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,
Eric

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”].


Treating our Severely Injured Troops Closer to Home

April 8, 2008

ABC Newsman Bob Woodruff says U.S troops should have the same care he received, and at facilities closer to their families. Mr Woodruff has literally walked in Sam’s shoes. While reporting in Iraq two years ago, he suffered traumatic brain injury after being hit by a road side bomb. He spent a few months at the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center and then was transferred to a hospital closer to his home in New York.

The military currently treats our wounded warriors with traumatic brain injury in only one of four military hospitals dispersed throughout the United States. While staying at the Palo Alto VA Polytrama center, Erin met families from all over the western United States—Oregon, Washington, Colorado and even Alaska.

Bob Woodruff and his wife Lee, recently spoke at a fundraiser for the Drake Center, a rehabilitative hospital in Cincinnati. One of their main points was that our military personal with TBI need to be sent to private facilities closer to their family. It has been a long and hard struggle for both the Nichols and Neria family having to drive back and forth to Palo Alto and now Kentfield on a weekly basis. Although there have been some wonderful military charities that has helped us with travel expenses, the military doesn’t provide anything to the families of our wounded troops. The least they can do is send our wounded to facilities closer to their home.

To read the full story about the Woodruff’s visit to the Drake Center, click here…

Sam’s medical status: Yesterday Sam was transported back to the Kentfield Rehabilitation hospital from Marin General Hospital. Erin said he seemed a little apprehensive and nervous when he arrived back. After a few of the nurses came in to say hi, he started to recognize them and felt much better.

Because everything he’s gone through in the past week, Sam has taken a few steps backwards. Erin said he kept telling her he was bored at Marin General and she thinks that was making him more lethargic. He’s going to be put back on an increasing regime of bromocriptine which was stimulating his speaking before last week. Erin expects after a full week of therapy and his new drug, he’ll be back to improving. Remember, before he got sick he was really starting to hit another level of consciousness.

The doctors at Marin General did find something very interesting. Occasionally it has been thought that Sam has had pneumonia because of a mass that has been seen in the lower left lobe of his lung. The doctors at Marin General determined that this was actually a part of his spleen (it was removed in Germany due to his injuries). The actual cause of his fever this past week was mostly due to a urinary tract infection which is now under control. He still has pseudomonas which is a bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections and/or systemic infections—but it is under control.

Sam_bethesda_ICUBernadine's visit to Sam and Erin at Marin General II 4_4_08

Now for an explanation of the pictures—I didn’t share any pictures of Sam for the first 6 months that I’ve maintained this blog. I just didn’t feel comfortable because I knew the pictures were so bad. The picture above on the left was taken after Sam came out of ICU at the Bethesda National Naval Medical Center in August of last year. As you can see, he was pretty bad off at the time. I remember when I first came in to see him, I had to leave the room occasionally because I got so emotional seeing him with all the tubes and wires hanging from him. The picture on the right was taken on Friday by my friend Bernadine. Sam was still not feeling too good, but he was still impressive. I’ll let Bernadine (who I consider my big sister) tell the story of her visit:

Kelley and I took off for the bay area yesterday around 9 so we could stop in Marin County to see Erin & Sam…….I got there while she was in the bathroom, and I was so happy to see Sam so alert, and went in and ran up to his bed and gave him a kiss telling him who it was and he seemed visibly aware I was there for sure! Then Erin came in and she got him to say my name!! very cool!!

He cracks me up the way he does his blowing [see the FLICKR photo to the right], she said he does that to piss her off, ha……..but she also thinks it comes from all the practice of blowing to learn speech! She asked him all sorts of questions to which he signed yes or no…Dr. Erin filled me in on a lot and told me she is going back to school to study Physical Therapy………….she is truly amazing [she hopes to go to Stanford].

