Friday, June 17, 2011


"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.  These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.  Beautiful people do not just happen."
~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

These words give me pause to surmise that there are very few people who have not known defeat, struggle, loss, and suffering.

 Ms. Kubler Ross also says, "There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from." This last one is hard for me to grasp. How do you explain this to a family whose son was just killed by an IED roadside bomb in Iraq?  How do you tell them this was a 'blessing'?

Sgt. Glenn Sewell died two days ago.  I did not know him, but he called San Antonio his home.  But I do know his face. I  find comfort in his expression.  I smile to hide the lump in my throat,  because I can feel what he was feeling in the moment this photo was taken; there was no war, no fear, no pain, no anxiety.  There was simply pure joy and happiness.  In a war zone this is a rare occurence.  There was simply a very special joy found while snuggling two floppy puppies with long legs and big paws. For a while he was a kid again, in his backyard playing with his own dogs.  For a very brief while. 

Today I send out a prayer for his family, to help them.  They can't do it alone.  I don't know what else to do.  I feel all of the grief of all of the families who have lost loved ones in this war on terror.  Perhaps they, and I, have to consciously decide to be courageous.  But as we know courage might eventually come, but not always in a straight line. 

Life speaks to us all.  We don't always hear. Is life speaking to you when you look at this young man's face?

Tomorrow I have the great honor of meeting a Marine who has lost three limbs.  Described as 'motivated and positive,' this Marine had been a dog handler in Afghanistan. He misses his dog enormously. Tomorrow he will have two furry therapists visiting him. Sure seems like a small gift for such an enormous sacrifice. But it is our gift.  I can guarantee you there will be stories not anticipated or known. And rest assured for at least one moment there will be a smile.  And that in itself is enough.

Everything that happens to us is a lesson. With our wounded warriors, there are stories to be told.  Stories that must be told.  People need to hear them, feel them, understand and be proud of them. The bond between our warriors and their dogs, whether strays in Iraq, a military working dog saving countless lives in Afghanistan, or a therapy or service dog holding vigil when our warriors return, is extraordinary.  We must grasp the depth of this bond between these dogs and these young men and women. 

If the dog could talk, it would almost be as if the dog is telling us that their warrior's sacrifices were not in vain ~ they meant something. And they would share with us, by example, the way we should treat our returning heroes.

Freedom isn't free!  And I wonder this morning how many of us going about our daily routine, grumbling and stumbling really 'get' that.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it is my work to tell the stories, to paint the pictures with words, to do justice to what our warriors endured and the struggles they face day to day when they return home.

I had a female amputee once tell me, "We are not defined by our amputations.  We are defined by our hearts and souls.  What is important is what is in our hearts.  When old stuff comes up just say 'no', shake it off and let it go." There is much to be learned there.  People are always waiting to fill us up with a story they can control or one that makes them feel better about themselves. 

For me personally, caring for wounded warriors and their families is sacred.  It is when I am most alive.  It is when I find that love inside of me and that gasping moment.  It is about honoring and protecting a very special gift I have been blessed with.  Yes, I have known suffering, defeat, struggles and loss and found my way out of the darkness.  This is where the depth of my compassion was born. I will never ever let anything get in the way of that.

Today reconnect with yourself.  It is here you will find the truth. In this world where you can be anything at all ~ simply be you.

 It is here that you just might find that momentary joy found in the face of Sgt. Glenn Sewell.

Sgt. Glenn Sewell ~ RIP

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