American Veterans with Brain Injuries

Supporting Families of Veterans with Brain Injuries:  I received an email from Cheryl with American Veterans with Brain Injuries ( asking if she could link Sam’s story to her website.  Of course, I said yes.  Please see the column heading “Personal Stories” on their home page for links to over service member’s stories as they deal with brain injuries. 

American Veterans with Brain Injuries (AVBI) was organized in 2004 as a grassroots effort whose mission is to offer support to the families of American Service members and Veterans who have suffered traumatic brain injuries.  In 2006, was established to provide a web based peer support network for these veterans and their family members.

Sam’s medical status:  I’m very excited…Not just because it’s Christmas, as that brings out the eternal child within me, but because of the developments that surround Sam and Erin this week. This past week Sam was discussed by the trauma urologist at UCSF with Sam’s Doctors from Kentfield and Marin General. He was doubtful that he could do anything to assist their search for the hidden shrapnel. In addition, Sam was removed from physical therapy, save for once per week. He gets a daily stretch, but due to his recurring infections, he has been unable to make the progress they need to see for the insurance company to keep paying for the sessions. Disappointing? Not in the least! Remember what happens when the medical community washes their hands of Sam and some of his most vital care? Ha! I’m giddy with excitement at the prospect of what God will do next. When men say I can’t; God says I can, and will! Please stay tuned as I know God is about to take him a very large step forward, and I’m glad there will be no scientific reasons for the advancement, and everyone will recognize it is from God…

I must admit I haven’t seen them in almost ten days, as I’ve been  dealing with a horrendous cold. Holidays are also very demanding at work where we feed the homeless. As you might have suspected, the demand is up this year and resources are down; but God never fails. Right when I was stressing that I wouldn’t have enough turkeys to go around; Food Link (a division of FEMA) gifted us with 320 hams. We finished our food baskets with a flourish, and with food left over. I felt like a Sam&Erin PlayFight_12_13_08worker after Jesus had fed the 5000 men plus women and children, and then sent out workers to gather the leftovers and they gathered up 12 baskets of bread and fish. You see, miracles of provision and of healing are with us today and at every turn. Some call them luck or chance, and many attribute them to men and his own devices. What an insult to God the Father, who lovingly takes care of us, even when we don’t ask, deserve, or even recognize him when it’s done. I’ll never let that happen with Sam and Erin. I will always tie his restoration to the healing hand of God and never make any apologies to the medical community. Of course, as I’ve said many times in the past, I love them, thank them for their dedication to my son, and appreciate them for being an instrument of that hand from time to time.

Erin related to me a story yesterday of Sam getting to take communion at a Christmas service there at Kentfield. A very sweet Chaplain, with a beautiful spirit, that has taken such an interest in Sam and Erin, gave a small but collective service on Friday, the 19th. He was able to get a small sliver of bread, and just a touch of wine from Erin’s finger. As Pastor Betsy passed around the mostly silent patients; She blessed them with a benediction of "The Peace of the Lord". When She got to Sam and repeated her blessing, Sam blurted out loudly and very clearly, "The Peace of the Lord" to her…Erin said it was so loud and so pronounced that everyone heard it, and that it was the most he had said all day. When he speaks, it counts….

LovingTime_12_13_08 I’ve told you many times of the sheer ingenuity of Erin in her attempts to stimulate Sam’s thought and speech process. Well, She has topped that and with something that seems so simple. She has been reading and studying a book on how the brain regenerates itself. I could see the excitement in her as she told me about it and mentioned I’d like to read it also. The next time I saw her, I had a copy in my hands. She was reading a chapter on how this particular therapist was using a mirror to "fool" the brain into seeing the reflection as an opposite. As you know, when looking into the mirror, the right side becomes the left. This therapy was for speech, but Erin thought that it might work for Sam’s semi-paralyzed left side. She constructed a box out of balsa wood that she purchased at a local hobby shop. Armed only with an X-acto knife and chop sticks for tools, she made a sliding wall within this box covered with mirrors. When the right hand is viewed in the mirrors, it looks like the left hand is moving and doing the things that the right hand is performing. Her hope is that Sam’s brain will see his "left" hand moving and want to increase that movement with his left side. I think this is brilliant and am carefully watching to see what Sam’s brain will do in actuality. He has had some brief and very limited success in moving his left side, but it all has to start somewhere…I am so proud of Erin; and thank God for giving her the inspiration of the many valuable ideas that she is able to pass on to Sam….

The pictures are of Sam and Erin playing and he had her pinned with her arm behind her back…so cute; and of course a hug for each other….

Merry Christmas and Much Love,


16 Responses to American Veterans with Brain Injuries

  1. Teri Buckmaster says:

    Hello Everyone!
    We just wanted you to all know that we are thinking of you. Keep up the good work Sam and Erin!!! Erin you are amazing!!!
    Merry Christmas,
    Mike,Teri and Jerad Buckmaster

  2. Sue and Ralph Bancroft says:

    God’s Blessings are truly at work with this young couple.Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.Love hearing about the progress they are making as it is truly a team effort.Ralph and Sue Bancroft

  3. Lori Peoria says:

    I am always excited to see the email in the mail on Sam’s updates. You are a beautiful family, full of love and deep faith. You are a blessing to me.
    Merry Christmas!

