THE GIFT

I wrote this back in July. I think it’s message for our new Commander-and-Chief, is an important one.

I have been trying to write this “Independence Day” message for a couple of weeks. And frankly, I have been struggling. Then, a new connection on LinkedIn sent me a message and through our exchange, I was inspired. If not me, who? I wrote at the end of my message, a reference to the firework displays. The veterans who have seen war, who have fought battles, our warriors, struggle during those fifteen minutes of, “Bombs Bursting in Air.” For many it is terrifying. The noise can throw them back in time when there were real bombs exploding, real danger, real loss of life, real friends dead. We are a young country with many wounds to heal. But, we are strong and need compassionate leaders.

Out history of the emphasis we put on this day of the year, to celebrate our nations freedom, to honor all veterans from that first day when we declared ourselves an independent nation in 1776, is phenomenal! We are a young nation at 240 years. But, we are a strong nation who needs strong leaders.

There will be family reunions, picnics, barbecues, parades, concerts, and baseball games in every backyard, small town, city, and state where people can gather. Th months of preparations for this single day, to show our patriotism is nothing short of monumental. We are a young country. But, we are strong and need righteous leaders.

This one day of the year has been stretched into a week, or more, of honoring our veterans in various ways. All the ball parks have a veteran throwing out that first pitch. There are charitable organizations honoring veterans with special events. And some families are gathering to remember the one that won’t be with them this year…We are a young nation, but, we are strong and the price has been high. We need honorable leaders.

All this attention to the veterans walking among us today, warms my heart deeper than any of you will ever know. Some of you have similar feelings from your own circumstances, and some of you stand proud that one of yours has given their livesvso we can keep this day of freedom sacred. We honor you too… This is a day about remembering the price as well as the gift. Yes, the gift. The gift of freedom all veterans fought for, and are still fighting for today. This gift of freedom…all gave some, and some gave all.

Remember this Mr. President.

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You Are What You Are, Until Your Not

We are all born with unique talents and specific desires. Some of us are outgoing while others are quite, shy and withdrawn. Those who are comfortable talking to strangers and enjoy being in the middle of whatever is going on, are envied by those who would never want to be in the position of having to engage in conversation with people they don’t know. They don’t “mingle.” 

You know who I am talking about. You remember them from childhood. They were the ones who tried to hide behind the student sitting in front of them in the classroom, for fear of being called upon by the teacher. Do others even notice these timid, low-self-esteemed individuals? I’ve often wondered if those raising their hands every chance they get, even notice those who hide.

I was one of these introverted individuals. I can hear some of you doubting this. But, if you knew me when I had someone to hide behind, then you know this to be true. I didn’t have to talk or explain anything because there was always someone else to do that for me. I was told once that I seemed to disappear when more outgoing people would enter a room. And I did. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to hear what I thought, or had to say about anything. I was not important. I was of no value as a person. So, I stayed in the shadows of life. I was who I was.

Three things happened to change who I believed myself to be. The first thing was that I felt valued as an employee. I was good at what I did. I began to like myself. Secondly, the people I would “hide” behind were removed from my life. Again, I liked the person I was without them. Then the most significant, and most tragic, event changed who I was in an instant.

I was no longer anyone except who I needed to be at that time. I was a mother of a wounded warrior. He hurt. I hurt. He struggled. I struggled. He cried, I cried. He needed support. I gave support. He needed help. I looked for help. He needed to talk. I listened or found someone he could talk with. If I didn’t have the answers, then I went looking for them. I wasn’t anything close to being all that my son needed. But, I tried. I wasn’t who I had been. I was more.

I believe that no matter how you see yourself, no matter how important or insignificant you saw yourself in the past, who you are begins today. I’m not saying it’s easy to jump out from behind those doors you’ve been hiding behind. I know it is not. I was good at hiding. And I did not want to turn that door knob.

