Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Assembly Line

Let me begin this by saying the Army has been very good to our family. I am very thankful for  everything they have done for us. However recently I sat back and really observed some more of the big picture.

The Army works on the assembly line model. This model works great for basic training, AIT and everything else in the Army, but the assembly line cannot work for warrior care. I think this is the hardest concept for service members to understand. The assembly line works for everything else. Why can't it work for warrior care? The answer, every single soldier is now different. Upon injury they are no longer the standard GI Joe, we have got to accept this fact.

The assembly line model works for battlefield medicine and evacuation. Five years ago Chaz would have died as they were bringing him home to us. Chaz and the warriors around us are proof that the advancements in military medicine are saving lives. Our wounded are proof that military medicine is moving in the right direction. Battlefield medicine and evacuation is where you notice the assembly line varies just a bit. It has too. Every situation is different. Our service members and medical teams have to adapt and overcome. They head into the situation like all the others and then adjust where it is needed. So you can see that to a degree they apply the army's assembly line process to this and it works, but then they adapt and overcome like the rockstars they are. Once our guys are back in the states is when we have to slow the line down for the rest of our service members healing, if not stop the line altogether.

Wait you want me to go against what works? How can the model that it used for everything else not work for this too? Does that mean you think the whole Army is jacked up? Does that mean the Mayans were right? The answers are yes, hang on I'll explain, no and please Lord no. What I want is to slow the assembly line down and think of another way to heal our wounded.I want to make sure every one of our soldiers are getting the attention they need. We can't do that with on an assembly line cranking our guys out at ludicrous speed.

When your solider is an in-patient, their care is specified towards their needs.The assembly line is slow and moves at a tolerable rate. You then get so excited to get to out-patient status and you don't even realize the Army tosses you back on the assembly line. They give you a list of things to do and places to be and papers to fill out. Oh by the way don't forget you now have to go to all your appointments and travel all over campus because Bethesda is laid out like that. The active duty personnel you deal with seem to forget you just discharged from the hospital. They forget you might be having a hard time dealing with your new normal. They forget you might have kids. They forget that you just experienced a huge life altering trauma. To them you are a soldier and this is what you must do. To me you are a soldier with a new assignment, your job is to heal. But here's the thing your healing will be different from all the other soldiers. We have to help you understand that healing is not a competition. You need to let your body heal how it needs to and that is ok.

Our warriors are still active duty service members and should be held fully accountable to the US Army. I'll never disagree with accountability. The Army should know where our soldiers are at all times. They should take the time to make sure our wounded are attending all of their appointments. We should all have a very high interest in the healing of our service members.

What I will always argue for is common sense. (This is where I contradict the assembly line.) Not every wounded soldier is ready to go to college. Not every soldier can spend an entire day filling out paperwork. Not every soldier can sit in a TAPS course for 40 hours a week only to find out months later that they are not teaching vital pieces of the transition to them. Not every soldier is ready to work in the civilian world yet. Not every soldier wants to play adaptive sports. We have got to stop trying to convince them that they must do everything we think they need to do.Then when they don't, we can't make them feel inadequate. And we can't assume they have a controlling wife or mom who won't let them do things. (Yup, happened to us.) We have the ability to make things better, but until we acknowledge what we are doing wrong, we can never make it right.

You might have noticed I haven't really written for a while. The reason is I had too many families weighing my heart down for a bit. We have had some really unfortunate things going on here. When you direct the families to talk to the chain of command only to find out nothing was done for them and they've given up. It leaves me sitting here thinking, did I do enough?!

When you hear person after person call themselves a burden on the Army, you have to take a time out. Truth be told we are burdens. We hold up the assembly line. Our soldiers are no longer able to just pass on down the line and get off at the end. Our soldiers have been wounded and we have to slow the process down to make sure they get everything they need. And because we are slower than the other 95% out there, we are a burden.

I think what hurts me the most is that we, as a nation cannot see that some of the products coming off of the assembly are already damaged. We are so busy moving them through we are missing important details that cause our products to fall apart later. We are not taking the time to help build great foundations for our products. Therefore when they fall apart, the foundation falls apart with it and stands there trying to figure it all out. We are failing these families. We have a great system and have the opportunity to set these heroes up for a lifetime of success, but instead we focus on getting them off the line.

I cannot fix all of this alone, but I can put out my two cents. I can hope to come to the table and talk a few things out with those who have been doing this way longer than me. I can only learn more and hear about what works and what doesn't. I can hope that change is coming for our families. I have been working on many projects for 2013. These projects lead me to believe 2013 will be the year of the military family. I can only hope that I am correct.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Our Second Thanksgiving

Thanks to many years of deployments, many military families don't get many holidays together. I don't remember our family ever having two holidays seasons in a row together int he past 10 years since Deryn arrived. Now that all changes for our little family. Thanks to the path God has laid out for us. We will now always have our holidays together.

