By Lori Saldaña
My students wear their battle scars
In their brains, on their skin, thru their 10 key dexterity
They enter the computer lab with aching hearts and minds, hand me a
Veterans Affair ID card in exchange for
A textbook, a software program, a few hours on the keyboard
I watch them, marveling at their resiliency
WWII era vets sit stiffly at computers, show me photos from younger days
Korean conflict era, never finished high school but saw the world
Vietnam era, battling domestic foes: drugs, alcohol, depression
Then, the latest: Fallujah, Baghdad, Helmand Province are fresh in their minds.
Fresh as their tattoos: crisp, sharp, not faded indecipherable blurs
On this leg: “If found, return to FOB” – a grim reminder of IEDs
hidden along the winding roads and steep hills
Far from home, they patrolled the other side of the world
With these students, I administer required tests, watch fingers fly
over the keyboards
The police department is hiring, the entrance exam requires 30
words/minute typing skills
I see their frustration in tight shoulders, hands struggling to find
the keys to the academy
After all the physical fitness training and weight lifting, to be able to carry
Heavy packs or lifeless bodies during deployments into combat zones
To be conquered by a keyboard is infuriating, unthinkable
I give them encouragement and tips on technique
They have three attempts to get the required score.
Some accomplish their mission on the first try.
Others struggle- I send them outside for some fresh air and a walk
around the campus- breathe, relax
Before the final test.
We share a series of goals:
Today: 30 WPM on a certificate
Next: The Academy classrooms.
Finally: in uniform, winding through the roads and steep hills of San Diego
Back home, patrolling this side of the world