All I’m trying to say is be brave enough to “shine.” Wherever you are, whatever is going on in your family, however you are perceived to be in the workplace, it all comes down to you. You must begin to like the person you are, where you are. Step out from behind the wall you find comfort behind and “shine.” Just one little sparkle at a time. I know you can.

If I could stand back up and fight every time I’ve been knocked down, then you can too. Oh, it’s not easy. You are allowed to shout, cry, be angry and feel so low that the grass will grow over you. But, then it’s time to get up. It is time to stand, to stand tall, to shake it off and take that first step, over and over again. No matter how many times you are knocked down, get back up and stand taller. You can do it, one step at a time and as time goes by you will feel stronger, better, taller. Just concentrate on your “one step at a time.” No more hiding. that part of who you were is gone.

It is a process that repeats itself. You stand up and you are knocked down again. But, each time you grow. You never lose, you grow, you learn. Your steps will change and your choices will be wiser.

You are who you are, until you’re not, until you choose to be more.

 

 

 

Remember Our Women Service Members

It seems to be easy to think about this nations wounded as men who are on the front lines fighting, traveling through war zones, or trying to keep peace in counties trying to establish their own democracy. But, they are not alone.

The women who serve our country, our sisters, daughters, mothers, wives, or friends, are with them in those far away places. As of December 2013, there were 214,000 active duty and 118,781 reserve women serving in all branches of our military. They are often put in perilous danger. And many have died or been wounded too.

These are the most recent statistics I could find. In December of 2013 the VA stopped releasing the number of non-fatal casualties of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. All that can be said with any certainty is that as of that date more than 900,000 service men and women had been treated at VA hospitals and clinics since returning from these war zones, and the monthly rate of new patients as of the end of 2012 was around 10,000.

In the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than 283,000 women have been deployed to these two countries. More than 800 female service members have been wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. And 146 women have given their lives while serving against the war on terrorism. 110 of these women died as a result of serving in Iraq.

Although the prohibition against serving in combat was lifted in 1994 for women service members, it has been the policy to exclude women from ground combat units. However, in Iraq and Afghanistan, women have served as foot soldiers during door-to-door operations and they have been in convoy escort missions. About 20,000 women are still serving, mostly in Afghanistan.

So, remember our women service members. They too have given much, given some, or have given all, so we can continue to live our lives with our freedoms.

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Veterans Emotional Support Animals

Republicans introduce Bill to Get Puppies for Veterans.

Currently – an Emotional Support Animal is a companion animal which provides therapeutic benefits, such as alleviation some symptoms of the disability. (Such as with PTSD.) Emotional Support Animals are typically dogs, but may include other animals. A person with a verifiable disability can be prescribed an Emotional Support Animal by a physician or medical professional, and will be protected under the United States federal law.

These are the legal aspects of Emotional Support Animals. But, from the personal aspects of the veterans who have known life with an Emotional Support Animal, it has often been a life saver.

My son, a marine wounded in Iraq eleven years ago, has had an emotional support dog, Rocco, from the time he was released from the hospital and assigned a house on base, with his wife.

Rocco died a few weeks ago. When Aaron called, it was to let me know a member of our family was gone. We had seen Rocco aging, but still, we were not prepared to let him go…

As we talked about how Rocco had been with Aaron through so much of his life, we were amazed at how that marine dog had been there to help Aaron through some pretty tough times, as well as the good. The unconditional love was easy to see…

The companionship of a dog, or other support animal, can make all the difference in a veterans decision to keep moving forward. Rocco had been with Aaron through years of surgeries, the birth of his two children, a devastating divorce, and the challenges of becoming a full-time single dad. Aaron’s 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son had never known a time without Rocco in their lives.

Rocco was with Aaron when nobody else was, the dark times, the silent times. Rocco would lay next to him with the unconditional love that only comes from an animal who senses the pain. He was there when Aaron struggled with the emotional and physical pain from injuries sustained while serving in Iraq. He was there when Aaron was filled with joy and pride as he brought his daughter, then his son, home from the hospital. And he was there through the painful dissolution of his marriage shortly after his son was born.

