Supporting our troops is an action not a slogan

June 13, 2009

tweet_to_remind_300x200Back in November of 2008 I read a heartwarming story in the Sacramento Bee of the homecoming of Army Spc. Trevor Hogue who made it back home to Granite Bay California from the Middle East.  All of Trevor’s family came to the Sacramento Airport to greet him and all were very excited to be there to greet him.  The article mentioned an older gentleman who, out of the blue, came up to thank Trevor for his service to our country.  I remember the article brought tears to my eyes. 

Trevor had just come back from spending 15 months in Baghdad and part of his assignment included driving a Humvee through the most dangerous part of the city.  Although Trevor came back from Iraq uninjured, he witnessed unthinkable horror when half of his platoon was blown up before his very eyes.  On June 11th, Trevor took own his life.  He was 24 years old.  Because Trevor’s death occurred after his discharge, his death is not included in the statistics for those killed in the war in Iraq.  Our hearts and prayers are with the Hogue family.

1.65 million U.S. service members have been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11. More than 35,000 service members have been physically wounded. It is estimated that more than 320,000 have sustained traumatic brain injuries and more than 300,000 have psychological wounds.

I don’t know about you, but when I walk down the street, I don’t see our injured service members.  Where is the guy with TBI or the guy with PTSD?  But you know what?…they are out there and they need our support!  Bob Woodruff of ABC’s "World News Tonight" and his wife Lee have taken on the challenge of reminding us that it is our job as American’s to take action in supporting our wounded warriors.  At their website , the banner reads “Support Our Troops”  is no longer a slogan. It’s an action.  They are trying to raise 1.65 million dollars, a goal which symbolizes 1 dollar for every soldier who has served since 9/11.  Their goal is to raise the money by July 4th Independence Day.  Won’t you TAKE ACTION in supporting our injured service members? 

From Lee Woodruff:
”Remember, no matter what you think about the war, this is about the warrior. It is about showing gratitude to the soldiers who left to serve and need help now that they are home. And it is about how we can come together as citizens, as neighbors, as a community and as a nation. The people who selflessly served are asking for our help, and helping is easier than ever.”

Returning to Normal Life: 

Before you read Eric’s (Sam’s dad) update on Sam, which he emailed to me a few days ago, I wanted to give you some up-to-the-minute news about Sam.  This morning at about 5:45AM we received a text message from Erin saying that Sam was being transported by ambulance from CareMeridian in Granite Bay to Sutter Roseville Emergency because he had a temperature of 105.  It’s about 8PM now and Sam has been admitted to the hospital for observation over the weekend.  He has a UTI that may have gone into his kidneys and possibly a mild case of pneumonia. His temperature was back down to normal about noon, and he seems to be doing well, but please pray for him.  PS:  the hospital staff at Sutter Roseville have been reminded by my wife Julie (over and over again) that they are taking care of a war hero…they have been wonderful to Sam and Julie said they are treating him like gold! 🙂

Tony (Erin’s dad)

Sam_June_2009 Sam’s journey thus far would not have been possible without God working through Erin. I’ve reported her drive and perseverance many times in my updates, and I know you can guess how we all feel about Erin. The love she shows my son is so moving, and motivational. Her desire is that Sam re-enter life, no matter what that looks like right now. Sam got to see his first movie at the local theatre this last Wednesday, accompanied by Erin of course, Donny, & Brandi. A wheel chair van was ordered at the appropriate time, delivered Sam to the theatre, and picked them up after for return to Care Meridian. No sushi bar yet, (one of Sam’s favorites) but that is coming. They saw Star Trek, and Sam seemed to enjoy himself. He didn’t remember the movie a few days later, but that is coming too…Friday he went to Supercuts to visit a friend that has cut his hair, (and the rest of us as well) for many years. See the picture taken last Saturday of his regulation haircut. He’s looking really sharp! One of his next outings will be a trip to my house with his brothers and family in lollypop_sam_june_2009 attendance. He grew up here and it should be very familiar for him. Erin continues to challenge him with conversation, questions, and trivia. She was telling him about the national spelling bee that she had watched, and he asked, "What was the championship word?" Sam has always been an outstanding speller, so Erin asked him to spell some of the words that the top 5 contestants went down spelling. To our amazement he spelled most of them with 100% accuracy. The shot of him getting to eat a dum-dum sucker in conjunction with speech therapy, is very exciting. He hasn’t been able to eat anything except by tube for the last 23 months. Erin said he loved the lollypop and I’m sure that eating will be just around the corner as well.