I know its hard on Tony, as it was on my mom and dad, to realized the life you thought your daughter would have is not quite as expected [Bernadine has TWO special needs daughters!]. But I also truly believe Erin has accepted this cross in her life with so much love and grace, she will walk along with our Lord all the way, and she will be okay. It was so great to see the progress Sam HAS made…

Yes—Bernadine made me cry when I read that. Bernadine was on her way to Redwood City with her daughter Kelley, 18, for an appointment at Kaiser. Kelley is going to be having brain surgery soon to help relieve the seizures she has been having for much of her life. Keep Bernadine and Kelley in your prayers.


Join me and stand with our veterans

November 29, 2007

IAVA_Action Alert_Stand With Our Veterans

Some of our injured troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are facing a ridiculous and unnecessary obstacle. Because they have been discharged early, they are not receiving their full enlistment bonuses. Some are even be asked to return payments they have already received.

A new bill that would ensure this does not continue is gaining momentum in Congress, and lawmakers need to hear from civilians who support it. We can help our nations’ veterans on this critical issue.

Please take a minute to send a message to your representatives, and tell them you support this bill. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has made it easy – just visit www.iava.org 

The department of defense has known about this issue for many months and continues to do nothing.  Please go to the link above and send a letter to your representatives.  The link pretty much does all the work for you.  You only need to add your address and an email will be sent automatically to the correct local congressional representatives in your area.   The link also allows you to pass this information on to other friends in your address book if you wish.

Directions to the VA Hospital in Palo Alto:  I received a request from a couple of Marines in Sam’s battery asking for directions to the VA hospital in Palo Alto from Camp Pendelton in Oceanside.  That lead me to update the page titled “Palo Alto VA” that you can find as a tab menu at the top of this blog.  If you click on that tab, there will be a new section titles “Directions from Camp Pendelton / Oceanside”.  If you scroll down further, there will be “Directions from the Sacramento Area”.  I’ve also added links to Google Maps which will give you more detailed directions and maps from both locations.

Special Visit from Doc Hansen:  In my August 12th post, I wrote about the Navy Corpsman Doc Hansen who was the first person to give medical treatment to Sam and who probably saved his life.  Yesterday Doc Hanson came up from Camp Pendelton to visit Sam and Erin.  As always, we are so honored that the Doc and other members of Kilo Battery have taken the time to come up and visit.

Christmas Gift Idea for Erin and Sam:  A couple of people have asked me about Christmas gift ideas for Sam and Erin, so I wanted to share a couple of ideas with you.  Luckily Erin doesn’t have a lot of expenses, but she is starting to drive up to Sacramento, so I thought a gas gift card might be very handy for her.  If you are Chevron Gift Card looking for a gift for Sam and Erin’s family as a whole (to help with ever increasing transportation and lodging expenses), a gas card sent to Erin would also be very helpful.  Many of us drive down once a week from Sacramento to Palo Alto which means about $50.00 in gas per trip.  Erin could even use the gift cards as Christmas presents for her family so she doesn’t have to dip into her savings.  If you are interested, here is a link to the Chevron Gift Card web site, or I’m sure you could pick up their gift card at a Chevron station.  Why did I pick Chevron?  They are involved in the Marine Corps “Toys for Tots” program, so I thought it was a nice way to thank them for their participation in this worthy cause.

Sam’s medical status: 

Thursday November 29th, 2007:  Speech therapy went well today; although Sam still is only able to make a few grunts here and there.  He is still doing very well at answering the questions of the therapist with his finger signing.

Sam got weighed today and is at 163.8 lbs.  He’s gained back the two pounds he lost in the last few weeks when he was having stomach flu type symptoms.  His urinary tract infection test also came back negative.

Tuesday November 27th, 2007:  Doc Hanson bought Sam a whistle to help him with his speech therapy.  Erin said Sam did get a couple of sounds out of it.  There were also lots of other visitors today—Aunt Dean, Uncle Charles and Julie’s cousin Terri from Northern Idaho.  Also Sam’s brother and girlfriend were in town visiting.  It’s so nice to be surrounded by love!

Happy birthday Erin (she’s 24 today)…we ALL love you!


