"If I can't pick up a rifle, I have to do something."
Those words were from a talk I was having with my wife about what to do after a friend of mine had been killed in Iraq in mid-2003. I started this blog and began to find my role in this fight. The evolution of this blog has been amazing and has allowed us to do some great things. I'll explain that in a moment.
Some of you know that I spent last week travelling. I had to be in Washington for business and was able to go to Walter Reed on Saturday before heading home. Most people may not understand what it's like to be there - most might not like hospitals (which is understandable), but Walter Reed is not like most hospitals and the men and women that are there recovering from their wounds are not like most people you'll ever meet.
It wasn't my first trip there, but it was one of the more memorable ones. On this occasion, Andi was our guide - I was joined by Sandra of Sew Much Comfort, Princess Cat and ArmyWifeToddlerMom as we made our rounds through the hospital. Word of advice - if you're going to visit wounded heroes, be sure to have four beautiful ladies with you. You become instantly popular. Not kidding.
We were able to meet Joshua Sparling and his father and one of
his buddies from his unit. AWTM mothered Joshua with warm words. I talked with his
father about his recovery.
We were able to meet Chuck and Carren Ziegenfuss. Carren is amazingly sweet. Way too good for Chuck. And Chuck is like his blog except more hilarious and animated (I think he was overly focused on the upcoming Steeler's game). Having been an Armor Officer for too short a period of time, I was jealous of him for a bit and I really missed being a Soldier - I fall into the shop talk too easily still. So, we talked tanks - both real and remote control (we have sons who play with the remote control tanks - honestly, it's for the children...no, really). And we tried to find someone in the armor world that we both knew, and it turns out that AWTM's good friend is a friend of Chuck's. It's always a small world in the Army.
When I was talking to Chuck and Carren, I remembered all of you that reached out to be there for them (and Chuck's mom, Alice, too). Kathleen, Chris, Lynette, Patti, and many of you...and the experience usually goes in both directions - Chris was a lawyer in DC and I think Chuck had a lot to do with him enlisting and going OCS. Chris used to be my guide at Walter Reed. He became a friend to many people there.
I always walk away from meeting these people a better person, more thankful for the life that I have, and grateful to have made new friends.
I was finally able to meet Joey and Jayme Bozik (Blackfive updates here). They are doing very well. Focused on the future and extremely goal-oriented, they are impressive. And Joey still kicks ass at Golf after not playing for a long time (note to self: do not play Joey). Joey is all Airborne - mature, serious, motivated and dedicated. It meant more to me than words can express to see how much of a great couple, team, and family that Joey and Jayme are...they will do great things. Trust me.
I thought of many of you that helped Joey recover. I remembered that Joey was not supposed to make it - he should have
died the day he was hit. I thought of the Hospital Corpsman that just
happened to be with Joey that day and saved his life. His name is
Shaun Reilly. I thought of Air Force Chaplain (CPT) Joel Warren who
pulled up a cot next to Joey's gurney and prayed for him for 72 hours
at Landstuhl before Joey made the trek to Walter Reed. I thought of
Patti and Kathleen that made sure that Joey's mom, Gail, and Jayme were
able to care for Joey. I was thinking of a few people then, too, who were there for the Boziks in spirit - one lady in particular, a waitress, who sent all of her tips for months to help keep Joey's family near him while he recovered. There was also a very generous VP of one of the largest companies in America who donated quite a bit...all kinds of Americans (and some folks in Canada and the UK, too) wanted to help.
And Sergeant Bozik's wounding and recovery was probably one of the most amazing events I'll ever witness. It might even qualify as a miracle. It's when I knew, I KNEW, that things could actually be done. That ordinary people were willing to help our wounded troops. That we could do things that no one else could or would.
Here's one email (of many) that I receive that is typical of the people helping our troops:
Blackfive,I haven't done the homework to find your actual name, but that's not important. I wanted to say thank you for your effort and for a very informative blog. I read about Joey last fall, as I read your site from time to time. It inspired me to donate, but I donated not to Joey's fund specifically as I got to the story late and read his family was receiving wide support. I donated to Fisher House, my FF miles and some cash, and to AER, USO, and Soldiers Angels.BUT the reason I write is, I just was really touched by the update on Joey and I went back and re-read all of the updates you've posted and realized I hadn't been paying as close attention as I'd thought. I'm an Army vet from one tour in the mid 1980's. I have great admiration what the soldiers now serving are being asked to undertake and know they do so with honor and dedication.So I decided to send some money to Joey's fund afterall. And immediately received a thank you from his Mom. This has been the highlight of my week. I didn't expect a thank you nor any contact at all, and yet this wonderful and caring Mom took the time to write me.And so I'm writing you to say thank you and know that though I never post comments at your site, I visit it and appreciate it very much. I have recommended it over the last several months to several friends. Ok, enough, just wanted to say thanks.RobArlington, TX
And, last, we met one wounded Sergeant on crutches, just making his way through, Andi remembered him from a previous visit and asked him how he was...
He was going to be "okay, always need the crutches, it could be worse you know" - he went through the various things all of the guys say. The wounded guys always thank you too. Then he said something that I can't repeat because it's too personal, will take with me to my grave, it almost made me and everyone in the room lose our composure - suffice it to say that everyone from the USO to Soldiers' Angels to Sew Much Comfort to AnySoldier to the Semper Fi Injured Marine Fund to the Wounded Warrior Project and YOU have made such an enormous difference in the lives and survivability of our soldiers that words can't describe my gratitude at being a very small part of it. Blackfive, with your help and support, has become a small sphere of influence - making things happen.
So I'll end this by saying thank you to all of you (small spheres of influence) who have helped these amazing people and that, unfortunately, we still have a lot of work to do.
If you can't pick up a rifle, then do something.