God Bless you all for your continued prayers on their behalf; for the notes of encouragement, the visits, and the interest in their progress. You are all an inspiration to me and the entire Nichols’ and Neria families…

Much Love,


Sam and Erin are Home!

May 24, 2009

National Memorial Day Concert

I received an email from one of the PBS producers of the National Memorial Day Concert requesting to use a picture of Sam and Erin  during one of their musical tributes to our wounded military.  I’m not sure at what point in the concert the picture will be shown, but here is the picture that will be used.  It was taken at the Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital on September 20th 2008.  Please check the PBS Website for the local time the concert will be shown on your local PBS station (I checked my local KVIE listing and didn’t see it in the schedule so it may not be shown in the local Sacramento area).  Regardless of whether or not you have time to view the concert, the website has a wonderful resource section titled Discover Ways to Sam and Erin_9_20_08_KentfieldHelp the Wounded and their Families.  The web site list many of the wonderful charities who have touched our family over the last 2 years.  We tend to think of our fallen hero’s on Memorial Day, but let us not forget the many wounded troops who have served our military faithfully.  It’s estimated that there are about 320,000 soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 who have experienced a traumatic brain injury.  Many also suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.  Many soldiers who have been deployed numerous times have been exposed to multiple blast injuries.  I would also like to take a few minutes to remember Sam’s buddies who died when the Humvee Sam was riding in blew up.  You can view a short bio on each of them on this blog in the Fallen Heroes of Kilo tab.   I’m sure this is a difficult time for their families.

Peace and Love,

And Blessings are New Everyday:  God’s never ending blessings and mercies continue to lead Sam and Erin through their journey to Sam’s restoration and healing. I reported last time that the military insurance company had denied Sam’s application to the rehab hospital that is just 10-15 minutes from our home in the Sacramento area. Their Marine Corps liaison approached the challenge through battalion, Care Meridian Granite Bay Californiathe medical staff re-wrote the language used to describe the request, and all of Sam’s prayer army took it to prayer. I’m not exactly sure  which efforts God used in accomplishing his will for Sam and Erin, but am joyful to report that as of Thursday, May 21st, at approximately 1:00 pm; Sam is a resident of the CareMeridian Rehab Hospital in Granite Bay, Ca. [7150 Sierra Ponds Ln Granite Bay, CA 95746 (916 722-2990)] This is truly an answer to prayer, and we are extremely elated that so many more of Sam’s family and friends will be able to visit him and thereby thrusting his restoration onto a new level. I was going to say it was a blessing to be able to support Erin more on a daily basis, but she usually is instrumental in supporting us! The move was a smooth one, as Erin had secured an apartment approximately one week before the actual move, and took a weekend to move the large furniture there with the help of her sister Ali, and Sam’s brother, Donny and his wife, Brandi. Sam’s Mom, Kelley, and her husband Jose, painted accent walls, painted the bathroom, and set up her bed. Erin’s Mom, Julie, brought several boxes of stored incidentals to kitchen and bath, along with groceries to further prepare Erin’s new apartment.  Erin wanted to concentrate on Sam and his comfort in the move, which can be stressful.  Erin followed the ambulance that delivered Sam, in her fully loaded car; and Staff Sergeant Brian Judkins (Marine Corps Liaison) followed in a van with the remainder of Sam and Erin’s possessions. It was truly a team effort; and who wouldn’t want to be on that team????