  4. STephanie Kerr-Chase says:

    Merry Christmas to all of you! Love from Stephanie (Kerr) Chase and family

  5. Wendy says:

    Merry Christmas Erin & Sam!!!
    I pray you enjoy this season and are able to celebrate the milestones you are making. Erin, I am so impressed by your ingenuity and relentless energy and perserverence. I pray regularly for your strength and encouragement. You are such a delight!
    Sam, I thank God for your progress and pray & I believe for continued progress in your healing and restoration. Thank you for speaking my name when I was there, I am so proud of you and you melt my heart!
    It was so nice to visit with all of you! Erin, your parents are nice, pleasant and endearing and it was a pleasure to meet them. What a testimony of their lives and their faith in raising such a beautiful and creative daughter who stands steadfastly in faith, honor and dedication with her husband.You are a beautiful and inspiring couple. Erin, don’t forget to take notes, babe, for the book you will write in your future. You touch so many lives now, and will touch even more with your and Sam’s story.
    Love, joy, peace, healing and strength to you! May you be blessed and full of the hope of this season. I pray you enjoy the celebreation of the birth of Our Savior, Jesus Christ!
    Love, blessings and hugs for you both!

  6. Chris says:

    Merry Christmas to all! I pray that the coming year will bring even more blessings to you. Keep it up Sam, you will recover. Erin, your strength is an inspiration. God Bless you. Merry Christmas.

    Love from Chris, Tiffany, Abi, and Sera Sheler

  7. soldiersangelswashington says:

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much you ‘move’ me spiritually each time I visit this blog and read the updates. are amazing, as are you all. Inspiring to say the least. Continued blessings to you all and thank you for being a blessing in mine. Merry Christmas Sam, Erin, Tony, Eric and families. God Bless

    Julie Morelli
    Soldiers’ Angels

  8. Tony Neria says:

    Thank you so much Julie for your constant support and prayers. And thank you to all the Soldier’s Angels for the work you do. What an incredible organization—the name of your group says it all!

  9. Dana Williams says:

    Sending my thoughts, prayers, admiration and love to all of you Nichols’s and Nerias. Hope Christmas was wonderfully blessed, and that goes double for the New Year. Love to all,


  10. Carol Calloway says:

    Erin and Sam, I hope your Christmas was a merry one and that this coming New Year will bring ven more of God’s blessing to you. It is so encouraging to read of your progress and, from previous e-mails, I know that Sam gives you the credit you so richly deserve, Erin. You are an inspiration to wives everywhere! I pray the wives of other wounded GIs will take some of your example and apply it to their lives. It is easy under the circumstances but you never seem to give but just keep looking for ways to help Sam recover. And you are very good at it too.

    God bless you both! Continue to love one another and pull together. I know that your faith in the Lord is strong and it is surely an example for others.


  11. brat says:

    Another Soldiers’ Angel signing in to let you know that prayers and love with absolute faith in the power of prayers, are coming your way from Bratville (well okay, Canada!)

    I BELIEVE in miracles..

    Bless you all….

  12. Kris Abbruzzi says:

    Hey there Sam, Erin & Families!

    Standing by in very anxious anticipation to see what Sam’s next big step is going to be! I hope you all had a very Merry and Blessed Christmas. You were all in my thoughts and my prayers in an extra special way that day (ok, you got me, every day! :-)), and prayers of thanks and praise were said for you Sam and all of our heroes and your families.

    God bless you Sam, Erin, the Nichols & Neria families. Thoughts, prayers, support and loads and loads of Angel Hugs are always on their way to you all!

    – Kris, a Soldiers’ Angel from RI

  13. Patti Kjenstad says:

    Dear Sam and Erin,

    Happy Hew Year to both of you and your families. May God bless you all this year. Thank you for taking us on your amazing journey, filled with Miracles. We know God has special plans for you, Sam. Stay strong….everyone is still praying for both of you and cheering you both on.

    Big Hugs, Randy, Patti and Scott

  14. Excellent story, heartwarming and full of joy. Those who have similar stories might want to add them to my new website “Dedicated to the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor and those who served” – so stories can be shared online.

  15. joy garrison says:

    Erin and Sam,

    It amazes me how Erin constantly comes up with things that will help Sam grow and relearn. I just wonder what the medical community is doing to keep up with her. You have a special gift Erin, and Sam is very blessed to have you. Sam keep up the growing and making advancements. As Eric said I too can’t wait to see what the doctors will be trying to explain when Sam makes a huge improvement. God is so good.

    Love you,

    Aunt Joy

  16. Kris Abbruzzi says:

    Hi Sam, Erin & Families!

    Just checking in on you all!! Happy New Year you Sam, Erin, the Nichols and Neria Families. I am so excited to see what He has in store for you all this year. Sam you have come so very far – you and Erin inspire me (and scores of others!) every single day. And this year will bring you even closer to total restoration. I thank you so very much for allowing us to come on your journey with you. I thank you for the lessons in life that I’ve learned through your experience. I now know so much more about what true love, devotion and Faith in God really are, what they really mean. I thank you so very much for everything that you have done, given and sacrificed for this great country. And I thank you so very much for our way of life – for our Freedom. Most of all, thank you for being my HERO!!

    God bless you Sam, Erin and your families. God bless you all, and thank you all . Here’s to wonderful things in ’09!!! GO SAM!!!

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