A handshake and thank you for serving your country

the way we get by_movie

If you saw the three elderly folks in the above picture sitting in an airport, you probably would just walk by without thinking to much about them.  “They’re retired and don’t have much to do—maybe waiting for a grandson or daughter to arrive”.  But these people are very special.  They are the last people our military sons and daughters see before leaving for Iraq and Afghanistan and they are the first people to greet our troops when they first arrive back in the states from the middle east. 

Back in the early weeks of this blog after Sam was first wounded in Iraq, I wrote about the Maine Troop Greeters  in my August 16, 2007 blog entry.  The picture from that post was taken by someone in their organization.  Sam mentioned to Erin how exciting it was every time they passed through the Bangor Main International Airport knowing they would be getting a warm welcome or sendoff.  

There is now a movie documenting the lives of three of these special Americans.  They have been on-call 24/7 for the past 6 years, ready to greet our troops.  the way we get by_visit the website

“This inspirational story of three troop greeters will shatter the stereotypes of senior citizens today. Growing old will never be the same,” according to CIFF directors.

Please visit their web site for more information on the lives of these inspirational Americans who have dedicated their time to touching the lives of our troops. 

Sibling Rivalry or Brotherly Love? 
I heard a man of God that I admire recently teach a devotional on James, the reported younger brother of Jesus. In his good natured way, and with a gentle laugh he surmised how difficult it might have been for James to have been compared with his older brother. Can you hear it now? Mary or Joseph saying, "James, why can’t you be more like Jesus?" I can speak to this first hand as I had an older brother who was far more passive than I, getting into far less trouble, and in general, pretty much a parent’s dream. Until high school he was also a foot taller than I was making him a natural on the basketball court, a six inch reach on me when we boxed, and saved his money well so he always had some. Couple these facts with my Mom and Dad occasionally saying, "Eric, why can’t you be more like Ray?"; was a sure formula for resentment from a young and immature adolescent. Fortunately, as I grew up, I began to see what my parents always saw and that resentment slowly turned to love and respect for the big goof. This small example must have been magnified many times in the household of Joseph and Mary. Scriptures show us that Jesus’ brothers not only didn’t believe in his ministry, but thought him addled. I prefer to believe as they grew, they saw what we see and that is something so unique and something so special about Jesus. If they didn’t, certainly seeing him crucified, dying, rising from the dead, and eventually ascending into heaven would be evidence enough to realize that theirs wasn’t an ordinary brother. Acts 1 finds Jesus’ brothers in the church in Jerusalem and James an eventual leader in that body of believers. In his letter, (thought by some to be the very first book written in the New Testament) James speaks of very practical aspects of daily Christianity. He calls himself a teacher, but never identifies himself as the younger brother of Jesus. He obviously learned humility; I would have had it printed on my business card! Ha!

Sam has two brothers that I have kept careful observation over, the past 18 months. We have shed tears together, laughed together, and rejoiced together as we watch Sam make advances and progress. They have offered love and support, not only for me, but for Sam and Erin, many family members, and a host of friends that are patiently waiting for that day when Sam comes home to be with us. One thing I noticed recently is their refusal to treat Sam any differently than they did before the incident. They ignore the temporary disability that Sam may find himself in; opting to speak of their many mutual interests, and of what they will do when Sam is restored. Whether they realize that or not; that is faith. On a recent visit, Donny came in and dropped the cap he was wearing in Sam’s lap. A silly thing to do; kind of an off handed insult mixed with the love and attention that brought him 100 miles to visit with his brother. Sam, not to be outdone, picked up his cap, held it out, and as he looked Donny squarely in the eye, dropped it to the floor. And with one fell swoop, Sam cleverly returned the gauntlet. Donny laughed, Sam smiled, and the visit commenced. A tragic event changes the lives of brothers forever; whether that be a crucifixion or a roadside bomb, and my boys are no different. They appreciate life more, relationships are just a little sweeter, and family is paramount. Since Sam was injured, Donny has married his sweetheart, Brandi, Marty and Helen have precious little Evan, and although our relationships were good before; they have taken on new heights of love and affection.

Sam on Feb 7 2009 at Kentfield I am so excited to bring you some very special reports of good news this week. Sam had an eye test and the Ophthalmologist was very pleased about the restoration of his optical nerve. He doesn’t have to wear glasses anymore! This is actually better than where he was before the accident. Sam has been infection free for a few weeks now, save for a slight gurgle in his chest causing an intermittent cough. Erin thinks it could be allergies, as Marin County is having an early spring. The picture is of Sam as we sat on the deck at the hospital and enjoyed the sunshine in short sleeves. The strap on his head is just there to monitor his oxygen content when he is in bed. It is more accurate than the finger monitor that kept giving them some false readings. It looks like a sweatband and he is ready for the racquetball court. He looks good and feels good as well. The prayer requests for Sam’s roommate have accomplished much. His trach tube has been capped, he is moving his arms and legs, fingers, hands, and toes, and most importantly, making speech sounds. Vegetative? Pishaw, nothing is too hard for the Lord. I also saw John Murphy yesterday [John is a patient at Kentfield who fell out of a third story window and sustained traumatic brain injury]; he smiled, shook my hand, and waved good bye to me when we parted. God’s goodness continues to spill over there at Kentfield.

