Barrett Battalion

September 5, 2009

I’ve read the statistic that only one percent of the population in the United States is actively involved in the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan.  I’m sure that is the reason we hear or see very little news in print or on TV about our military troops and their continuing struggles in dealing with multiple deployments to the Middle East.  When I was a child in the mid 60’s and early 70’s, the nightly news was packed with information about the conflict in Vietnam—the political debate about our continued presence, the growing protest, the daily body count!  I don’t have any children in school, but I wonder what our children are being told today.  Do the teachers speak of the men and women in the military who are still willing to give their lives for their country?  Do these children realize the sacrifice our troops make everyday?  Do they even care?  I’d like to introduce you to a young lady who lives across the street from my parents.  Maybe she can answer some of those questions.

Hi, my name is Marissa Lang, and I go to John Barrett Middle School.  There is an awesome club there called Barrett Battalion.  This club “adopts” a different battalion every year.  We send care packages to them.  One of the great things about this is that it does not matter how heavy the package is (but we only send non-melt able/perishable items, such as beef jerky, Jolly Ranchers, gum, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss to name a few)!  Nevertheless, you see, the question is, how do we get the money for it?  We recycle.  We recycle water/soda bottles, and soda cans.  If you are in the vicinity of the Carmichael area, please bring your plastic bottles and aluminum cans to John Barrett Middle School, 4243 Barrett Rd. Carmichael, Ca 95608.  If you have questions please call my school’s phone number (and say you are donating bottles, cans or non-perishable/melt able items to the Battalions). at (916)971-7842.  We really would appreciate your help.  Thank you,  Marissa Lang

brenda danzinger_barrett battalion_john barrett middle school To give you a little more background on the Barrett Battalion:  Brenda Danzinger is the teacher at John Barrett Middle School who started the Barrett Battalion.  Her husband is a Navy Commander who is now currently deployed in Afghanistan.  The picture to the right was taken at a little thank-you ceremony the parents had in appreciation for Mrs. Danzinger starting the Barrett Battalion. 

Marissa was able to go with my mother to visit Sam and Erin at his CareMeridian home in Granite Bay.  This is what she wrote about her experience meeting Sam for the first time:

Meeting Sam,

Meeting Sam has helped me to realize many things.  Such as not taking people or things for granted.  In fighting for our freedom, Sam has sadly lost some of his own freedom.  yet, he has never lost any of his determination or courage to live his life bravely.  I marissa lang_erin_sam_august 2009_caremeridianbelieve that part of his determination is because of Erin, his wife, encouraging him.  Sam is one of those people that you do not find to often.  After everything he has been through, he has always managed to be such an amazing, kind, and wonderful person to be around!  The time I am privileged to have with Sam and Erin will always be to short!  Sam is our hero.  His bright blue eyes are strong, like the blue of our American flag.  Thank you Sam, for what you did—you did for my family and me.

Marissa Lang

Sam’s medical status (from his father Eric):

"If you have the faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, move from here to there, and it will move, Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17). 

Sam and Erin for the last two years have faced a mountain that would seem as impossible to remove as it did for David to kill Goliath almost 3000 years ago. There have been many ups and downs, advancements and plateaus, victories and stalemates. God’s perfect timing is not our own. After all, David picked up 5 stones as back up ammo, and Jesus himself had to pray more than once for a blind man when he restored his sight. When the time is right, it will be our "Rock" that delivers the crippling blow to Sam’s infirmity and He will walk out of that place. Another mercy of God is that Sam doesn’t have to face this mountain alone. He has Erin who so reminds me of the friendship that Jonathan had for David. A life sacrificing kind of love that can only come from the Spirit of God. The two of them oat branstart every day with passion, enthusiasm, and an expectancy that this could be the very day for Sam’s restoration. Sam’s day begins with a telephone call to Erin, to say "Good morning; I love you, and I can’t wait to see you today." Erin loves these calls, and they sometimes quicken her step to get over there to begin their day  together. They read, talk, or enjoy the pastoral setting just outside their patio doors. The other day Erin was reading Sherlock Holmes to Sam when he stopped her to have some very choice words for the parakeets that were too noisy. Ha! His new "level of awareness" (medical terms) includes a better sense of knowing where he is and why. It can be discouraging, but he meets it everyday with a great outlook, a positive, can-do attitude, and he never forgets that it is God who is orchestrating his recovery. He is the shy, diminutive boy of the story who faced his giant, and won….
Much love,

The picture is from Erin a few days ago…I love the way She clowns with Sam, sparking his own sense of humor and laughter…[Erin asked Sam to say “something” and he came out with “Oat Bran”].

