My Thoughts On Memorial Day

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The last few days I have seen and read different post, tweets and Facebook post concerning Memorial Day. Some have been solemn as the author shares their memories of lost family members or battle buddies. I have read other posts where people are wishing others a happy Memorial Day. Others are reminding folks as they enjoying the day at the beach or having BBQs they should stop and remember those who laid down their lives for the cause of freedom. Some posters are even angry and mean-spirited, attacking those who spend the day with their families and friends enjoying their time together. It is clear there is no well-defined consensus on how Memorial Day should be observed. Some advocate that Memorial Day should always fall on May 30th as it was initially intended and not on the last Monday of May. Others want Memorial Day to not be an official holiday but a day of remembrance and honor as veterans Day is observed. Many see Memorial Day as only the first day of summer and forget there is a reason we observe a day of memorial for those who died in service to our country.

It is not my intention to present arguments to defend or attack anyone’s observation of Memorial Day. I just want to share my thoughts on Memorial Day. I do not get offended when people spend time with families and friends and enjoy themselves on Memorial Day. I do not resent those who go to the beach, the lake, and the back yard BBQs or parties over the Memorial Day weekend. Because I am reminded the reason we are able to enjoy this weekend is a direct result of those who gave their lives for our Nation. Because of them, we enjoy the freedom to spend the day at the beaches, the lakes, gathering together as friend and families and doing so without fear. I am reminded there are many people who were never able to enjoy a day together with family and friends; because no one ever stood up for freedom or was willing to lay down their lives for the cause of freedom. I am moved by those who post pictures, memories, poems and Scripture verses in remembrance of those who have died, in doing so they make observing Memorial Day more personal. I am proud to watch official Memorial Day observances, parades and to watch the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS each year. It reminds me of how unique and special we are as a nation as we remember our fallen heroes. I find courage as I pass cemeteries and see the individual flags that mark the graves of our fallen Veterans knowing this great nation exist because of these men and women. I am proud as an American to honor and remember all those who were willing to give their last full measure of devotion.

I am saddened there are many who see Memorial Day as just the beginning of the summer vacation season and I get irritated when people wish others a happy memorial day. I am not angry with them nor do I resent them. To tell the truth I pity them, as they will never fully understand nor appreciate the sacrifice that was made on their behalf. Yet, their actions or lack of action in honoring our fallen heroes does not in any way diminish the great sacrifice our service men and women made for this Nation.

Faced With Three Choices

When I Woke Up This Morning I Had Three Choices And I Could Only Choose One 

Yesterday I was going through our closet as part of our ritual spring-cleaning event. As I was going through our “hopeful” section of the closet; this is the area where we put the clothes we like but have somehow shrunk on us. The cloths in this  section are the clothes we hope to one day be able to wear again.  However, we never seem to enjoy that experience. So from time to time reality sets in and we go through our “hopeful” section. As we are faced with reality, we finally relent and get rid of our “hopeful” cloths. However, we always make sure we leave some “hopeful” cloths to motivate us until the next onset of reality hits us. IMG_0518The far right corner of our hopeful section is where I have hung my Army dress and mess uniforms, they are in garment bags and simply occupy their space in the dark corner of my closet. As I was going through the hopeful clothes, I ran across one of my dress shirts and a pair of my dress pants for my dress uniform. They were on separate hangers so I combined the two and hung them next to the two garment bags that held my full dress uniforms.

As I looked at the garment bags I decided to unzip one of the bags and take a look at the uniform. I was greeted with my dress uniform, everything was in its proper place, my awards, my combat identifier badge, my name badge, my chaplain crest and all the other items I have on my dress uniform. The uniform was just the way I left it. I gazed at the uniform for just a few seconds and immediately felt a deep sense of sadness. So I quickly zipped the bag back up and walked out of the closet. For the remainder of the day I felt sad, I felt a little depressed, as the day wore on my feeling of sadness and depression grew. By the time I went to bed I was feeling pretty sad and went into a little funk. I told my wife that I was feeling down and she asked my why, my response was “I’m not sure.” Then I remembered how I felt after looking at my uniform this morning and it made sense why I was feeling the way I was. Those few seconds when I was looking at my dress uniform, I was reminded how much I miss being in the Army. It reminded me that at one point in my life, I woke up each morning with a plan and ended each day knowing I had accomplished that plan. I miss having that feeling of significance.

This morning when I woke up, I had a few decisions to make. Was I going to spend the day feeling depressed and just sit around the house all day doing nothing? Or am I going to sit around the house living in a “could have been” world? Would I spend the day imaging what my life would have been if I had not been medically retired due to PTSD? Was I going to imagine what my assignment would have been? Where I could be living and wondering what my promotion packet would look like. I also had a third and more difficult choice available. Will I get out of bed; appreciate the opportunity I had to serve in the U.S. Army for 21 years? Will I be thankful for what I have? Will I focus my day on the here and now and plan for my son’s arrival tomorrow from his first year of college? Will I prepare for and be busy getting ready for our family cruise on Saturday? Choices one and two are the easiest choices; I’m very good at sitting around feeling sorry for myself, and being depressed. I’m even better at choice number two. I have spent many days, weeks and months over the last few years living in my “what could have been” world.

