Old Glory

Friday, July 27, 2012

A different kind of post...

Today is a bit different than the normal things I post out here, but I believe it to be very important.  As most people know that either know me or follow my blogs that I have adopted oh about 150 (and still counting) Marines (and other branches as well).  They are all my bonus boys/girls.  This really started when Chad was in boot camp and I wanted to get to know the guys he was spending all his time with and it just grew from there.  They all started calling me "Momma Bear" and it stuck.  I'm super good with that and I'm also a very fortunate momma bear as they continue to stay in contact with me.  It is very rare that a week goes by that I don't hear from at least one of them or one of their wives.  It's a great feeling to know they still remember us and love us despite the demons and some with PTSD they are dealing with.  So here goes a different kind of post today...
I've been following a blog called "Voice of Warriors" http://voiceofwarriors.com/2012/07/responding-to-hidden-wounds/ and it has some really good information to offer to assist not only the veteran but their family and friends as well.  I encourage anyone who has a family member, friend, or just wants to learn to help these men and women with these hidden wounds to go out and read as much as you can.  It will make a difference in some one's life one day.
So here is the burden on my heart today and has been since before Chad and his unit deployed to Afghanistan.  As much as I would give anything in this world to have my son back, I believe the Lord spared him from something far worse.  Chad has my heart and I know my heart could not handle all that these young men experienced over there and especially after losing one of their own.  Chad would have never recovered from the loss or the trauma he would have gone through and watched others go through.  I hate that my son lost his life over there and as a parent I would have taken that hit for him in a second, but that was not God's plan.  Now I see the toll the war and losing one of their brothers in arms has done to his buddies that came home.  They are fighting these silent wars within themselves and very few people know about it or know how bad it is or how to help.  This includes the ones closest to them (wives, parents, other family, and friends).  Most of them are either too proud to admit what they are going through or just don't know how to put it into words.  Another issue I see is these young men that were with my son don't want to add more burden to me and Tebo or to their families.  That is admirable, but honestly, how can we help them if we don't know what is going on or how they are feeling.  Some are fighting themselves with survivor's guilt and feeling as though they let us down, including letting Chad down.  They didn't let Chad or us down.  Chad was doing his job and he was where he wanted to be.  He would have had it no other way.  That is easy for me to know, because I'm his mom, but these guys promised to take care of him and protect him and bring him home.  They feel like they have failed and let us all down.  They didn't!  The Taliban let us all down and they did it intentionally! 
If I had one wish to make it would be that God restores their hearts, minds, and souls and allows them to pick up the pieces of their broken hearts and live a full and happy life.  Let me take the sad stuff and them take all the happy stuff.  That's what a mom's job is all about anyway.  I can't just stop being a mom because Chad is no longer on this earth.  I still have his wife to make sure she is ok and moving forward in life.  I have these bonus boys to make sure they get past this the best way they know how and live out their dreams and I have their wives that need encouraging along the way to stay strong and never give up on them.  If I was left for nothing more than that, then I need to do the best job I can to make sure I succeed.  Yes, I have an amazing husband and bonus kids from him as well as parents and siblings and other family and friends in my life, but this has brought a whole new dynamic to our lives that we signed up for the day we told Chad we would support his decision to enlist into the Marine Corps 100%.  We basically enlisted with him and our contract is not up. 
We as Americans have an obligation to the young men and women that volunteered to serve in our Armed Forces to support them even more when they return home.  Don't get me wrong, care packages are a necessity and I know most people really enjoy getting those together and take such pride in knowing they did something good for our troops fighting in this war, but it doesn't stop when they return to American soil.  The real work to help and support them starts when they return home.  Whether it is donating to a foundation like the Wounded Warrior Project http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/ or Wings for Our Troops "in loving memory of CPL Chad S Wade http://wingsforourtroops.com/ or any other military foundation out there or mentoring a veteran that might be suffering with PTSD or hiring a veteran like so many companies are doing these days.  Whatever it might be that you feel you are called or burdened to do or help with, do it.  Don't sit around and wish you did or just talk about doing it.  Get out there and really do it.  We owe these young men and women our freedom, safety, and our lives.  They sacrificed theirs for us and so have their families.  This is the very least we can do. 
I challenge each and every person who may be reading this to first and foremost ALWAYS thank a veteran (past, present, & future) every chance you get.  If you have the opportunity to pay for a meal for them or buy them a tank of gas or just help them with a broken down vehicle, do it.  I promise you will get back far more than they will every time. 
These young men and women need us like we needed them after 911.  Let's show them that we are there for them and we are answering the call just like they did.  The only big difference is that you will still get to sleep in a bed tonight, you will still have the meals you want or need for the day, you will still be able to get into some air conditioning most likely, and you aren't leaving your family to go to a war zone and have to worry if you will make it back home or even worst, if you will be able to bring all your buddies back home with you. 
Thank you in advance for stepping up and doing more or doing your part to support our Troops.  Supporting our Troops is something we tend to say a lot, but how many of us are really doing that (outside of care packages)?  Lets do more and lets do it often.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Do you know one???