Visitors with Love and Affection

April 9, 2009

Since that fateful day in July of ’07, Sam and Erin have had many visitors that want to bring them love, support, and comfort. There have been entertainment celebrities, 4 Star Generals, politicians, motorcycle clubs, and a host of friends, family, and well wishers. All of these incredible people have touched the Neria and Nichols’ families very much; but the visits by Sam’s "Comrades in Arms" have moved me the most.  Specifically, his USMC buddies that were there and with him on that hot day of summer in the desert of Iraq. Thresher, Henley, and Kjenstead (Sp?-forgive me) are three of the names of 6 of his buddies that came to pay him homage this last fall. Pardon me if I fail to remember the other’s names; they were all dear to my heart. This past weekend, Erin and I had the pleasure to host the young Marine that was Sam’s driver when his Humvee was hit by a formed projectile. This handsome warrior’s  name is Jarred Reeder. (he gave me permission to use his name and record my thoughts of his visit)…He was joined by his Jarred & Bernadette_4_4_2009_Palo Alto VA Hospitalgorgeous girlfriend, Bernadette; whom he jokingly claimed was there "to help drive and to keep him awake." Ha! It was obvious to me that She accompanied Jarred for emotional support, as this turned into a very moving visit. It was very enjoyable for me to hear all over again how Sam is held in high esteem by his fellow Marines. Jarred says that Sam’s name is legendary in the 11th regiment of the 2nd battalion of Marines. He had me laughing when he told of grilling new "boots"; (new men to the unit), if they know about "Nichols"? If they don’t, then they are harangued, and then educated…don’t feel sorry for the boot; it is the way of the Marine Corps. A hazing if you will, that allows bonding, acceptance, and of course educates them as to what is appropriate and a priority. I could see the sincerity in his face when Jarred told me that Sam is one of the men that he would like to emulate. This kid wasn’t blowing smoke at me because Sam was injured. He was the real deal; I’ve seen enough to recognize it when I see and hear it. When Erin was out of earshot, (Jared’s respect for Erin) he told me many details that weren’t previously relayed to me by the Marines. I won’t elaborate here, but suffice to know that ALL of Sam’s comrades are heroes and deserve much more recognition than I feel that they have received. As Jarred and Bernadette were leaving for the day; (they arrived on Friday evening, and stayed till Sunday morning to ensure ample visitation with Sam and Erin) Jarred asked for a few private moments with Sam. I understood and it allowed me to discuss Jarred with Bernadette in the hallway. I don’t know what was said between the two men, but it brought this Bible verse to mind when Jarred emerged from Sam’s room. Jesus was speaking and He said, "Greater love has no one than this, That he lay down his life for his friends". John 15:13…I think that summarizes perfectly the bonds that are exchanged by comrades at arms in general, and certainly by Sam and his friends in Kilo Battery….

Sam & Kelly_3_19_2009 You hear from Tony and I often, but not often from the Mom’s associated with Sam’s recovery. I am speaking of Sam’s Mom, Kelley; and Erin’s Mom, Julie. These two ladies are on the forefront of prayer, visitation, and support; but are a little on Juliethe shy side when it comes to writing anything for Sam’s blog. Both write  beautifully and from the heart, but are satisfied with letting Tony and I record our observations of God’s miraculous work in Sam’s recovery. Please know that they are always there, willing to do whatever it takes for Sam and Erin, and offer Sam and Erin much love and support in all they do.

Sam’s room in Palo Alto is affectionately referred to as the "Penthouse", as it is big enough to handle 4 beds, a wheel in shower in the bathroom, and a sofa and recliner. He has no roommate at the moment, but it is a welcome relief for visiting as the rooms at Kentfield were quite small. Speaking of which, Sam had his first full shower at Palo Alto. It is amazing how clean Erin and the CNA’s kept him at Kentfield without the full showering facilities. Erin couldn’t stop stroking his soft hair after his shower. Sam is once again invigorated by the daily therapies at Palo Alto. A rigorous physical, occupational, and speech therapy is performed, along with a massage afterwards. Erin, as Sam’s spouse also gets to take advantage of the massages, and has reported improvement in her shoulder injury from them. As the meds he was getting at Kentfield are reduced and eventually eliminated, he was going through some sleepy times, as some of them were stimulants. The busy schedule seems to keep him awake and alert, and I see that as great progress.

As Easter approaches, I am focusing on the "Resurrection Spirit" that raised Jesus from the dead. It is the same Spirit that raised Sam from brain death, and continues to push and lead him forward to full recovery. As I remember to thank God for Jesus’ miracle, I’ll remember to thank him for Sam’s as well….

Much love and Happy Easter,

Welcome Home a Hero

July 14, 2008

This evening I went to the Sacramento airport to pick up a friend of mine who had been visiting friends on the east coast for a week.  She was so happy to see me and I know she appreciated seeing a friendly face and getting a warm hug.

I ran across a video of a group of people who go out to the Dallas-Ft Worth airport every time our military troops come home from Iraq or Afghanistan.  Many of these volunteers are veterans of the wars in Vietnam and Korea and remember putting their life on the line for their country and then coming home feeling like no one really cared about the sacrifice they made.

Please enjoy the video of the Welcome Home a Hero Program.  There is a very similar program out of Bangor Maine called The Maine Troop Greeters.  When Sam returned from Iraq on his first deployment, I remember him telling us how touched he was by the welcome home he received in Bangor as he and his buddies got off the plan.  I know some of the Maine Troop greeters, to this day, read this blog to keep up on Sam’s progress.

Sam’s medical status (from Sam’s father Eric):

Good Morning All!

