Posts for Tag: PTSD

This Battle I Fight...We Fight Against PTSD and TBI

There are days when it feels like the battle never ends, never lets up, it is just a constant steady intense firefight……and it feels often like I am losing.

I did not really even realize I was in a fight until long after it started, I wonder had I known from day one, would I be better equipped to fight it?

 As best I know it began several years ago, during our first deployment to Iraq. Although I never set foot in Iraq myself, I have been there, fought there.

 I fought there on my knees, praying for my son, praying for his brothers, praying for those deployed there.

 I fought there as I struggled to live this “normal” life here, to work, to socialize, to attend church, to be part of the community, all while feeling out of place, how can anything be normal when there is war and my son is fighting in it? How could I have lived so normal while other sons were fighting it before him?

 Sleep is difficult. How can you sleep when it is day there, and they are out behind the wire? So you sleep like they sleep. A little sleeping, a little fighting, a little sleeping, a little fighting, and it goes on and on….until he calls. And for a while you rest.  The fight is not physical, it is mental and spiritual, and yet it takes a toil upon you.

 Now I had no physical weapon to speak of, and I dodged no real bullets. My fights were struggles in prayer, against enemies of fear and worry, doubt and despair, grief and sorrow. My weapons were prayers of protection and safety, pleas for mercy and grace to be poured out, upon them, in that faraway place.

 Foolishly, I thought the fight was over, as he stepped off that plane and onto American soil. The signs were minor, a little aversion to open places, rocks piled on the side of the road, boxes out for yards sales, white Toyota pick-ups, but for the most part they were minor and they seemed to pass quickly and all was well. I quickly forgot them.

 I continued to pray for others deployed, I prayed strong, without fear or doubt, I prayed protection and grace and mercy. I wept at each name of the ones who fell.

 And then our number came up again. So I prepared for round two…..Afghanistan. Another country that I have never set foot in, and yet I have fought there, struggled there, on behalf of my son, and those beside him, and on the behalf of adopted sons.

 This battle was fought in a bad place, a very bad place, it filled me with fear and dread to even think of being there. I prayed hard. I asked God to wake me up anytime they needed prayer.

He was faithful, and I woke up most nights.

 The battle was fierce, a battle between faith and hope, and darkness and despair. Men died. Good men, men for which I had prayed, men whose mothers were just like me, on their knees crying out for protection, for mercy. Bullets of doubt pierced my soul on many occasions, bullets of weakness stuck the legs from under me and left me helpless on the ground, unable to continue.

 And yet strength would come, in time, and I would continue the battle, this never ending battle that drug on day after day, after day.

 Being normal was even more difficult in this round, I simply could not fathom how everyone went about their day to day mundane lives without seeming to care at all of the battle that raged in a country far away. Was it possible that only those who knew and loved others who were there, were truly engaged in this fight?  What would the battle look like if every soul in the country were engaged in it, as we who loved were engaged in it?

 I weathered the storm, bedraggled and torn, but still standing. Some were wounded, some were killed, I had dreams in first person of war, with screams and gunfire, explosions and helicopters flying overhead, in grape fields, I put my dream hand on a wall, and my dream eyes looked down and inches from my hand was an IED. I felt my dream heart pounding in my chest as I ran across the grape field, gunfire all around, screams of commands from others all around, the helicopters loud above our heads.

 I received a call, that the one I loved had been injured in an explosion. It was like being punched in the stomach, my legs began to fold under me, as I whispered into the phone…”how bad?’……as it turns out we were lucky, a concussion, nothing serious, although unknown to us at the time, TBI had just landed on our battlefield.

And finally the day approaches, we can see victory ahead, he is on home soil again, he is safe. We breathe out the breath we have held for this long nine months. All is well. The fight is over. Once again we foolishly believed that all was well, that we had won.

Or so we thought.

 Oh how weak and stupid we were, how gullible and foolish. We let down our guard, we ceased our struggle thinking all was well. In truth the enemy now goes on full offense, and we are not prepared for the onslaught.

 His eyes are different now, there is a pain within them, perhaps not visible to all, but clear to one who has known and loved him all his life. Something is amiss. He forgets things, does not always speak clearly, struggles at times to do simple tasks, has a deep love affair with his Glock and carries it everywhere. Perhaps time will make it right.

