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Giving to Those Who Sacrifice

These silent military service people are the families and loved ones of those that wear a uniform. We don't hear much about them. We don't see their 'remembrance photos and names' on the various television shows or the news. They are out there, though! Isn't it time that we heard a bit about them?

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A Warrior's Wish

For quite some time I have asked questions about those that fought, but did not die. What happens to them? I came of age during the Viet Nam era. Does anyone truly remember the way our troops were treated when they returned home?

As a professor at a local community college, sitting right outside the gates of Hunter Army Air Base, I had the pleasure of having military dependents in my classes. The students were so dedicated to their studies, but I always knew first hand when something happened. I heard the stories of the difficulties of the returning military in actually receiving help with issues that would plague the families. Unlike the days of the past when the military units would be deployed for minimal periods of time, today's troops are deployed again and again for periods of 3 to 5 years with minimal rest periods at here at home. My heart went out to these students and their families.

With every "conflict" in which our troops are involved there appears to be a certain "syndrome" that come from war time service. In World War I, II, and Korea we called it "Shell Shock". The Viet Nam "conflict" brought home troops with Agent Orange and addicted to all sorts of drugs that were provided by the governments in many situations, and were virtually ignored as they came home.

"Desert Storm" emerged with a syndrome that held the same name. Since 9-11-2001, the new phrase has been "Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome". These various ailments do not even address the loss of limbs, mental functions, and learning to live with new disabilities that our troops must face.

Like so many in our country, I have had family members in almost every conflict/war beginning with the Revolutionary War, Most of those family members, thankfully, were able to return home to their families. I began to ask the question about how they returned home. My grandfather served in World War II. As a young child I knew that the family handled him with care in an effort to keep him calm. One day, when I was six years old, I remember my parents leaving me with friends as they had to rush to care for my grandfather. The strange part is that I never saw him again. I knew that he was in the Veteran's Hospital in Augusta, Georgia and that was about it. No one ever spoke of him or even went to see him. No one had much to say until his death many years later when they held a funeral. Even then, so few truly knew him that the service was quite short and few attended the funeral.

Years later I wanted to know this man that had been my grandfather. It was through my research about my grandfather that I developed a concern over our troops today. The extended research began. Every day our military troops are being trained, both foreign and domestic, for combat situations. Billions are spent annually to provide the most up to date training programs and scenarios available. Even more billions are spent on machines of war, state of the art weaponry, and housing around the world. Debates take place on a regular basis in Congress and the Senate on the cost of our military versus the need for more troops to cover hot spots around the world. With all of this training and all of the state of the art tools, one has to wonder why the troops are not trained on how to deal with wounds that change their lives forever. As a people, we honor those that have served and died in the service of our country.

Military honors accompany these services for the fallen. Have you seen any services lately for those that return home physically and often mentally maimed for life? Is there a cheering crowd on hand as many try to learn the most simple of tasks all over again? Is there anyone that helps the spouse of the wounded warrior to care for the children as well as the spouse? These are questions that too few even bother to ask.I knew that I had to ask in order to get the answers to my questions. One of the problems in asking questions is that "you may not like the answers that you get". I found this out first hand. As our leader's debate health care for our country, very few realize that these same debates and cost cuts are taking place in provisions for our military.

There are too few Veteran's Hospitals and Clinics to serve the enormous numbers of specific needs of the service men and women returning from our world's hot spots. The needs of the families are non-existent from the research materials I have gathered. Many are asked to wait months to be seen. In an emergency, they are told to go to the nearest emergency room for care. Now you know why it takes forever in an emergency room as children are seen there for minor illnesses and accidents. As I asked initial questions, the answers only brought forth new questions. The main questions surrounded the need for long term care and therapeutic rehabilitation. I didn't like the answers I received at all. It appears that as long as an individual is active military, they will receive what they need in moderation. Nothing out of the ordinary will be provided for their recovery or rehabilitation. Our service men and women have to depend upon private organizations to assist them in obtaining specialized treatment or equipment to aid in recovery and treatment. But, do these organizations exist? Indeed they do! However, they need our help as well. Through a dear friend I was introduced to an organization called, "Gifting Warriors". This organization recognized the need and tries to answer the call in assisting our wounded warriors and their families.