Rocco stood with Aaron as they watched over those two children as they stumbled and grew through their toddler stage. At Christmas time there was always a stocking on the mantle and a new ornament on the tree for Rocco too. He was there as Aaron’s children grew and went off to school each morning. And sat at attention, watching intently, beside Aaron as those two came around the corner on their way home. Both greeting them as if they had been gone for years and had crossed the Sahara desert to reach their destination.

This marine dog has earned his strips, and a salute for a job well done. This world needs more “Rocco’s” to stand beside our warriors. I ask that you support legislation in your states, and at the federal level, to see that these special companions are available to all our heroes who need them.

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Rocco, you will be missed…

Emotional Support Animals

Republicans Introduce Bill to Get Puppies for Veterans

Currently – an emotional support animal is a companion animal which provides therapeutic benefit, such as alleviating some symptoms of the disability, (Such as PTSD.) Emotional support animals are typically dogs, but may include other animals. A person with a verifiable disability can be prescribed an emotional support animal by a physician or medical professional, and will be afforded protection under the United States federal law.

These are the legal aspects of emotional support animals. But, from the personal aspects of the veterans who have known life with an emotional support animal, it has often been a life saver.

My son, a marine wounded in Iraq eleven years ago, has had an emotional support dog, Rocco, from the time he was released from the hospital, and assigned to a house on base with his wife, at Fort Sam Houston Army Base in San Antonio, TX.

Rocco died a few weeks ago. When Aaron called, it was to let me know a member of our family had gone. We had seen Rocco aging, but still, we were not prepared to let him go…

As we talked about how Rocco had been with Aaron through so much of his life, we were amazed at how that marine dog had been there to help Aaron through some pretty tough times, as well as the good. Unconditional love between those two was evident to all.

The companionship of a dog can make the difference in a veterans decision to keep moving forward. Rocco had been with Aaron through years of surgeries, the birth of his two children, a devastating divorce, and the challenges of becoming a single parent. His 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son never knew a time in their lives when Rocco wasn’t with them.

Rocco was with Aaron when nobody else was around, the silent times, the hardest times. He was there when Aaron struggled with the emotional and physical pain from injuries sustained during his service in Iraq. Rocco was there when he was filled with joy and pride as he brought his daughter, then his son, home from the hospital. And he was there through the devastating dissolution of his marriage shortly after the birth of his son.

Rocco stood with him as they watched over those two children when Aaron took on the full-time job of being a single parent. At Christmas time there was always a stocking hanging on the mantle for Rocco too. He was there as Aaron’s children grew and went off to school each morning. And sat at attention next to him, as they stood in the front yard watching for them to appear around the corner on their way back home. Both greeting them as if they had been gone for years and had crossed the Sahara desert to reach their destination.

This marine dog has earned his stripes, and a salute for a job well done. This world needs more Rocco’s to stand by the side of our warriors. I ask that you support legislation in your states, as well as at the federal levels, to recognize and support the importance of the need for these special companions to our heroes.

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Rocco, you will be missed…

#WORSTRESPONDERS

SHARE. SHARE. SHARE. SHARE

Support the first responders bill that is in congress NOW! It will extend the medical benefits of those who selflessly and courageously were at ground zero on 9/11/2001 in an instant. Their medical needs from working tirelessly in toxic conditions are critical. All you have to do is contact your Senators and Representatives. You don’t even need to call or write. Just post everywhere you can, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and your blogs, #WORSTRESPONDERS.image

Here We Are

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Well, Veterans Day 2015 has come and gone. Actually, it was a weeklong celebration of gratitude for what our veterans have given for us all. With all we did, every place we went, the people we met, the thing that stood out beyond anything else were the veterans themselves.

I love to stand back and watch as one veteran approaches another–whether they have met before or not– and without hesitation they reach out with an automatic acceptance and a camaraderie of spirit, which those of us on the “outside” cannot comprehend.

We try to see inside the heart of our war fighters–our sons and daughters, our spouses, our family members, our friends–as we try to pry from their shielded memories, from those thoughts that haunt them, wanting desperately to understand that which we cannot.

