Category Archives: Military

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We, the Patriots

Whenever I think of this holiday, the 4th of July, I prefer to think of the additional title it holds…Independence Day. I have many fond memories of this day in years past.

I also think of the movie “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson, as he encouraged his neighbors to fight together for their freedom. I don’t usually enjoy what was truly a violent movie, yet I found myself engaged in their pursuit of a new life free from oppression in this new land we call America.

Mel Gibson’s character experiences the death of a wife and son, his surviving children a mother and brother, his son loses a wife and her parents. And while their quest dually involved revenge and freedom, I found myself no longer focused on the blood and violence of the movie, but the compassion these broken people were able to give each other, throughout this tragic time in their lives. I couldn’t imagine living in such a continually unsafe environment. Yet millions all around this world do every day.

Regardless of whether you like the way our political parties are running this government, I find myself more focused on the fact that in the end, men and women in government come and go. This country stands forever.

It is the patriots of our fine country who fight for its freedom…not politicians. It is the patriots who rise up to defend her when she needs defending, whether at home or overseas. It is our patriots who risk life, limb, mental strength, and spirit to go around the world to defend and rise up oppressed peoples.

We may not receive the recognition we deserve…true. Not everyone thinks as we do…true. But I know of no other country who defeats its enemies, as in the case of Germany and Japan in World War II, and then returns to help them rebuild their land instead of possessing it.

Only the honorable people of a great nation do that. Willingly.

So on this Independence Day, I focus on all the good our nation has done for the peoples of the world. All the good its done for our own people, our own Patriots. And I know, absolutely know, that no matter what the politicians in this land do to enrich or harm it, America will always stand. For its Patriots will expect no less.

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Memorial Day 2011

In anticipation of Memorial Day this year, I did a little research to find out exactly how many families have paid the ultimate sacrifice of sending their loved ones off to war, never to return to them. I was amazed at the huge numbers of deaths, especially during World War I and II but had no idea the numbers were so high for the Civil War, especially since our population was nearly 1/3 of what it is today. Take a look at each war and the total American Fatalities for each.

American Revolutionary War 22,674
War of 1812 11,700
Mexican-American War 13,271
American Civil War (1860-1965) 618,000
Spanish-American War 5,385
Philippine-American War 4,196
World War I (1917-1918) 117,465
World War II (1941-1945) 418,500
Korean War (1950-1953) 36,516
Vietnam War 58,159
Gulf War (1991) 382
War on Terror (2001-present)
Afghanistan (2001-present) 1,413
Iraq (2003-present) 4,430

Total Military Deaths 1,312,091

Although many are unhappy with our presence in the middle east at this time, the number of casualties has been remarkable low considering we have been there for over a decade.

But to a spouse or child grieving that soldier’s death, they are the only one who matters in all these statistics. And it is their sacrifice I think about today. Their pain, their grief, their loss, their sorrow.

Each military family who has either lost a loved one or is grieving the loss of limbs, sustained head injuries, or life as they once knew it, are forever changed.

So today we remember them for their courage, their commitment, their sacrifice and thank them for all of it.

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The Sack Lunch

On Veterans’ Day, we remember all those who have sacrificed to serve in the United States’ Military and those who have died just to keep us safe and free. People around the world know the devotion our men and woman play in keeping their nations free, as well. Let us always be grateful and remember them.

This is a wonderful story I recently received and wanted to share it with you…

I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight. ‘I’m glad I have a good book to read. Perhaps I will get a short nap,’ I thought.

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation.

‘Where are you headed?’ I asked the soldier seated nearest to me. “Petawawa. We’ll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we’re being deployed to Afghanistan.”

After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached the east, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time…

As I reached for my wallet, I overheard a soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. “No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn’t be worth five bucks. I’ll wait till we get to base.” His friend agreed.

I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. “Take a lunch to all those soldiers.” She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. “My son was a soldier in Iraq; it’s almost like you are doing it for him.”

Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, “Which do you like best – beef or chicken?” “Chicken,” I replied, wondering why she asked. She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class. “This is your thanks.”

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room.
A man stopped me. “I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.” He handed me twenty-five dollars.

Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand and said, “I want to shake your hand.” Quickly unfastening my seatbelt I stood and took the Captain’s hand. With a booming voice he said, “I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.” I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.

Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.

When we landed I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars!

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base.
I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars. “It will take you some time to reach the base.. It will be about time for a sandwich. God Bless You.”

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers.

As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals. It seemed so little…

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America for an amount of “up to and including my life.”

That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.

Please pray for our brave soldiers…

“Oh God, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen.”

Now pass this on…and leave your comments below.

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Fiancees Find Themselves Another Casualty Of War

As we honor the servicemen and woman who bravely defended our nation and its people, and gave the ultimate sacrifice, I am reminded of this article from several years ago which gave a very telling view of the disenfranchised grief a fiancee find themselves after their beloved was killed.

At Becky Reid’s flower shop, just across the bay from Mobile, Ala., the wedding season extends well into fall. In normal years, Becky is exuberant about business as she works late on Thursday and Friday nights twisting roses and lilies into bridal bouquets.

But this is not a normal year.

Her fiance, a gentle giant of an Alabama National Guardsman named Christopher M. Taylor, 25, was killed Feb. 16 by a bomb while on a convoy in Baghdad.

She quickly learned that the emotional trials and practical challenges of being a war victim’s survivor, without the official status of “widow,” placed her in a uniquely vulnerable group. But it’s the emotional struggles that hurt most.

