Why one woman honors veterans

Why does this woman honor veterans? It could be argued that she does because she is one.

Marie Tillman is for certain a veteran of something that the mere thought of makes married women shudder: she lost her husband.

Marie Tillman, with a photo of her late husband, Pat, early in his career.

But Pat Tillman, Marie’s very famous husband, a former NFL player and member of the Arizona Cardinals, was more than lost to her — he died in service in 2004 to a country he felt very strongly about serving.  The attacks of 9/11 resonated with Pat Tillman deeply, and he signed up to serve in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After a senseless accident, an entire country mourned the loss of this hero whose image and story became a visible hallmark and symbol of the American spirit.

To honor the memory of this veteran, Marie heads the Pat Tillman Foundation, which provides scholarships for veterans and their spouses.  This mission meant a lot to Pat Tillman and, in her way of soldiering on, Marie honors that legacy by continuing the work.

Marie has a new book out, chronicling her journey through these past few years. The Letter: My Journey Through Love, Loss & Life tells how she coped through the tragedy of losing her husband, eventually ­taking on a bigger role at the foundation, a non-profit that serves veterans, active service members, and their spouses.

Hearing Marie’s story will hopefully help to highlight the women (and men) whose family is lost to the cause of defending freedom.

While they don’t get the parades, the welcome homes and the thanks that we are learning to offer our veterans, I do hope those left behind at least get our support and our admiration. Can you imagine losing not only your loved one, but also the hope of a future you were building together? Marie Tillman has our undying love and admiration — and we applaud her ongoing mission to honor our country’s veterans.

 

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Freedom isn’t free

Happy Fourth of July, America. On this anniversary of our independence, it’s important to thank those who make it all possible.

Let’s talk about veterans for a minute.

They are our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, our teachers, our congressmen, our local small business people, our family. They possess something that defines the American spirit: a willingness to defend it all costs, especially their own.  Fiercely independent, they are also just as generous, overwhelmingly brave and most incredibly, very humble.

When you thank a veteran, they will most often look at you kindly and say, “My pleasure.”  It’s always hard to believe that, but they say it’s true.

A big thank-you to all of our veterans this Fourth of July.  You make our country possible.

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More amputees but fewer deaths: combat medicine working hard for our soldiers

 

Staff Sgt. Travis Mills is a young father whose life is now drastically different.  Busy defending our freedom — and the freedom of the oppressed citizens in Afghanistan, he was the victim of a bomb that took from him his left hand, his entire right arm, and both legs below the knees.  You know how he considers himself?  Amazingly, he thinks he considers himself “lucky.”

A fantastic article by reporter David Tarrant in today’s Dallas Morning News tells the story of Staff Sgt. Mills and those who are on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Read more here.

Tarrant’s story points out that since 2009, the number of combat casualties in Afghanistan who sustained one or more amputations have increased sharply, mostly due to blasts from buried explosives.  Meanwhile, the number of fatalities has dramatically decreased.  It’s interesting to look at when compared with survival rates of veterans of past wars, including:

  • World War II: 69%
  • Korean War: 75%
  • Vietnam War: 76%
  • Iraq and Afghanistan: 91%

Advances in battlefield medicine, including the new combat application tourniquet, Fentanyl “lollipops,” and advanced training of medics have helped improve the odds for our soldiers.  All of those things went into saving the life of Staff Sgt. Mills, who, at the time of his injury, became one of only four quadruple amputees of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He now faces the challenge of regrouping from these injuries and moving forward with his life, one which he is facing with gusto and determination.

Personally, I’m grateful for any advances in medicine, including equipment and training, that can save lives or save the quality of life for these deserving men and women.  I can’t think of anyone who deserves the highest level of medical attention more.  Let’s support medical research and military funding that make these things possible.

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Memorial Day is a great time to honor the living

Memorial Day. For those who can think beyond the barbecues, pool parties and first-of-summer sales, we think of our fallen heroes.  We think of those men and women who have laid down their lives for our opportunity to have those barbecues, pool parties and sales (among other things).  We think of those for whom there was no more American way of life because there was no more life.

We think of their service and we give thanks.

I keep coming back to a story written a year ago by Dallas Morning News reporter Steve Blow, who so eloquently points out that Memorial Day is a great time to honor the living.  Read his piece and let me know what you think.

