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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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…

Today

Today I have read extensively about two warriors. I can’t begin to sort through the emotions that I’m feeling, but I’m going to try. Because one needs us and one has given up on us.

I will begin with the one who needs us. I had posted something on Facebook and one person replied simply with a name. John Peck. I saw it, but I didn’t understand and was headed out. But, this was tugging at me… I had to find out who this was and why he would be posted on my page.

There are probably a lot of you who have heard, read, or seen Marine Sgt. John Pecks story. I had not heard about this young man and his determination to live and serve this nation.

Now, I’m going to tell the rest of you his incredible story of living not just surviving.

In 2007, Sgt. John Peck was serving in Al Anbar province, Iraq (This is where Aaron was injured) when he was first wounded. After a daylong patrol searching for Taliban, receiving small arms fire, finding a cache of HME (Home Made Explosives), waiting for his unit’s EOD team, it was time to go back to base. He was manning the machine gun for the lead vehicle, as it rounded a corner the vehicle was hit by a pressure initiated IED. He was thrown from his seat and smashed his head into the machine gun. He remembers fragments from that night. As a result, John was left with vision, balance, and hearing problems. He also suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and suffered short-term and long-term memory loss, forgetting everything up to the point of the injury. Twenty-one years of memories were gone. He had to learn everything all over again. To this day he continues to have problems remembering things from before this incident, difficulty finding words, and short term memory issues.

His first injury didn’t stop him from going back to serve his country. He had to beg and plead with doctors to release him from limited duty. You’re probably wondering at this point why? Why would he go back and not just take the medical discharge? “As a Marine, we don’t do it for the pay or the benefits, we go back for the guys on our left and on our right.”

However, on May 24, 2010, life once again changed dramatically for John. At the age of 24, Sgt. Peck was serving in Helmand province, Afghanistan when he stepped on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) This is the type of explosive that tossed the tank that Aaron was in 10 feet into the air.) and triggered an explosion that would change his life forever. The resulting blast amputated his legs, part of his right arm, damaged his left arm, and caused third degree burns on his stomach.

Sgt. Peck is one of only two people alive to survive blood contamination by the flesh eating fungus, Aspergillosis. As a result of contaminations from surgery, doctors were forced to amputate part of his left arm, making him the third quadruple amputee of the Afghan and Iraq wars.

RECOVERY – Through the blast and twenty-seven different surgeries, John received forty-one pints of blood, thirty-five units of plasma and five units of platelets, and at one point blend out completely. He was medically sedated from May to early August, during which he endured daily surgeries to clean out debris and dead flesh and t6 fight the infection that was slowly spreading through his body. At one point his family received the heartbreaking news that John was living minute to minute and the doctors, sadly, suggested they say their goodbyes. During his surgeries, he flat lined three times and was pronounced dead once.

By the time his body finally started to fight back against the multiple infections attacking it, he was left with his right arm amputated above the elbow, left arm amputated at the mid forearm, and right leg amputated just above the knee. He is also missing his left bicep, first layer of abdominal muscles and his entire left leg due to the flesh eating fungus. The complete loss of his leg means he’s forced to sit on his pelvic bone –  a painful task with which he has learned to cope. When he awoke in early August, he was informed by his family of his extensive injuries, sedation, and near death experiences. Because of his tracheal tube, he couldn’t speak without using a special device. In order to have the tube removed, he had to perform swallow tests, which is where the doctor’s thread a small camera down your throat and feed you small amounts of food and liquid to see if your throat can handle it. “I remember all I wanted was a Mountain Dew and they couldn’t let me have it. One day a nurse walked in with a small can, popped it open and poured it into a bag. She left a second can behind and I, thinking it was soda, told her, ‘As soon as you leave thats mine!’ I soon came to find it was medication.”

When he woke up he couldn’t move any part of his body. He had no strength to lift his limbs nor any range of motion so he had to be stretched out daily. However, there was a problem, John’s skin had become hyper sensitive to touch. In short, the minute anyone made contact with him he was in enormous amounts of pain.

Every year John’s determination inspires those around him – from jumping out of a plane to scuba diving in Key West, and even completing fifty miles on a hand cycle. John also has a passion for helping those who have fallen on hard times. “I was raised by a single mother and every Christmas it was a financial struggle for her. You could see the pain in her eyes as the need to put food on the table out weighed the Christmas wishes of her young son. After my injuries I vowed I would help as many families as I possibly could at Christmas time.” In 2011 he started at a Target in Washington D.C.- helping a single mother purchase gifts for her daughter and surprising the woman with a gift as well. In 2012, after moving to his new home, he helped another mother with two children in Wal-Mart. In 2013 he changed his method and instead of approaching families, he decided to go to layaway and pay off three random accounts with toys in them.

THE FUTURE – John was recently approved for a double arm transplant. Through multiple tests including; skin type, blood draws, mental exams, vein mapping, and ultrasounds, the doctors determined he a strong candidate. He is currently waiting for the call that will take him to Boston and give him back his arms.

Although the double arm transplant is a miracle of the 21st century, it will also be an expensive and long-term recovery for John and his family.

For more information about helping John and his family by donating go to his email – jmpeck1985@gmail.com

Help John to realize his dream of becoming a world renowned chef!

 

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

I Found My Voice

“I found my voice,” is the statement that I have heard most often from the caregivers of our wounded warriors. I have even said it myself. My son stayed up all night when he read the manuscript for my book. He did not remember everything in those early weeks of his recovery. When he came to the chapter where I fired his army doctor, in an army hospital, on an army base, because I had “found my voice,” he asked if I REALLY did??? Yes, I did. It did not matter that I didn’t have the authority, my son’s welfare was all the authority I needed.

The majority of caregivers are wives, spouses, significant others, who have found themselves thrust into an unexpected role that is impossible to imagine. Some caregivers that I have come into contact with are angry, and others are just plain scared. So many of them have sent their loved ones off to war just to have them returned back in a state that they have trouble defining. Some have physical injuries, others have post traumatic stress issues, and many are plagued with both.

There are times when all the medical needs and the psychological issues are so overwhelming that the families are at risk of not surviving, and many do not. The “leaders” of their homes have difficulty in just dealing with their own lives let alone thinking about the running of their households. That’s when the wives are put in the position of having to take care of their children, their financial dealings, and their husbands needs, all while working outside the home, which can be devastating.

Think for a moment, about marrying your high school sweetheart, having a child or two, and learning to live the military life. Moving frequently isn’t conducive to forming close friendships. As they watch their husband, their best friend, leave for war, never do they consider that the person who would return home might not be the same person who left months before. War changes all…

The preparations have been made in case the war fighter does not survive. The paperwork, the wills, the last wishes have all been recorded. Somehow, it never enters our minds that severe injury could be the outcome. That they may need to redefine their future, the future of their family, the future of their children. The needs of their wounded are now their first consideration. For many this is more than they can bear, and the marriages fail.

It is our responsibility to lift up the staggering number of families that are in jeopardy. With each warrior who becomes isolated, suicide becomes an option they consider. Can you live with this outcome? I can not. Operation Mend is one organization that is taking on the task of helping these “at risk” warriors. The Bob Woodruff Foundation and Operation Homefront are others that reach out to warrior families. Other organizations like IAVA have hot lines set up, staffed 24/7, to talk with the warrior or their family members when life spirals out of control. If you can gift to any crises organization, then you must. For their sake and yours.

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 didn’t even know was in need.

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