It seems that when I spend time with Erin & Sam; we do an inordinate amount of laughing and carrying on…They each have an incredible gift of humor and what’s more they play off each other like they were professionals…Erin will set Sam up for a great delivery, knowing that he will come through with impeccable timing; and vice versa. Neither of them hog the punch lines nor are upset if the humor is lost on it’s intended audience…(meaning they don’t try to explain it; if you don’t get it, you don’t get it) It’s good natured, (no malice intended) but has been on occasion a little strange…

Sam tickling Erin That intro brings me to the picture. Sam is in his chair, me on his left and Erin is kneeling on his right. Yeah, you guessed it; we were praying. When we are done Sam begins to very sweetly and softly stroke Erin’s cheek with his fore finger. I see it and can’t help but state, “You love her don’t you Sam”…Erin looks up with adoring eyes and to break the moment, Sam sticks his finger in Erin’s nose. Funny in itself, but as she laughs, she asks him what are you going to do now? Without hesitation he mockingly wipes his finger on the yoke of her shirt. Erin and I roar…Sam does not crack a smile, not even a little one. (Donny, affectionately calls him “Deadpan Sam”) Maybe a twinkle in his eye, but you can just tell that the little stinker just let us both know that his humor is intact and he’s not afraid to use it.

You’ve heard the old adage that “laughter is the best medicine”. There have been many scientific studies done, books written, and tests
performed to try and prove that saying; and with many positive results…relieving stress, better communication, and easier to cope with everyday problems…But, did you know it is scriptural? Proverbs 15:30 (NIV) says, “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.” We as a family, have always related to one another with cheerfulness and humor; so much so that it would have to be said when the conversation had to become serious. I am thinking that this has contributed greatly to how we handle the news of Sam’s progress. With God in the picture it has become even easier. I no longer say Sam WILL be restored…I say, Sam IS restored. Jesus said it, I believe it, so it is a done deal. Nothing can separate us from his love so I know that nothing can separate us from his promises either.

I’m still a little unsure of the status of Sam and the seizures. I know they are watching him closely (monitoring his vitals) and reducing the anti-convulsants they were giving him. (4 different ones at one time)…His Doctor and the consulting neurologist agreed that he was overmedicated…Wow, do ya think? His Doctor has ordered weekly comparative EEG’s to track and see, if any, the increase or decrease in the seizure level, and try to regulate his meds. I get the feeling they are a little stumped and reacting to trial and error. When God intervenes, that confusion of the wise sometimes happens. They are doing the best they can for Sam and love him very much, and we appreciate that.

Once again, I’d like to send my appreciation to all who read these updates and Sam’s blog; and to the many who so faithfully respond with comments to encourage and uplift Sam and Erin and their families…(It truly makes my day) I always feel that I can count on anyone in my address book and to the many readers of the blog around the world; for a prayer for Sam and Erin. A brief remembrance to the Most High, that we are all thankful for Sam’s healing and are patiently waiting on him to accelerate his promises. I hope that doesn’t sound too demanding of God; and my answer is simply this: He wouldn’t have said it if he didn’t mean it; so I stand on his word, not mine…

Much love,

The Brain Trauma Vets

June 24, 2008

“We are facing a massive mental health problem as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a country, we have not responded adequately to this problem. Unless we act urgently and wisely, we’ll be dealing with an epidemic of service-related psychological wounds for years to come.”

–Bobby Muller, President Veterans For America

I read a very thoroughly researched document by Conn Hallinan describing traumatic brain injury as it relates to our service men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It’s fairly long, but briefly hits on all the major areas affecting our brain injured veterans.  The good news is that we are saving so many service members who have been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I believe the ratio of deaths versus injuries is 1 to 17 (1 death per 17 injuries) in our current conflict.  In Vietnam it was a 1 to 3 ratio and in World War II it was a 1 to 1 ratio.  The bad news is that as these wars continue on and on with no end in sight, the count of brain injured veterans continues to grow.  Many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who were near IED blast don’t even know they sustained brain injury and the symptoms of their injury may not show up for years.  To read the complete story,  click here.

Sam’s medical status from Sam’s father Eric:

I spent the most uplifting day yesterday with Sam and Erin and am excited to relate the events to you…Sam has been having some seizures which are not all that uncommon with TBI’s.  It was confirmed this week by an EEG which showed some seizure activity in his left frontal lobe. This is the area that controls the speech
process…(not the speech content; for we know that he is totally cognizant of what he wants to say) but the actual mechanical process of delivering the message. It’s a standard operating procedure to give a patient a tranquilizer of sorts (something in the Valium family) after a seizure to relax the area of the brain affected and allow them adequate time for rest. They should become sleepy and at very least a little groggy. Three separate times, the exact opposite has occurred. He became very “awake” and quite chatty. His primary care physician got to witness both a seizure and the episode after, so She and Erin decided upon a test to see if it would happen again. Yesterday at approx 1:30pm they gave him a dose of this medicine and he then went right to physical therapy. He was groggy and even a little weak as he stood in the standing frame, responding slowly to the techs, but as usual to Erin…towards the end of the session, as the meds seem to be absorbed and “kick in”, he seem to become much more animated.