Last weekend when all of the "work" was being done; Wendy and I had the most pleasant task of all, and that was to visit with Sam. He was amazing; impressing the speech pathologist when we arrived. This particular therapist hadn’t seen Sam in a month, but he was so excited, he was almost giddy. Erin had left a message written in erasable marker on a 2×3 foot white board. She wrote a reminder for him that she would be gone, when she would be back, and that if he missed her he could call her anytime he wanted. Sam was holding the board and reading it aloud to him in full context. This was not one word at a time, but several words to a phrase that we hold to be quite normal. It is truly a progression and another stride forward for Sergeant Sam..As the therapist finished his session with Sam, a nurse  asked if Sam was up for a visitor. Former Secretary of Defense, William Perry, under President Bill Clinton, (and his wife) was visiting our injured servicemen. They were gracious and sincere in their appreciation for Sam’s service and sacrifice.  After Wendy and I had explained the severity of Sam’s injuries, and how far God has brought him in the past 21 months, I asked Sam if Secretary Perry didn’t Formery Secretary of Defense William Perry's visit to Sam in Palo Alto 5_20_2009deserve a smart salute. Although Sam was in bed, he snapped a very smart salute to the unsuspecting former Secretary which of course is in the chain of command for any of our military personnel. As Mr. Perry returned the salute to Sam; you would have been hard pressed to find a dry eye in that room. (See picture).

Tony informs me that a producer of the nationally televised "Concert for Memorial Day" will use a picture of Sam and Erin during that show. It will air on PBS on Sunday, the 24th, at 8pm EST.  Erin has approved the picture and it is a very touching one of them hugging each other. Thank you Tony for your continued efforts on fielding all of the correspondence through Sam’s blog, and keeping us informed as to sequential events.  I also want to extend my appreciation to all of our servicemen and women around the world; but especially as Memorial Day approaches to remember in prayer, the families of all those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. We Love You…

Much love,

Faith (and love) Overrules Fact

July 29, 2008

I love to read the comments from people who read Sam’s blog—and I occasionally receive emails from readers who have been especially touched by Sam and Erin’s story.  I received one of those emails last week from a young man studying to be a doctor.

I would like to thank Jason for taking the time to email his thoughts.  I can tell that he really took a lot of time and thought into what he wrote. The letter was so insightful and touching and I’m so glad Jason allowed me to share it with you.

Dear SGT Sam Nichols, Erin Nichols, & Nichols/Neria family,

Hello my name is Jason, and I am a medical student at UCLA. I am a California native and I am Sam’s age – I also graduated from high school in 2002.

Growing up in Southern California, I was indifferent or apathetic at best towards men and women who serve in our Armed forces. I pushed myself to “study, study, study” so that I would get into a good college, and then get into medical school, and then start a career as a doctor. In high school, most of my peers – and me – almost looked down on men and women who entered the military as people who didn’t have the motivation, grades, or resources to attend college instead.

With age comes more maturity, and I have come to view our Army, Navy, Marines, etc. with more respect than I ever had before. I have come to see that Marines like Sam Nichols did not join the military to blindly serve our country, but instead to answer a higher calling of putting themselves at risk to serve and defend our nation.

I am reminded of Army 2nd Lt. Mark Daily, a 2005 UCLA graduate who was an aspiring journalist, a registered Democrat and supported politically liberal causes. Despite his early strong opposition to the Iraq war, he came to believe that his help was needed in the military to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and bring about positive changes to the Middle East and the world. Of my own previous bias against the military, Mark responded: “Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics. Often times it is less about how clean your actions are and more about how pure your intentions are.” Mark wrote this the evening before he deployed to Iraq; he was killed by an I.E.D. in Mosul three months later. In case you have not seen it, his letter “Why I Joined” is a must-read for every American. If you are interested, his eloquently worded letter is available at: <>

About a month ago, I came across your blog about Sam’s experience and recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I spent several hours thoroughly reading all of the entries and links pertaining to Sam’s injury exactly one year ago on July 24, 2007.  I commend both Mr. Tony Neria and Mr. Eric Nichols for setting up a blog and posting regular updates over the last year about Sam’s recovery from TBI. I am sure this past year has been an emotionally challenging year for the Nichols and Neria family.