The Harry Potter Alliance and the DARFUR Fast

November 22, 2007

Harry Potter Alliance_Darfur Fast
It is Thanksgiving Day, and we are in Palo Alto with Erin and Sam.  This is not a sad day—we have so much to be thankful for.  Sam is alive and improving (although very slowly) every day.

On Saturday it will be four months since Sam was injured.  I still get sick to my stomach when I remember back to that first phone call from Erin.  She said the neurologist told her Sam was in a coma and if he ever woke up, he would remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.  

Sam was originally a “3” on the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) when he arrived in Bethesda—“3” being the lowest possible score on a scale of 3 to 15.  After two months, he was considered to be out of the coma (“12” on the GCS) but in a minimally conscious state (MCS).  His Coma Recovery Scale (revised) score, when first taken in Palo Alto, was a “7” on a scale of 1 to 23.  His latest score was a “20”!  The only reason he wasn’t a 23 was because he couldn’t  speak.  Last night, as I was standing next to him by his bed side, Sam looked right at me, opened his mouth and repeatedly tried to say something.  I only heard a few grunts, but he sure was trying to tell me something!  I’ll bet he was going to say, “I’m going to beat this thing”.

We are so very thankful for all the love and support and prayer from all of you.  I know God is working a miracle in Sam’s life.  With your continued prayers, I know the miracle will continue and he will eventually have a full recovery.

DARFUR FastNever Again On Our Watch:  As I mentioned in my last post, Erin is a member of the Harry Potter Alliance which is coming together for an event called the DARFUR Fast.  On the Fast Day (December 5th) you are encouraged to fast from some item that you normally eat or drink (for example, your $3.60 latte from Starbucks) and instead, donate that money to the cause. 

There are 2.5 million Sundanese in refuge camps (mostly women and children).  The men committing the genocide (the Janjeweed, which are funded by the Sundanese government) attack and rape the women when they have to go outside of the confines of the refuge camps to gather wood to cook their food.  Every $3.00 donated to the cause (of which 100% will go to the refuges) will help protect a woman in one of the refuge camps (which are mostly across the border in Chad) from rape and attack for a year.  To read more about HP Alliance involvement in the DARFUR Fast, click here

on our watch_pbs.org
Do you know why the Summer Olympics is being dubbed the “Genocide Olympics” or what it’s like to live at the gates of hell?  If you are interested in learning more about the genocide occurring in Darfur, and the grass roots effort to stop it, there is a very informative documentary on PBS’s Frontline, called On Our Watch that does a fantastic job of explaining the complex issues associated with this modern day catastrophe.  You can watch the complete documentary from the PBS web site.  There is also an HBO Documentary titled Sand and Sorrow, narrated by George Clooney, premiering on Thursday, December 6th that further explains this issue.  

Sam’s medical status:  A couple of guys from Kilo dropped by to see Sam and Erin; Cpl Young and Doc Farrell.

Erin had a meeting with the director of the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System a few days ago.  They are working with patients and family of patients to ensure they are providing the best possible care possible in the Polytrauma center. 

Sam was put on an IV on Tuesday because of a urinary tract infection.  Erin said it’s one of the bad infections like he had in Bethesda.

Erin found out yesterday that Sam can read!  She was doing word and picture association with Sam (holding up various pictures of objects along with a picture of the written words associated with the objects and he was able to tell her when there was a match and when the word and object did not match.

Another interesting thing Erin noted was that Sam is able to tell what day it is.  Again, through “1 finger for yes and 2 fingers for no” she has determined that from day to day, he knows what day of the week we are in and the actual date; another great sign his cognative skills are improving.

Sam received a wound-vac yesterday so he will hopefully be on his way to healing his backside; which in turn means, he will be able to get into a wheelchair and also be able to participate in other types of physical therapy. 


Veterans Day at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto

November 12, 2007

Veterans Day at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto:  Saturday was very special for our family.  We got to spend it together with Sam at the VA Hospital.  I was so grateful that my other daughter (Allison) spent Thursday through Saturday with Erin and Sam.  You have all heard how wonderful Erin is in dealing with Sam, but Allison also has a very special gift in the way she cares him. 

