Category Archives: marine mom

The Hidden Heroes of Veteran’s Day

Hidden Heroes of Veterans DayTrue heroism is a quiet thing. It does not seek the spotlight nor is it dependent upon the recognition of others. It comes from a place of selflessness where doing the right thing is the only option. And yet no hero stands alone. Behind each is a hidden hero, a quiet corps of support and caring there in times of peace and struggle.

This Veteran’s Day, as I pay homage to those who came before me, served alongside me, and currently serve, I choose to also honor the silent heroism of the military caregiver. Having been both an active duty servicemember and a military spouse, now a Marine mom, I know firsthand that service is not a solitary undertaking. And yet I have little grasp on what it means to be the caregiver for a wounded warrior in a post-9/11 world.

Hidden Heroes of Veteran’s Day: The Post-9/11 Caregiver

In the United States there are an estimated 5.5 million military caregivers. Of these, 1.1 million (nearly 20%) are caring for post-9/11 veterans.

These caregivers tend to be younger than those of other eras. They are caring for a younger veteran often with debilitating injury, mental health or substance use condition.

Most are employed, and not connected to a support network. Many are caring for other non-military family members as well – such as children.

Many of these people experience care and/or stress related health issues, report strain in family relationships, and incur workplace difficulties.   

Imagine the strength of character and spirit this takes to be this person, then try to not use the word hero in describing that.

Ever so slowly, more people are starting to see that these caregivers deserve to be honored for their service as well. That recognition can be as simple as lending a hand with daily tasks to take some of the burden from their shoulders. Better yet are those out there fully embracing these heroes, supporting them, and lifting them up through programs designed to help care for the caregiver.

Vail Veterans Program - Healing on the Slopes

The Vail Veterans Program, founded by Cheryl Jensen -a thankful American with no military ties– in 2004, began as an adaptive winter ski program. That first season there were just seven wounded warriors finding strength and healing on the slopes. Over a decade later the program has welcomed into the fold 500 severely injured veterans and over 1,000 family members and caregivers.

This unique program, founded by one person with a passion for honoring those who serve, has promoted physical and emotional healing for so many. This year Cheryl and her team have launched a program focused entirely on the Caregiver Hero.

Over the course of three days in a world-class resort, these heroes lay down the mantles they carry and allow themselves to be cared for, lifted up and renewed. Here they will partake in self-awareness programs, yoga, meditation, outdoor recreation, and spa treatments. This is not pampering, it is rejuvenation to strengthen them in their mission.

Hidden Heroes of Veterans Day

One of the things I remember most about my days of service was the way a meal {usually lousy, ugh Galley food} shared helped to wind down a day’s work. At the time it just seemed like everyday stuff, but looking back I understand what was happening, we were bonding and drawing strength from each other. Hearing that group meals were part of this caregiver program made me understand that Cheryl and her team have an understanding of the importance of bonding through shared experience even over something as simple as a meal.

I was moved to find out that all services provided by the Vail Veterans program are 100% free. Not one dime is paid by these heroes. In Cheryl’s words, “They’ve given enough.”

If you’d like to join me in honoring these hidden heroes this Veteran’s Day {or any day, seriously a random Tuesday out of the blue is perfect for taking time out to be thankful, one day just isn’t enough in my opinion} here is a list of organizations that help military caregivers and how you can help through donating funds, time, dedication.

Vail Veterans Program - Helping Hero Families

Vail Veterans

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation

TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors)

Women of Valor

The Fisher House Foundation

Let The “Crazy” Ones Out

The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone. ~Robin Williams.

I believe that there exists a filament within each of us. Rooted in our hearts, it entwines itself throughout our being as it attaches like an umbilicus to our minds. The molecules within are dense and strong, yet pliable, having the ability to withstand the onslaught of all that makes us. In some of us it can transfigure, becoming gossamer, at times a mere wisp of a root. Barely holding us together.

When that filament thins to transparency, or breaks all together, so much can be lost. 

Heroes

Words

Artists

Lovers

Beauty

Friends

Faith

Children

Hope

As the media cacophony reaches a crescendo about the life and addictions of Robin Williams, I imagine his filament. Growing ever thinner. Fading away.

Time and I again I hear someone on TV say things like, “…recently returned to rehab” or “…struggled with addiction.” Were he to have died from cancer the narrative would undoubtedly have been different.  We’d be hearing things like, “After a long and courageous battle with…” It seems that where mental illness is involved – addiction, depression – there is little room to acknowledge courage. After all a gifted, iconic, beloved, and wealthy star could have no “reason” to take his own life. 

Depression has about as much reason as a cancer cell does.

They both choose their victims at random. Preying upon people from all walks of life with no regard for the size of one’s bank account or contributions to humanity.  They eat away at the people we are, changing the very structure of our being, leaving behind destruction in their wake.