Do you know a Veteran?  One that served years ago or recently?  If you do, know this!  They hurt.  They won't tell you they hurt, but they do.  Heaven forbid if they lost a brother in combat... If that is the case or they saw war time, they hurt more than you and I could or ever could know.  If you are married to one who lost someone in battle, love them more than you ever loved them before.  If you know one or are married to one that saw battle, love them more than you ever loved them before.  If you are a parent of a child (and yes, whether they have been to war or not, they are still your child), love them more than you ever have before.
These young men and women NEED us.  They may NEVER tell us that, but they need us.  They have seen and experienced things that no one should ever see or experience, but more than that, they don't know how to relate to you or myself anymore.  They might feel lost.  They might feel pain we don't even comprehend.  Love them!  Love them hard and without ceasing.
Our Veterans and our men and women currently serving need us to love them unconditionally.  So many of us do not know what loving someone unconditionally means, but let me break it down the easiest way I know how.  That means you love them NO MATTER WHAT!  Regardless of how they do or DO NOT show emotion or how they are feeling.  No matter how they treat you or those around them.  No matter how they react to things like a car accident, fireworks, the National Anthem!  Love them!
My heart breaks as much for the guys Chad left behind than even for Chad.  Chad is in a better place, but for those friends he left behind, they are struggling to move forward.  Some are experiencing divorce, some have depression, some don't know what to do next.  Yes, could their marriages been struggling before?  Sure.  Could they have had underlining issues that caused depression to be more evident than it might have otherwise been?  You bet, but one thing if for certain.  They have seen things and felt things you and I will never experience and they shouldn't have to, especially at their young ages.
At a time when this country is more aware of war time than times past (although that breaks my heart) I still don't think the general public truly gets it.  These guys are kids!  They are between the ages of 18 years old and less than 30 years old (on average)...  What were you doing at those ages?  My guess is you were NOT fighting in a war and seeing your friends/brothers/sisters die in the line of fire.  It's just a guess, but I would almost put money on the fact that most of us will NEVER see that in our life time.  Why does anyone think that is something you just get over when you come home?  Well, let me tell you as the "bonus mom" of many of these young men.  You do NOT get over it!  You live with it 24/7 and your relationships, jobs, LIFE suffer the consequences of what they have seen.  They deal with the fact that they promised someone they would bring their loved one home and didn't.  They deal with survival's guilt.  They deal with the fact that they made a promise to each other that they would take care of the family that was left behind for the rest of their lives.  They live with the nightmares every night when they TRY to close their eyes and not remember.  They live with all this on top of trying to be "normal" in their every day lives.  There is NOTHING "normal" anymore.  These young men and women have seen things they should not ever see in their life time and they have experienced losses no one their age should have to experience, especially in the way they have lost.
Yes, is our country as a whole more aware of our Veterans than ever before?  You bet, but is enough being done to help these young men and women?  I am not so sure.  I'm one person and every other "Gold Star" parent are only one person at a time wanting to make things better for these young men and women our sons and daughters have left behind and all the while these young men and women do not want to burden us and they want to FIX what they know in their hearts they can't fix.
LOVE THEM!  I don't care what you have going on in your life right now, you still have the capacity to love these young men and women when  you get the chance.  Whether it's a hand shake, a thank you, a free meal, a donation to a worthy military cause, or a helping hand (not a hand out).  Whatever it might be, you have the capacity to do that.  We all do.  I can do more and I vow to do so, but there has to be more than just myself and my family.  It will take the entire country.  It will take OUR PRESIDENT, each American citizen... "They" say it takes a village to raise our children...  Really?  How about it takes a country to raise our HEROES!  That's how I feel.  I want to protect every young man/woman that served with Chad.  I want them to feel love and security.  Some are out and in the civilian world (and struggling, some can't freaking find jobs, really?) and some are still active.  LOVE THEM!  Our Veterans should NEVER NOT have a job.  It's our duty and responsibility to ensure each and every one of them returning from war has a decent job and one they can be proud of.  After all, when we were all having Christmas morning or birthdays or Thanksgiving or I don't know, just a Saturday morning in our living room, they were in a war zone.  Don't you think that deserves something more than an "Atta Boy"?  WELL, I DO!  If I could hire every Veteran and wrap each and every young man/woman in my arms that lost someone I would.  My son is in a better place than these young men and women who returned home without all their brethren in arms...  This much I know for sure.  I didn't technically go to war, but I was there and a piece of me will forever live in Afghanistan, but for those young men that came home without Chad will forever live in their own hell and that breaks my heart more than not having my son on this earth.  My son is safe and ok for the first time since he lived in my house and slept in his own bed under my roof.  These young men and women are still fighting a war that I will be damned will win over them.  If I'm left on this earth without my son for any other reason in this world, but to make sure my son's buddies are ok, then so be it.  It's not just his buddies from war, it's his best friends he went to school with that are going through the next stage in their lives without him.  They struggle every day and while it might be different than what his brothers in arms live through every day, it's still their own war they fight every day.
Thank a military man/woman EVERY TIME you see one and make sure you do something selfless every chance you can, because they do it daily.
Thank you to all our military, past, present, and future!  You ARE appreciated for all you do and all you do without.