Veterans are the first to shake another veteran’s hand and say thanks.  They understand, respect, protect and love each other like family. So how about for this Memorial Day, we honor the veterans who have passed by lifting up those who live amongst us? Honor the service of our fallen heroes by honoring our living heroes.

I like that idea.  What do you think?

Dallas Morning News reporter Steve Blow profiles Honor Flight DFW in a story about honoring our fallen heroes by thanking our living. Bravo!

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Thinking about adopting? How about a WWII veteran?

Robert is one of more than 400 veterans of WWII who are waiting to go on an Honor Flight DFW trip.

Honor Flight DFW has just launched an inventive initiative to help assist the non-profit in raising much-needed funds toward its goal of getting the 400+ veterans on its waiting list (all WWII veterans at this point) to Washington, D.C., to see the memorials built in their honor.

What goes into “adopting” a WWII veteran?  While there is no official legal arrangement here (though there are people who really, really want to take “their” veterans home and hang on to them for all time, that’s not really a part of this particular program), what this “adoption” involves is a pledge to raise the $1,000 needed to allow one veteran an Honor Flight trip. This includes their airfare, bus transportation, overnight hotel stay, a heroes’ banquet, their “gear” that they wear, a commemorative DVD of video and photos of their trip, special assistance from an amazing volunteer medical team — and memories to last a lifetime.

Robert is one of the veterans waiting to be adopted.  Shot out of a B-24 bomber, he escaped a POW camp in Switzerland (who knew the Swiss had camps??) and made his way back to London to rejoin his unit.  This amazing man is one of the many on the waiting list, and his age, 91, is the average age of the men and women who are waiting to go.  Six months in  a POW camp, an escape right out of a Hollywood movie, and flying bombers over Europe to help save the world…..and we can’t get this man to our own nation’s capitol? Come on now….

Honor Flight DFW thinks we can and has launched this program to make it happen. Want to be a part of honoring history? Contact Honor Flight DFW today to see how you can be a part of adopting a veteran.  If you and your community can band together to help make one veteran’s wish to see his or her memorial come true, think about how much that will mean to an aging warrior.

Robert Card

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Forget them, and those 6 million die another death

Today is National Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day set aside for remembering the worst tragedy in human history. Survivor Dr. Susan Cernyak-Spatz says it best: forget the six million who died, and they die another death.

Watch her here. Her words are powerful and are important to hear.

Susan was only 18 when she suffered the horrors of Auschwitz, probably the most horrible and well-known concentration camp that the Nazis used to carry an unthinkable extermination.  Her mind-blowing story is well-told here, as she uses her experiences these many decades later to educate school children on the Holocaust.  Susan survived and made her way to America, where she achieved not only a college degree, but also a Ph.D., and has dedicated her life to educating the world on the Holocaust.

Why is it so important for her to educate children?  Because there are still people who can’t — or don’t want to — believe that the Holocaust happened. Unthinkably, there are people who refuse to accept this as the atrocious reality that it is.

When you think about the Holocaust, you can’t help but put yourself in the shoes of the American soldiers who were often some of the first to discover the horror of these camps, seeing with their own eyes the worst thing to have ever happened in humanity.  As you know, the point of this blog is to honor veterans.  In honoring their service, we must always remember it in the context of the atrocities they were fighting, unbeknownst even to them.

To honor these survivors, and the service of the men and women who fought in World War II, we can’t ever forget about the Holocaust.  The six million people who were victims of the Nazis and the 16 million Americans who went to war to fight tyranny deserve it.  Let’s choose to remember.

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His day in court

On Saturday, I get to take a very special veteran to court.

Yes, to court.

He committed no crime; in fact, he is being honored by DFW-based volunteers of the Veterans History Project, a legislatively supported initiative of the U.S. Library of Congress to capture and preserve veterans’ stories for all generations.  Their oral histories are being taken by professional court reporters (fun fact: many court reporters type almost 300 words per minute with amazing accuracy!), with testimonies being conducted by legal experts who are following a basic line of questioning.

The result will be an astounding volume of information from veterans of all wars, properly recorded and preserved for our children, grandchildren, great-great-great-great-grandchildren, and so on.  Can you imagine being able to grow up listening to these stories?

It really makes me wonder what it would have been like to have heard stories like this when I was growing up. What kind of difference will it make for future generations?  It’s hard to think that a project like this wouldn’t change the world.  I’m anticipating that it will.

 

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