sam and erin trying to look cool_kentfield_8_22_08 By the time he was back in his chair and headed back to his room for speech therapy, he was fully awake. Katie, the speech therapist was so impressed and commented his improvement was at least 50% over her last session with him…His doctor asked to be paged at this time and she arrived and immediately became interested in his apparent progress…She asked Sam a lot of questions, sometimes with Erin’s help; but he answered with his voice! She asked him what year it was and he answered 2005. Oops. She asked him if he knew where he was and at first he said a house, but later changed it to hospital. My brother Greg and my son Donny both called yesterday during this time and got to hear Sam say hello to them on the phone. While I was standing away from Sam and Erin and finishing my conversations, Erin asked who that man was and he said, “My Dad”. She asked him what was he doing here, and he answered without hesitation, “Talking on the phone”. Ha!

Erin called this reaction a paradox…a mysterious outcome, or a result not expected from the stimulus given him. Of course it is…but from where? An accident or a coincidence? That I don’t believe. Erin and I discussed this last week when he first had the seizures and his talkative time right after. We surmised then that the Holy Spirit was at work, stirring him for another great advancement. Don’t get me wrong; I take nothing away from the doctors and all of the medical professionals. I so admire them and absolutely feel they are God’s instruments here on Earth. The love and care they put into their work is just awe invoking to me and I will forever be in their debt. BUT, I also refuse to share God’s credit and glory with the doctors. If it hadn’t been for the seizures, they wouldn’t have given an already sleepy patient tranquilizers; so I dare to hear someone say that God isn’t in control of all of Sam’s care and rehab…Oooh, that sounds kind of mean, but I know this as well as I know anything else…

The infectious disease doctor was in to talk about Sam’s recurring infections. He thinks after much testing and bouts with antibiotics, that Sam may have a very small piece of infected shrapnel in his abdomen somewhere; or the bacteria may be hiding of all places in his prostate…Again, I emphasize that in Jeremiah 32:27 it says; “Behold, I am the Lord, Is anything too difficult for me?” and these problems although severe are nothing for the creator of the universe…Sam said yesterday that he wants 3 children and a 4 bedroom house so I believe on that faith, God will move to protect his prostate. That is my prayer of the week…Will you join me in that?

It is such a joy to visit with Sam and Erin and I always come away with much more than I bring. Erin was jazzed yesterday and highly encouraged, and to see her beaming smile just made my weekend. We laughed, we prayed, we celebrated Sam’s great favor with God and men…They had gotten me a large volume with 3 books by my favorite author for Father’s day, and Sam handed it to me, said Happy Father’s day and hugged me. Tears well up when I think of all of their challenges and they have the love to take the time to honor me…I can only think and say a big thank you to God for the privilege of being this boy’s father…

Until next time, Much Love…


Brain Injury Association of America Caregivers Conference

April 28, 2008

BIAA_caregivers conference logo I received a very nice email from Anna with the Wounded Warriors Project. Her organization is sponsoring a small number of caregivers to attend the Brain Injury Association of America’s Caregiver’s Conference held in Dallas Texas June 6~8. They are going to pay for Erin’s trip (registration, travel and lodging). The conference is a great opportunity for family caregivers to take part in discussions about the issues of caring and supporting someone with a brain injury and also gives them a chance to meet and network with other caregivers.

Prayers for Air Force Families: I’d like to ask for prayers for some other military families. My brother-in-law is an Air Force Reserve pilot instructor stationed at Columbus AFB Mississippi. On Wednesday one of the other flight instructors along with his trainee were both killed while taking off in a T-38 Talon trainer. The student was 25 years old and has a wife who is 28 weeks pregnant. The instructor has a wife and a two year old son and a six month old girl. Both families need lots of prayers in dealing with their loss. You can read more about the accident at this link to the Air Force Times.

From Sam’s Dad, Eric after his visit on the 25th:

What an incredible privilege it is to visit and hang out with Sam and Erin…to be in the very presence of the Holy Spirit who is working constantly on Sam’s and Erin’s behalf. You have to come away from there not wanting the cheer and great vibes that are given off by these two. This is just not measured by Sam’s progress, but also by the peace and contentment that is displayed by Erin…She is excited by his achievements and encouraged by his efforts to practice all that is becoming available to him…Please take a close look at the pictures and notice the exchange by these two…Neither let a little thing like a wheelchair nor a brain injury come between their almost electric like conductivity…they exchange more love than most healthy couples that I know…

Erin bought some walkie-talkies this week and has been challenging Sam’s coordination (using the switches) and using his words vocally at the same time…She’ll talk to him and ask for responses and “checks” on him to ensure he is using them correctly…All I can say is, “Creative and Brilliant”…She has been doing “Mad-libs” with Sam and although silly, they are quite funny…Ask the closest 7 year old if you’re unfamiliar with them…Ha! Sam has completed an entire page of them with either him vocalizing the words or spelling them out on an alphabet board of Erin’s design…Yesterday morning he spelled out to the physical therapist that he was hungry…I see that as real progress! Ha! He asked again if I would take He and Erin home as he must be getting bored as he is becoming more cognitive…Boy does that ever tug at the old heart strings…Erin is quick to inquire if he is ready to walk out of there and it reminds him that he still has work to do. He is resigned to getting better so that he will achieve that very goal…

Sam likes to pray with Erin and I, and says he prays without us as well. He also said (in answer to Erin’s questions) that he would like to travel and tell his story to other brain injured patients, (especially other Marines and Soldiers) when he is able…He included that he would like to meet and tell his story to all those that have and are continuing to pray for him…I’m not sure what wells up faster; the Father’s pride or the tears that are produced by listening to this noble young man of immense character.

