Mark was sitting up with a smile on his face. His short hair reminded me of Sgt. Carter from the TV show Gomer Pyle, USMC.
That turned the conversation to his January trip to Poland with Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.). Mark has always been devoted to national security in and out of uniform.
I mentioned the highway bill and how it looked like the Senate version of $109 million for two years would be the base. He was proud of the bi-partisan work of Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) and Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Rep. Quigley on the commuter rail portion. He is also enthusiastic about his work with Mayor Emanuel on a public-private aspect to infrastructure.
I then moved to the primary season in Illinois, and we discussed several upcoming Republican Congressional primaries.
I told him I was reading the book “Lone Survivor.” As a graduate of the Army's Ranger school, I could not believe what the Navy Seal school put these students through. I reflected on my 52 day experience. Surely it was not that bad. Mark talked about a weapons qualification test he took led by a Navy Seal. He griped about the ungodly amount of rounds he had to send downrange over a two day period.
But he said that nothing he has done has been as difficult as this road to recovery. Every day, Mark pushes himself through tough physical therapy sessions, on a treadmill and walking the hallways. Some days are better than others but his progress is consistent, and he knows we are cheering him on.
Mentally he is sharp. I believe he could cast knowledgeable votes today. But he is in a critical time to continue to focus on improvement and strengthening his body and soul for the important work he looks forward to resuming.
We did talk about faith and he pointed again to the window ledge where his Bible sits. He mentioned the daily visit of the rehab center chaplain and time spent in prayer. How quickly I and many others have dropped Mark off our prayer lists. I would ask that we all continue to pray for his speedy recovery.
I felt I was overstaying my time, so I started making comments that I should leave and let him get some rest and that it was sure great seeing him. As I was leaving, Mark reached over to give me a strong handshake.
As I walked out of his room, I overheard him ask his staffer what time the movie was on. That is when I knew he was about to stay up to watch “Game Change.”
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Rep. Shimkus (R-Ill.) represents the 19th Congressional District of Illinois.