Friday, July 01, 2011

Do you know how to eat an Elephant?

It's been a long six years, looking back on things.  40 surgeries.  Learning to walk.  Learning to open and close my hands.  Learning to write.  Learning to check, and recheck, the temperature of everything before I grab it.  Learning how to work a door knob.  Learning my physical limitations, and learning the penalties for ignoring them.  Many, many painful months of rehab.  Narcotics addiction. Becoming a cyborg. 

It's been a long journey, to be sure.  From my position, now, it seems like it wasn't that bad--just something I had do do.  From my position, then, it looked like I was going to have to scale the Himalayas with nothing but a bobbin of thread, a highlighter, and a half-empty bottle of hot sauce.  It seemed, at times, like the odds were insurmountable--and worse, not worth attempting.  I simply didn't have the tools to try.

There's only one way to eat an elephant:  one bite at a time.  But in order to start, you have to have an appetite.

You have to have the desire to start.

There was a time when that desire didn't burn inside me.  A time, albeit brief, when I was without hope... when I took that long hard look at what my future was going to be and couldn't see a happy, or even reasonbly tolerable end.  There was a time when it seeemed like all the good things were behind me.

People wanted to help.  People believed in me enough to stay, to care, to give.  People, some who I'd never met, some who only knew me through these missives on my blog, people who cared enough to help a soldier who had stumbled, if not fallen.  It was through the generosity of these people that I was given a laptop and equipped it with software that would allow me to actually use it, even though my hands were little more than swollen bags of hurt.  I could reach out to my soldiers--I could email them, chat with them, assure them that I was going to be okay, and that they needn't worry about me, and stay focused on the mission.  I could keep blogging--an outlet that I maintain is a phenominal way to let go of emotion and frustration--I could share, I could tell the story of one soldier through his recovery--especially after leaving the hospital.

But it was never about me.  It was about the struggle.  It was a narrative of the trail blazed by others, and followed by many.  My narrative only sought to illuminate the darker parts, highlight the dangerous curves, and tell those who were behind me, looking farther up the trail, what they could expect over the next ridge.

From my bed, and later, from my couch, I was once again leading.  Instead of leading a company of soldiers in combat, I was leading families, friends, fellow wounded, and all manner of caring people throughout the country.  We were taking this journey together--and through it all, I was not alone.  

Right now, in Military medical facilities all across the country, there are servicemembers--Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Soldiers who are in that exact same place.  They are looking at their bandages and wondering how they will ever do something as simple as tie their shoes, or button their pants.  They are worried that they will be dependent on someone else for the rest of their lives.  Many are wondering how long it will be before they can rejoin their comrades in combat. 

It's a big elephant, when you look at it that way.  It would take me months to be able to tie my shoes.  Putting on a uniform that seemed to be made by someone with stock in the button industry wasn't just a chore--it was something that required help.  But I started taking those bites--one at a time.  I learned to do those things, I gained strength in my hands and legs again.  I learned to manipilate objects. 

So I was eating one bite at a time.  I had an appetite.  An appetite that would never have been stoked, had it not been for the donations of many people across the country who made it possible.  And that elephant has been getting smaller every day.  Through the kindness and generosity of  American citizens, we have been able to provide, free of charge or obligation, computers, voice control software, and rehabilitative technology to thousands of servicemembers who were looking at that elephant and feeling not the slightest bit hungry.  But once they could reconnect with their world, once they could return to doing things they used to, or learned new ways to do things (like how to slide change off a countertop when 1/2 your hand is gone) they got hungry for elephant, and started devouring it.

There are wards full of wounded, right now, that need their lives restored.  They need to be shown that they can still do things they have always done.  They need to know that people care about them and their needs.  They need your help.   Milblogers are trying to raise $100000 in the next two weeks to continue our mission of helping these wounded servicemembers.  100K is a pretty big elephant.  Not to beat a dead horse, but to mix my metaphors, there's only one way I know to eat an elephant.  I don't expect anyone can donate $100K (but if you can...) but everyone can help take a bite--whatever you can give.  Just as importantly, share with your fineds, family, social networks, facebook frineds, that weird stalker from linkedin, your daughter's myspace followers, whoever.  At the top of this page you'll find a link that says "te!! a friend" and gives you ways to share this all over social media, blogs, facebook, twitter, you name it. 

Project VALOur-IT (Voice Activate Laptops for Our Injured Troops) provides computers, voice control software, and rehabilitative technology to our wounded.  It is funded through donations only.  It is part of Soldiers Angels, a 501 c. (3) charity (which means all of your donations are 100% tax deductible) and every red cent of the money you donate goes dierctly to the troops.  None of it pays for overhead or "administrative fees." 

Life is tough.  It's tougher when your crippled.  It's a lot less tough when you're crippled and feel like the people you were defending appreciate the sacrifice.


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