I wanted to get this update in the mail this morning as I am going to be unavailable for the next 10 days, literally running from airport to airport…busy, but missing Sam and Erin…Sam has an infection of colonized bacteria that the doctors have told Erin he may have for the rest of his life…Erin and I are in agreement that it is in error…and we intend to pray that bacteria away…won’t you please join us in that accord? We say that bacteria has no chance against the healing power of God brought about by the prayers of the many…(and that is YOU!!!) Thank you and God Bless….
Much love,

P.S. Notice the “thumbs up” Sam is flashing in the pic [FLICKR Photo]…and in one Sam is “tickling” Erin’s cheek…

sam tickling erin_4_25_08_kentfieldSam’s medical status:

4/22/2008 – Erin likes to play a game with Sam’s brother Donny and his girlfriend Brandy called Mad-libs. It’s one of those games where you make up a story by each person adding words to a frame work of half sentences. I hope that makes sense. Anyway—today Erin said she was playing the game with Sam and he was adding words using the alphabet board. She said he created some pretty funny sentences (the object of the game) with worlds like “Fudruckers” the letter “O” for “something round”. He made about twenty words in the game they played today.

Sam and Erin took a field trip today back to Marin General for a CT scan. Erin thought he might be having petite-mal seizures because he occasionally goes off into a blank stare. The trip only took about 45 minutes total and then they were back at Kentfield doing Sam’s physical therapy.

4/28/2008 – Yesterday when my wife spoke with Erin, she said Sam had a fever of 103 and was being put back on antibiotics. Hopefully this won’t be as serious as the last fever he had.

An Email from Samuel Nichols: I received an email from a young man named Samuel Nichols from Ramona, CA today. He was “googling” himself and came across this blog. He took the time to write me a very nice email and wanted to share a scripture (Job 14: 7-9)

For there is hope for a tree,
If it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And that its tender shoots will not cease.
Though its root may grow old in the earth,
And its stump may die in the ground,
Yet at the scent of water it will bud
And bring forth branches like a plant…

And this is what Sam “Kenneth” Nichols wanted to share with those of us who are praying for Sam:

These are the words of God to Sam as he lies in his bed. And also, these are what may comfort all who love him, to know that God is on Sam’s side, and that when he comes back, he will thrive as if like a new bud. Like I said… I don’t know Sgt. Samuel Nichols, but I do know Him, the everlasting, hope-giving, life-fulfilling God, and He will renew Sam back to his fullest. I am praying for you all… – Samuel Kenneth Nichols

Bob Woodruff Video of being in a coma in Bethesda

March 3, 2008

Bob Woodruff Family Fund:  This is an interesting video of the ABC news anchor, Bob Woodruff talking about being in a coma for 36 days after he was hit by an IED in Iraq.  The video is about 5 minutes long.  Don’t miss the last minute of the video where he talks about what he believes brought him out of the coma.  I think you will see why Sam has come along as far as he has.

You can read more about Bob Woodruff and the Bob Woodruff Family Fund that was established to raise awareness of the war’s signature injuries, TBI and PTSD by clicking here.

Erin’s Heroes:  I was perusing Erin’s MySpace web page the other day and came across the section: “Erin’s Interest”.  I wanted to share with all of you the “Hero’s” section, which of course, brought a tear to her father’s eye:

erin's heros from her myspace page

Sam’s medical status:  Sam’s liver count has improved to a point where he can be transported to Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital.  This move should occur this Wednesday baring any unforeseen circumstances.  As I mentioned before, Sam will be at Kentfield for at least eight weeks, and afterwards, may be sent back to the VA hospital in Palo Alto or possibly the VA hospital in Livermore, Ca. 

Erin is pretty excited about the move to Kentfield but will be very sad to leave the wonderful people at the Palo Alto VA hospital behind.  She feels like they are a part of her family and (and I’m sure Sam) will miss the daily interaction with the therapist, nurses and doctors. 

Erin is going to be staying in an apartment in San Anselmo which is about a ten minute drive from the hospital in Kentfield.  It will be about the same size as the room she has at the Fisher House at the hospital in Palo Alto.  The apartment is furnished and overlooks a beautiful grove of trees.  Erin visited the apartment on Thursday and feels she will be very comfortable there.

As I was talking to Erin this morning, I heard lots of chatter going on in the background.  Erin told me Sam was doing his punching therapy.  His right shoulder has gotten much stronger lately and he was punching a padded target that the physical therapist was holding up.  Erin said he’s been working on his jab and right cross!

