Waiting, Waiting, and More Waiting

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.)

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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…

Mothers of Today

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

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!!!

As They Heal, Our Nation Will Heal

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.

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20 Years Better, 20 Years More

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???

Happy Anniversary, I love you Don!

Thank you God!

Bitter or Better

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.

Ask Yourself

While I was visiting my 85 year old aunt, she was married to my mothers brother, we drifted into conversation about “the old days.”  Not the “good old days,” because they were hard times, troubling times. Times when people struggled to put food on their tables and clothes on their backs. Times when some watched as war broke out in countries they once called home.

Most of my people were born and raised on farms in the mid-west. For generations going back to before the founding of this country, they planted their gardens, plowed their fields, and took care of their livestock. They worked hard from sun up to sun down. And not just the adults, but the children too. That’s just the way things were back then. They all understood that everyone in the family had to do their part, and it never entered their minds that it should be any other way. Everybody worked.

I had to smile when Aunt Dody talked about their warm water baths. They would haul water from the well and fill up a tub that was located in the yard “out a ways from the house.” “The sun would just warm that water right up.” she said. And they would take turns “washing up.”

Most families “back then” had a grandma or other elderly relative living with them. They would help out around the house and with the cooking as long as they were able. Then, they were cared for by all the other members of the family until they passed on. Families were close. The children learned a lot by having their older relations in the same house, and most times in the same bedroom. Most farm houses only had two rooms, one for cooking and eating and the other room was for sleeping. Conversation, or visiting as my aunt would say, took place around the kitchen table.

My aunt and I talked about the clothes we had growing up, and how our mothers sewed everything. My mother would sew five dresses at the beginning of the school year for myself and my younger sister. I’ve long since forgotten when I finally got a “store bought dress.” After school we would carefully hang them up in the closet. We took good care of those dresses because they had to last.

Aunt Dody said her mother made her three dresses for school. Now, to make their clothes meant a trip to the feed store. It was the same for my mother, along with all the other girls in their one room school house. My mothers family, and my aunts, lived on land around the town of Welch, Oklahoma. Yes, look that one up on your maps.

The sacks that the feed for the horses came in were made from material of various colors and prints. This material would be put to good use when made into dresses, shirts, aprons, and anything else that might be needed. The sacks would be stacked to the roof in the feed store in town, and the girls would have the clerk moving the sacks around until they found the colors and prints they wanted. Everyone in the family took turns when a sack was emptied and brought in to be sown. But sometimes the print that finally made its way to the house, would not be the one they had their eye on when it was their turn.

“I really had my eye on this one pattern. But when it was empty and ready to be made into something, it was grandma’s turn. Will my grandma of course wanted me to have it, you know how grandma’s are,” said Aunt Dody, But her momma pulled her aside and whispered to her, “Now Dody, you let your grandma have that one and you can have the next one.”

The next piece of material that came in was “a really pretty blue with little flowers just sprinkled all over it. I’d had my eye on that other one, and I guess I didn’t notice this one in that load of feed sacks.” She leaned over to me as we each took a sip of our sweet ice tea and said, “We really used a lot of feed for them horses of ours.”

Her momma made “this beautiful dress with a fishtail skirt, you know where it’s longer in the back,” Aunt Dody said. But, when her mother finished the dress, which needed buttons for the front of the top, her momma didn’t have any buttons. “Well my aunt was over to the house one Sunday, and I was showing her my new dress that momma had made up for me.” said Aunt Dody. “And she said she had some pearl buttons that she had cut off an old dress. And she thought they would be perfect for mine,” she continued. “Now I really thought I was something with those pearl buttons on my new dress.”

As we continued to talk about how much we have now, compared to then, we both paused—remembering times past.  These are stories that should never die. We need to record the stories our parents, grandparents, or any older person that is willing to share, so that we may never forget. What is it that we must never forget? That the people who built this country, who gave birth to a nation of proud people willing to defined her, who were willing to do whatever it takes to grow her into a mighty nation, they were all members of our families. These are all reasons to never forget.