 But time is not working, and we begin to see the true enemy that opposes the one we love. The enemy is well equipped. Darkness, all-encompassing darkness, overwhelming guilt, heavy sorrow, great loss, all are in his arsenal and he uses them well. This is a new enemy, we had not seen his face before, in the midst of all the battles, all the fears, who had until now remained silent and on the sidelines.

  I leapt into the fight, doing all that I could to know my enemy, who is this that brings such devastation to my home, this place of light, this place of hope, this place of love, who is it that brings this wasteland to all that I hold dear…………his name is PTSD, and his fellow terrorist TBI.

 They are a formidable pair.

 They have unleashed a plethora of violence against us, flashbacks, the bottle, the pills disguised as help, broken relationships, broken hearts, despair, gut wrenching fear, the pain of loss….the doubt….will we be one of the 22? Can we win this fight? Is there truly any hope or is it just a matter of time?

  Against this arsenal we have stood, sometimes defeated, sometimes victorious, sometimes in despair, sometimes in victory, the fight rages on. When victory seems certain they unleash their weapon of setbacks, this one almost always knocks us off our feet, but we continue to fight, wielding hope, and faith and peace and love, we fight on our knees, we call out to God, we fight with a love that is fierce and will not back down, will never stop, we fight with everything we have and anything we can find that might be helpful.


We will not stop fighting. We will keep our eyes on the Light, our eyes upon our Hope and we will go down fighting if need be, knowing that even in what seems to be defeat, we are victorious, for love conquers all.


 To all the Moms and Dads, the Wives and Husbands, the Children and Friends of those who suffer from PTSD and TBI,

 May your sword arm stay strong, and your shield stay high, and may your faith hold fast, may you be strengthened in this fight with all hope, all goodness, all mercy and grace and most of all,may your hearts be filled with a powerful love that is beyond all understanding, which flows from the fountain of grace.


“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests”

“Come to Me (Jesus), all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

“It hasn't always been this way
I remember brighter days
Before the dark ones came
Stole my mind
Wrapped my soul in chains

Now I live among the dead
Fighting voices in my head
Hoping someone hears me crying in the night
And carries me away

Set me free of the chains holding me
Is anybody out there hearing me?
Set me free

Morning breaks another day
Finds me crying in the rain
All alone with my demons I am
Who is this man that comes my way?
The dark ones shriek
They scream His name
Is this the One they say will set the captives free?
Jesus, rescue me

As the God man passes by
He looks straight through my eyes
And darkness cannot hide

Do you want to be free?
Lift your chains
I hold the key
All power on Heaven and Earth belong to me

You are free
You are free
You are free

On a Journey of Hope, to Bring Back Beautiful

   This weekend we will pile into the car and hit the road on a journey to Beautiful.  Beautiful resides in Fort Worth, Texas, and we will be bringing Beautiful back to New Mexico.

   A journey that begins in hope, not that most thought of hope, as in “I hope I win the lottery”, but that sure hope that comes when you know that God is doing something. 

   When I was first asked, to find the beloved veteran a dog, to be a companion and friend, to be trained as a service dog,  I asked God to lead us to the right one,  to help us find the right dog, not just any dog, but the dog He made for this purpose. And I have asked Him to have His hand in all that follows and I trust that He will do all that I have asked……..and more……..He always throws in the more.

 He led us to this  dog.

     To a dog named Jewels, in Fort Worth, Texas. A dog who is as tough as nails, with a heart that far outweighs her 55lb body, a dog who loves big, and who holds no grudges though she has every right to hold some.

 The veteran wants to rename her, which is okay, for they are embarking on a new journey, and what is behind them has past, and that which is front of them is a new name, for a new life.

  While thinking of what the one she was made for might decide to name her........ a still small voice whispered in my heart……..”She is Bella”.

  And then the one she was made for confirmed it……..”She is Bella”.

 Bella means beautiful.

 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

   So the dog named Jewels, who was tossed from a balcony and suffered great injury, and endured great pain, who was rescued and recovered will become Bella, the service dog, the friend and companion of the combat veteran who has also seen horror and endured much pain.........and she who was rescued will rescue, and she who was healed will heal.

Please pray for them both as they start their journey together.

Update: 10/6/14,  The journey down was long,  we stopped only for gas and bathroom breaks, all the way to Fort Worth. We stopped to eat an hour out from Beautiful. 

