Sunday, May 9, 2010


It was a velvet green day, full of wind and promise - the beginning of surprises and sunrise and awakenings.

It was also another day when I found it wasn't about me.  It was about a soldier, back from Iraq.  In the few short weeks since his return, he has lived a lifetime.

This handsome, courageous Ranger's second deployment brought him home to two children, a little boy three and a baby girl just two, to find his wife was leaving him and the children. "She had had enough."  Suddenly and unexpectedly finding himself a single parent, K. was also face to face with serious heart surgery, as well as  knee surgery from an IED blast in Iraq.   

He isn't angry.  He isn't keeping score.  He still breathes with a little difficulty following his heart surgery, but finds it a 'bit easier each day to keep up with the two toddlers." I found his attitude overwhelmingly positive, as I watched his children play with our therapy dogs on the playground at the Fisher House. It was obvious that to this brave soldier love is truly an energy that is never exhausted, for "Surrender is not a Ranger word."

Today he is both their dad and their mom.  I watched as he made them Chocolate Smoothies in the blender, pouring them into cups and adding a straw as he handed them to the kids, cautioning to 'hold them with both hands.' The kids are nourished and loved and well cared for.  The little girl came up to me quite naturally and snuggled into my lap and put her head on my chest while she sipped her 'smoothie.'  This Mother's Day morning I can't help but wonder if their mother ever thinks of them or misses her babies. It makes my heart ache.

K. is going back to Iraq, as soon as he is medically able.  The kids will go to his brother. 

I share this with you today so you will understand, truly understand, what one soldier's sacrifice is all about.  What all of our soldier's sacrifices are  about. And what a positive attitude can offer all of us.

The one thing that consistently amazes me is that in the face of war, in the face of injuries, in the face of lost lives and families and loved ones, our soldiers remain positive.  In all the years I have been working with  my hundreds of soldiers, not once has one ever complained.  Not once. In excruciating pain, devasted by their wives leaving  them, the loss of their buddies, not once have I heard a soldier complain.  How many times a day do we complain about the way someone has treated us, about the rain, about the heat, about traffic, about a car that jumps in front of us, about all the work we have to do? How often we allow little stuff to control our attitude.

Mark Twain said, "Grief can take care of itself; but to get the full value of joy you must have somebody to divide it with."  I understand that.  It isn't fun living alone, eating alone, coming home to an empty house.  I feel sad sometimes, but in the end I have a house, and I have food, and I have friends because of soldiers like K.,  who have sacrified dearly so that I might love concretely- love a tree, a sunset, a cloud, a buzzing bee, a horse, a dog,  or a child drinking a chocolate smoothie.  Because of K.,  I know that the single most important thing is to love life, to hold those you love close, eliminate the negative from your life that pulls you down, and give generously, because in so doing we heal ourselves.

Soldiers like him have taught me that feeling what others feel is a natural thing when you live in love.  The same love I would give a spouse, or a soldier, or a child can also be given to complete strangers.  Suffering is central to the human condition, but  loving our fellow man we share this planet with, is vital.

Love is magical and mysterious and above all should slather us with joy.  For if there is neither love nor joy there is nothing.  The emptiness it brings demolishes us.  Life is simply too short. Hit the 'delete' button.

I gave this alarmingly handsome Ranger a hug before saying goodbye.  I told him I would see him at the Warrior Family Support Center on Wednesday with my therapy dog Kelsie and Saturday for breakfast.  He smiled and said he would be there.  Today I ask you to say thank you into the wind for this man and all  the men like him, who protect and defend without complaint.  And I ask you to embrace the positive in your life and find joy.  This life is too short to grumble and gripe.  Joy is contagious.  Surround yourself with people who offer you joy, surround yourself with people who make you smile, surround yourself with those things and people that offer you joy and love and a warm heart. 

The Ranger Creed

Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of my Ranger Regiment.

Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other soldier.

Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be. One-hundred-percent and then some.

Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.

Rangers Lead The Way!

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