I will be honest, the holidays lost their excitement for me because Chaz has always been gone. I remember in 2002, when Chaz was in Korea. Many did not understand why I didn't care about the holidays. My family was so excited and me, well I would have rather just slept in and pretended like it was another day. Chaz had left in July and I gave birth to Deryn in September. I was all alone with our little girl and I hated it.

It was hard to spend that first holiday season without him. 2003 was even harder. Chaz's tour in Korea was extended because war had just broken out in Iraq. So thanks to OIF, Deryn and I had her first two holiday seasons without him back to back. At this point all of my childhood excitement towards the holidays was gone. But I learned the important lesson that holidays are all about being with those you love. If you can't be with them then the season just doesn't feel right. Like any good military wife, I just sucked it up and keep on moving and mailed off my care packages timely.

Since Deryn arrived in this world, we have taken family pictures every holiday season. We usually pull them out every year and look at how our little family has grown. I remember the first time Deryn asked, "Why isn't Daddy in all the pictures?" Of course this is when we have to remind her of every where Daddy has been and why. The cool thing about those pictures is that they tell the story of our family's journey one year at a time. We truly enjoy looking at them every year.

Everyday I marvel in the fact that our family went from a devastating phone call in January 2011 to where we are today. I realized today this is our second Thanksgiving in a row together. I realized there will be no more holiday pictures with Daddy missing from them. But then I realized many of our friends are deployed and that the cycle our family is now out of, they are still very much a part of.

When you are giving thanks today, please remember the families who can't be together today because of their service to our nation. Please remember families like mine who are healing through injuries together. And please remember those today who have an empty chair at their table because God called someone they love home too soon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Little Recap

I haven't posted in 10 days and here's why.....we've been running around the country. No seriously! We are all so tired, but oh my did we have a great time!! Last week we flew to San Antonio to attend and speak at the Fisher House Gala. Here's photo proof that we were there! ;)

We got to stand on stage and let Sobieski Vodka present the Fisher House Foundation a very nice donation. $250,000 worth of nice. So when you're making your cocktails remember that brand!! They put their profits where it matters. Oh and the men you see standing with us on stage are really great guys. We had a blast chatting with them before and after the event.
Here I am listening to my super hot hubby give his little (like 30 second speech). Notice how awesome he looks standing up. Once again, sorry ladies, he's all mine!! Then I read all the stuff on that paper. ;) Yup I cried again. I can't talk publicly about Fisher House without crying. I know for a fact our family is doing so well because Fisher House was there for us. I know that countless families have been blessed by Fisher House and when I think about all of their awesome, I just can't help it. I get choked up. Military families are so blessed and Chaz, the girls and I are beyond happy to be a part of their awesomeness!! They keep asking us to do things for them, so I guess the feelings of admiration are mutual. ;)
Here we are with the Awesome Ashley!! She does so much for Fisher House and then makes time to babysit and spoil our cuties! We just love her and so many other people on the Foundations' staff. Unfortunately we don't have any pics of us with them at the Gala.

Speaking of cuties, you might be thinking where are they? They were running Nana down to exhaustion. We flew Chaz's mom up to San Antonio to have some grandbaby time together. I don't know who was the most excited to see the other. They had a blast while Chaz and I helped Fisher House. We all had the most amazing time. I am so glad she was able to come up and join us.

Saturday Veterans Airlift Command and the Choctaw Nation flew us to Oklahoma so Chaz could do this. Nana highly enjoyed her plane ride and I highly enjoyed getting my tacos from Taco Casa when we landed!!!

We had a little issue with our room. We walked in to find someone else's luggage. (Whoops!!) It all worked out for us. We were upgraded to a wonderful suite that was as big as out apartment and was ridiculously nice.

Sunday was Veterans' Day and you'll see in the link Chaz's hometown honored him by dedicating a road to him. Unfortunately his Dad was sick and missed all the awesome, but we were able to share that moment with many of Chaz's family and friends. Rep Paul Roan and his wife Betty did an excellent job putting the event together. I had a proud mommy moment. Our cuties lead the Pledge of Allegiance and did an terrific job. 

Then poof it was yesterday morning and time to leave. We enjoyed our super short stay and hung out with Chaz's friends and family as much as possible. I had to get back because I have a meeting this morning, one event tomorrow, an event Friday and another on Sunday. Sometimes being a grown up stinks. But today is my 34th birthday so I am going to go to my meeting, which happens to be with 3 incredible women that I admire beyond words, then I am getting my free Starbucks and free Redbox and doing as little as possible for the rest of the day!!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Operation Ward 57

To add to my list of great non-profits who have helped us during our journey, next up on the chronological order list is Operation Ward 57. We were quickly introduced to them at the original Walter Reed. Ward 57 was known as the amputee ward at WRAMC. Chaz was moved to 57 on January 27th and we were there until May 2, 2011. Then we got to return to the ward in June of that year for another 10 day stay.

