Caring for the families of wounded warriors

u.s. senate committee on veterans' affairs

Testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs: Sometimes I wonder if our government leaders ever hear of the hardships and trials our military families endure when our troops are at war. Can they even fathom the sacrifice the spouses and family of our wounded warriors go through when these brave warriors come back from Iraq or Afghanistan with missing limbs, PTSD or traumatic brain injury? Are they aware of the financial burden on the families—not just the wife, but the mother and father–brothers and sisters? Do they care about the mental anguish that is involved in seeing our son’s come back with disabilities that may be with them the rest of their lives? And most importantly—do they understand their moral obligation to ensure the wounded warriors (and their families) have everything they need to care for their medical (mental and physical) needs?

kristen hendersonIn my blog roll under the heading “Support the Troops” is the link to the web site of Kristin Henderson. Kristin is an author, journalist and wife of a Navy chaplain who served with the United States Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is a frequent contributor to the Washington Post Magazine, Military.Com and others. Kristin is also a tireless advocate for the families of our military troops. On Tuesday March 11th, 2008 Ms. Henderson testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Veteran’s Affairs on the affects the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are having on the families of our wounded warriors. Specifically, she spoke on three issues:

I. The role of the family in the wounded warrior’s recovery
II. The needs of family caregivers
III. Challenges to meeting wounded family needs

Kristin related the stories of two families of wounded warriors. The family of soldier on his second 15 month deployment to Iraq with PTSD, and the family of Marine SGT Sam Nichols who was severely injured by an IED and suffers from traumatic brain injury. To read Kristen’s full testimony before the senate committee click on this link.

Because Erin and Sam were in the process of moving to Kentfield, some of the her testimony was presented in a written addendum which can be found at the same link on her web site.

I can’t tell you how honored I was that Erin and Sam’s story was presented to all the distinguished representatives from the Senate, Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, Department of Veterans Affairs and others. It is my hope that Kristin’s testimony will pave the way for more support and care for the families of our wounded warriors. I’ll talk more about this issue in my next blog post, as there is a bill being introduced to Congress that specifically addresses support for the families of wounded warriors!

Praying for another Marine Injured by an IED in Iraq: My daughter Allison emailed me on Thursday and told me that her co-workers boyfriend who is a Marine on his second deployment to Iraq was severely injured by an IED in his first week back in country. Please pray for him and strength for his family and girlfriend. His name is Justin and he is not expected to live.

Here is an update I just got from Allison:  “His name is Justin Martinez and he is 19 and in the Army National Guard.  The he was hit by an IED after getting off the plane about 30 minutes earlier.  2 of his friends died in the explosion.  He has not regained consciousness but his family was told that he did not receive any brain damage.  The truck landed on his leg which shattered it and they have also found blood clots in his leg.  When he has regained consciousness they will be sending him from Kuwait to Utah, where he is from. “

Sam’s medical status: Sam has made it through his first full week at Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital. Both Sam and Erin are adjusting well to their new surroundings. Sam’s doctor (Dr. Daugherty) has changed his feeding (he’s still being feed through a stomach tube) tube to an overnight drip in the hopes it will be easier on his stomach and help with a persistent cough he has been having.

Sam_at_Kentfield_3_8_08 On Friday Dr. Daugherty prescribed a drug that will hopefully stimulate his ability to speak. He’s getting a very small amount of the drug for now and they will increase the dosages depending on how he is responding to the treatment.

I received a text message from Erin a few days ago saying, “We were working with the alphabet board with Sam and I asked him to spell something. Without being prompted, he spelled out,”I love you”. The next day she asked him what he wanted her to read to him and he spelled out “Lord of the Rings”. Sam’s ability to spell out sentences has been improving as his right deltoid has gotten stronger and his ability to lift up his right arm has improved.