  Upon arriving,  we saw several people gathered in the yard with a white dog. We parked and got out and they released her. She ran straight to him,  greeting him as if to say " I been waiting for you, so happy to see you!".

  We went inside,  and at some point went out to get something from the car. He opened the door and she jumped right in, ready to go. We had to remove her from the car for a few photos. 

  She was a trooper on the way home, leaning hard into him when he sat with her, and leaning hard into me while watching him, when he drove.

  When last I saw her, around 3pm yesterday, she was snuggled on the couch, his arm around her.

  They fit well together. 

It is good.

Beautiful has arrived in Albuquerque. 



10/7/14 Update: They did their first service dog training session today, both did well. The lesson was held at a local Lowe's store. Bella was introduced to the halter, and she did not really like it, but she was trusting and accepted it. He was introduced to the leash and how to handle it, how to communicate gently. He did well. It was a delight to watch them take their first service walk together.

10/14/14 Update: They had their second service dog training session today. About an hour before the lesson they were in a very close call on the freeway. Someone hit the median and spun out, and he had to evade the accident, another car was hit but they escaped. Bella was thrown to the floor, both were shook up. Yet they proceeded to their lesson, and today they went inside the Lowe's store with their two trainers, and their two trainers service dogs. So it was a lot to take in, a lot of new sights and sounds and Bella was stressed. But again she trusted, she listened and she followed him about the store. I was very proud of them both.

6/17/15 Update : Miss Bella is doing great, she has lived up to her name for she is beautiful. She is doing great as a service dog and as Adam's friend and companion. She goes pretty much everywhere with him. Today she attended college classes for the first time and she did great. We are so proud of her, and so grateful to God, and to Sharina the CEO of Astasia's Animal Rescue  (they do great work, please check them out and assist if you are able), and Aggie Wasson for saving Bella and for letting our veteran adopt her. She who was rescued has rescued. 

We Will Not Go Quietly Into the Night

"The night is the worst time for the warrior,
Unlike most, he dreads the night, yet he will never tell you,
When he lays down his head at night, it is not a reward for his hard worked day,
He lays his head down knowing the war may revisit him,
He steels his nerves and kisses his woman good night,
Or if he is alone, he prepares for the coming storm,
When he finally falls asleep he hears the guns blazing,
He hears the screams of his brothers,
He feels the fear in his heart,
His heart pounds, his body shakes, his skin sweats,
He awakes terrified, desperately trying to find some sort of comfort,
The soldier wishes he could tell his family,
Wishes he could tell his wife,
Wishes he could tell his girlfriend,
Wishes he could tell his mother, his father, his brother, his sister,
Yet the warrior cannot,
For they will not understand his pain, they will not understand his everyday war,
The warrior brushes off his latest encounter with the war,
His prepares for his day, trying to forget,
His daily commute to work is different than your average man,
The average everyday road to him looks significantly different,
The warrior feels his tension, always assessing danger,
In crowds the warrior feels discomfort, his weapon is the only thing that brings peace to his nerves,
This feeling always brings stress to his mind, yet you may never know what the warrior feels,
You may never know what this man has done, for most warriors will never share it,
The soldier seeks his comfort with his brothers,
Those that do not have their brothers with them only pray that they could be with each other again,
The warrior almost wishes he could return to that dreadful place that made sense,
The place where everyone around him felt the same,
Yet he knows that is not possible,
The warrior knows he must continue on,
Yet the fight can seem so overwhelming,
How I can ever achieve peace, the warrior asks himself,
How can he ever let those he loves know the pain he struggles with every day,
This question eludes the warrior constantly,
He asks himself, “How much more can I endure?”
Some days the fight seems lost, some days the warrior gives in to his grief,
But in the end, the warrior always finds comfort with his brothers,
He knows he must fight on, to the objective to triumph over all,
His sense of pride bolsters his heart,
He braces himself for another day, ready to take the fight to his true enemy, his mind,
Some days the warrior finds himself at peace,
Some days he may not think of the war,
Yet the warrior always knows,
It will come back again,
During the night,
Or when he is alone,
The Invisible War drags on, unsung, unrecognized, and unappreciated by the country for which he fights, and dies for."

 The above poem was posted on the page of someone I care very much about. It is attributed to "a brother".