Joey’s gift to Erin and Ali:  Both Erin and Ali grew up babysitting a very special cousin named Joey who has Angelman Syndrome (AS).  I know Joey’s parents adore my daughters and are very thankful that they have been a big part of Joey’s life.  I can’t help but think that the love, understanding and acceptance they have for Joey has helped shape the beautiful and caring personalities they have today.  In a very special way, Joey has taught Erin and Allison how to look beyond the surface of what they see and look into a person’s heart instead. 

HeroBracelet worn by Kilo Battery

boots_helmut_rifle_memorial Remembering our fallen heroes on Veterans Day: Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Corporal James McRae, Corporal Matthew Zindars, Lance Corporal Robert Lynch and Hospitalman Daniel Noble who lost their lives on July 24, 2007 while on convoy duty with Sam in the Dilyala province of Iraq.  I know it is especially painful for the Noble family as Daniel’s birthday falls on Veterans Day.  The Marines of Kilo Battery wear a black Fallen Hero Bracelet (see graphic) with the names of their four buddies who died on July 24th. 

Please take a few minutes to view their memorial page on this weblog and think about these men who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.  There is a special note from an Army officer who attended their memorial service in Iraq.  He is the author of the weblog Badgers Forward.  To the fallen Hero’s of Kilo Battery, Erin left you this note on October 23, 2007 after Kilo Battery returned from Iraq:

Your brothers are home safe with their families.  Now you can rest.

Visit from Seniors 4 Soldiers:  A special thanks to Amanda from Seniors 4 Soldiers who drove all the way down from Lincoln, Ca. to visit Sam and Erin.  I am always amazed at the kindness and caring of people like Amanda who put so much time into helping others. 

 Sam’s medical status: 

Friday November 9th, 2007:  Erin said they had an exciting afternoon.  Allison (Erin’s sister) is staying with her a few days.  This afternoon Sam was being very animated.  He was trying to sit up in the bed.  He was being very animated with his mouth.  Erin took the opportunity to have Sam brush his teeth (with a little help from Erin).  He was also taking Erin and Ali’s picture with her camera (again with a little help from Erin).  Sam also was able to move his arm all the way to the top of his head.

Saturday November 10th, 2007:  Today my whole family spent the day with Sam.  Sam’s father Eric was also visiting.  It has been two weeks since I saw Sam and I really have noticed a positive change in him.  The most dramatic change has been in his “look”, or the way he looks at people and objects.  In the past, he has had (for lack of a better description) a sort of “start off into space” look about him.  But I’ve noticed (as has Erin and others) he is becoming more focused—almost like he’s really concentrating on you and trying to figure you out.

Sunday November 11th, 2007:  Sam is staying awake more through the afternoon.  It looks like his new medicine is working well.  This week the doctors will be working on getting his backside in shape so they can get him back up and into a wheel chair.  I’m sure that getting him out of his room for a while each day will speed up his recovery.  I can’t wait for the day when Erin can wheel him over to the Fisher house and they can spend some time together in her room.


How to treat a soldier

November 6, 2007

I read a wonderful story from Marine Corps Moms weblog that reminded me of the wonderful people in the Maine Troop Greeters who cheer on our troops as they leave and return from Iraq and Afghanistan at the Dover International Airport. The story originally comes from My San Antonio and shows what “real class” means:

Last Wednesday, while flying from Phoenix to the Alamo City on U.S. Airways Flight 207, a San Antonio man, Gil Anderson, witnessed something memorable.
Shortly before takeoff, he overheard a flight attendant tell a young uniformed soldier sitting in front of him:

“A lady in first-class wants to switch seats with you.”

The soldier accepted the offer and walked up to the first-class section.

“When the lady came back to our area, I had a tear in my eye,” Anderson said when he phoned this column soon after his plane landed. “I gave her a little round of applause.”

“Then, by golly, everybody in that area started applauding,” he said in a voice tinged with emotion. “It was a very moving moment.”

Acknowledging the applause of Anderson and the other passengers, the first-class lady said simply:

“I did it because he deserves it.”

