Hometown Point Of View…by Kelly Gee

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Posted by Joyce Rhyne on 18 May 17 - 1 Comment
Warrior’s Weekend Sand Sculpture 2017 Photo by Joy Fryou

Warrior’s Weekend Sand Sculpture 2017
Photo by Joy Fryou

Warrior’s Weekend touches lots of people’s lives. Here are  three stories of lives changed through their experiences with our heroes.

Mom to So Many Sons

Leeann is a military mom. Her marine son is a computer guru on his 4th deployment. She thankfully says that he serves far from the hot zones doing a high-tech job in relative safety. Still a mom can’t help but worry. We live in uncertain times in an unpredictable world, so she knows none of our active duty military are guaranteed to come home safely. She prays, sends care packages, writes letters, waits for infrequent phone calls and misses her son. His sister cries each time they talk about him, and his Dad is incredibly proud of his son and his honorable service to our country. But she knows her son is a career military man and she and the family will always share him with the job he does so proudly. Leeann has helped with seven years of Warriors Weekend. She started small, baking a cake and a few pans of brownies. The next year she had two young men in her guest quarters. It blossomed from there. Several heroes have been welcomed to her bay front home, she has helped with meals, fundraising, convinced her husband and brother to take heroes fishing, and even baited hooks at night fishing. The first year she saw her own boy in the face of every wounded veteran she greeted. Still, she persevered. With each year of volunteering she found comfort in loving on her son’s military brothers and sisters. She was at home with their lingo, their culture and their military identity. It made her feel closer to her absent son to be among the veterans she served each year. Their stories felt familiar. Somehow, she was closer to her absent son in the fellowship of young veterans. Over time, Leeann felt that she was more than grateful for her son’s visits between deployments and assignments, and each year her small gesture of appreciation to wounded heroes was another way of expressing how grateful she felt. The proud military mom will be right there this weekend feeding visiting heroes and loving young veterans while thinking of her hero son.

Fishing Is Better Than Therapy

I met a young veteran while serving breakfast at Warriors Weekend 2015. Bryan looks like an ordinary 30-year-old, but he had sad eyes and struggled to look at me when we spoke. A respectful southern boy with obvious military bearing, I came to see him as anything but ordinary. He is a decorated vet who received numerous commendations in his 6 years of service. Bryan’s a vet of Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts who returned from his third deployment with a damaged shoulder, burns on his left side, joint injuries, hearing loss and other health complications common to blast survivors. He lost several brothers in arms from the most recent roadside explosion. He was hesitant to discuss his injuries and has tried to deny his diagnosed PTSD, but after hospital recovery and outpatient rehab, Bryan has found it very difficult to reintegrate into nonmilitary life. Troubles maintaining a consistent job and sleep struggles plagued him after processing out of the military. Life looked bleak from his point of view. He was invited to WW15 by a fellow vet and reluctantly agreed to attend. He stayed in a private POC home, fished with a local retiree who was a great guide helping Bryan and his friend to each catch fish. They ate good food, saw the sights and had a great visit. It was months before Bryan understood what he really gained from his WW15 fishing trip. He saw fellow veterans in various circumstances, some much better and some much worse. He talked to vets who had come home and as he described ‘made good.’ They found life balance after the military. They developed new teams, set new goals, formed new friendships and meaningful relationships outside the combat family.

These successes gave Bryan new hope. Without even realizing it, Bryan went home renewed. He found himself keeping his VA appointments, attending support group, communicating a bit more openly with friends and family and even met a nice girl. Bryan said WW15 did not take away his pain and struggles, but gave him new tools for managing them. Slowy but surely, he saw improvement in his health, his outlook and his relationships. He joined a gym where other vets worked out and he did not feel he had to hide his injuries. He joined a church with a veterans Bible Study Fellowship. He started a job and used the help of a job coach to fit him to the job and the job to him. Bryan says the gathering of veterans at WW 2015 who were surviving and thriving gave him examples, resources, mentors and strength to shape a new life. He likes to call it his new normal. He won’t be able to attend WW 2017 this week. He and that nice girl are planning a wedding and taking a July honeymoon during his paid vacation form a job he has now loved for 18 months. He says the weekend was much more that a ‘great day of fishing.’

Jimmy and the Vets

Jimmy is a Vietnam Vet. By his own description his war was tough, coming home was tough and not talking about it for more than 35 years was the toughest. An injured foot in country caused a permanent deformity to the toes on his left foot, but he never even tells how his foot was hurt. He came home, got married and got on with life. He had a good life with a beloved wife, 3 children, grandchildren and a successful career he loved. But Jimmy says things are never that cut and dried. Struggles never spoken of impacted Jimmy and all those Vietnam guys. Unhealed hurts left scars below the surface. He coped as best he could and counted on time to do the rest. About 5years ago Jimmy helped a fishing buddy run a boat for Warriors Weekend. He baited hooks, fixed lunch and quietly connected to the combat veterans on the boat that day. As he listened to them, he understood in a way unique to those who have truly been there. Some of the stories were hauntingly familiar. He found himself drawn into their circle.

As they traded stories, shared struggles and triumphs and offered mutual support and understanding Jimmy found himself unclenching his hold on old angers and long held resentments. While he recognized a lifetime of difference between them, the vets shared needs were similar. The sharing was cathartic to the vets young and old. The young vets’ acceptance and expressed gratitude was gratifying. An unexpected healing was started in Jimmy that day. He unearthed some much-needed peace with the past by serving the present vets. He returned each of the next 4 years to either deckhand or captain as veterans fished and Jimmy flourished. Some of his young vets have come and gone while a few have become his ongoing supportive friends. He looks forward each year to the next new connection with wounded heroes he’s lucky enough to fish and fellowship with.

One comment for “Hometown Point Of View…by Kelly Gee”

1
SMH

Dear Kelly, this made me cry. Great writing. Thank you.

May 19th, 2017 at 3:04 pm

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