 The poem speaks of what is now called PTSD, or "Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder". The name is relativly new, the disorder as old as time. Over a decade of war has caused a rise in this condition. PTSD is defined as "a psychological reaction that occurs after experiencing a highly stressing event (as wartime combat, physical violence, or a natural disaster) outside the range of normal human experience and that is usually characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event."

 It is common now to have warriors who have deployed multiple times to war.  A small percentage of Americans bear the brunt of the consequences of over a decade of fighting. According to the VA, more than 30% of the veterans treated are being treated for PTSD.

 The above poem speaks from the heart. There are truths within its words, but in my opinion there are also falsehoods, not intentional ones, the writer is not trying to lie to you, the writer believes all the words of this poem. He speaks his heart.

 From the perspective of someone who loves someone, who currently battles PTSD, I will attempt to speak my heart in answer to this poem.

 The warrior dreads the night, he steels himself to face it, not realizing that those he loves are in their own way doing the same. The family of the warrior have a dread of the night also. Their prayers become more fervent as the light begins to fade from the sky. They may occupy themselves like other families, in watching a television show, or reading a book, but each one is thinking of their loved one, thinking of the coming night, praying for some measure of peace, praying the nightmares will not come, praying if they do come that they can be dealt with, praying that no harm will come to the one they love as he (or she) battles the demons of the night.

 The warrior wishes he could share the things that torment him, with those that he loves, but he feels he cannot, he feels they cannot bear them, or that they will not understand him. Perhaps they will recoil from him, and from the horrors he has seen. Yet his loved ones are praying and hoping and living for the day when he will allow them to assist in carrying these things, when he will bare his soul to them and allow them to stand with him in this fight. They care not how black and ugly these demons are, they love their warrior, and they want only to see him(or her) come home.

 For some reason, the warrior believes that it is not possible to understand, nor sympathize nor empathize with him, because those who love him were not there. The family does not understand this. A neighbors home burns to the ground, killing his children, we have never experienced this, yet we understand, we sympathize, we empathize. A terrible typhoon takes out a thousand lives, we were not there, yet we feel their pain, we imagine how horrible the suffering is, we care, we want to help. Why must war be any different? Why is there this belief that it cannot be understood at all unless one has participated in it?

There is truth that in experiencing something, you know more fully the suffering it brings, but others can know a measure of this suffering simply by doing all they can to understand it.......yet often the warrior will not allow the family to do so. Were the tables turned, were it the wife, the mother, the father, the siblings that were under full assault from an unknown enemy, the warrior would insist upon knowing this enemy, he would insist on being allowed to fight it, in fact he would most likely push aside the loved one and face it himself.....and yet he will not allow them this same comfort in fighting for that which they love.

The warrior believes it is not possible to ever return to the normal, yet this thought alone aids his enemy in defeating him, for without hope how is a battle won? If you are defeated before you arrive to the battlefield, if in your heart you know it is all over and there is no hope of victory, all you can do is go out in a blaze of "glory" and yet ultimately defeated. There is hope, there is always hope, and there are others who have achieved victory. The warrior may never be the person he was before, but he can be a fully functioning person. No one is what they once were, each day we change, sometimes drastically, sometimes bit by bit, but in the end, noone is the same at 30 as they were at 19. The warriors circumstances are much harder than normal people face, the road much steeper, but the concept is the same.

 And last the warrior believes that his battle is unseen, that it is invisible, that he is alone in it and no one sees nor cares about his sacrifice and his suffering. That is not true. People do care. People do appreciate all that was done in their name, all that was lost in their name. People do want to help. If they did not how would all the hundreds upon hundreds of non-profits receive the funds they need? Where does the money come from to build a new home for a Wounded Warrior? It is not from the government, it is from the people. Wounded Warrior Project receives its funds from citizens, as does the hundreds of other non-profits that cater only to our veterans.

 People do care, and together we can defeat PTSD, we can get through this, we can come out the other side whole and functioning. You were not meant to fight this fight alone, and yet you will not allow us to help you. You are a warrior, you know how to fight, you know how to win battles, you would never consider turning away help in a firefight. If under attack you would never tell all the people around you to go back to the FOB, you got this, you will fight it alone.....and yet that is how you fight this PTSD. Please let us help. Give us ways to help. If the things we are doing are not helping please tell us what we can do.Please don't shut us out.