The hardest choice is choice number three; it is the one that demands the most from me. It is the one that requires the most energy and the most commitment. It is also the one that has the greatest reward, the one that will continue leading me doIMG_0525wn the road of healing and overcoming the debilitating symptoms of my PTSD. It is the one that will allow me to enjoy the day, prepare for the homecoming of my son and the one that will move me a step close to living the life I truly want to live.
I loved my time in the Army, I am proud of my service and what I accomplished over the 21 years of my service. I am proud of the way my dress uniform looks. I am thankful for what I have now.

So I choose number three, the hardest choice of the three.

 

 

A Magical Healing Spell For PTSD

The other day I did a google search, I was curious to see what pops up when someone searches for healing the storm. I was happy to see that my website and blog was listed on the first page of the search results. However, it was midway down the page. Preceding my listing were a number of webpages for a magical healing spell for the game World of Warcraft. The healing spell is called the healing storm. Since I am not a gamer and I’ve never played World of Warcraft, I decided out of curiosity to check out the link. I clicked on the link and found the healing storm spell not only has the ability to heal the player, it also heals up to six additional allied players who are nearby. I thought that was pretty cool, you cast a spell and suddenly you and six of your closest friend are magically healed and restored to 150% strength. I thought how great that would be if we could just cast a spell and all of a sudden everyone is healed instantly. I would imagine it would make dealing with our trauma, hurts, painful experience and life’s problems so much easier. Simply cast a spell and experience instant healing.

Unfortunately, there are no healing storm spells for our lives. There is no instant healing from our trauma, no immediate healing of our emotional pain, struggles or heartaches. There is no gathering of hurting people for a mass  healing experience. Trauma does not magically disappear. I think deep down inside, we all have the hope that one day our trauma and their symptoms will simply go away. Often times, we have the expectations when we enter into treatment or therapy that the struggles of our trauma will magically disappear. When they do not disappear, we give up trying, we give up on treatment, we give up on therapy.  We give up practicing our coping skills and then declare they do not work. Sometimes we admit that coping skills work for others, but they will never work for me because my trauma is different. So we simply give up and continue to allow our trauma to led us down a road of defeat.

My own experience in dealing with my trauma has been a long and difficult journey. Over the course of my struggles I’ve been hospitalized six times and have gone through years of counseling. Not because I’ve failed at treatment or counseling but because my trauma is complex and encompasses my entire being. As I look back on my treatments and counseling appointments,  I realize over the years, I have slowly learned to deal with my trauma. I’ve learned so many things, I have learned to over came my suicidal tendencies, learned to recognize and accept my trauma. I learned to overcame the darkness of my trauma and how to contained it’s power over me. I learned how to cope and deal with the symptoms of my trauma.  I have learned how to live in the moment, how to stop living in the past and most importantly for me, I stopped living in the “what could have been” world. All this has taken years to accomplish, each step was difficult, painful, agonizing. Each step brought me closer to living life that is not controlled by my trauma. There were many times I wanted to give up, there were times that I did give up. Times I chose to withdraw for long periods of time. There were times that my counseling stagnated and it stopped being productive and I had to find a new counselor. But I kept going, kept trying, kept working and kept overcoming.

Of course, I would be remissed if I did not acknowledge the role my faith in God has played in my healing so far.  I truly believe, true healing will never take place until we come to God and give Him all of our burdens and troubles. For me my emotional and spiritual healing started when I finally gave over my hurt, anger, frustration, resentment and fear to the Lord. The psalmist writes in Psalms 55:22 “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Peter also writes in 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” In our journey of healing we are not alone, we do not walk the dark road alone nor face the struggles of our trauma on our own. We have one, who we can cast all our cares, all our fears, all our anxieties and all our struggles from our trauma. The key is calling upon the Lord, If you do, he will listen and respond.

27 Wonderful Years Together

23 More Years to our 50th!

27 years ago on May 5, 1990  I married my wonderful bride and my true love. Elizabeth is my love, soulmate, helper, friend, counselor, designer, caretaker, encourager, supporter, cheerleader, wife, awesome mother to my children and my very strength and life. She has always been with me through the highest and brightest times and has been next to me in my deepest and darkest moments. When I was ready to give up on myself she was there urging me on and never letting me go. She watches over me many times without me knowing she is doing so. She was strong and my base when I was weak and ready to give up. Without my precious wife Beth, I would not be the man I am today. My love for her is ever deepening and I learn each day to cherish her more and more. Happy Anniversary my sweet love. Only 23 years more until we celebrate our 50th Anniversy  IMG_0002

Ironhorse Fallen Heroes

IMG_0386Last Monday 01 May I drove to Killeen, Texas for some business. While I was there I made a stop at Ft. Hood, where I visited  my old chapel the Ironhorse Brigade Chapel. From May 2005 to July  2008  I was the chaplain in charge of the chapel while serving as the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Chaplain. Inside the fellowship hall is this memorial to the 49 Brigade Troopers who died in combat and the 4 Brigade non-combat deaths. We lost a total 53 lives between October 2006 and January 2008. While I was viewing the memorial, I though about our deployment, about our troopers who died, I thought about those of us who returned home. I thought about those who suffered the physical and non-physical wounds of war. I thought about our families and how this war in Iraq had forever changed our lives. I  thought about my own journey as the Brigade Chaplain and my struggles with PTSD. I don’t have any insights to offer today, no profound thoughts or spiritual lessons. I just have my thoughts.