When I was in church this past weekend listening to the 2nd reading from Ephesians 5:8-14, I got chills when I heard the following verses:

Awake, O sleeper,
arise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light!

Pray with us for a safe and “healing” trip for Sam to Kentfield.

Hidden Wounds of Iraq and Afghanistan

January 21, 2008

scars from IraqScars from Iraq:  There’s an interesting article on the msnbc web site titled, 1 in 5 returning troops may have brain injury.  Many of our troops are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with not only missing limbs, burns and bullet wounds, but also some injuries that are not easy to see like PTSD and TBI.  In the same article there is an audio slide show entitled Scars from Iraq.  Some returning troops are interviewed about their struggles to return back to a normal life after sustaining various injuries in the Middle East.  The interviews were very interesting and well done.  Please watch them when you have time.  We need to understand the struggles and sacrifices our troops are making for our country. 

Blog from Iraq:  Sam was mentioned in one of the leading military blogs Badgers Forward recently.  It was a note from Sam’s father, Eric.  The men of Kilo Battery have quite a connection with the the author of this blog (he is an Army Captain stationed in Iraq) because he was at the memorial service for the three Marines and Navy Corpsman who were killed in the IED blast that injured Sam.  See the Fallen Heroes of Kilo tab in this blog for his description of the memorial service in Iraq.

Administrative Notes:  I’ve updated the “Sam’s Status” page, which can be accessed from the top menu on this site.  If you would like to get an overall picture of Sam and Erin’s journey from the beginning up to this point in time, check out that page.

We’ve also gone over 50,000 hits on this blog as of about 5:30PM on Thursday.  The number is a little misleading because there are about 125 people who receive the blog updates via email.  In either case, the numbers are still a testament to the many faithful friends, family and well wishers who continue to check up on Sam and Erin on a regular basis. 

I also want to mention, or remind all of you that you can leave comments related to each post.  Many of you already do this on a regular basis, and it is very comforting to get notes from all of you.  To leave a comment for any post that is made on the blog, go to the bottom of the blog post and click on the word “comment”.  You’ll be taken to a page where you can leave your note for Sam, Erin and family.

Erin reads the notes to Sam on a regular basis, so if/when you feel like it, leave them a note of encouragement, a prayer or just tell them you are thinking of them.  Erin will be sure to read it to Sam. 

Meeting with the doctor this week:  Erin will be having a meeting this week with the doctors, social workers and therapist concerning Sam and where he should go for further treatment.  The meeting won’t be to make a decision on where he will be going next;  they will just be exploring the options that are available to them.  Erin said the people at the VA hospital aren’t in any hurry to get Sam out of there and in to a new hospital by a certain date, so there is still lot of time to pray and make the best decision for Sam.

Sam’s medical status: 

Saturday January 19th, 2008:  Today my family spent the day with Erin and Sam.  I could tell right away that Sam’s eye tracking has improved quite a bit.  When we first came in the door, he turned towards us and looked directly at us.  When I said hi to him, he looked directly into my eyes.  This may be crazy, but even though Sam can’t really speak, I almost felt like he was looking inside me.  It felt like a connection that’s deeper that words.  When he looked at me, I felt like the expression on his face was telling me, “I’m here and I want to talk to you so bad!”.  He did show us his “uh-huh” word and said it over and over for us.  Erin said in therapy this week, Sam was trying to say another word, or at least part of one…”fuh, fuh, fuh…”.  I’m sure he was trying to tell Erin he was having “fuhn”….right?

Friday January 18th, 2008:  Sam’s backside wound, which was about 2 centimeters deep as of a few weeks ago, was checked today and it was around 1 centimeter deep.  The VA DSCF0098doctors have been keeping Sam from doing a few therapies lately (like the standing frame) because his wound hasn’t been healing like it should.  Hopefully things are now going in the right direction.  Sam’s right heel wound has also been healing nicely. 

Sam got new glasses on Thursday.  Erin said he likes the way they look at feel.  Erin took Sam for a stroll outside in his wheelchair today.  He liked being outside but it was pretty cold so they weren’t out long.

Wednesday January 16th, 2008:  Sam threw a tennis ball at Donny (his brother).  Erin said it was appropriate because Donny threw the ball at Sam first :-).  All kidding aside, Erin said Sam is doing much better at throwing the ball.  I guess I just needed a little brotherly rivalry to get him going.  Along with Sam’s improved pitching with his right arm, his left arm has been getting much better too.  It was curling up quite a bit but is doing much better.

Thank you Wendy for sharing these bible verses with us:

”Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.”
I Peter 5:7

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5

New TBI Tab in Weblog

November 18, 2007

Kilo Battery firing the big gun
Here’s a picture of KILO Battery firing the big gun in the California Desert.  Can you pick out Sam?  I can’t. 

Why join the Marines now?   When I was in high school trying to figure out what I was going to do for the rest of my life, I stopped by the Marine Corps recruiting station.  I still remember the Marine recruiter (a woman) telling me over and over; “Ant-nee, we’ve got the program for you!”—she had quite the southern drawl. 