 When you shut us out, in reality you are handing us over to the enemy you fight against, it is kicking our ass, it is causing us pain, it is causing us sorrow. You would not leave a brother in this position. You would hand him a weapon and fight beside him. Allow us that same chance. We do care, we want to help, we will never stop trying to help, in the end it would be a lot easier for all of us if you would just tell us how we can help, and accept our assistance. For we too, just like you, will go down fighting. Together we can win, standing each alone we all risk defeat.

 In the end, this family will fight against PTSD until either it is defeated and crushed into the ground or we are all dead. If we cannot bring our forces together, then we will fight alone as single units, not as effective, and the risk of casualties is greater, but if that be the way it must be, we stand willing to go down in a blaze of glory, hearts shattered, tears flowing, spitting in the face of this PTSD until it sucks the last of our life and breathe from us. It doesn't have to be this way, but we are committed and we are all in this fight come what may.

 We will never forsake you, we will never stand down, we will never stop trying, we will never stop praying, we will fight this all the way, if you shove us aside, we will pick ourselves up off the ground and push forward. If you push aside one weapon and break it into pieces, we will pick up another. We will never stop.

 You may consider walking away, as a means to protect us from all that you fight against. Should you choose that path, do so knowing full well that not a day, not a waking minute will pass that we do not agonize over you, think not for a moment that the constant prayers lifted to the heavens will cease, that we will somehow be sucked back into life and forget that you are a part of ours. That will not happen. This is perhaps the fight we fear the most, the one unseen, unknown, where we battle against something and are unable to see the results and unaware of how you fare in the fight. But whatever route you choose....we will not fade.

We will not accept defeat.
We will never stop trying.
We will never leave you.
No matter what you do.
or how you treat us.
We stand with you.
No matter what you do.
No matter how you treat us.
We spit in the face of this PTSD
We will either beat it or die in the attempt.
We are your family members.
and we will not go quietly into the night.

 Written this day, with all our love, to all those family members who seek with all your hearts to bring your warriors all the way home. Take courage my friends, never give up, never surrender.

 And to our warriors, we love all of you more than you know, we understand things better than you think, and we have your back, even when you think you walk alone.


The Great and Heavy Weight of the Poppy


This morning as I walked into my local Walmart a woman handed me a tiny red poppy on a little metal stem.

I stopped, and took it from her hand, and just looked at it. I had to reach down deep, real deep, to find the strength not to simply burst into tears. This little tiny flower, made of cheap fabric and wire, yet it weighs like a stone in my hand, like a thousand pound rock pressing into my very soul. The weight of it threatens to push me to my knees……

  I have always honored our veterans and the poppy has always been meaningful to me. It represented my dad and his service during WWII, it represented my own service during peace time, and it represented the countless ones who fought and died for my freedom. It represented all the patriotic flag waving parades attended across the years.............each year it has come to mean a little more to me as my own son deployed with the Army Infantry, first to Iraq, then to Afghanistan.

But today, I think I finally understand, I think I get it, this little red poppy means so very much more than all I had previously thought. I am unable to express in full detail what it means…but in the words that follow I will attempt as best I can.

 The poppy stands for Kalin Johnson,  Rudy Acosta, Michael Anaya, Kris Lorenzo, Vincent Ashlock, Frank World, David Todd, Patrick Carroll, Stephen Koch, Adam McSween, Seth Blevins, Andy Krippner, Kevin Balduf, Jamie Jarboe, Dustin Lee, Derek McConnell, Juan Navarro, Michael Demarsico…….and ………so very many more, all lives, all leaving behind lives forever scarred by their absence.

The poppy stands for Leah and her beautiful boys and the birthday they just celebrated, he would have been 36 years old this year. Deployed to heaven, gone too soon, killed in action in Afghanistan.

It stands for Cheryl, Chipster,Florence,Walline and Mary…………godly loving people, who show love and mercy to all they see, who pray so for my son, theirs gone too soon, theirs deployed to heaven.

It stands for Lisa, we agreed together on so many prayer posts, lifted up our sons and all those with them....mine came home, hers deployed to heaven.

It stands for the little blond boy, sitting in a heart shaped wave on a beach, who will never feel the arms of his father about him as he grows.

 It stands for  a young man named Michael as he lay burned and wounded in that hospital bed in Germany, his beautiful young wife beside him bending low to hear his whisper…”you have to let me go”…..and she did, with tears and sorrow.