We learned about TBI in medical school this last spring, but it is one thing to read about TBI in a textbook or journal. I think it is an entirely another issue to realize how TBI affects people and their families who care for them. Your blog about Sam’s recovery helped bring TBI to life for me. I became interested in learning more about TBI from a medical perspective, but not forgetting what Erin said, “Faith overrules Fact.” Modern healthcare is moving forward in leaps and bounds, but Hope is what gets us through when modern medicine cannot. From what I read, most of the doctors back last July and August predicted that Sam was not going to improve at all. But one year later, Sam has improved beyond what any healthcare professional expected!

From what I can tell, the extent of Sam’s progress would not be possible without Erin. She is nothing short of a hero (I guess I should say heroine). In today’s society, with divorce rates over 50% in the civilian population, and divorce rates as high as 70% among deployed military, the sad reality is that many women might not be able to handle such an emotionally devastating blow. Erin has not only stayed by Sam’s side, but her ability to come up with different approaches and techniques to stimulate his mind is truly commendable. It is clear that Sam appreciates Erin’s unwavering presence. Imagine what is running through Sam’s mind….and all of things he wants to freely say, but his TBI is unfortunately holding him back! The photos of Sam and Erin speak a thousand words – they seem to have a love so pure and strong that even an explosion on the other side of the world can’t destroy.

The word “hero” doesn’t even come close to describing the sacrifice that Sam made, as well as the struggles he has been going through for the past year. But I also think about people who made the “ultimate sacrifice” for our country – Cpl. McRae, Cpl. Zindars, Lance Cpl. Lynch, and Doc Noble of the Kilo Battery, as well as other troops such as 2nd Lt. Mark Daily and over 4,000 people in uniform who have died in Iraq & Afghanistan.

They say that God works in mysterious ways. But trying to make sense of this “mystery” can be daunting and frustrating. Why was Sam saved from death when others were killed by that I.E.D? Why did Sam get injured and experience TBI when thousands upon thousands of other troops have returned home, safe and sound, with no injuries? Why do innocent children around the world die from illnesses, abuse and starvation? Why do “bad” things sometimes happen to “good” people?

There are at least 30,000 American troops who have been injured in Iraq & Afghanistan. Many have physical injuries and amputations; others have mental scars such as TBI and Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Even with some government assistance and gifts from charities, many of these wounded veterans struggle to cope and survive. Why is it that the same country and society which these troops served, now seems to have forgotten about them in their greatest time of need?

We may never really know the answers to our “why” questions. But what I do know is that Sam is a lucky man. He suffered devastating injuries, but he is going to make it. Most importantly, he has the support and love from his family – all of you.

Thank you again to your family for posting and updating your blog. Sam and your family demonstrate that TBI, other injuries, and personal setbacks are not insurmountable. You inspire people in the medical community to understand the science behind TBI and other medical conditions, but to never forget how TBI affects the brave people and the family & loved ones who care for them. You inspire people to bring light to where there was darkness, and to have Hope in the most challenging of times.

God bless you all. You are all heroes.

UCLA School of Medicine

Sam’s Medical Status:

On Saturday my wife and I spent the day with Sam and Erin.  Besides Sam’s one year anniversary of his “Alive Day” on the 24th, he and Erin celebrate another special day on the 28th — their fifth year of marriage!  At the end of our visit, I whispered in Sam’s ear, Imported Photos 00004“remember tomorrow you need to say happy anniversary to Erin” and he said “ah-huh”.  I called Erin the next day and asked if Sam remembered and she said no—but she had reminded him about ten times during the day it was their anniversary and every time she told him, he seemed to be thrilled at the news! 