The physical therapist have been working on strengthening Sam’s lower back and neck by putting him “stomach first” on the physical therapy board and having him hold himself up with his elbows. It seems to be doing the trick as Erin said, although he is tired (he has six 1/2 hour therapies every day, except Sunday) he’s been getting very “handsy” with her lately. You’ll have to use your imagination a little with that one.


9 Responses to Caring for the families of wounded warriors

  1. Caroline Bruce says:

    Good luck & prayers with you both Erin & Sam, for the next part of the journey in Sams recovery!!!
    So, good to hear all the GREAT progress!!!

    Hope Erin & Sam, that you got my card & gift that I sent to VA Health care center a couple of weeks back.

    Take care & all the best.


  2. Thank you for putting a link to my blog on your site. Sam is in my prayers as all the wounded and deployed are. I just put up a post on your entry because it is a powerful statement. Thank you also for the work you do.

  3. Julie says:

    Great to hear of this important progress being made! The fact that Sam is communicating “I love you” says so much about how his total development is coming along.Very encouraging indeed! My thoughts and prayers are with Sam and Erin, as well as the entire family. Love to you all.


  4. Kristin says:

    Hey there Sam, Erin & Family –

    Stopping by to let you all know that as always you are in my thoughts and my prayers. So great to hear that things are going well at Kentfield and that you guys are adjusting to this new place, and have begun a new leg of your journey. GREAT things are going to happen here! And SAM – you DOG you!! 🙂 Tee hee hee! HEY it’s progress – and it’s fun progress – what more could you ask!? 🙂

    Thanks Tony for sharing Kristin’s testimony. Sometimes I think that our gov’t “leaders” hear these horrific stories, but don’t really listen. There are so many of us out here pushing for change – change for our wounded heroes AND their families, it’s frustrating to sit and watch how long it takes for them to do not much at all – I can’t imagine how hard it is to be in your shoes. Hang in there Sam, Erin, Tony, Eric & Families – easier said than done I’m positive – but please know that thoughts, prayers, support, love and a whole lotta ‘thank yous’ come your way every day. It’s hard to imagine what you all go through every day, and the magnitude of the problem is stunning and mind numbing. It just HAS to change. God bless you all and may He give you the massive amounts of strength, peace and comfort that you need to get through every day.

    God bless each and every one of you. We’re all with you in spirit each and every day.

    – Kris, a Soldiers’ Angel from RI

  5. Carol Calloway says:

    Tony, thanks for the information about Kirstan testifying before the Congressional committee on behalf of the wounded veterans and their families. No one does understand the problems these families face while the G I is transferred back and forth numerous times. Or the wife who lays beside her returning husband and listens to him re-fight the battle in his dreams at night. It is isn’t easy; I know because I’ve have been there. Thus I pray everyday for the families of the returning G I’s as well as for the G I’s.

    I am so glad to hear of Sam’s continuing successful recovery. I know that Erin’s loving care and presence is at least 50% of the reason.

    God bless them both and the families too.

  6. Ali Neria says:

    HI Everyone- I just got an update on my coworkers fiance who was also in an IED blast. He has just woken up and is coherent and able to speak. I want to that you all on her behalf for your prayers and positive thoughts for him.

  7. Lori Peoria says:

    So Sam is getting frisky! 🙂 Way to go!!! Still keeping you all in our prayers!

    Lori Peoria
    Soldiers’ Angels
    Fountain Inn, SC

  8. Hello to all…Susan and I just returned from vacation, and we have sort of lost contact with you folks, but certainly have not forgotten you in our prayers. Since Jesus is Lord of All, He is ever making intercession to the Father on Sam’s behalf, and we just want to say, God …please continue to make Sam better…in Jesus name.

    Stay in touch with us, and I will stay better in touch, myself. God Bless


    Sam and Erin,
    We just wanted to let you know that we think of you both often. Thanks for all the pictures!! Its really great to see how well you are doing Sam!! Keep up the good work.
    Love to both of you,
    Mike,Teri and Jerad

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