Not too many years ago, a few people visited Ward 57 and saw the need to do more. Their mission is simple, they just want to help our wounded. Help from Operation Ward 57 comes in so many ways and Op57 sets no limits in how to help our heroes. I remember having Katie and Laura knock on our door and bring us a Ledo's pizza when Chaz was in-patient. I will never forget our Luau with them. It was way too much fun.

Unfortunately when we merged hospitals and Op 57 had to start all over again. I was happy to help them navigate through the crazy. They are back on their original mission. Their volunteers are on the 4th floor of Bethesda passing out shirts, cupcakes and smiles.

While waiting to get them into the hospital, we worked together to create outings for the families. We were able to have experiences like these thanks to Brittney and her email skills! These are just a few!

Operation Ward 57 is one of the little non-profits who puts their donations to work. They are true to their mission statement. I was honored to run the ATM for them. I am honored to be a part of the Op57 family/alumni. They have made a lasting impact on our lives and we are thankful for them.

Now as an employee of the Yellow Ribbon Fund, my ties with Op 57 have become more important. Together we are creating awesome events for the caregivers. Together we are creating an amazing Thanksgiving Day Dinner for our wounded and their families who are not able to go home for the holiday. These partnerships are crucial, because together we can do even more! It takes team work to make the dream work!!

To learn more about them, please visit their website at and please like their facebook page.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

101st Association

I decided that to add to my 30 days of Random Kindness, I want to tell you more about the non-profits and their awesome staff who have entered our life since Chaz's injury. I am going to go in order of how they entered our life since January 22, 2011. I think that is the only fair way to do it. I don't know if I have 30, but I have a nice list of amazing non-profits and you need to know more about them all. My little family has been able to travel down this road to the new normal thanks to all of them. So it's my turn to brag on them a little!!

First up is the 101st Association. These guys entered our lives the day we arrived on WRAMC's Ward 57 which was January 27th, 2011. I'll never forget meeting Bob Seitz and Dick Winters. They were just amazing. They wanted me to know they were here in the area and they wanted to help. We let Chaz rest and they took me out in the hall to learn all about us. Little did I know that when they said they wanted to help us, they weren't kidding.

Throughout this journey Bob and Dick have kept up with everything from birthdays to travel arrangements to the girls homeschool to helping Chaz get his dress uniform. I just talked to Dick on the phone last week and saw Bob at the hospital yesterday. I know they will be a part of our healing for a very long time and I am very proud of the relationship we have with them.

Before Hero Miles came into my life, the 101st Association offered to pay for all of my plane tickets back and forth. When we went to head home to Clarksville, CSM St Louis of the HQ chapter helped us get the ramp for the front door so Chaz could get in and out of the house. He told me what he needed from WRAMC and helped me get the forms. He was even there to supervise the construction. And St Louis was there when we landed. I got a call from Dick the morning after our homecoming because he saw us on the news and was so excited about it.

We are by far not the only family that receives these personal touches. No, the 101st Association treats all of our families this way. They know our soldiers and all their family members by first name. They are not just taking care of our wounded. No, they take care of any soldier who served with the 101st. During one of our trips home, Chaz became a Lifetime Member of the 101st Association and he is proud to have his card in his wallet.

The 101st Association is not only able to help the families, but they also help the Commanding General of the 101st. Our CG can focus on doing his job because he knows the 101st Association has his back and is helping him and all his soldiers complete their mission. This is so very important to our Army. Chaz and I are proud of his service with the 101st and we are proud to be a part of the 101st Association. Want to learn more about them? Visit today!!!

30 Days of Random Thankfulness

It's that time of the year again!!! It's time for 30 days of random thankfulness. For the next 30 days, we will think of ways to surprise people with random acts of kindness. In addition we will think of new things to be thankful for each day. Now I have a rule to add to this. I say God, family and our military have to be left off the list. I think you should look past these three. Before you cringe, I feel you should give thanks everyday to God, your family and our military. For these 30 days you should look for things you don't think to be thankful everyday. We all get so caught up in life that we forget to be thankful and rather than just giving thanks on Thanksgiving, make this the month of giving thanks.

We had a lot of fun with this last year. Remember little things count. You don't have to spend a lot of money on this. Your random kindness could be helping someone carry their groceries or maybe you put a few quarters in someone's meter to extend their parking. or are great websites that you can consult to get great ideas.

Have a lot of fun with this and most importantly be thankful!!!!