What we can do is simple. We can listen. We can observe. On one occasion, I was attending an event where there were wounded warriors and caregivers mingling within a crowded room. A room that was buzzing with warriors coming together with a release of spirit that only happens within the ranks of those who have served. And the caregivers huddling together to share their own joys and burdens. Again a closed group that only exists because of circumstances that redefined their own lives.

At one point I was standing in a hallway, waiting on a friend, when a young woman in uniform entered and stood across from me. I looked at her and saw someone who was desperately trying to hold down a full-blown panic attack. All she said was, “There are so many people.” I asked her to breathe with me. In through the nose and out through the mouth. We continued this breathing in unison for a couple of minutes. She watched me, as I watched her, with each motion in this simple taking of each breath.

Everything outside of that hall disappeared for a few moments. That was what she needed. Time to reach inside and find that strength within herself, which she had lost sight of in that crowded room. We parted not knowing each other’s names, only a shared moment of awareness.

That is the way we can help. We don’t need to know the why or the what. All we need to do is listen and observe. The answer will become clear. Then we act. And a bond is made.

NOVEMBER SPECIAL

DO YOUR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING AND GIVE BACK TO VETERANS!!!

For every one of my books purchased through Amazon, or myself, during the month of November,

$1.00 will be donated to THE BOB WOODRUFF FOUNDATION

and $1.00 will be donated to OPERATION MEND

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THE OTHER SIDE OF WAR–PAPERBACK ONLY

A MOTHER’S SIDE OF WAR–PAPERBACK OR HARDCOVER

Contact me by email- alwaysamarinemom@yahoo.com or text-(405)818-7490

Operation Mend

Some of you have never heard of Operation Mend. It is one of the smaller charitable organizations, and it is based at UCLA. If you have read A Mother’s Side of War or The Other Side of War then you know how this organization was founded. Their focus is to treat the most severely wounded and disfigured post 9/11 veterans.

Throughout the chapters that deal with the founding and the purpose of Operation Mend, you will find this is a very unique organization. They not only treat the warrior, but they help to heal their families too. How do they do this? With the love and compassion that comes from the Buddy Family program.

Aaron was the first patient of Operation Mend. And as Willie Giest on the Today Show said,”Aaron has become the face of Operation Mend.” That is a literal statement. The physicians had to rebuild Aaron’s face. This took about 25 surgeries and millions of donated time and money? This brought the number of surgeries to 64 that Aaron has endured.

Marine combat correspondent Cpl. Aaron Mankin was badly burned by a roadside bomb in Iraq, ten years ago. He was wearing his googles when the Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) exploded. These saved his eyes from the fire. But the burns below the googles were severe, as were the burns on both arms and hands.

Without the generous donation of time from the surgeons, and donated monies for the care of this nations wounded warriors, I can honestly say that our lives would be so much less in so many ways. I say we, because while Aaron received the best medical care this country has to offer, I was being cared for by our Buddy Family. When Aaron was up to it, after a surgery, we were spoiled by the original Buddy Family.

We were the first to enter this program that didn’t have a name yet. It did not take long for the perfect name to emerge. And the Buddy Family program grew as more veterans came to seek treatment. Volunteers all over the Los Angles area were calling  to volunteer, to open their homes and hearts to a wounded warrior and their family. This helped to bring families together to heal.

For the rest of the story on Aaron’s recovery and our family’s healing, purchase a book through Amazon. For every book purchased in the month of November, $1.00 will be donated to Operation Mend and $1.00 will go to the Bob Woodruff foundation. That is $2.00 that will be donated from the sale of A Mother’s Side of War (Hardcover or Paperback) and The Other Side of War (Paperback only) rom Amazon throughout the month of November. The perfect Christmas gift!!!

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Our Scars Our Choice

Our scars, inside or out, only show where we have been. But, they do not dictate where we are going. That is our choice. Choose well. Be an example. Share where you have been. Give.