I've made a promise to myself to do more this year than in the past for our military service men and women, but also their families. In particularly those parents that have either lost a child or watching a child suffer with PTSD. I can't explain it to you. There are no sufficient words yet, only a heavy heart.
I'm certainly not educated in this area so I try to make sure I'm being very careful and not try to give encouragement or advice that might be mistaken for medical advice. I would love to be more educated in this area, but let's face it, I think it might be a little too late to attempt school for this as it takes many years and I do still have a full time job. I have, however, been trying to read anything and everything that might give me some insight to what these guys and girls and their families are going through. I guess there is something to be said for personal experience as well, but that's not what this is about. It's not about me. It's about them. I need to help any way I know how even if it is just listening or sending a letter of encouragement. Whatever "IT" may look like is what I feel I need to do.
So that is my latest mission in life. Before you can ask, no, we are not taking any focus off Wings for Our Troops "in loving memory of CPL Chad S Wade". That is still very much going strong and we have some exciting things coming up over the next 4 to 6 months (more details to come later) so we aren't taking our eye off the ball there. This is simply something more I feel like I need to do personally.
I just completed the book "The Lone Survivor" by Marcus Luttrell Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team and it gave me yet another view point to what these young men and women come home with.
I would like to speak to the parents first. Mom and Dad, try as hard as you can (and it will be terribly difficult) to not get discouraged if your son or daughter don't come to you with what they are feeling or going through after returning home from battle and especially if they lost a buddy while in combat. It's my personal opinion that they just don't want to burden their family any more than they probably feel they have already done. They are still somewhat in protection mode most likely and they are trying to protect you. Another reason is they may not realize these feelings as anything serious yet. Don't feel guilty. Just do the best you can to encourage him/her to talk to someone, anyone, me. I believe it may be easier for some to speak to a total stranger so they don't have to protect the person they are sharing with.
It has also been my experience that if they can talk to the parent directly involved with their situation that isn't their own parent it tends to be easier (if easy could be used here that is). Let me explain. Chad's buddies (I believe) find it a little easier to maybe talk to me or one of my family members for a couple of reasons. One, I believe they feel closer to Chad by talking to one of us. It didn't happen immediately that they would open up and share how they really felt. It has taken some real encouragement and just being there and not losing my mind in the meantime for them to start feeling like they could open up. First I think they felt guilty that they made it and he didn't. Then I believe it was out of a fear of upsetting me or saying something that would make me cry. Then once they realized I was ok and stronger than they may have first expected, little by little emotions and feelings started coming out. Don't get me wrong, it isn't like they open up like flood gates and pour their hearts out. It's small things here and there that gets a little off their chest and do a gut check with me to see if I'm able to handle that before they go any further.
So parents/families, try not to take it personal and try not to get discouraged. Your time will come. They may just need to either lean on their brothers/sisters in arms and maybe even the parents of those guys first to get themselves in a place where they don't feel so much like a burden to you.
Now, for all you bonus kids of mine. This part is for you. Your family and my family love you. We love you even if we haven't met you yet. Why? Well, we are now one with you in your struggles and your own battle here at home. We have a common denominator that most of the world don't have. You've been to war and seen things and experienced things no one should have to let alone at your age. Most of you haven't even had the chance to get married or have a family yet. Most of you, like Chad, this was the first time you were really away from home and family. It was scary and unfortunately for some of you it is still scary. You may lay down at night and can't turn your mind off. You may hear certain sounds or cries or gunfire that you can't get out of your head. Maybe you don't sleep for fear that will happen. I get it. You might have images in your mind of buddies you saw get wounded or worse and knowing there was nothing you could do most likely haunts you. I'm sure you have struggles with survivor's guilt and what if's. Let me try to help you cut yourself some slack.
It isn't your fault. There is nothing you can do when God has a plan and purpose for someone. In this case God had a plan for Chad as well as the rest of 2/1 Echo Company, USMC. He is not done with you yet and if you were wounded, I am so sorry for physically pain and loss that you have had to experience. I know it isn't easy and it is a struggle every day. At the same time I am so proud of your courage and strength as well as the loving family and friends you have to help you along the way (as long as you allow them). It warms my heart to see how much these families have stepped right up to the plate to take care of their wounded warriors. They served right along side you while you were gone and continue to do so with you home and that is an admirable trait and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for this Nation to know what they have to sacrifice and do to help keep your life as "normal" as it can be now. Thank you for allowing them to do this and not pushing them away. Sometimes I think the misconception our military might consider is it would be easier for my family and friends if I just push them away and distance myself. Let me tell you, that is harder than death even. They want to be there for you and they love you beyond limits and once you are able to get out of your own head and let them love you and help you it's my belief that you will not only start getting better, but you will have a blessed life. God didn't bring you this far to let you fall now. You have that promise.
The other promise you have is from me (and I think I can speak for Tebo as well) that we will always be here for you all. We will love you and encourage you and our door is always open to you. You loved our Chad and continue to love Chad through loving us and I know this isn't easy for you. This is a bond that will never cease and you all experienced things in combat that no one can truly ever understand unless they lived it with you. I wasn't physically there, but I was taking every step with you and staying awake nights praying for you all and writing as much as I could to encourage you so you would know that it is ok for you to talk to me. I promise I won't break. What I can't promise is that I might not cry with you. There are times when we talk that I may cry too, but that's ok. It cleanses our souls and allows room for more love and capacity to help.