Much love,


12 Responses to A handshake and thank you for serving your country

  1. Kris Abbruzzi says:

    Hey there Sam, Erin & Families!!

    Yet another great post. Eric your stories inspire me to no end, in addition to the incredible daily inspiration I get just from “knowing” you all. I’m still chuckling about Sam dropping the cap on the floor – that’s hilarious!

    The Maine Troop Greeters are some of the “most bestest” people on the planet. God bless them all for they joy and love that they have showered on our heroes for the past 6 years.

    So wonderful to read that you’ve been infection free for a few weeks! Glory be! You continue to amaze and inspire Sam and Erin. God bless you all and I continue to pray each and every day for all of your strength, peace and comfort. I always will. And Sam’s room mate is in those prayers as well – to know that the prayers are working is priceless!!

    Thoughts, prayers, support and loads and loads of extra special Angel Hugs are always on their way to you all, each and every day. God bless you.

    – Kris, a Soldiers’ Angel from RI

  2. Caroline Bruce says:

    Hey Sam, Erin & family.
    Just a message to say you are in my thoughts & prayers, sounds like Sam has been having a good couple of weeks & that is SO AWESOME to here!!!
    Much love from New Zealand,

  3. Stephanie (Kerr) Chase says:

    Now those are the boys I know and love. I am always thinking of you joking around and making me smile. I hope that someday I can do the same for you all. We are keeping you in our prayers and reading every bit of info we get from this site and are grateful. Keep up the joy and spreading Jesus love. I am so very proud of you all. Love, Stephanie Chase and Family

  4. Lori Peoria says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day Sam & Erin!

  5. Kelley (Sam's mom) says:

    Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone! After all the love and hugs that you all have sent to us, I just have to say Thank You!!! We love you all out there! Thanks for all the prayers & notes. Cupid is coming to you with an arrow that has our thanks! Love & Hugs back at ya, ❤ Kelley

  6. Aunt Tammy says:

    I just wanted to add my Happy Valentine wishes to Erin and Sam. Erin, give Sam a kiss from me and the guys. We are thinking of you always. xoxoxo

  7. Eric, (Sam's Dad) says:

    Kelley said it perfectly. We appreciate the kindnesses shown to Sam & Erin, and their families. To everyone that has opened this blog, read it, and felt led by the Lord to utter even a few words in prayer; have moved from being friends we haven’t met yet, to actual family members. Yes, Brothers and Sisters in Christ. When you all exercised your love for God and your fellow man by praying for Sam & Erin, you assumed a responsibility of faith, and thereby have an actual vested interest in Sam’s total recovery. Some of you that comment regularly, I am getting to know you well. I know in my spirit that even though there are many that don’t comment; that you still keep abreast of the developments and pray regularly. Whichever category you fall into, We Love You, Pray for You, and invoke God’s richest blessings on ALL of You.

  8. Wendy says:

    Hi Sam and Erin!
    I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day. When I look at your lives, I see an excellent example of Love and Devotion. You are an inspiration and all of us that read your blog and pray for you. We thank you for your perserverence and committment to one another and to healing.
    I pray God Bless you abundantly this week. May He impart greater faith and strength to you as you press forward. I miss you and look forward to seeing you again soon.
    Love and Blessings, Hugs and Prayers,

  9. Nancy Judge says:

    Hello Sam,

    My name is Nancy Judge and I am Wendy’s Mom. I know Wendy has been to California and met you and your wife. She is so impressed with the faith and love you both share.

    Sam, Wendy has told me some of your story and about the tremendous sacrifice you have made for your country. You are truly an amazing hero and please know that you are appreciated for what you have done, as well as for what you continue to do. It takes a super strong person to work very hard at rehabilitation on a daily basis, but with faith in God, everything is possible in this life. When we trust in God, our rewards will always be great. As the Song of Solomon 2:8 says “He cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.” My interpretation of this is there are no obstacles which our Savior’s love cannot overcome.

    Sam, I asked your Dad if I could keep you in my daily prayers. He said “yes”. Please know that I will continue to do that and Sam, also know that Wendy’s family is truly proud of you. Sam, I will send you e-mails every once in a while and I look forward to meeting you someday, in the not so distant future.

    God’s peace and love,
    Nancy Judge (aka Wendy’s mom)

  10. Kris Abbruzzi says:

    Hey there Sam, Erin & Families!

    Just stopping by to let you all know that as always you’re on my mind and in my thoughts and my prayers. And, of course, you always will be! Hope that you’ve continued to be infection free Sam and have been feeling better than ever.

    God bless you Sam, Erin, the Nichols & Neria families. We’re always out here praying for you, and praying with you! Loads and loads of extra special Angel Hugs are on their way to you now and always.

    – Kris, a Soldiers’ Angel from RI

  11. Hang in there, folks! What great progress!

    It’s just awesome to see how the whole ‘community’ around you all has pulled together. It really is inspiring, and it’s also a great reminder that none of us can do this alone. The support, thoughts, faith, and prayers of our loved ones (whether we know them personally or not) are just so important. And for those of us with TBI, it’s really heart-warming to see how supportive non-head-injured folk can be.

    Keep up the great work — all of you.

    – BB

  12. lets serve christ ministries…

    […]A handshake and thank you for serving your country « Sgt. Samuel Nichols, USMC[…]…

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