Tag Archives: Veteran’s Day

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Veterans Day 2011 – 11/11/11

On Veterans Day I have the great honor of remembering all the wonderful people in my life who have served in the United States Military both here and abroad.

I think of my Dad, who served in the Army in France during the Korean War, my one Uncle who was a Marine in the Pacific during World War II and witnessed great horrors, my other Uncle who was in the Marines and was an honor guard at Arlington National Cemetery in DC.

I also think of all my friends who lost brothers during Vietnam. I was in high school when their older brothers were coming home in caskets. Those thoughts don’t leave you.

Now I admire those close friends who have voluntarily given of themselves in either active duty or in the reserves here at home.

A college friend whose husband is a Lt. Commander in the Navy, flying helicopters off aircraft carriers and she a Naval Surgeon. A Captain in the Army National Guard in NY, who I became friends with after her sister was murdered in Virginia. Another very close college buddy who served multiple tours in Bosnia and Iraq as a high ranking officer in the Army. And lately, a newer friend, who spent 23 years in the Marine Reserves as an MP.

I admire their courage, their sacrifice, their sense of duty to our citizens. Only honorable men and woman would dare step up for the benefit of their citizens.

They do this willingly with humility. They do so with integrity and faithfulness, devotion and great care. They live their lives with a sense of service to others, even when they leave active duty.

I guess that’s what I find so amazing…because a person with such high character is rare. And I am so grateful to call them my friends.

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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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On This Day: Honoring Veterans and Their Survivors

On this noteworthy occasion of Veterans Day in the US and Remembrance Day in Canada, I wish to acknowledge all the sacrifice of all those who have served in the military so that citizens, like myself, would have the ability to be free and safe.

How often we take for granted our security in this country. How often we forget to acknowledge that these amazing men and women have voluntarily, yes voluntarily, chose to go off to foreign lands and sometimes put themselves in harms way so that you and I could do what we do each and every day.

They give us the ability to have the freedom to choose how we wish to live our lives. Think about that for a moment. We get to choose what we do, how we speak about our government and it’s elected leaders, whether we act respectful or not, where we choose to live, how we wish to spend our money, etc.

Their sacrifice makes all that possible.

Yet there are some of these brave men and women who we will not be able to honor face to face any longer, as they have given the ultimate sacrifice. Instead we thank their widows and widowers, their bereaved parents and children. Theirs is a much different, yet difficult road. They grow up without their loved one near them to love and nuture them, comfort and console them.

One book which supports families after a military death is “Military Widow: A Survival Guide” written by two outstanding ladies, both grief and bereavement specialist, Joanne Steen and Regina Asaro.

I’m am so grateful for this book as it’s a long time coming. It was needed to be written as there is nothing else like it out there. It is so specific and gives practical and compassionate advice, laced with true-life stories of military families and their challenges after a loved one’s death.

If you are grieving a military death, I highly recommend your purchasing this book. Click here for details.

Meanwhile, always remember our military’s sacrifice for without them we would not know the freedoms we enjoy today.

Blessings to all.