Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day: AT Can Give Our Disabled Veterans Support and Hope. Reach Out - Don't Delay

Today is Veteran's Day and I am home from school with a day off. As I sit by the fire and reflect on veterans and those in active duty in my family and life, I am thankful. They are all dedicated men and women. I think of our 80 year old "Papa Joe" who has a limp to this day from an injury when his ship was blown out of the water in the South Pacific and he spent a whole night floating on the open sea until resucued (he wouldn't go see "Titanic" when it came out). I think of our pride in Ross who is a decorated helicopter pilot in the Black Hawks, and right now is somewhere in Iraq or Afghanistan, we aren't allowed to know where he is or what he is doing exactly. He was given the prestigious award of airman of the year last year for ALL armed forces in the United States.

There is our friend James from Portland, Oregon who has helped us here on the mountain and has been a great role model to my son. He served in Iraq as an administrative officer helping build the first base in Iraq after the initial seige on Baghdad. He spent several years there before returning home to adjust to domestic life and now has a successful business here in the states.

I know we are all touched by someone either friend or relative that has served in our military.

One veteran that is especially weighing on my heart today is a nephew, whose story I would like to share with you.

My brother's step-son, not my real nephew, but close enough, spent summers growing up on our mountain as a kid. He had some difficulties finding his niche in life and chose to go into the miltary. He served in Iraq and while there was in one of those transport convoys that suffered an attack. He lost both his legs in an explosion and was sent to Seattle, Washington area for medical care and rehabilitation. His little sister got married last winter and he was not able to attend. I wondered how he was doing. At times I thought about contacting him about some AT ideas, but since he still had use of his upper body and his voice, I figured he would be OK.

I guess dealing with the war, his loss of legs, being bound to a wheelchair and the grief of it all was too overwhelming for him. He took his own life last month.

The funeral was one of remembering the good things about Jeff. He wore his purple heart on his uniform and folks could view him one last time and say "thank you". This young man gave his life for his country and what is hard for me is that his death seems a waste knowing what I know about human potential even with a disability. I wish I would have taken time to have gone and visited him and seen what I could have done to turn him on to some alternatives for purpose in his life. I am not saying I could have "saved" him. If he was dealing with grief and depression, I probably could not have helped there.

I just want him to know today, if he can read this or sense this as it goes out, that I love him and thank him for what he did to serve and I acknowledge the ultimate cost it was to him and his family.

Honor someone you love today. We are going to "Papa Joe's" 80th birthday party this afternoon and we will say thank you, give him a huge hug and remember the price of our freedom.

All the best to you!



Ron Graham said...


Thanks for sharing such a personal reflection, both for you and your nephew.

Like I discussed with you last week after the interview, grieving for what we have lost is such a big ordeal. The stage of depression is such a terrible rut to climb out of, but nearly always a necessity to get life back on track after an onset disability. It is sadly brutal, taking casualties along the way. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family as you celebrate and remember today.

Happy Veterans’ Day.

Lon said...

Thank you Ron. I appreciate that.