Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Since the last blog post, we’ve had some exciting things happen to us. My wife and daughter, as well as Tom’s girlfriend, made their way to Colorado Springs for two days with us. It was nice to see them as it had been over two months since we last saw some familiar faces. Their visit provided us the opportunity to relax, recharge, and recuperate a bit while having the ability to refocus for the second leg of the trip.
During our “break,” we were able to see some beautiful sights. My wife, daughter, and I went to the Garden of the Gods. My daughter loved it. It took a bit of “parental mind-bending” to get her there. In the time I’ve been away, my daughter has developed quite an affection for Mickey Mouse. While in the hotel room, she kept trying to call Mickey and Curious George to tell them she was with “Momma and Da” in a hotel. In order to get her as excited for the sights, I had to tell her that Mickey and George were on top of the mountain. She immediately put the phone down and was ready to go. Parental mind-bending at its finest.
For us, having our families visit is, of course, bitter sweet. It’s an experience that any Veteran who has come home on leave can understand. When you’re in country, all you think about is home, what you’re missing, what you want to do, and so on. Coming home on leave is a bit of “military mind-bending.” When you’re home, you try to enjoy yourself, enjoy everything. In the back of your mind, or sometimes in the front, you know and acknowledge that the time home is limited and soon enough, you’ll find yourself eating DFAC food again instead of home cooking. In your mind, you know that the embrace of your family and friends will soon be replaced by your embrace of your weapon and gear. The hugs of family are replaced by the snug fit of your IBA. The sights and sounds of peace that home brings are replaced by the chaos of war. When our families came here, it brought similar feelings to the front. You know your time with them is limited and that soon enough your views will not be of your wife and daughter, or in Tom’s case his girlfriend, they will be of long roads and strange faces. Their hugs are replaced by the tight fit of your ruck. Thanksgiving meals and real food are replaced by jerkey, peanuts, and powerbars. The sights and sounds of family are replaced by the trek ahead.
But for all of it, every second, we find ourselves thankful for the experience, the time, the knowledge, and the journey.
Another aspect of our time here in Colorado has been very spiritual. We have been introduced to a Project Welcome Home Troops meditation teacher and we’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk with a man named Wolf Walker, a Native American who values the traditions and practices of the “old” ways. He was able to give us some much needed perspective on our journey, the lessons we learn on the road and where they fit in the spiritual world. Both the meditation and spiritual guidance we’ve received have brought clarity, focus, and inspiration as we continue to understand the lessons we learn.
One lesson I’ve been going over in my mind is the lesson of community and response to disasters. For as strange as that sounds, it fits perfectly in what Tom and I are trying to do. We are trying to bring this message that communities have a responsibility to help Veterans and their families.
When natural disasters happen, people rally together and provide support. The support they provide is sometimes money, food, supplies, or emotional support. Essentially, people meet the needs of complete strangers because they recognize the needs of people. Look at how many times some disaster happens and aid comes from every corner of this country. Sometimes, people send themselves to the area to be physically present and do what they can.
This is what is needed when we come across war. War is the ultimate human disaster. Veterans in this country are struggling with the debris and chaos of the human disaster that they’ve faced. This human disaster was not their creation, but it is their burden. Communities rally, strangers rally when a home is destroyed by a hurricane. When a person is torn apart by human disaster, it appears many decline the opportunity to help. They provide their support during the time of war, but the time when it is really needed is when the disaster ends. It would seem foolish to send aid to a town during a hurricane. You send it after. We understand that. We don’t understand the destruction of the human disaster or the need to respond with the same vigor, passion, empathy, and care as when people are suffering from an accident or disaster.
But, with this knowledge, we share thanks for those who do recognize their role. We appreciate those people and organizations who act quickly and decisively for those they recognize are struggling from the human disaster. Without them, Veterans in this country would have no hope. They would simply look at a landscape of destruction and chaos and say to themselves, “Welcome Home.”
Here is a link to Project Welcome Home Troops if you or someone you know needs some help. They may be able to help.
See you on the trail,
Anthony and Tom