The meds they are giving Sam to relax his throat and tongue muscles which allow him to speak more easily seem to be doing the job.  When we arrived on Saturday, Erin said to Sam, “hey Sam, look who’s here”!  Sam turned and looked right at Julie and said in the clearest and strongest voice I’ve heard, “Hello Julie, how are you”?  That was pretty cool and just made me beam though out the morning.  Sometimes it’s hit and miss when visiting Sam.  If his meds are off a even a little bit, he can be very sleepy and listless.  So, it felt good to get there when he was in a talkative mood.

Imported Photos 00007In the early afternoon, Sam had physical therapy.  When the therapist and attendant were moving him into his wheel chair, he said a few words to them and both said that was the first time they had really heard him speak with some power and clarity.  Once in the PT room, they had Sam get on the “standing board” which is basically a device that allows you to stand up and support yourself with your arms and shoulders.  Sam did pretty good, but was having spasms for about the first two minutes due to his urinary tract infection.  He grunted it out though and finished his PT. 

Later in the afternoon, Sam got more tired and sleepy—but it was still wonderful to hear his gravelly voice…and as usual, it was wonderful and inspiring to see the interaction between Sam and his lovely wife Erin.  Happy anniversary you too.  God is with us—and God is watching over you.


Memorial Day Honors

May 27, 2008

unknown confederate soldier_cemetery_columbus_ms

Last summer I went to Columbus Mississippi for the wedding of my niece. My sister, who is married to an Air Force pilot instructor took us to the old part of the town of Columbus and showed us the cemetery where Union and Confederate soldiers are buried. Hopefully you can read the tombstone in this picture, but if not, it just says “Unknown Confederate Soldier”.

There were hundreds of grave markings like this one in the cemetery—some with names of soldiers and many without. Visiting this graveyard really made me pause and think about the history of our country and the many brave men (and women) who have given their lives for the freedoms we take for granted. Regardless of whether or not these soldiers were Confederate or Union, they believed in what they were fighting for. They believed in their leaders and they believed in their country.

Today our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are still dying in Afghanistan and Iraq. They also believe in their country. They served their country with honor and should be held in the highest regard. To the men and women of our armed services who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country—Vietnam, Korea, WWII, WWI and so on, I salute you. You are the cornerstone by which this country was built. You are the eagle, the statue of liberty, the twin towers—you are the reason I look at the flag and get tears in my eyes…You are the stars and stripes that bind our country together.

I would like to pay special tribute to the fallen heroes of Kilo Battery—Corporal James H. McRae, Corporal Matthew R. Zindars, Lance Corporal Robert A. Lynch and Hospitalman Daniel S. Noble. We honor you for the ultimate sacrifice you gave to your country.

Sam’s medical status:

From Sam’s Father Eric:

SAM IS BACK!!!! Just as Erin had predicted, there were medications involved that had conflicting results; leaving Sam rather listless last week. The battle between Seratonin and Dopamine if my memory serves me correctly. I just love it that Erin knows all of the scientific names of most or all of the drugs being used to help stimulate the natural production of chemicals in Sam’s brain…Erin called it last week and Sam’s primary physician (Dr Dougherty) confirmed it on Friday of last week. At any rate, he is feeling much better and is getting back to his steady and sure progression towards wellness.

We spent a few hours yesterday listening to Sam’s own voice
complete and fill in blanks of many different items that Erin had collected. Everything from a “Starwars Rap” to television and movie dialogues. Erin reports that she is beginning to see Sam’s own personality coming through in not only what he says, but how he says it. Little catch phrases that are unique to them and have special meanings just to them. Comments on places and events they have visited, expressions from their almost 10 year history together, (pretty good for them only being 23 & 24) and most of all, terms and phrases of endearment…There isn’t a visit that goes by that I don’t hear an “I Love You” from each of them to each other…We all know God’s love
transcends all understanding; so I can only assume he has given these two a large dose of his own love to share with each other and those around them…

