By Brannan Vines
Truthfully, I’ve been debating exactly what I should say in this post for almost two weeks. It’s so hard to put into words the many, many, MANY reasons I believe our nation’s Military and Veterans deserve our support. I wanted to write something moving… something profound… something that would cause each reader to jump up and get started helping our heroes.
While I may not quite accomplish that objective, I’m definitely going to try. As the wife of an Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran I have had the honor to meet many of our living, breathing, combat-boot-wearing, weapon-toting, unsung heroes. So, I thought the best way to inspire you (and to share my passion for helping them) is to put a few “faces” on the more than 2.6 million people who served in our Armed Forces just last year.
Here are two of their stories (with names changed to protect their privacy).
When I met PFC Eric Wright in 2002, he was a thirty-five year old Private that all of the other (much younger) people in his unit called “Pop.” PFC Wright made the decision to join the Army and leave an established career (and much higher pay) because he felt his nation needed him. He had been an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and wanted to serve by helping the wounded and injured on the battlefield. Eric, his wife, and four children, left a comfortable, “safe” civilian life and embraced their new home within the military. They took single soldiers into their home for holiday meals and weekend football games. They reached out to counsel younger families and help them as they faced the challenges of repeated deployments and separations. They struggled to make ends meet, but did so (without complaint) for the greater good of their country and loved ones. When PFC Wright deployed for the second time to Iraq, he did so by volunteering to go back. He had been offered a cushy “Rear D” (the soldiers who stay at home to handle unit needs) position, but couldn’t stand the idea of sending his “brothers” back without him. After eight, hard-fought months, Eric returned home mentally and physically injured after his vehicle was struck by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). He has faced years of surgeries, setbacks, and challenges. But, still to this day, I’ve never once heard him complain or wish he hadn’t made the choice to go back with his unit. He’s a hero that keeps going, keeps fighting to get better, and still, despite many hardships, exudes a patriotism that is unfaltering and inspiring.
1SG Tom Winston & his wife were the first family to welcome us into the military. He and my husband were from the same hometown and as soon as he heard of my husband’s enlistment, called to see how they could help us get “squared away”. He was jolly and kind, but still every bit a rough and tumble soldier. He had served in the Gulf War and had worked his way up through the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) ranks. By the time our country entered the war in Iraq, he was a First Sergeant, in charge of a company of more than 160 soldiers. He took the responsibility of caring for those soldiers, many of whom were barely 20 years old, seriously. His wife often joked that all of their (very limited) phone time from Iraq was devoted to the things he wanted her to send for his soldiers… or which soldiers had wives that needed extra support… or which soldiers he was worried were struggling with the mental effects of combat. His concern and care for “his” guys was evident in every action. Half way through his second deployment to Iraq, 1SG Tom Winston’s love for his soldiers became evident to the world when used his own body to shield a group of them from an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). Thanks to his efforts, every soldier… every hero… every life was spared, except his own. He’s a hero that lives now only in the hearts and minds of those who loved him and those who served beside him… a hero who sacrificed himself and life with the family he loved to protect his soldiers and to serve his beloved country.
The sacrifices of these soldiers (and the 2.6 million like them) are made daily for each of us. They each willingly offer their lives, their comfort and their futures to protect and defend you and me. For the most part, they’ve never met us… will never meet us… but still offer this incredible, priceless, awe-inspiring gift. When someone shows you and your country such a measure of devotion, how can you help but support them?
So, if I’ve done my job and made you want to jump up and get started, don’t delay! Our heroes, those currently serving and those who are Veterans, need us. They and their families need our support, understanding, help, and encouragement. The need for each of us to decide to stand up and serve them. And, they deserve no less!
[ Brannan Vines is the proud wife of an OIF Veteran and a passionate advocate for Veterans & their loved ones. She’s also the Founder of http://www.familyofavet.com/, a site dedicated to helping heroes & families survive and thrive after combat. ]
This post is part of our Why Americans Should Support Our Troops ongoing series. We encourage you to participate too.
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