Yet cancer gets walks, runs, standing up to. While depression – mental illness – gets shoved into a dark corner, hidden in a closet, stuffed inside. Why? Does anyone really think that someone chooses mental illness? They just wake up one day and say, “Today I think I’d like to ruin everything I’ve ever worked for, and hey maybe destroy the lives of those who love me while I’m at it?” No, they don’t. The thoughts choose, consuming them like cancer.

Until society as a whole can open that closet, let The “Crazy” Ones out, and treat the suffering as equal to anyone with any other disease they didn’t choose to get, we will find ourselves here again. The shock and sadness will come back. More lives will be lost. 

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America*. It is the 3rd leading cause of death in people between 15 and 24 years old*. Every day 22 American Veterans take their own lives**. 

While we all talk about our favorite Robin Williams movies (mine: Good Will Hunting, Hook, & What Dreams May Come) can we each make a little time to reach out. If you suffer from depression, tell someone. Talk, they want to listen. Talking can help.

Suicidal thoughts are not personal. They don’t mean that the person having them doesn’t love you enough. They are a part of the pathology of an illness that thrives -amongst other things – on isolation, shame, and fear.  If you know someone who is fighting a courageous battle with metal illness, tell them you stand with them. You aren’t expected to understand molecular biology to comfort a friend with cancer, you don’t have to be a psychologist to aid in the war with depression. 

Countless people at this very moment walk around with paper-thin filaments holding them together.

If you need help right now, visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call (800) 273-TALK

 

* Source: Centers for Disease Control

** Source: Veterans Administration

You Don’t Have To Try

When I first heard Colbie Caillat’s new song, Try, on the radio last week I thought, “Well there is a good message in that song.” Then I moved on. Colbie isn’t exactly my genre of tunes, but I’d listen to it twice just for the message. 

Then I started to see my Facebook stream flood with links to the video. Call me Queen Lemming, I had to click.

Then I had to get tissues.

Then my teen daughter, and even my seven year old daughter.

This video goes far beyond the song. It’s the message every child and young adult, boys and especially girls, and – admittedly- even I needed to hear.

 

Super Bowl Food and a Super Hero Cookoff

I’m not quite fully recovered from my Chargers loss to the Broncos, but I won’t let that keep me from watching the Super Bowl with my family this weekend and reveling in the fact that Tom Brady will be sitting on a sofa somewhere doing the same thing.

Nearly as important to us as the game is the Pool Grid my husband draws up every year (oh wait, is that legal? Doh!) Even more important to them is… THE. FOOD. super bowl party blueprints

I’m not joking here people, this household takes their football food seriously. I have years worth of clipped, handed-down and family favorite recipes. We each get to pick one thing we want to make the roster on game day. Heck, even the six-year-old has been stalking Party Blueprints and their Pinboards for inspiration. I gain 5 pounds just looking at their photos—–>

There is something, or rather someone, missing this year though.

Our Marine.

He won’t be slamming down sliders, taking on the fire-wing challenge or digging into Mom’s Famous Bean Dip. He won’t likely even get to watch the game. For him it will be MRE’s and Infantry.

Ah, but we’ve found a way to be Semper Fidelis with our Marine and all those thousands of service women and men who’ve had to eat an MRE (like me.)

The National Museum of the Marine Corps MRE Cook-Off!

2013-12-06 11.37.22What is an MRE, you ask? It is a military field ration, or “Meal Ready To Eat”. Frankly, they make that mystery meat you ate in Jr. High seem worthy of a culinary award. They serve the function of getting calories into those serving in the field, and don’t really spare much for taste.

Gifted is the cook that can take one of these pouches, the potions and powders within, the Sterno burner it comes with, a little water and not much else and turn it into something tasty. That is the gauntlet taken up by the brave few at the annual Marine Corps MRE Cook-Off. Last year’s winner was Craig Allen of Headquarters Marine Corps, this year the winner will be crowned on February 1, 2014… just in time for the Super Bowl! MRE

We’ll be packing up the “Platoon” and heading down to check out these Super Heroes cook-off and we might just come back with a new game day recipe in solidarity for our Marine and in thanks to all those who have had to suffer through eating an MRE!

Want to check out the competition? Here is more info on the event and visiting museum;

Marine Corps MRE Cook-Off

Location: National Marine Corps Museum 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway in Triangle, VA

Event Date/Time: Saturday February 1, at 12:00-2:00 pm in the Museum’s Leatherneck Gallery (note: if you missed it this year, no worries this is an annual event. Check the museum website for more information)

Admission: FREE (we like free!)

The National Marine Corp Museum is open to the public 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily, both parking and admission are free. For more information visit their website at www.usmcmuseum.org