Sam_May_26_KentfieldIt is so good to see Erin in both an attempt to refresh Sam and give
him tasks to complete; offer him a wash cloth and ask him to wash his
face…he vigorously washes his face all over and hands it back to her. She then asks him to check his hair and see if it needs to be cut. He checks the length and flashes her the number 4 with four fingers. We don’t understand and ask if it means 4 times per month, or in 4 days. It is Brandi [Sam’s brother Donny’s fiancee] who suggests later that maybe it is the #4 attachment of the clipper that will be used in the haircut…He is sharper than the rest of us…Ha! It is an incredible visit and I leave so happy…Please note the better look he has about him and note he is waving goodbye to me as I am leaving…It is sooo hard to say goodbye and leave…

It’s been 10 months since that fateful day in Iraq and the 1 year mark
looms…One thing I wanted you all to know that reside in my address book is how much I appreciate Tony & Julie Neria. (That is Erin’s parents)…When this horrible incident first happened, they were devastated like the rest of us…their only thought was what they could do to help and take some pressure off Sam’s Mother and I. Tony, being the gifted computer techie that he is; originated the blog that is still going strong to this day…this media of information has been an effective tool in getting lots of news about Sam to those interested, and around the world. Sam’s Marines were following it in Iraq…Tony started it to keep the questions and endless phone calls to us at a minimum, and back then it was soooo appreciated. It truly is and has been a labor of love, and the Nichols family has appreciated it so much. It’s no wonder Erin is such a dynamo with incredible character and dedication; she comes by it naturally…Tony is the Worship and Music Director at his church; and He and Julie play practically all of the known instruments…They have been blessed by God to be a blessing to others…

Until next time, much love….

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.

A salute to the military wife of a wounded veteran

February 25, 2008

I found this post in the forums section of and of course it made me think of Erin…and my mother who spent 20 years as a military wife:

A Salute to the Military Wife

This is for the sad military wives, the angry military wives, and the strong military wives.

This is for the young women that are waking up at 6 a.m. every morning, laying out clothes and packing three lunches for those small precious children that they have been left alone to care for.

This is for the pregnant military wife wondering if her husband will make it home in time to watch their *miracle* happen.

This is for the childless military wife, living in a town or on a base alone where she is a complete stranger to her surroundings.

This is for the women that feel like a third leg when they go out with their friends and their husbands.

This is for the military wife that canceled all her plans to wait by the phone, and even though the phone broke up and cut off every time you spoke to him you waited anyway.

This is a pledge to the women that cry themselves to sleep in an empty bed.

This is to recognize the woman that felt like she was dying inside when he said he had to go, but smiled for him anyway.

This is for those of you that are faithfully in that long line at the post office once a month, handling 2 large boxes and 2 small children like a pro.

This is for that woman that decided to remodel the house to pass time, and then realized that she had no idea what she was doing and sighed and wished she had a little help.

This is for all the lonely nights, all the one-person dinners, and all of the wondering thoughts because you haven’t heard from him in days.

A toast to you for falling apart, and putting yourselves back together. Because a pay check isn’t enough, a body pillow in your bed is no consolation, and a web cam can never compare.

This is for all of you no matter how easy or hard this was for you. Our marines/soldiers/airmen/sailors/coasties are brave, they are heroes, but so are we.

So the next time someone tells you that they would never marry a military guy, don’t bother explaining to them that you can’t control who you fall in love with. Just think of this and nod your head, know that you are the stronger woman.

Hold your heads up high, hang that flag in your front yard, stick 100 magnets on your car, and then give yourself a pat on the back.

If you are a military spouse or know a military spouse,

Sam and Erin holding hands_Palo Alto VA_2_24_08Erin has met quite a few of our troops at the VA Polytrauma Center in Palo Alto from all branches of the service…some with mid TBI and some with more serious injuries (severe TBI, spinal cord injury, loss of limbs, PTSD, etc.). All of these young men look up to Erin for the dedication and love she has for Sam.

The sad truth of the matter, is that many of these young men have marriages that are falling apart. It is an ongoing theme with these injured troops at the VA hospital—they marry young, get severely wounded, and their young wives see the changes that have occurred with their husband and don’t want any part of it. One young wounded soldier with mild TBI told Erin, “She called me up and wanted to get a divorce because she said I’ve changed!”. That is true—he’s been to hell and back and he’s dealing not only with his wounds, but the trauma of war.

