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.


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.


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.


The Question

The early morning darkness was beginning to show the promise of another crisp autumn morning.  Through the window I watched the orange glow of the slowly rising sun sitting just below the hills in the distance, as I took another sip of my honey sweetened tea.

Instead of enjoying this peaceful time of the early morning dawn, I sit at my desk—remembering—writing another article on the question I am most often asked.

What is it like to answer a phone call informing you that your child has been injured in battle?  I must have answered that question in many different ways, over the past 9 years.  But, the words were never even close to the reality of that unbearable moment—that moment when time stops—that moment when you know that nothing will ever be the same again.

I remember hearing words that made absolutely no sense.  They were nothing more than a string of garbled utterances, carried through the air from a phone so far away.  They entered my world without hesitation, as my hand gripped tighter and tighter around my phone.  The string of words that seemed to be read from a sheet of paper, so formally, came crashing into my world trying to eliminate hope.  I suspected they must be read, because of the difficulty the person on the other end of this conversation is having in just saying such things.

When the call ended, the words spoken began to take on their combined meaning.  They ran through my mind while I felt as though my heart was being ripped from my chest, and I screamed with all that I am, “No!”

But the reality of those words remained, and I had to plan…

How do you plan for this “thing” you prayed would never reach your door?

You don’t—you can’t…

You simple respond, one small step at a time, as the details and realities are slowly set before you.

First the tears flow—for the life that was my child’s future, the life that has been forever changed, and then for my life as well.  How selfish I felt at that moment, wondering what would be required of me.  “How will I cope?” I thought, as I started that journey on a path that held only uncertainties.

The perfect child that I had handed to another was being returned damaged, but this was still my child.  I had to reach deep inside my own emotions, and present a world of hope and healing that I wasn’t at all certain would exist longer than the light of one more day.

One moment, one hour, and one day at a time, I tried to do all I could to bring life back to some kind of normalcy.  Normalcy—what a strange word—Its definition had been so completely changed by that single phone call.  Then it had to be redefined, and its goals redirected.  My son’s life, nor mine, would ever be the same, and that could be a good thing or a bad one.  That was a choice we both had to make.  A choice that must be made every single day for the rest of our lives.

We learned to take each day as it came, and not to try and figure out all the answers at once.  The questions would change.  And those answers that we were finding some small bit of comfort in, would no longer apply.  Each new day would start with its own beginnings, and a different set of goals—yet to be defined.


So There I Was

“So there I was.”  This is a phrase that always gets the attention of all who are listening.  Aaron always makes light of the people who begin a story with this line.  He will stop the person who has just uttered these words and gather more people around to listen.  He explains that when someone starts with this phrase you can always expect to hear a very interesting story.

Now here I am, with a very interesting story…


Beauty Is Who You Are

My Son and my Sonshine! There is so much more to Aaron’s story, to our story, and that is why I wrote, “A Mother’s Side of War.”

You Just Don’t Know

You don’t know just how far you will go, or what you will do, to protect your own.  

Whether you are a service member, defending this country, or the one who is standing next to you.

Whether you are a parent, watching over your children as they grow.

Whether you are a mother, standing over your wounded warrior, your child, to insure they recieve the best care available.

You just don’t know… 


The Early Morning Dawn

I sat on the 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 if Aaron, my youngest son, was in Germany yet, after being injured in Iraq. Was he aware of what was going on around him, or was he being 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, to let me know where my son was, what his medical condition was, and when he would be transported back to the States, and to me…



May 11, 2005 – near Al Qaim, Iraq

When the roadside bomb exploded, tossing the 26 ton vehicle 10 feet in to the air, my son, marine combat correspondent Cpl. Aaron Mankin’s first reaction was to gasp, inhaling smoke, heat and debris.  In addition to the damage to his lungs, Aaron suffered second and third degree burns on his hands, arms and face.  He had his goggles on, which saved his eyes and forehead.

Six weeks later – Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, TX

Aaron’s voice was barely a harsh whisper after the intense heat of the explosion had seared his vocal cords.  The one word he would whisper to me over and over was “kiss.”  I would never hesitate, knowing I almost lost the chance to ever kiss him again.

Once he was moved out of the Intensive Care Burn Unit and onto the main burn ward, visitors were free to come into the rooms after obtaining permission from the patients.

One visitor Aaron agreed to see was an army general with his son, who was also in uniform, and two of the general’s staff members.  They entered the room when I had stepped out, and I was unaware of their presence until I walked back in.  Aaron’s back was to me when I returned, and I stood just inside the door, listening and not wanting to interrupt.

When he became aware of my presence, Aaron raised his arm, motioning for me to come to his side.  He looked up  as I came close and whispered, “Kiss.”  I leaned down and did as he asked before being introduced to the others in the room.

The general and his group quickly said their good-byes, and as he walked up to me, I noticed tears in his eyes. He hugged me with the desperation of a father, not a general, who had just seen the reality of what his own son might face one day…

Are you ready for what you may one day face?













Why I Write

In writing this book, A Mother’s Side of War, my hope was, and is, to raise awareness of the personal aspects of what our countries wounded endure throughout their recovery.  And to show the reader, how when one serves, so does their family.

When an  injured warrior returns home, they are not the only one who has been wounded, outwardly or within.

The blast that ripped through my sons AAV, setting him on fire and changing the course of his life, tore through mine, and all those who love him, as well.

We have all been wounded…We have all been changed…