Everyday those who have been changed by war struggle. When a warrior is injured, there is a multitude of family, friends, and communities who are forever changed. The roadside bomb that tore through my sons life, tore through mine, and all those who love him as well. We are the ones you don’t see, the ones who were left behind, the ones who are dealing with our own wounds, while caring for our nations wounded.
We must ask ourselves, “How am I going to live my life today.” We can’t change our yesterdays, tomorrow is a day away, so, today is where we can choose to make a difference.
Live your life today without regret, put yesterday behind you, and look forward to your tomorrow with peace.
I have read statements like: Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.
This sounds a little one sided. Family isn’t always blood, this I agree with completely. But if you are the kind of person who openly accepts others as they are, then you will be accepted. If you freely invite others into your life, then you will be invited into their lives. If you would do anything to bring a smile to someones face, then you will have family beyond measure.
Some of my closes family members are not related to me by blood, but by bonds. The bonds we make with friends from school, or with those we work closely beside, or with others that we share a common life experience, all can become our closes family members. And in this age of technology, sometimes we form bonds with others that we have never met in person.
I have seen how some of our military families have a bond between them that is stronger than they have with blood family members. They share a common experience that cannot be understood completely by others. Even within the military, their life experiences form different bonds.
The wounded warrior community forms bonds very different, and more complex, than service members in general. Depending on what types of injuries and where they are treated brings like families together. For example: The wife, or mother, of a warrior will reach out to another wife, or mother, who has come through those hospital doors, to comfort and to try and help guide them. Comforting is a way of surviving emotionally, especially when faced with their families uncertain future.
I believe that if we reach out to others that we come into contact with everyday, if we open our own doors to let others into our lives, if we make ourselves available to others needs, then we have the possibility of making someone else’s journey through this life a little easier.
Bonds within bonds, now that is where true families live.
This post is dedicated to organizations like the Bob Woodruff Foundation, Operation Mend, and Operation Homefront who sponsor retreats for the wives and mothers of wounded warriors. They all bring us together so that we may heal.
Sarah Jenkins and Diana Mankin Phelps, Operation Homefront’s San Antonio retreat 2014.
THE OTHER SIDE OF WAR and A MOTHER’S SIDE OF WAR are the same book, but under different titles. I decided to offer the book under this other title in order to raise awareness that this is a book about healing after war. It doesn’t speak only to mothers. It is a story that warriors, spouses, and older children can relate too. Those from all walks of life will relate to this family that has been affected by war. The warriors are not the only ones who have been injured and must find their own place of healing. Families, friends and communities have been forever changed by those injured while serving.
This true story was written with the intent to help those who are hurting. As well as to educate those who don’t have a military connection, and have no idea about the hardships that our heroes and their families are going through on a daily basis.
I have released both titles in paperback at cost, $5.00 plus shipping, if purchased through me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are several organizations who will be giving the books out at Christmas, retreats, and adding them to gift bags at fund raisers and year end meetings. Others are ordering just for themselves.
Please consider gifting this book to those you know who may need a look into the world of our wounded, and the remarkable, heroic, efforts of people who are eager to help. The message is “You are not alone,” to those who are in the midst of their own post war lives.
Exert from The Other Side of War pg. 16. (It was 24 hours after Aaron was injured in Iraq. He is in Germany, where they are stabilizing him to be transported to Brooke Army Medical Center.)
It was Thursday evening, and I was sitting on our back patio, thinking, crying, hoping, and conversing with the night wind. Only a few months earlier, my three children’s voices had filled the night air, with the joking around and laughter only the young seem to express so unflinchingly. I wondered about Aaron’s medical needs and if he was on a respirator, or if he did not need one. Was he aware of what was going on around him, or was he kept unconscious? Did he know how much I loved him and how it was tearing me up inside, not being with him?
As the early morning sun slowly began to touch the clear, peaceful sky, all I could think of was that Aaron’s eyes mimicked that same cool blue color. I sat there with the phone held tightly in my hand, waiting anxiously for the next call, even though I knew I would not hear anything until he was ready to be transported from Germany to San Antonio.
The Lord had already assured me He would not take Aaron’s life, so the thought of getting that phone call wasn’t even in me…
“American girls and American guys will always stand up and salute, we will always recognize, when we see ‘Ol’ Glory’ flying that there’s a lot of men dead, so we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our head.”
I’m not sure if I got every word from Toby Keith’s song correct, but, it’s close. I do know that the vast majority of this nations citizens have no idea of the sacrifices that have been made, and are being made everyday, for their life of ‘Freedom.’
I guess when you’ve never known anything other than freedom that it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to live under a Dictators rule, or enslaved without regard to your wants, your basic needs, or even your life.
I think most of us adults have someone in our family history who fought and died in past wars. How many of us refer to them as “uncle so-and-so or grandpa such-and-such” served in some war, someplace? Where are your tears of pride?
I’ll be generous in calculating that only about 5% of today’s families have been touched by the wars our country have been involved in for the past 15+ years. Our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers, our friends, our spouses, our fathers and mothers, have raised up and said, “I will serve.”
Some have been placed on a list of those who gave all, who died so we could sleep in peace at night. We know what it means to shed tears of pride–this 5%.
But, its way past time for the blinders to come off for the other 95% of America’s citizens. What a difference could be made if we all got involved in some small way.
Our children need more American history taught in their schools that is relative to them. They have parents, and other adults that they personally know, who have been in these past 10-15+ years of war. How many would show their tears of pride? Would they even know how to express such feelings? Can we not talk openly, and age appropriately, with our children?
My father lied on his enlistment papers to join the Marines after his 17th birthday. He was a boy by todays standards. During times of war, youthful dreams are often denied.