I can’t image what these young men are going through—not only are they dealing with life altering injuries, they are having to deal with the emotional trauma of losing their spouse now that they are “damaged goods”.

So, here is my tribute to my daughter with inspiration from the above dedication to the military wife:

This is for the military wife of a wounded troop who, when she receives “the call” rushes to her husbands side to be with him, to comfort him, to nurse him back to health with her love.

This is to the military wife of a wounded troop, who when the doctors tell her, “there is no hope”, disregards their words, tears up the DNR form, and loves him back to health.

This is for the military wife of a wounded troop who is dealing with traumatic brain injury, who may not hear the words, “I love you”, but can look into her husbands eyes, and know without a doubt, that he loves her and is eternally grateful that she is sticking by his side.

This is for the military wife of a wounded troop, who is at her man’s bedside 12-14 hours a day encouraging him, kissing him, massaging him, praying for him—who knows that whatever God’s plan is for him, she will be right by his side holding his hand on their journey together.

Sam’s medical status: This was a very special weekend for me as I had the privilege of spending both Saturday and Sunday with Sam and Erin.

This was supposed to be the weekend that Sam was moved to Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital, but he is having some liver issues. The projected date for his transfer is now the week of March 5th. I don’t believe there is any serious issues with his liver—they just want to make sure there are no complications before moving him. Erin is happy they have two more weeks at the Palo Alto VA hospital, and the nurses and physical therapist also seem to be very happy they have two more weeks with Sam and Erin.

Erin has been doing some short term memory work with Sam. At the beginning of last week, she told him to remember the number four. At various times during each day of the week, she kept asking him, “what is the number I asked you to remember?” and unless he was very tired, he held up four fingers. His responses are very promising since short term memory loss can be an issue with TBI. I also notice that Erin occasionally ask Sam about other events that occurred in the past, like trips they have taken or restaurants they have gone to when they lived in Oceanside—Sam has responded well to these questions also.

Chest Therapy_Palo Alto_2_25_08The picture to the right is the “Chest Therapy” that Sam has been receiving a couple of times a day. The device has an air pump and regulator, plus the wrap-around bag that is around Sam’s chest. Air is pumped in and out of the bag and sort of shakes Sam’s chest. This device is used to keep fluids from building up in Sam’s chest. An interesting side affect to the use of this device, is that it helps push air out of Sam’s lungs and in doing so, helps him to get out a few words. In the picture, Erin is coaching Sam and saying “I love you” and I could hear Sam repeating back the words to her. There weren’t very loud, but I could tell he was saying “I love you back to her”!

kevin mowl_RIP_2_25_2008 Kevin Mowl RIP:  Very sad news from the mother of a soldier who was hit by an IED in Iraq on August 2nd of 2007.  Sam was in the ICU at Bethesda NNMC the same time Kevin was brought in from Iraq.  Kevin was with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.  I’ve been getting updates from his mother Mary’s journal over the last 6 months.  This is her update from this morning:

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2008 01:18 PM, CST

I want to let you all know that Kevin passed away peacefully today at 10:13AM. Mary, Carlene and I were with him until his end. More information will be forthcoming.

If you would like to offer your condolences, you can leave a note at the following location:  kevin mowl.  I believe you will have to create an account to leave a message.  His mother’s name is Mary.  Here is my note to Mary:

Mary, I’ve been following your blog since my daughter, Erin met you in Bethesda in August of 2007. Her husband, Sam Nichols, USMC was in the ICU the same time Kevin was there.

There aren’t many young men like Kevin and Sam. They wrote a blank check to our country with their lives and now Kevin has paid the ultimate sacrifice. He is now part of the proud history of our military heroes who have gone before him and will unfortunately follow. He is a part of what has made the United States of American the greatest country on earth. I never met Kevin, but I mourn his passing.