The next morning after the spectacular visit by the first Commander-in-Chief, one of the Fisher House residents named Travis couldn't wait to come down to breakfast to share his news. He had posted the picture of him and George Washington on his Facebook page, and had heard from an old high school friend. He was almost breathless as he told us, "My friend said, 'Dude! Did you know that that was the real George Washington?' " Apparently, Travis's friend has seen the multiple movies and documentaries in which Pastor Mark Collins has portrayed the Father of America. Travis continued, "And did you know that George Washington was a Freemason? So am I! That was just the highlight of my whole year!" It's nice to know that soldiers still honor what George Washington stands for.
And speaking of George Washington, when PLW escorted Pastor Mark Collins to the Wounded Warrior Family Center, the Purple Heart celebration was just ending, so there were quite a few high ranking officers still milling about. They were duly impressed with seeing George Washington, and one of the commanding officers of Fort Sam asked the President if there was anything he could do for him. Keeping in character, Pastor Collins stood at his full 6'4", pulled his sword out of his scabbard and pointing it at the Commander, said, "You take care of my Army!" I believe that is one command that officer will never forget!
Yesterday afternoon we took a tour of the Center For the Intrepid, a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center to help these severely wounded heroes accomplish their physical goals. No expense has been spared in providing them with the latest technology, including highly developed prosthetics, training equipment, indoor running tracks, wave machines, swimming pools, etc. The center proudly displays images of our brave soldiers competing in kayaking, marathons, wake-boarding, bobsledding, rock climbing, the Paralympics, snow skiing, and any other sport you can imagine.
My heart cannot let go of Bo. First of all, I mistakenly identified him as a triple amputee. Bo would be quick to point out that I got it all wrong and be happy to show you that his fabulous tattoo is still intact! Our last afternoon, he was just coming out of his shell and letting go of his anger and coming to trust us. He was beginning to share his slightly twisted sense of humor with us and I didn't want to leave him just yet. You see, his impatience at the pace of his rehabilitation doesn't serve him well. He lashes out at those trying to help him, and withdraws into a dark place where no one can reach him, resulting in a state of isolation. The seesaw of emotions must be exhausting for him. I am haunted by the question that I can't answer ---- what will happen to Bo?
At the opposite end of the spectrum is a growing friendship with Dan and his family. Dan and PLW really struck up a friendship and we have invited him and his sweet daughters, Gracie and Kaylee, along with his wife, Jeannette, to come visit us. I didn't get to see Jeannette this trip because she was back at their home in Cleveland packing up the moving van so that they could move out of Fisher House and into their new home on Post. Her flight had been delayed due to Hurricane Sandy, and she was anxious to get their belongings on the road and catch the next available flight home. She was arriving late last night after we had left, and the family was excited about reuniting again. Ten-year-old Gracie informed me that she was "Daddy's girl" and she cried for five hours when he left for Afghanistan. I can only imagine how she felt when she learned of his devastating injuries.
Yesterday at lunch, a striking young woman came in to Fisher House #3, where we were serving lunch, and announced that she was with the Department of Defense and was hosting a number of foreign NATO members who were meeting about how to improve the cases of extensive hearing loss among international soldiers. Apparently, soldiers of all nations despise wearing the foam earplugs to protect their hearing. They interfere with their ability to hear what's going on around them, and they would rather suffer hearing loss than be unable to cover their brothers' six. Hence, there is a tremendous amount of hearing loss among all combat troops. This NATO group was meeting to brainstorm how to remedy this frustrating situation. (PersonaI aside: I find it incredibly hard to believe that with all of our available technology, we can't create some type of ear protection that allows soldiers to hear a conversation or a call for help from a brother-in-arms).
This young woman said she had been told that there was a group supplying meals at the Fisher House, and they had about 10 people who needed to grab a quick lunch and get back to work. Would it be possible for them to partake of what we were serving? They would be willing to pay for their lunch. I told her that we had plenty of food (at no charge), and absolutely, bring her group over --- we'd be happy to serve them. Well, she came back after their afternoon meeting had finished to let us know that the NATO members (from the Netherlands, Germany, France) could not believe that our little group of Angel Chefs would come in and supply free food to our wounded warriors, and then offer to provide lunch for them, too. She explained that they all came from socialistic countries, and could not understand why we Americans would offer to do something without strings attached. They asked her, "They aren't being paid?" "They aren't getting a tax write-off for this?" "What are they getting out of this?" They told her that they always thought of Americans as greedy and arrogant. They now have a better picture of just who we are. We are freedom-lovers who take care of our own, expecting nothing in return. The DOD representative wanted us to know what an impression we had made on these foreign dignitaries. We would have loved to tell them that there are millions more just like us!
And I guess the lasting memory that I will take away from this trip to Fisher House is that 99% of these guys have a "never give up" attitude. Despite the missing limbs, devastating burns, and severely altered lives, they keep pushing forward. They never complain, and they don't let setbacks discourage them. I can tell you that all my aches and pains, and minor complaints, pale in comparison; and I feel inferior when it comes to contrasting my paltry efforts with their courage and determination. They should be an inspiration to all of us! We have no excuses for not seeing any circumstance through. So the next time some little setback makes you want to give up, or you're telling yourself, "I can't do this" .... stop and think of them. Then quit your whining and cowboy up! If they aren't afraid and never give up, why should you? This is the lasting impression I am left with, and I can't wait to return!
That being said, I also want to express my deep sadness at what this nearly decade-old war has cost this generation of soldiers. I'm afraid I can't see the price they and their families have paid, and not question, "Was it worth it?" And why didn't we do everything we could to win this war and bring them home? I want to stress that I am not speaking for any of them. We never talk politics or opinion while we are serving them. And they wouldn't tell us what they thought if we asked them. They are honorable men, and we are there to support them. I just want to believe that their sacrifice has stood for something.
So I will leave you with some images that will undoubtedly give you your own lasting impression of our brave Wounded Warriors. Let their stories and their faces inspire you, and when you see one of them in public, please don't hesitate to walk up to them and shake their hand. They will appreciate that you acknowledge what they have experienced and endured on behalf of each one of us. God Bless our American military!
|Reading cards made by children to show their appreciation.|
|General Washington greets a Warrior's awestruck daughter.|
|A beautiful, quiet place near the Warrior Family Center|
|The pool at the Center for the Intrepid|
|Contemplate the words of this plaque and give thanks for our heroes.|
|Dan and his favorite part of lunch, |
Betty's chocolate peanut butter rice krispi squares
|Sergio and his scary Halloween eyes!|
|The contentious and beguiling "Bo with an O"|
and his unique sense of humor
P.S. I have one last story that I will share with you on Monday. PLW and I will be involved in something this weekend at Fort Sam Houston that will be a tremendous blessing for us. Tune in and find out what it was!
Ephesians 5:1-2 "Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."