I was introduced to a young man that had been deployed many times for a total amount of over three years. He was not wounded just once, but three different times. The first two times he was patched up and sent back into battle. The third time has been a bit different for him.

This brave soldier is Sgt. Sean Whitted. Sgt. Whitted has bravely served over three years in Iraq with the United States Army. He has seen the horrors of fellow service men and women killed and wounded in front of his very eyes. The day came, as so many do, that while on a mission with the Recovery Unit, Sgt. Whitted was the one needing recovery.

It was July 19, 2006. Severely wounded, his own diagnosis became: Poly Trauma: Spinal Cord Injury, Orthopedic injury of the lumbar, Traumatic Brain Injury with Dementia and Frontal Lobe Brain injury. The final blow was the diagnosis of PTSD, which the military unfortunately refers to as the lazy soldier disease, so no one really talks about this aspect of the soldier's injuries. However, the numbers of returning soldiers that suffer from PTSD and receiving medication to combat the issues are steadily growing.

Sgt. Whitted now finds himself looking at the fifth year anniversary of suffering his life altering wounds. The initial shock and emotions of the seriousness of his injuries have long since settled in. However, the recovery process is far from over. Sgt. Whitted spends each week in the hospital barracks of Ft. Knox. The overwhelming need for physical therapy of wounded warriors has had to spill over into civilian locations around the hospital and non-profit gifting organizations. Sgt. Whitted and others just like him travel hundreds of miles home for weekend visits with family and then return to the hospital during the week. The strain on the soldiers and their families has taken its toll. "No one trained us for this" stated Sgt. Whitted.

I knew how to fight and protect myself, but not how to live after being wounded. After five years of this, I still have no idea what I am doing or if things will ever be normal again. Gifting Warriors found Sgt. Whitted as he began a search for a wet suit to aid him in taking part in hydro-therapy. He refuses to give up the good fight of recovery. All he wanted was a wet suit that would keep him from drowning during water therapy. This was his one simple wish.

One would think that our military stock houses would have had just one and been able to offer it to Sgt. Whitted. It was the one thing he needed most to continue his recovery. Sgt. Whitted was told that there were none available for him or anyone else. So, he began another fight to find a way to get this one wish. Gifting Warriors, understanding this need, made a wet suit available to the extremely grateful wounded warrior. The cost was a total of $500, and it belongs to him for as long as he has a need of it. Sgt. Whitted is far from being the only wounded warrior with a need that has become a wish due to inability to locate needed recovery supplies.

I have found that it is "Gifting Warriors" mission to locate and assist in providing a "wish granted" for wounded warriors. As a non-profit organization, they depend solely upon donations and volunteers to help carry these wishes out. Donations of all sizes are welcomed and truly appreciated by "Gifting Warriors" as well as those wounded warriors they are able to help. These forgotten heroes of military service need our help and support.

My personal gratitude is extended to Sgt. Sean Whitted for sharing what he could about his experiences in combat, service to our country, and showing the determination and desire to recover from his wounds and never give up. Who will be the next Sgt. Whitted? Who will help grant a wounded warriors wish?

Through my research I have been able to better understand what life for returning veterans and their families face. The pain and suffering through therapy and rehabilitation is just the surface. The sacrifices that the entire family has to endure are things that must be addressed. I was pleased and proud to find an organization such as "Gifting Warriors" and their effort to help these wounded warriors with such simple requests and the identification of family needs as well. Through the writing of this article, it is my desire to introduce the great works of this non-profit organization and the provisions they search for in our wounded warriors like Sgt. Sean Whitted.


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