 It stand for a leader named John, who promised families he would bring their men home, and who now sits in prison till the end of his days for doing so.

 It stands for Siobhan who laid everything down and rushed to the side of her wounded son, she and he fought like lions, through the constant threat of death, each time pushed back, each time defeated, and then one night he simply went to sleep and never woke up…deployed to heaven, we know not why.

 It stands for Jamie Jarboe, as we watched from afar, the desperate fight to live, he fought long, he fought hard, but in the end, he went home, leaving behind a young wife who tries her best to honor his wishes and his memory by assisting veterans and their families.

 It stands for Chaz, as he picks himself up off the ground at an airport, and his beautiful wife  who feels the eyes of condemnation upon her by some stranger who knows nothing at all of the story she is witnessing.

 It stands for young Mark, who graced our home with his presence, as he slyly twists his foot in a full circle and shows us his prosthetic leg.

 It stands for Harry. It stands for Anthony. It stands for all our wounded and all those who love them.

  The poppy stands for Trevor, Jon, Joe, Allen, Artie …and all of of those who fell to suicide. Behind them stand more wives, husbands, mothers, fathers and children all asking why.

  It stands for Tammy, who buried her son Jon too soon, one who lost his fight against PTSD. She often sings various lyrics from numerous old songs, and she reaches out to veterans and survivors of suicide to lend a helping hand.

 The poppy stands for a host of young men and women still out there fighting, still paying the price, still bleeding blood wounds and soul wounds the likes of which you cannot comprehend. For Francis, for Stuart and a host of others.

 The poppy stands for all those who wait, for all those who struggle, for all those lives affected by all these wars, from the one that first began this country to the one we fight right now, to the ones we will most likely fight again in the future. The fallen, the wounded, the maimed…..and every single soul that loves them.

 The poppy stands for those who have come home, and yet remain there, who battle against PTSD, the ones enduring the nightmares, the anxiety, the anger, the depression, the hopelessness. For Andrew who once sat in a closet, gun to his head and who now writes books and poetry and strengthens his brothers and sisters. For Boone who uses the demon of PTSD against itself and directs his rage towards helping his brothers and sisters come together and stand together and fight PTSD. All the way Boone! It stands for Joe Dyer whose photo carrying an Iraqi boy to safety touched the heart of America but who died battling the demons of PTSD.

It stands for Bill, still battling the memories of Vietnam.

  Behind each warrior who battles PTSD stand more mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives, husbands and children, watching their loved ones struggle against darkness, doing all that they can to help, fearing the dark, raging at the dark, and lighting candles against it.

 And now the poppy begins to become very personal to me……the poppy stands for Allen, and for Mandy, and Luke and Reddik, for Steve and Judy, for all the blood, the tears the sacrifice, the loss and the sorrow.

 It stands for the flag passed to two little boys, and the looks on their faces as they accepted it. It stands for the young woman who is burying the love of her life.

 The poppy stands for my son Joshua, who never served a day and yet has served every day for many years. He bore the burden of an older brother fighting, he bore the fear of loss, he bore the worry and the stress and now he bears his brothers wounds, now home, the physical war behind him, but the mental one rages on.

 The poppy stands for my family, for the nights on our knees, on our faces, for the fear, for the worry, for the pride, for the sacrifice, for the nights without sleep, for all the cries sent up to heaven, for all the pleas for prayers, for the days spend hovering by the phone, for the sorrow and pain felt at each loss, each wound. For the loss, for Mel who could not endure it all……

 The poppy stands for Adam, my oldest son, for his service and sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan, for his actions, for the good and the bad, for his fighting with all of his heart and soul, for his wounds received, the physical and the mental, for the innocence lost, for his guts and his bravery and his willingness to do whatever it takes to bring his guys home, for the price he has paid for that, for the lives he saved and the lives he took. For the fight he is engaged in now, a fight for life and soul. For the great love we his family have for him, for the pride we have in him. He is a man. He has stared into the face of fear and hate, death and evil. He bears the scars of those encounters, and fights still to overcome wounds received to his soul.

 This then is why, when that woman passed me that poppy this morning, it near took me to my knees, right there at Walmart, it stole the breathe from my lungs, brought the tears to my eyes, and I took it from her, and I nodded, for I could not speak, and I looked at it, and I pinned it to my chest.

