reached for one woman’s form, she shook my hand and thanked me. When my son thanked a limping veteran for his service, the man got tears in his eyes.

The rush subsided by mid-morning. I sat down, pulled out a Kindle, and started to read. A young boy waiting on his grandfather asked, “What’s that?”

More patients trickled in. A few sat with interpreters who listened and explained what to expect. A woman borrowed a pen from my son to sign her treatment form. When she handed the pen back, it was wet. My son discretely cleaned it.

The boy who asked about my Kindle watched me write in a notebook. When I saw him again he had a church pen and a pad of sticky notes. The pad advertised a payday lender. He peeled off a note and handed it to me. His message said, “I hop You a hape DA.”

I thanked the boy and wished him a happy day, too. He smiled big. His grandfather, wearing new glasses, called to the boy. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s find your sister and go home.”

#ramusa #remoteareamedical

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My Father’s Memoir

In the last years of his life, my father wrote a series of emails to my oldest son, the oldest grandchild in the family. Dad copied me on his emails. He told me he would like for all of his grandchildren to read them when they became old enough to appreciate the stories. I assured him I would see to it.

The stories Dad wrote describe his experiences in World War II. They are not stories of combat, intrigue, high adventure, or tragedy. Instead, they tell about ordinary aspects of the life of a soldier. He wrote in a matter-of-fact tone, his voice pitched to a young reader, but aware that others might read as well. Only on further consideration does a reader appreciate the context in which a citizen-turned-soldier earned such stories.

Dad grew up going to the movies. They provided a major form of entertainment during the Great Depression. On Saturday afternoons in the 1930s Dad enjoyed cowboy westerns and space adventures and other action films. Each movie had a hero, and each story implied something about heroism. The concept of heroism Dad learned from the movies led him to title one of his WWII stories “Never A Hero.” He believed he didn’t do anything special during the war. I believe he was wrong.

What the movie heroes in the 1930s all had in common at the beginning of each film was an unsure outcome. The heroes proceeded with partial knowledge at best, and they encountered various perils. Most prevailed; some did not. They all accepted great risk. As my father and millions of his contemporaries embarked on periods of service in World War II, none of them knew the outcome of his or her experience, the peril they would face, or whether or not they would prevail. In the face of great risk and an unknown outcome, simply doing one’s duty is a form of heroism.

I saved each of the emails Dad sent to my son. To honor his wishes, I have shared them with his younger grandchildren. However instead of simply forwarding the emails, I compiled them into a book and have given a copy of the book to each grandchild. They can read it now, and again many years from now when they might have a different understanding of their grandfather’s role in one of the major events of the twentieth century. Whenever they read it, I hope they hear a familiar voice.

The book I compiled for Dad’s grandchildren may be of interest to others. A hardback version is available from the self-publishing site, Blurb.com, and a softcover edition is available on Amazon. Whether a reader knew my father or not, one who enjoys memoir, a description of life in the first half of twentieth century, or an inside account of enlisted army life in World War II might appreciate his story. I’m grateful he shared it.




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Reading in the Barn

It was a great experience attending The Frost Place Poetry Seminar in Franconia, New Hampshire in early August. This was my second time at the seminar, and second time reading poems in the barn behind Robert Frost’s house. See one of the poems I read, “Right of Way,” which first appeared in The Timberline Review.


In addition to writing, learning, and reading, I worked in a morning of trout fishing on the Ammonoosuc River in White Mountain National Forest. Not a bad way to spend a week in late summer.

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Another Essay on Gun Control

Do we need another essay on gun control? I don’t know, but none of the ones so far have done much good. Here’s my contribution to the subject: Risk Management, Tyranny, and Guns.

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Another Eulogy

The first eulogy I had the honor to deliver was for my uncle. It was hard. On the way out of the church sanctuary, my father told me I had done a good job. I thanked him and said, “Just wait ’til you hear yours.” He got a good laugh out of that.

Dad passed away in December, 2015. Over a beautiful April weekend we held a memorial service to bury his ashes next to his parents’ graves in Atlanta. Twenty or so family and friends got to hear the eulogy I wrote for Dad. He never heard it, but I did tell him how I felt about him before he passed away. He and I had a very good understanding of each other’s opinions, and strong mutual respect. I’m sure he knew how I felt, yet I am thankful to have told him. Never miss an opportunity to tell someone you love how you feel about them.

Dad’s eulogy was even harder to deliver than the first one I presented, but it was a pleasure to write. I share it here for those who were not able to attend the service, or those who just want to read it and think of Charles Marsh. He was a good man. Maybe someday I will find out he got to hear his eulogy after all.

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Poem from the ICU

A rejection slip from an online poetry journal disappointed me a little today. The main poem in the small set came from a nursing story Debbie brought home from work. There are certainly other journals that might take it, however I’d like to share it here. Enjoy.



The nurse approached the bed,
laid a hand on slackened skin.
She made her touch feather-light
so as not to bruise.
“I came to say goodbye,”
she told her sweet patient
who wanted to be no trouble,
whose ailment was not
a self-inflicted wound,
nor her body
a basket of poor decisions,
rather a common gift from God.
“But I thought you
were taking me home,”
the patient told the nurse’s heart.
Home is where the heart is.
Where, we say. As if
location were all that mattered.

Devon Marsh
December 11, 2015

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A Poem from Vacation

A weekend trip to a favorite cabin on the New River resulted in some nice photographs and at least one poem. A Day on the Oldest River is a snapshot of sorts. It captures a day when the kids are at an age that allows us to engage in activities together and make plans to do things like this again and again, even though we know life carries us past any particular moment as relentlessly as a river.


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