Past generations of this countries citizens built the foundation for freedom that we all rest on today. Our fathers and mothers, our grandparents, storytellers everywhere, are very much like our young men and women today. From the time our nation was conceived there has been war. And with war comes those who willingly stand up to defend this way of life we enjoy, sometimes without considering the price that may have to be paid.

Today it’s our sons and daughters, our siblings, our spouses, and our friends, who stand up to fight the battles to secure a safe life for us. And when they return home from war, do we ask ourselves what we can do for them? Yes, there are those all across this country who reach out to help our returning service members, especilly the wounded. But the need is great, and the response from our civilian population is insufficient.

Ask yourself, “How would I respond if it were my child, my brother or sister, my spouse or best friend returning home from war to an ungrateful nation?” Would you try and make sure the next warrior who stepped back onto American soil was not forgotten, but truly appreciated and cared for? I sincerely hope so.

I guess where I’m going with this is to ask all American citizens to wakeup, give back, remember from whence we came. Think about it, the way to honor your ancestors, to honor your family and friends today, and to honor and preserve this way of life for the generations to come, is by honoring the warriors and their families who are fighting todays wars.

Take a step. Make it happen. Say, “Thank You.”

Silver and Gold

Silver and Gold,

Silver and Gold,

Families of heroes,

Both Silver and Gold.

A warrior is gone,

And with death there is sorrow,

As their family lets go,

A Gold Star in the window.

A warrior is wounded,

Life has been changed,

For a Silver Star family,

Life is never the same.

Silver and Gold,

They both have seen loss,

Precious their medal,

Two paths that cross.

Silver and Gold,

When joined together,

Gives strength to both,

Supporting each other.

Silver and Gold,

Working for good,

Making sure we remember,

They gave what they could.

Silver and Gold,

Silver and Gold,

Families of heroes,

Both Silver and Gold.

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Warriors

I have not met one single warrior who has come home from war and accepted the title of “HERO.”  Even though they have been through tremendous pain and suffering from injuries, or suffered from the emotional scars of PTSD, they still do not like being referred to as heroes.

It took me a while to understand why, when my son came home from war wounded, he had a kind of discord to this word when it was applied to him.  You could see him physically tremble, when this word would come his way.  He refers to the scars he will always carry as badges of honor.  And at the same time, he says they feel like he is wearing a heavy coat every single day.  He can not feel the touch of my hand on his burn-scarred arms, unless I apply enough pressure to push through the scars to the muscles that remain.  It’s so sad when a mother’s touch often times cannot be felt…

Why–we all wonder–do our warriors not feel justified in holding this title they have all so willingly fought for.

The answer is simple–they do not believe there is any such thing as a hero.  Throughout all the wars in the history of our nation, those who fought have never liked this word.  All every warrior believes they have done is to fight for their families–their friends–the one standing beside them–the one behind them.  And this is simply what they believe anyone would do.

Heroes are something we create, to somehow justify the fact that we were not on those battlefields with them.  We believe we are honoring the sacrifices these warriors have made for us.  But it is not the way they want to be honored.

If we want to honor those who have fought, died, and come home wounded, then let us honor them in the way they want–for what they fought for.

Let us all remember our grandfathers, fathers, partners, and children, as they were and are, precious, courageous, loving souls who took on the job of protecting us and others.

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I Choose, You Choose

Today I begin a new decade of life, and I’ve thought about where I have been, and where I choose to go.

I choose to be the kind of family member that all in my family can be proud to have stand beside them.

I choose to be the kind of friend that I would want for myself.

I choose to live by choice, not by chance.

To make changes, not excuses.

To be motivated, not manipulated.

To be useful, not used.

To excel, not compete.

I choose to listen to my inner voice, my soul, not the random opinions of others.

I choose to follow my Lord, where ever He leads.

My choices are mine, just as your choices are yours…

Choose well, life doesn’t give you “do-overs”…but you can choose again, tomorrow.

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