After this picture was taken, my dad got on his Harley Davidson motorcycle and rode for over 20 hours to reach his designated extraction point on the east coast. He sang “Put Another Nickel In, In the Nickelodeon,” all the way to stay awake.
He was anxious to fight for his country, he was eager to defend others, he was a man who put love of country before boyish dreams. When he reached the east coast, our fight was over, our enemies surrender kept him from stepping into the arena of becoming a war fighter. This was a regret he carried until the day he died.
A trained Marine doesn’t like being told to go home, even though he was grateful the war was over. This man of honor cried tears of pride for his friends and family members that never returned. And there were many…
Even though I was a child of the Vietnam generation, I did not know one person who gave their life. Or even a family who suffered loss. Where were my tears of pride?
Before my son was injured while serving in Iraq, I was one of the 95% “unawares.”
Then I began meeting parents who had a child that did not come home alive, or who died from their injuries in the hospitals where I was with my son. We held each other while shedding our tears of pride.
Well, all the above places me in just about every category of unawares, and awareness, there is when it comes to those who have served and died. And I have learned a lot about tears of pride.
Even though we will miss those who are now gone…those who chose to serve…we take pride in their choices…honorable choices that kept, and keep, this nation free…and others in country’s far from us free and safe. That’s the true, complicated, yet simplistic, meaning of tears of pride.
Just one more challenge, find your own tears of pride. Memorial Day will change you, teach you, and you will honor this day with tears of pride.
HAPPY MOTHERS DAY to all you moms on our special day! I hope your day is filled with the love you deserve! You are the strength behind those who have made this nation what it is today. You have cradled and taught with love and compassion those who have grown to be the leaders of our country through the years. You are raising up the next generation that will be responsible for the future endeavors to maintain our freedoms. Be proud of who you are, and the importance of your passion to be mothers! God bless you all, and may He hold you firmly in His hands.
One by one they decide to serve this country during a time of war. One by one they continue to sign their lives away, if that’s what it takes. They have each made this decision knowing they may pay the ultimate price.
One by one they stand strong, as they look to the one on their right and to the one on their left. They pledge to fight for each other, as well as for country, family and home.
One by one they watch, as the one who stood beside them falls. And another steps up, one by one they stand, they fight.
One by one they return home. One thing that never entered their minds was returning home changed, injured, mutilated, unrecognizable.
One by one they fall through the cracks. One by one they take their own life, the one they so eagerly signed over to serve. One by one for every hour of everyday, they die.
Why is it that one by one we turn our eyes away? One by one we choose to ignore, to act as though we don’t know their struggles, to not reach out to those standing so close.
One by one we will be held accountable. Which one are you, the one who served, the one who reached out, or the one who quietly turned away?
Be the one, the one who cares, the one who listens, the one who stands up for and beside them. Be on their right, and on their left, walk before them. And always have their back–as they had yours.
Please, do what ever you can. Let’s stop death by suicide among or warriors!!!
When a warrior returns home from battle, they are changed. If their scars are visible they are recognized as wounded heroes. Heroes who have paid a price for our freedom. And we think we can comprehend what they have given simply by looking at their scars, but we cannot.
For those who come home with invisible wounds, well, we are still in our infancy as to addressing their need for compassion and healing.
There are always those people who are visibly helping our wounded, the nurses, the doctors, the volunteers who have dedicated their lives to serving those how have served us. There are private organizations that have sprung up all around this nation to help “take-up the slack” for our heroes. Operation Mend, The Gary Sinise Foundation, Operation Homefront, The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, and The Bob Woodruff Foundation are just a few worth while organizations to be recognized.
The goverment of this great country of ours has been overwhelmed by the large number of injured returning from war. They are unable to provide each of them with the personal, diligent care to heal that they so glaringly deserve.
The burden to watch over our wounded warriors falls most heavily on the families, friends and communities where they live. The support that is received in each of their hometowns is the defining factor as to the level of healing that will take place in their lives.
As they heal, our nation will heal. When you give of yourself to any wounded warrior and their family, you will find that your own heart will begin to heal in a place that you did not even know was in need.
20 years ago today I married Don Michael Phelps, and began a new chapter in my life book. He has made me laugh, and taught me to see in new ways.
He has listened to me cry, and knew when to hold me and when not to even try. He has seen me at my worst, my best, at my sickest, and battle back from Cancer. He has seen me more angry than I thought I was capable of, and happier than I thought I deserved. If something bothered me, he always made it better.
We have loved, laughed, fought, cried, heard our babies newborn cries, buried our loved ones, and watched our children go through some of the most terrifying things any parent can imagine.
But together, whether we are side-by-side or thousands of miles apart, we’re together, we are good, we can make it through anything. At the end of the day, we love. And we know that God has been our strength and has seen us through it all… I wonder what He’s got in mind for the next 20 years???
When our life changes because of an unforeseen circumstance, it can change how we see ourselves and how others look at us. This can be something that changes us on the inside – where no one else can see, or it can be an injury that alters our appearance – something that everyone can see. We each have to decide if this is going to make us bitter or better.
I think we can all say that life has thrown us whirling in the wind a few times. Most times we just keep on going after dusting ourselves off. Sometimes we cry and stomp our feet about how someone has “done us wrong,” but we still keep doing the things that must be done. And life continues, a little different, but it still continues. These are not the types of changes I’m talking about.
When I look at my son, and all that he has been through in the last ten years as a wounded warrior, I’m humbled. This young man took what would have made most men crumble, and allowed it to make him better not bitter.
When I look at my daughter, the mother of a Down Syndrome child for the past 11 years, again I am humbled. Sarah has taken a child that some told her to throw away, put in a home, go live your life, and made herself better not bitter.
I can’t imagine life without the examples of strength, courage, and commitment that my children show me every day. They make my life better.