Now, late on Thursday and Friday nights, Becky can be seen through the windows of her shop bending over her tables with a cell phone propped between her shoulder and her ear, chit-chatting with her friend Laura or her father while she crafts corsages and bouquets.

She desperately needs the distraction of a conversation to keep her heart from aching over what her hands are doing.

To chase off worries during the nine months Chris was in Iraq, she dreamed on nights like this about the floral arrangements she would make for their wedding. Now she’s making corsages for other brides, reminders of the nuptials she and Chris will never have.

“OK, so, I don’t want to sound like this Southern gal who’s telling you about losing the love of my life,” says Becky, 24. “I had the normal dating life — five years of fending off dirtballs and jerks. Then I finally met a man who knew how to treat me right and would help me on with my jacket at a restaurant, or help start my car. Well, he’s gone now. He’s not coming back from Iraq. Eight months later, I’m still devastated, but all my girlfriends are asking why I’m not dating yet.”

This is just one of many emotional challenges for fiancees or steady girlfriends of soldiers killed in Iraq, a generally ignored group of survivors. Because they fail to meet the Department of Defense’s technical requirements for next of kin, fiancees do not qualify for the generous death and insurance benefits awarded to immediate families.

The families of their fiances often reject them as financial threats or painful reminders of the son they lost. Girlfriends insist they should “get over it” by starting to date right away. Men consider the grieving fiancees uniquely vulnerable and lunge at them at parties or in bars.

“This is a group of survivors from military deaths who . . . fall through the cracks,” says Bonnie Carroll, an Air Force Reserve major who founded a nonprofit organization, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, after her husband was killed in an Army National Guard helicopter crash in 1992.

TAPS has created a national network of peer support mentors, hot lines and chat rooms that support families and friends affected by a military death, and has even persuaded Veterans Affairs to accept fiancees and other survivors for counseling and grief therapy.

“The Department of Defense is forced by its regulations to look at very fixed things,” Carroll says. “Who is legally authorized to receive benefits? Who is legally authorized to receive a body? Well, fiancees, siblings, even the parents of a married soldier just aren’t included in these legal definitions. But their problems can sometimes be just as great as the next of kin and they can take years to heal.”

There’s little doubt that the fiancees left behind by soldiers killed in action in Iraq already number in the hundreds. Morten Ender, a sociology professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point, prepared a 1996 study of “nontraditional families” left behind by soldiers killed in action, and this summer he surveyed 1,000 servicemen in Iraq during a stint with a civil-affairs unit.

“It’s clear that at least 25 percent of active duty personnel are either engaged or have a strong attachment to a significant other,” Ender says. “In Iraq alone, we’re talking about 25,000 soldiers with a connection back home that’s very meaningful if they are injured, missing or killed. The results can be both emotionally and financially devastating, especially if it is, say, a woman back home relying on a soldier for financial support.”

TOGETHER THEN SEPARATE

Sara Patch, a dormitory manager at Connecticut College in New London, who lost her fiance in a Marine helicopter crash in 2001, grew closer to her fiance’s family after his death.
She is familiar with all of the social problems Becky Reid experienced and points out another problem that often occurs with military fiances. She and her fiance were planning to share the house he had bought in North Carolina just before he was killed, and she already had quit an earlier job at Smith College to join him there.

“I suddenly found myself homeless and unemployed, but I had a wonderful family to support me,” Patch says. “But what about the thousands of military dependents who don’t have that? The reality is that, today, after people are engaged they are already living together, [they’ve] bought a car and are already one. But if you’re not officially the widow after your partner is killed, no one really knows what you’re going through. There’s nothing for you.”

Patch also got in touch with TAPS and participated in its chat rooms. Now she is active in the organization and helped organize, and will run in, the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington on Sunday to raise funds for the group.

Meanwhile, Becky Reid is still working late Thursday and Friday nights, crafting flowers into bridal bouquets. She still struggles with memories and regrets about Chris. Eight months after he was killed, she’s convinced she’ll never find someone else like him, and worries that she hasn’t progressed more with her grief. She feels lonely and misunderstood when her girlfriends goad her to start dating again.

But one thing has changed. Becky has started regular visits to a grief counselor at the Veteran Affairs center in Mobile, free consultations that were arranged through TAPS. Recently, she told her counselor that she was feeling low again, stalled in her grief. Should it take this long?

“My counselor told me that she lost her husband 13 years ago, and she’s still working on all the issues,” Reid said. “Do you know how great that felt? Somebody is telling me that I’m normal. I’m not all alone.”

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Uniting Children of Vietnam War Heroes

Today on Memorial Day 2010, I was so delighted to learn about a wonderful organization which was started 20 years ago to unite the children of the 58,260 men who were killed in the Vietnam War.

“Sons and Daughters in Touch” will celebrate their Dads’ lives this Father’s Day, June 20th, as they do each year on this special day, by gathering at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at 10:00 a.m. in Washington, D.C.

Its leader, Tony Cordero, lost his dad when he was quite young and I commend him for providing such a heartwarming and healing opportunity for hundreds of thousands of children, who are now adults, who lost their fathers during the Vietnam War.

No one helps us heal better than another person who has walked in our exact shoes. They lived through seeing their Dad come home for short periods of time and be redeployed. They and their family members lived with the fear of not knowing whether he would return. Members of SDIT know exactly what it’s like to walk in those shoes. And nothing could bring more comfort than sharing with a fellow survivor.

If you know of a family who survived the loss of a father, son, brother, uncle, cousin or other relative in Vietnam, please forward this information to them.

I applaud Mr. Cordero and the countless volunteers who help children, whatever their age, acknowledge their grief and celebrate the lives of their beloved Dads.