Yesterdays

With this incredible year coming to an end, as so many have, can we not take the time to look back on our yesterdays-our families yesterdays-our individual yesterdays-our nations yesterdays?

Family-

Many of us are watching our families grow and form their own families. Oh, we miss them when they are busy and we are not, or when they move away and we see them only several times a year. At the same time, we find joy and peace in their lives, their happiness, their successes, their adventures. We worry when they worry, and hurt when they hurt. Once a parent always a parent. The yesterdays passed so quickly when our homes were full of little ones, and school, work and church kept us busy. Life was and is good. Cherish your moments, they are fleating and quickly turn into memories.

Myself-

A young woman asked a question, “With this year almost over what is your greatest accomplishment?” Some said marrying the love of their lives. Others wrote graduating from high school or college. And some answered that the birth of their child was their greatest joy. All unique experiences to each of them and worthy of their proud answers.

I thought about this question all day before I answered. Her accomplishment had been graduating from the University of Arkansas. Education is one of the best ways to end any year. Finally, I found my words to sum up how I will remember this year of yesterdays. I have so many accomplishments, but they are little ones. I looked into the eyes of my children, and I saw the present. I looked into the eyes of my grandchildren, and saw the future. Then I looked into my husbands eyes, and found joy with our memories, and the time we have with each other and our family. So my greatest accomplishment this year, is the love of this life that God has given to me.

Our Nation –

Who knows where our new president will lead us as a nation? But, he is our President and we must embrace that fact. There are a lot of positives that Donald Trump brings into his new role. And yes, there are negatives. There would be negatives with whoever was elected-at least we see his…  Who would have given the man a second thought when he started his campaign? Who would have dreamed he could have walked away as the Republican party nominee? And then, Donald Trump pulled off an unbelievable upset, which stopped the “Clinton Machine” in its tracks, placing him in the White House. He has surprised us every step of the way. Now, we will all watch as he appoints those who are qualified as expert advisors in their fields to guide him-teach him. And we must pray for them all, as we have always done for our leaders.

I hope you will take the time to do this exercise and think about your greatest accomplishments.

Happy New Year!

 

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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My Amanda

July 30, 1978-September 27, 1978

 

My daughter would have been 38 years old today. I held her for nearly two months before she drifted away… I have been asked many times about the loss of a child so young; a child of any age. Maybe even more so since Aaron was so gravely injured. And I opened that door when I wrote about Amanda in my book. Questions like; How did you survive the loss of a child? Do you think they remain infants in Heaven? Or, do you think they age as the years go by? Surviving any loss is a personal journey that isn’t like anyone elses. There is no right way or wrong way to “get on with life.” And it can take years before we even want to begin to pull ourselves up again. On some days, I think of Amanda as an infant in my arms-rocking her in the nursery that was always shaded by the fullness of the flowering Mimosa trees outside the window. On other days, I imagine her as an adult. But, always she is my baby child…always I miss her…

I have no answers, no understanding, one day I will…

When a child is born, and stays but a short time in this life, angles wings seem to surround them, protect them, comfort them. It is as tho for those first few weeks, they exist between where they came from and this world where they have been born. We hold them tenderly, watching quietly as their sleeping faces slowly smile, grin broadly, cooing-speaking in the language of the heavens. Then, with a rich assurance of familiarity, reveal to us the Devine presence that fills their dreams. That glimpse from where they came, is what we hold onto. Somewhere deep within our own soul-no words to describe-we come to understand…they could not stay…they were not meant to stay…it hurts…it always hurts…it gets a little  easier as time passes…but, it still hurts…it will always hurt…

Baby blue, were the color of her eyes. Like a breath of Spring she came and left, and I still don’t know why…

My Amanda…

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THE MIRROR TEST

When the mail came one day about two weeks ago, my husband dropped  magazines, some ad papers, and two packages at my feet. I reached down to pick one of the packages up, thinking they were some quilting supplies I had ordered. But, as I lifted one of them off the floor it was obviously a book. The second package was addressed to Aaron.

I had been contacted several months earlier by a marine who had met Aaron in 2009. Reece Lodder was having trouble getting hold of Aaron, so, he reached out to me. He was trying to obtain permission for the use of some photos and quotes for a book that he was helping to edit and research. I sent a text to Aaron and he did not object. Over the next couple of months, Reece and I exchanged several emails as I continued to give permission on Aaron’s behalf. But, he never reveled the title or content of this book, which I found admix that pile of magazines and advertisements.

The book I held in my hands was THE MIRROR TEST, by J. Kael Weston. When I opened the cover I found a note on the title page:

Dear Diana,

Thank you for writing your book and for your help in support of this one. Families like yours make this nation great. 

Sincerely,

Kael Weston                                  (See page 438) OP Mend Ch.

I had no idea that he had been in touch with UCLA Operation Mend. I was flipping  through pages, wondering what was on page 438, and eager to read the chapter he had dedicated to the organization that had done so much for Aaron. I read through the pages where Kael had interviewed Ron and Dana Katz. Then, I was overwhelmed, speechless, I literally stopped breathing for a moment, when I came to the paragraph that started,  Diana Mankin Phelps, Aaron’s mother…My name in this book…what an honor. I’m humbled… On the designated page, he mentioned my book, A Mother’s Side of War, along with a couple of quotes from me. The last sentence in this paragraph told that I also maintain a blog, this blog, Writing To Heal

J. Kael Weston represented the United States for more than ten years as a State Department official. He received one of their highest awards, the Secretary of State’s Medal of Heroism, that acknowledged his multi-year work in Fallujah with Marines.

The first sentence in the Preface reads; ” I first met Marine Corporal Aaron Mankin in Fallujah in early 2005, just before he lost most of his face in the Iraq War.” You can see how this book grabbed my attention. He goes on to describe Aaron as, “professional in bearing, with cobalt eyes, square jaw, high-and-tight haircut, showed maturity and possessed an eloquence that belied his youthful age.” Aaron’s story of injury and healing is just one thread throughout this book about war and resilience. But it is so much more, as the author turns the mirror on our nation, on our policies and directives, how we look at our country, and how others see us.

THE MIRROR TEST is something that you may have heard Aaron talk about in his interviews and speeches. How he willingly ignored the mirror in his hospital room for weeks, not wanting to see the truth of his injuries. And after the tears, after the anger, after his realization that who he is on the inside had not been changed, and finally with acceptance as he embraced that figure in the mirror – Aaron passed THE MIRROR TEST.

Kael spent seven years on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. He landed in Baghdad in 2003 and was embedded with the marines by 2004 in Fallujah. This book is important, essential, for us to understand the other sides of war. The side of the civilians who lived in a country devastated by war, the side of Iraq’s political advisors to us, the side of Iraq’s military who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our service men and women, the side of those who were given-assigned-the task of rebuilding a nation and her communities, and the side that describes the emotional toll on all, are just a few of the reasons why this book is one that had to be written. And must be read!

THE MIRROR TEST – J. KAEL WESTON 

Release Date-May 24, 2016

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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…

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