I never made it into the Marines but did spend five years in the Air Force of which I am very proud.  I read a recent article in about why young men (and women) still join the Marines—knowing they will very quickly end up in either Iraq or Afghanistan.  It’s an interesting article that delves into the psychic of our young men and women.  Click here to read more…

TBI Articles tab in weblog TBI Articles on the Internet:   I’ve added another page to this weblog entitled “TBI Articles”.  It will be a cumulative listing of various articles I’ve found on the web dealing with TBI (traumatic brain injury), Coma, MCS (minimally conscious state) and Veterans news as it relates to the previously mentioned subjects.  I’ll be updating the page at least once a week, but I have the source document hyperlink listed also which is an on-line “Google Doc”.  It can be viewed at: Doc-id=ddc4gdn8_2ds967r and the latest updates can be viewed as soon as I make them.  It is my hope that other people needing the same type of information will be able to use this document as a source for their research. 

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

 Coming in the next blog post:  I don’t usually give teasers about my next blog post, but Erin usually doesn’t suggest blog topics, so I thought this was important enough to give you a little preview. 

Learn about the HP Alliance and the DARFUR Fast on December 5th, 2007December 5th is a really big day for the Harry Potter Alliance of which Erin is a member.  If you click on the graphic to the right, it will take you to a cause that Erin is very passionate about.  She would like us to get the word out to everyone—and of course participate.   This is our chance, with very little effort, to make an incredible difference in the lives of people who are living in a constant nightmare.  More to come on this.

Sam’s medical status:

Sunday November 18th, 2007:  Sam’s mother was visiting today.  Sam was being very animated and giving lots of “i love you” (signing). 

Erin stepped out a little today and went to a local bible church.  She said she felt very welcome and is excited about going back. 

Saturday November 17th, 2007: Erin and Sam’s dad Eric had lunch (turkey sandwiches) today, complements of the American Legion.  There is usually some charitable organization that comes in on the weekend at the VA hospital and cooks lunch or dinner for the patients and their family.  Last weekend when we were visiting Sam and Erin, there was a local Baptist church who put on quite an elaborate barbecue.  They even had a bluegrass band playing in the courtyard.  That was Veterans Day weekend by the way. 

Erin said today after saying the “Lords Prayer” and then “amen”, she heard Sam make a sound.  She thought he was trying to say “amen” along with her. I’m sure this is just the start!  She said Sam was looking real good today and was very alert.

Friday November 16th, 2007:  The plastic surgeon debred Sam’s backside wounds today.  He told Erin that the wound-vac treatment is not a good idea at this time.  They will continue the debreeding of the wounds over the next week or two until it is totally clean.  They just want to make sure it is done right so there are no complications when the wound-vac begins.  The good news is the stage 1 & 2 wounds are looking much better.  The occupational and spinal chord therapist will be getting together to figure out a way to pad a wheelchair so that Sam can use it.

The Real Stars

October 19, 2007

Welcome back Kilo Battery (America’s true heroes):  I am very happy to announce that Sam’s battery (Kilo 3/12) has completed their seven month deployment in Iraq and arrived today back at Camp Pendelton. 

In honor of these men and the service they have performed for our country, I’d like to offer to you the following video.  I’m not a great fan of Fox News, but this interview with Ben Stein should be seen and heard by all Americans.

Sometimes people who read this blog don’t realize they can leave comments related to a post or a page on the blog, so I wanted to make sure everyone saw the comments left by a friend of Sam’s mother who commented on my previous post:

My grandson is only 3 years old, and his daddy has just recently returned from Iraq, so I understand that knot in your stomach that wants to make you sick when the heroes are not there for you to give a hug to daily.

My Grandson has a “thing” he does EVERY time he sees the flag—he yells to anybody around “there is our flag, puts his tiny hand on his forehead above his eyebrow and yells, SAAALUUUUTE!” and he looks around to make sure everybody around him, looks at the flag.

I dedicate this salute to you Sam.  Thank you for making my 3 year old Grandson recognize the flag that you and all the other heroes like you help keep us respecting our flag and what it stands for;  that is so often forgotten.

It is an honor and a blessing to have men and women like you both on my side.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  My husband is a retired Marine—he said, “Semper Fi Buddy…Semper Fi!.”

Sam’s medical status: 

Wednesday October 17th, 2007:  Sam scored a 15 on the CRS (coma recovery scale).  His previous rating was an 11 a few weeks ago.  Sam’s trach tube was capped 6 hours today.  

Thursday October 18th, 2007:  Sam was capped (trach tube) for 10 hours today.  Sunday they’ll cap him for 24 hours.  Next week they will probably pull the trach tube for good.  His coughing has really subsided the last three days which means they have not had stick that suction device down his trach tube which really is uncomfortable for Sam. 

Erin and the therapist are working on more signing for Sam.  Specifically, hold up one finger for yes and two fingers for no.  He’s getting real good and manipulating his right hand and arm.  Sam’s brother Donny was also working with Sam on the one finger/two finger thing, except with a little different meaning.  Donny says something like, “what number are you Sam?” and Sam holds up one finger.  Then Donny ask, “what number am I?” and Sam holds up two fingers. 

