I got an email from Sandi Hammersly, who some of us were lucky enough to meet at the DC conference. She had a piece she wrote, but she doesn't have a blog....yet.
Welcome to the game Sandi:
37¢ was the cost of the stamp that went on a letter to a soldier in Iraq – a soldier whose post I had read on AnySoldier.com the previous night. A post that so haunted me that I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It was a post that saw me wide awake at dawn and writing a letter to him on May 28, 2005. It was a simple letter; one that spoke of the break of dawn in the woods of northern Michigan. It spoke of the sounds of the birds awakening to the dawn of a new day. It spoke of the simple things in life. It spoke of the events that had brought me to the north woods that day. It spoke of childhood memories of growing up in Hawaii. It spoke of the minutiae that make up my daily life. It was just simple letter, but it was the first link in a chain of events that would change my life forever.
Shortly after writing that letter an email arrived from that soldier. It seemed that letter struck a chord with him; he too had childhood memories of Hawaii – memories he was glad to share with someone who would understand them; someone who knew the flavors and the smells and the feelings. And an email correspondence ensued; one that lasted until an IED exploded. Then came the tense days of waiting for news. How was he? Where was he? How badly was he injured? Updates came from his wife as information was available. He was in Landstuhl. His injuries were serious but did not appear to be life threatening. He was in stable condition. He was enroute to Walter Reed. He had arrived at Walter Reed. She was at Walter Reed with him. The updates continued.
Here was a young man I knew only through letters and emails, but the need to do something was strong. The question was what? What could I do here in the Midwest for this special young man and his wife? The feelings of helplessness continued to build until answers finally came. Blood could be donated. An address was now available that guaranteed the arrival of his mail. Finally there was something tangible and concrete that could be done. I could now send a get-well card or letter every day. I could donate blood every eight weeks. At last I was doing something. But it still wasn’t enough. Surely there was something else that I could be doing. And then came another answer.
There is a VA Hospital within 20 minutes of my home; a hospital that houses the regional Spinal Cord Injury Unit and draws patients from around the country. The injuries there are devastating and many of these veterans have no one in the area to visit with them. They get wonderful medical care, but the unit certainly isn’t staffed to allow someone to sit and visit with a patient for hours on end. I could not visit the incredible young man with whom I had corresponded while he struggled to heal from his terrible injuries but I could visit with these patients.
I have spent the last nine months volunteering on the Spinal Cord Injury Unit. I have sat with patients and fed those unable to feed themselves. I have wiped tears from the eyes of those devastated by their injuries and cried my own tears. I have encouraged them as they struggled to deal with all the changes with which they are faced. I have rejoiced with them with each success. I have laughed with them as they have found humor once again. I have celebrated with them as they have left the hospital to rebuild their lives in the outside world. I have stood in awe of the courage they display each and everyday. My life has been made richer through interaction with these brave men and women. I have been blessed beyond measure.
And the blessings continue to multiply. This past weekend I got to meet that exceptional young man and his incredible wife. I was able to hug them and hold them close. We talked, we laughed, we shared meals and conversation, and I cried tears of pure joy to see them so happy and healthy. And it all began with 37¢.