I felt pretty good about myself as I packed the car with my books and presentation materials for the trip to Ridgeland, SC and a Lowcountry Lt. Dan Weekend, “a community based event supporting some of the most severely injured troops from Iraq and Afghanistan”. I would be spending a couple of days at Palm Key, SC with the children of Wounded Warriors. This was a chance for me to “give back” and was a good fit with my ongoing work supporting military families through True Blue Community™, the SC not-for-profit foundation I had established and headed. Little did I know the tired, old cliché, “When you give from the heart, you get more than you give” was about to take on new meaning in a totally unexpected way.
During breakfast the spouse of a wounded and totally blind warrior told how she and her husband visited with other newly and severely Wounded Warriors. By sharing their experiences, her husband rediscovered peace and purpose in his life. Sometimes they were well received but, at other times, they were met with bitterness, hostility and resentment and were asked to leave. It was in those challenging times they most often ended up staying the longest to comfort another soldier and his family.
I overheard another man, who was experiencing an ever increasing loss of balance, ask a blind woman who walked with a prosthesis how difficult it was to use her guide dog. He had been contemplating the use of a guide dog but was concerned about the difficulty of their mutual training. As I left them, I heard her encourage him to overcome his fears and give the dog a try. “Things are completely different now that Isaac has come into my life,” she said. Isaac, like several of the other guide dogs I met at the site, greatly improves the quality of life for their owners and proudly wears a harness emblazoned with the words “Patriot Paws”.
The annual Lt. Dan Weekend, named after the fictional character in the movie Forrest Gump who lost his legs fighting in the war in Vietnam, is sponsored by the Independence Fund, an all volunteer, not-for-profit corporation entirely led and managed by combat veterans. The Independence Fund’s core mission is to provide the tools, therapies and guidance to veterans, who have been severely injured in the Global War on Terror that they would otherwise not receive from government sources.
Entertainer Gary Sinise, who played the role of Lt. Dan in the movie and is now the star of CSI-New York, stopped by for lunch before his evening concert. He spent over an hour talking one-on-one to and posing for photos with each veteran present.
Though it was encouraging to see so many volunteers dedicated to supporting and honoring our Wounded Warriors what moved me most was watching and listening to the men and women receiving such a memorable experience. They made my thoughts of “giving back” pale in comparison as they, who have already given so much, encouraged and supported one another.
Home again and unpacking the car, I thanked God for the unexpected gift of encouragement I had received from these warriors and asked Him to forgive me for the selfish, pride-filled attitude I had packed amid the boxes before I left. Here I thought it was I who would be doing the giving…
Luke 6:38 “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
Lieutenant Dan Weekend: http://www.ltdanweekend.com//
Independence Fund: http://www.independencefund.org/
Gary Sinise Foundation: http://www.garysinisefoundation.org
True Blue Community™: http://pennylhunt.com/true-blue-community/