Friday October 19th, 2007:  Sam is still on a daily dosage of Ritalin at 5mg, but he will be getting twice that much starting next week.

The one finger for yes and two fingers for no signing is working out really well for Sam.  It’s easy for him to do as opposed to the thumbs up and thumbs down method.  It’s also more reliable and Erin gets a quicker response from Sam when she asked him questions.  The signing allows her and Sam to communicate much better than they ever have. 

Sam still can’t drink anything, but Erin has been giving him “taste” of various beverages.  Today she gave him a taste of coffee (using her finger, I believe).  She asked him if he wanted more and he gave the “one-finger-yes” sign a few more times.  After a while, Sam just started raising the one finger—meaning;  keep bringing on the coffee!  She later had a “monster energy drink” and asked Sam if he wanted a taste, and he grabbed the can from her!  Sam still can’t swallow because of the trach tube but the taste of various drinks helps to stimulate his senses. 

Erin had a talk with Sam’s doctor and she mentioned that she didn’t think Sam’s speech therapy was being very productive, so they are making some changes to his routine.  The doctor brought in 30 canisters of various smells and they went through the routine, “do you like this smell?” —and Sam would give them either one finger or two.  He was much more attentive through the therapy.  Erin also made a suggestion that they use construction paper to cut out pictures of the various smells in the canisters.  They will be using them to provide not only an olfactory but a visual stimulation during Sam’s therapy.   Dr. Erin is so smart! :-)

Bible Quote from our friend Larry Wiseman:

Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying, behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh:  is there any thing too hard for me?

Jeremiah 26-27

Tribute to our Nation

September 21, 2007

Sam’s medical status: When I called Erin on Wednesday, Sam was in the middle of his physical therapy session.  He’s doing a really good job responding to the request of the physical therapist.  When requested, he lifted his right arm up (by himself) about eight inches.  Thursday Julie said he was lifting his arm up more by himself.  To tell you how much of an improvement that is, when I was there on Sunday, he was just starting to move his arm a little.  This was all done with his right arm.  His left arm and fingers seem to be healing at a slower pace.  He’s also starting to really get animated with his mouth—he keeps opening his mouth like he really wants to say something.  I’m sure once the tracheotomy tube is removed, he’s going to have quite a bit to say.  I can’t wait to hear his first words!

It’s so incredible the progress Sam has made in recent weeks.  I get so many emails from people in my church, Eric’s church, Greg, family, friends, Soldier’s Angels, and many others.  The miracle continues!

And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

Matthew 8:13

Meeting the neighbors:  On Tuesday Erin and Julie met Derrick and Nichol.  Derrick is a Marine recovering at the VA hospital after an IED exploded near him while serving in Iraq in April of this year.  He was in a coma for 58 days.  Erin met them while walking down the hall.  Derrick was another one of the guys the doctor said wasn’t going to live…he still has a long road ahead, but he’s walking down the hall and doing really well for himself.  

I don’t think there is an official word on how long Sam was in a coma—as I said, there really wasn’t a moment when he just “woke up” from the coma.  But—if you count from July 24th until the doctors in Palo Alto said he was no longer considered in a coma (September 15th) that would be 55 days.  

More Blog changes:  A couple of people have asked me for Sam and Erin’s new address in Palo Alto.  I did update their address and you can get to it by clicking on the “About Sam and Erin” menu tab at the top of the blog—but, since it’s a little hidden, I’ve also included it as a “widget” on the right hand column of this site under “Sam and Erin’s address:” where it’s much easier to find.  I’ve also added a “search” widget to the site so you can search on a particular word and all the blog post with that word will appear.

One more reminder on changes to the blog—If you click on the “Palo Alto VA Hospital” menu tab next to the “About Sam & Erin” tab, you’ll be directed to a page that gives you directions and a couple of maps to the VA hospital in Palo Alto.  I talked to a couple of the people that work at the hospital and they say the directions I’ve given are the best, even though when you look at it on a map, it doesn’t seem like the most direct route.  But—I’ve been told it is the best route to miss most of the bay area traffic.  With moderate traffic, the I-80 to 680 to 280 route takes about 2 1/2 hours from Citrus Heights. 

Kilo Battery Homecoming:  The boys in Kilo Battery (Sam’s battery) are coming home in October.  Let’s continue to pray for their safe return.  I’d like to dedicate the video in at the end of this post to the guys in Kilo.  You are the keepers of the flame that stand for liberty and freedom and for everything that makes this nation great!

A video is worth a thousand words:  I’ve been meaning to share this with you closer to 9/11, but so many important events in Sam and Erin’s lives has been happening.  But—it’s time to take a few minutes to reflect on our great nation:  This is a one minute video that was aired one time only during the superbowl after the 9/11 attack.  Budweiser aired it only once because they didn’t want to make any profit from it.  I’ve never seen it until now.  I’ve watched it about ten times now and it always brings tears to my eyes.  Erin told me once before that Budweiser is a huge supporter of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. 


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.