  So I ask you, regardless of what the poppy might mean to you………pin it to your chest, it is heavy this tiny flower, this lite as air piece of fabric and wire, it weighs the soul, weighs down deep……..weighed down with the terrible cost of war, the blood, the wounds, the death, the destruction, the hate, the pain, the loss, the fear….it is heavy but nonetheless, carry it and remember.

 There is one more thing……..the poppy in all its heaviness, all that it represents of pain and loss and sorrow and sacrifice, also reminds me of my Lord. He too understood death and blood and pain and sorrow. He was whipped near to death, a crown of thorns pressed into his brow, he carried a heavy wooden instrument of torture to a high hill, whereby he was nailed to it, and lifted up, naked and laid bare to the world, to be mocked and scorned, his side pierced with a spear…..the sinless Lamb of God willingly took all this upon him, all the sin and death and horror and ugliness of this world, that we might be set free from the price of all our sins.

The blood that ran down was red like a poppy, and it has the power to wash away all sin. And upon remembering this, the back became stronger, the weight of the tiny flower eased, and once again it was a flower of remembrance for all that has been sacrificed.

I am so very honored to wear it.

 If you are willing, and if there is someone for you, that gives that poppy weight, please leave their name in the comments so we can honor their memory. God bless you all, and God keep our veterans.

On War

  I am not fully qualified to speak to the topic of war. I have never been to war, never held another persons life in my hands, never labored over a mortally wounded friend, never taken the life of my enemy, so I can understand how most folks might question my credentials on this subject and others might say "you know nothing at all of war". I would not argue with either.

 I speak tonight of my experiences and my experiences alone. In my opinion that should be sufficient to scare most folks, and if others who have been closer to the subject, or paid a higher price than I were to speak it should bring tears to any normal person's eyes.

 We hear the term "the cost of war" tossed around often. Most people when they use this term are referring to one of two things. They refer either to the cost in monetary terms, or the cost in human lives, and sometimes both. But there is a deeper cost to war, one which I hope to at least make you familiar with and perhaps cause you to pause and consider.

 Across the years it has been my honor to support many of the troops fighting in this war, and to become friends through social media with a plethora of different folks, all tied to the wars and to our troops. I count amongst those friends, to name a few types, Gold Star mothers and fathers, those who have lost a child in war, Gold Star wives, Gold Star children, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. I count amongst them also mothers who have a child incarcerated in prison, and wives whose husbands are incarcerated. Standing along side those are the Wounded, and their families, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. And last but by no means least are those who lost a loved one to tragedy, be it suicide, drug overdoes, and or alcohol related deaths, among that circle I also know, wives, and mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. All of these people are part of the cost of war.

 Along side the fallen, the wounded, the lost ones are several more persons. The ruined marriages, relationships that just could not stand the test of multiple deployments. There are the hurt and shattered lives that are a result of these ruined marriages. Also there are the many children trying to do well in school while a parent stands in harms way, and beside them, the single parent, trying to hold it all together while their mate is deployed and at war.

 And there are the regular people, those waiting on someone they love, those trying to live a normal life and take care of normal business all the while worrying and praying for a loved one in harms way. In light of previous examples this seems rather easy, but even this takes a toil.

 All these things are part of the cost of war. The price we have paid, the price we are paying, and the price we will pay.

 I can speak personally regarding the toil taken upon a person when a child is deployed in harms way. I sent a son to war twice. Neither time was easy. While the child is deployed you become attached to your phone, it never leaves your side, you obsess over charging it and always ensuring it is ready, should you receive a call. You answer it no matter where you are, or what you are doing. You grab it and say HELLO in the middle of a church service, while headed for the door, you leave the shower covered in soap and shampoo in order to grab the ringing phone. You take it to the toilet with you. You run out of important meetings at work, meetings that you are order to answer that phone.

 You breathe a little when it's your kid on the other side, hearing his voice brings such relief. You want to cry, you want to grill him over things, to know if he is really okay, but you swallow all that, and try and stay calm and you just listen and support him. Your heart breaks into pieces when he informs you that he lost a brother, or that someone was wounded, but you stay strong for him, because you do not want to make this any harder for him. You want to keep him on that phone forever...but time is short and he is always so very tired.