My promise is not to be confused with being able to "fix" anyone or their situation, but it is to be there for you and listen and offer encouragement in any way I possibly can. One of the main reasons I felt burden to write this today was to let you know that I welcome any phone call, email, text, or letters if you want to reach out.
If you are still in the mode of not wanting to burden your family and you need someone to talk to, but you aren't sure where to start, you can start with me and if I can't help you, I will do all I can to get you in the right spot for the right help. We can travel this journey together if you like.
I love my guys that not only served with Chad, but his high school buddies that he spent so many years with that love him as much as his Marine buddies. They may not have walked the same walk as Chad, but they loved him just as much and I'm sure like me, there were many nights they laid awake or around a camp fire or in a deer stand thinking of Chad and wondering if he was ok and safe. I know these young men and I know those thoughts were running through their minds at one point or another and for some it was probably every day all day.
I can truly only speak for myself personally and I have no issue sharing with you just a little of how I tried to do my part of supporting not only Chad, but the rest of you guys as well.
So what I did (AKA Momma Bear) was kept my cell phone with me 24/7. That means when I went to bed it was in my hand by my pillow with the ringer on just in case I got that one phone call. If I happen to get lucky and get that call I would immediately jump up and (who knows why) I would go to my closet and speak ever so softly to him in hopes of not waking Tebo up. I would usually have tears streaming down my face because I would have been waiting on that sometimes 45 second phone call for days or weeks at a time. As long as I heard from him, I knew he was ok. I didn't need more than 45 seconds. Hearing his voice was enough to get me through to the next phone call. I'm not the only parent that did that I'm certain. The other thing I did was write him letters every day. One day it might be a hand written or typed letter and another day it might be a Motto letter. In Afghanistan he didn't have email or Face Book so I had to rely on the U. S. Postal system and the Motto mail to get word to him. I wrote his letters to him just like I would speak to him if he were on the phone or in front of me. I tried to also write to as many of his buddies as I could. It would break my heart to know if anyone didn't have their name called at mail call. I never wanted that to be my Chad so I didn't want anyone else's child not to have their name called for mail call. I have every letter he wrote me as well as the letters of the other guys that wrote me back. I even received a few back that were not delivered in time and I cherish those as well.
The book "The Lone Survivor" gave me such insight to what these guys must go through emotionally and mentally through combat, but even more so should they lose one of theirs. It's heartbreaking, but I believe every Amercian should watch the movie or at least read the book to gain understanding into this world they live with and then maybe it will give people in general a different perspective on what they come home to and how difficult it must be to readjust to civilian life again. I would love to sit down with Marcus Luttrell and just understand how he is doing today. I know from his book that he still has sleepless nights and dreams and I know like his mother, I wish I could take those away from him, but honestly, he might not give them up as those are the last memories he has with his brothers in arms. I would still like to talk to him and would hope he could share his heart and give me insight to how it is from his perspective.
My bonus boys still tend to protect me to a point so they will open up just so much and if they feel they have gone too far or are about to go further they tend to stop abruptly (guess you didn't realize I was picking up on that guys, well, I am). I respect the fact that there are just times they can do that and times they can't and I can be patient (although that goes against every fiber in my being). I have a new found ability to be patient with them as well as his high school buddies.
I will fail. I will let my guard down and I will show emotion. I have already failed miserably recently (although they handled it like the champs I would expect). One of his school buddies (best friend) told me they would be moving most like this summer and (selfishly) I immediately puddled up. I didn't allow any awesomeness actually leak out, but it was not without tremendous control on my part. Once I truly realized what I had done I sent them both a text and apologized for being selfish and that I would always support them in whatever they felt they needed to do for themselves and their family. If I mess up like that, I promise to make it right and apologize.
This has been a long blog today, but it is full of promises that I make to our troops, Chad's school friends, and these families impacted by this war. I'm only one person and I'm certainly not the smartest girl around, but I do have a heart for these guys and their families and as long as the Lord sees fit to keep me on this earth it will be a burden on my heart to do what I can to help in any way I possibly can.
So please take me up on my promise. If you are struggling or just need to talk or you want to share stories about Chad (I love that part by the way), please never hesitate to reach out to me. If you don't have my contact information you can send me a comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get it to you. I may not have the answers you are looking for, but I do promise that I will listen, give genuine advice (or my opinion) and if that isn't enough, I will stop at nothing to find the right person for you or at least the answers for you (if there are any).
If you weren't in Chad's unit or didn't attend school with him, but may have lost someone or struggling from being in combat and you don't know where to turn, you too are more than welcome to reach out to me. I don't want to lose any more and there is no reason you can't all get your life on the right positive track and with a little help and encouragement you will get there. Once you are ready lean on your family and especially your parents. They want to help. They want to do some thing, but they also don't want to push or be too overbearing. Just know that they don't know what to do and it is up to you help them understand what you need. They will do anything for you. Reach out to your buddies. They may be struggling too, but sometimes just know someone has walked in your shoes helps you be free to open up and talk. It just takes a few words to get started.
I've shared these songs before, but they bear repeating in my opinion. If you get a chance listen to these songs and listen to the words. I promise you they will touch you. Whether you are a parent or a friend or the service man or woman, you can't help but be touched by these songs. I won't share a picture today (as I've been a bit wordy today), but I will share these songs so you can listen when you have a chance. They relate to most anyone who has lost someone regardless the relationship or the reason surrounding the loss so at least give them a shot.
God bless each of you and Gods' speed in healing. You are not alone and will never be forgotten. Certainly not by this mom (ok boys, Momma Bear). :) All my love!