Wow—what a classy lady! Speaking of class, read on:

Karen's party for Erin

This past weekend one of Erin’s former employers, Karen, drove down to Palo Alto with a few other ladies and gave a little luncheon for Erin. The luncheon was held at the Fisher House which is across the street from Sam’s room on the grounds of the VA hospital.

Thank you so much Karen for giving Erin a little respite. What an incredibly nice thing to do! She told me she really enjoyed the afternoon.

Sam’s medical status:

Sunday November 4th, 2007: Erin has been working with teaching Sam to perform some basic grooming. She got him to hold a comb, and with a little help, he is combing his hair. He’s also doing a pretty good job at putting on his own lip balm. Erin got some Carmex and Sam can dip his finger in the little jar, and again with a little help from Erin, he will spread it over his lips and then wipe the excess off on his gown.

Monday November 5th, 2007: Sam got a hair cut today from Erin. She said it looks pretty good except she’s not quite sure about the back of his head.

Sam is off “contact isolation” which means visitors will no longer need to wear a gown and gloves when they go into his room. They will be moving him out of this room temporarily, scrub it all down, and then move him back in. He’ll also be getting a new bed that is very state-of-the art. Erin said it has all kinds of air pockets and the middle of the bed looks sort of like a sand pit. I guess it actually has sand inside the air pockets and it somehow makes for a softer feel. The point of the new bed will be to help Sam’s backside heal quicker.

Tuesday November 6th, 2007: Sam was having stomach trouble yesterday and they had to put him on an IV, but today he’s much better. He did get his new bed today. Erin said it sort of looks like a “Crocodile Mile” Slip-n-Slid…she said you have to see to get the idea.


What to do on Veterans Day

November 3, 2007

How about thanking a veteran for their service to our country? Or better yet, check your local paper and find out what type of Veterans Day events are happening in your local area.  Is there a parade down main street or a ceremony at the local cemetery?  Maybe you could go down to your local veterans memorial and spend some time thinking about the sacrifice our troops have made for our country. 

veterans day parade Both of my daughters were in high school ROTC so they were always involved in some sort of honor guard activity on Veteran’s Day at a local cemetery.  I attended some very beautiful and heartwarming ceremonies that were put on by the local VFW post, but I’ve never seen very much participation from the local community.  Wouldn’t it be great if people were standing shoulder to shoulder at these events?

About five years ago I had the honor of having dinner with a veteran of World War II.  I believe he was around 85 at the time (he has since died).  I remember he was so proud that he served his country and could recall vivid details of his duties as a Seaman in the Navy.  The conversation eventually got around to the battles he was in while fighting the Japanese in the pacific.  He started to tell me about the buddies he lost but before saying much, he paused, put his face into his hands, and quietly wept for a few minutes.  The memories were so raw, even after 52 years! 

My father was in the Air Force for 20 years.  He sacrificed so much— spent two tours of duty in South Korea and two in Vietnam.  He also was TDY more times than I could count.  I want to thank him for his duty to our country.  My father has always been my hero and the man I look up to the most in this world.  I’m so proud to call him my father.  

Sam’s medical status:

Saturday November 3rd, 2007:  Today four of Sam’s Marine buddies came to visit.  They’ve just recently returned from a seven month deployment in Iraq.  I can’t even imagine the hell they have been through. 

Sam was having a pretty hard day today and took a lot of naps, but he did tell Erin (through his yes/no finger signing) that he did recognize the guys from Kilo Battery and he was glad that they came to visit.

Thursday November 1st, 2007:  There is a massage therapist that comes in once a week to work on the boys.  Erin got a massage too, so I’m sure that felt really good with her raging cold.  She’s wearing mask, gloves and a gown so that she won’t give Sam her cold.  We are still required to wear gowns and gloves around Sam. 

The therapist were working hard to get Sam’s left arm straightened out.  He was in lots of pain while they were working on him.  They’ll be giving him some anti-inflammatory medicine to help with the soreness he is feeling in his arm.