 If you are like me, you stay as informed as you can on how things are going over there. On the days when you see that someone died the night before, there was a bombing, or there was a firefight that made the news, its in the area where he is...your heart stops, you fight against the fear, the fear that wants to paralyze you. You pray, sometimes on your face on the floor....but how does one pray in such a time? You pray Lord please keep him safe! Knowing that even as you say those words...someone is not safe...someone is dead. Is it your son or anothers?

 A day or so later the name is released, you breathe a sigh of relief, your heart rejoices, no one knocked on your door, no one called you, he is okay! And then the shattering takes place as you realize that somewhere, someplace, there is someone just like you, someone who prayed, someone who was so afraid........and someone knocked on her door.

 The entire deployment goes round and round, you replay these scenes over and over again. One day you receive a call.......he has been is like a punch in the stomach, your legs shake and will not support your weight, the time between that first sentence and the next which describes his forever. For me, I was one of the lucky ones, the wounds were a concussion and a jacked up back and hip, nothing major and my son was back in action within a week or so of the call.....but a lot of folks do not get a call like that....they get the call of lost limbs, of a loved one hanging to life by a thread. Oh Lord I know not how they endured these things for I never want to get any closer to that than I did.

 I have followed the accounts of friends who rushed to their son's sides. Who gave up everything to sit by their bed, to wrestle with Doctors and Nurses and to fight for them while they were unable to. I have followed their sons  as they climb from the very edge of death to recovery, and followed others who climbed and then died for no good reason. Followed others who fought with every bit of their will only to succumb to their wounds.

 I have followed parents, shared prayers with them, prayed for their sons, and those sons fell. I have followed these parents as they walk this life without their child.

 I know mothers who found their children dead, dead by their own hand, haunted by the demons of PTSD. Can you imagine anything more horrible? I have known about PTSD for some time and have always supported those who battle it, but in truth, in retrospect, I find that all that I thought that I knew about it was really only the tip of the iceberg.

 Our family has moved on from war, and from the military, we now join the ranks of the veterans and the veteran families. We battle the VA now, we battle PTSD and TBI and do our best to rescue our loved ones from the darkness that ever threatens to consume them. I thought I had seen the worst of things, experienced the worst of things, I thought there was nothing worse than sitting here, protected, surrounded by all the luxuries this American life has to offer, while my beloved child fought in a far away I am not so sure.

 Now that I have come face to face with PTSD and all it's demons, I realize that I am in the battle of my life right now, a battle that I have personally seen good people, people who loved with all their hearts and souls, people who prayed, people who did all that they could humanly do.....lose. They buried their loved one. It is a frightening truth that I struggle with each and every day.

 I will end this short introduction into the cost of war with good news. The fight is winnable. Never give up on them, keep pushing forward, keep loving them, keep praying for them, keep doing all that you can to get them into the various programs out there that can assist them in the fight. We can win this fight. And should, God forbid, we be one of those who fail, let it be said that we gave it everything we had, that we put every ounce of our being into the fight.

 To all of you who have paid your part of the cost of war, be you the warrior who went, the loved one who waited, be you one who lost someone special, or walked with them through the Wounded Warrior journey, be you one who suffers from PTSD or TBI, or someone fighting along side...whatever part of the price you have paid, we thank you, and we pray for you each and every day. You are a special bunch of people, more resilient than most will ever know, and you, more than anyone else, make me proud. May God ever bless and keep you.

 To all of you who have not had to pay, I ask you to think upon the things I have written and to do all that you can to assist this wonderful group of people who have paid their share and yours also. Stand along side of them. Try to understand them. We need you in this fight, we need you to care, we need you to help. We have a generation who has fought for over ten years, and all those connected to them, they all bear scars, they all have wounds. Stand with us, and may God ever keep you from the sorrows felt in paying the cost of war.

 Last but not least, I pray, with all my heart and soul, that our nation will learn, and understand the true price being paid for the wars we are fighting. I pray that our elected officials and our citizens will consider the cost carefully before sending our sons and daughters to war. There are things worth fighting for, there are things worth dieing for, there are situations where the cost, in lives, in wounds, in shattered hearts and souls is worth paying. Should our nation be in danger, should there be risk of our citizens here being harmed or killed, or our freedoms be at risk, then fight we must, but I hope and I pray we will always weigh the choice carefully. The cost is so very much higher than most people ever know.