Today was Sam’s retirement ceremony from the Marines. He is officially retired on the 31st of August 2012. There were two Marine colonels a first sergeant and a whole Marine honor guard present for this occasion. We didn’t know there was going to be so many Marines supporting Sam today, but when you think about it, the Marines have always been there for him. When I walked around the corner of the building and saw all the flags and honor guard, I actually got all choked up. Many wonderful words were spoken about Sam’s sacrifice to his country and Erin’s dedication to her husband. Please enjoy the pictures…I think they speak for themselves.
From Sam’s father Eric: Wendy and I were able to attend the current Marvel rage at our local theatre last Saturday, of Iron Man 2. What made this especially fun, is the fact we were able to go with Sam and Erin. Even with a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection), Sam sat and watched with interest; a movie with incredible special effects. He acted like He and Erin were on a first date, as He hugged Her, held Her hand, and leaned His head towards Hers. It was darling, and every bit as entertaining as the movie. As I sat and watched, I couldn’t help but think of the many analogies that Sam shares with this fictional character. Surrounded by Iron, (wheelchair) Courageous, compassionate, but above all, a belief in what he was doing was the right thing. Call me biased, but Sam goes far beyond the movie in the areas of Iron Will, Courage to meet the challenges of his daily life, and the sheer determination to accomplish all that is set before him as the right thing to do. Just as the movie and comic book before it claims; mere human strengths are not enough to meet these adversities. Unlike the pulp fiction, we know exactly where Sam’s supernatural powers come from.
Sam is the redeemed of the Lord Jesus Christ and Disciple of the Most High God. He has faith that the Lord God is true to His Word, and is even now restored unto optimum health. Scripture says that He that believes, (on the Lord Jesus) IS healed. Not will be or can be, but IS. Simply because His manifestation of healing hasn’t been shown yet, does not mean that He doesn’t have it. God’s timing is not our own, and God knows when the right time is for Sam’s healing to be revealed to the world. We celebrate His healing now; party when Sam can join us. In the meantime, God is teaching Sam and Erin supernatural love, patience, determination, and compassion for the others with lots worse than Sam’s.
Sam continues to improve, even if it is with baby steps. Sam’s overall coordination and flexibility are accelerating with his aggressive physical therapy. Many TBI’s lose their physical prowess due to either inactivity or the lack of transmissions to the muscles. Sam hasn’t lost his; the strength on his right side is extraordinary. He enjoys flexing and showing off his arm strength when ever he sees me. When God is ready, he has the basic muscular structure already in place to rise and walk out of that chair. Sam’s wit and clever responses demonstrates for all his total presence of mind. I
asked him if he loved Erin recently, and his response was simple and brief but spoke volumes; it was, "So Much". Yesterday, I sent a text inquiring as to their day; and Sam said simply, "Prime"—to which Erin agreed. As our dear family of friends who pray for the manifestation of Sam’s healing, I ask you to not forget Erin. Her characteristics of Iron like loyalty, dedication, and simply an IRON Love for Sam continues to be as strong as Sam’s resolve for restoration. She willingly oversees his therapies, keeps him company, entertains him, and challenges him to go further. All the while working recently at a few weddings of family and friends, helping with her darling niece, Holly, and finishing college classes with A+ averages. I am thankful to God for her and as proud as any father-in-law can be…
PS: If you are a facebook user, do a search on “Support for Sgt Samuel Nichols” to find the facebook page started by a Navy Corpsman who served with Sam in Iraq.
In past blog post, I’ve written about the wonderful work of the Maine Troop Greeters out of Bangor Maine who greet all of our troops as the leave or return from the conflicts in the Middle East. I just recently learned about a group closer to my home in the Sacramento area who are doing similar work. They are called the Defenders of Freedom. Their main main goals are to send support to our troops, organize care packages to mail abroad, provide resources and volunteer opportunities, and be supportive for all the troops and veterans around the world! Here is the information from their “about us” section of their website:
Defenders of Freedom in California is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in Dallas, Texas with the purpose of raising money to support our troops who are currently deployed around the world.
Defenders of Freedom in California supports our troops in these ways:
We wish to invite mothers, fathers, friends and family members who have loved ones in the armed services to join our efforts as we support the men and women who serve our country.
If you would like to join us, please contact us.
Please visit the Defenders of Freedom website if you would like to receive more information about joining their organization or donating to their cause.
Sam has been taking a drug called chlonipin which was prescribed to help with his right hand and fingers that constantly shake. This is fairly common with brain injuries. The cholnipin did work, but it was just making Sam to sleepy to the point where his vision therapist was ready to give up on him. You really can’t do much vision therapy when the patient has his eyes closed most of the time! About three weeks ago, they started slowly taking Sam off the cholnipin and he has really started to perk up again. Most notably, his speech has improved quite a bit and he is even starting to add some inflection into his voice when he speaks. The vision therapist has been jumping for joy because Sam is now able to really participate in his therapy and make improvements. The decision was made by Sam’s doctor to do his vision therapy on site at the CareMaridian facility which enables the therapist to be more creative with the exercises they can use to improve Sam’s eyes. They are also combining his physical therapy at the same time, which also enables both the physical therapist and vision therapist to work together putting Sam into various positions in the standing frame or on the therapy mat.
There have been a couple of new patients at Sam’s CareMeridian facility in the past month. Both are young men about Sam’s age. Interesting, that when Erin talks to the other male patients (Sam’s room mate in particular), Sam gets very territorial. He doesn’t say anything…but…lets just say that the roommate gets some interesting salutes from Sam when he gets to close to Erin.
Sam and Erin wanted to say thank you to the students at Park Elementary School in Alhambra. On Valentine’s Day, Sam received a box full of valentines day cards for the students. He and Erin shared them with the other patients and displayed the cards in the main living room area for all to enjoy.
From Tony, Erin’s Father: I’ve been going to the gym every morning and working out with Erin all this week. Hopefully we can keep this up. It also affords me an opportunity to get the scoop on the latest with Sam. Erin told me that yesterday Sam and quite a break-through in his physical therapy. He was laying on his left side on the therapy table and his therapist asked him to turn over. He was able to move his upper body so that he was facing the ceiling—but what he was able to do for the first time, was to move his right leg up and then straighten his whole body so that he was totally facing the ceiling. That wasn’t the only thing that he did—while laying down on the table and his knees up (with his feet flat on the table), he was able to move his right leg down to the right touching the mat and then back up to touch his left knee. He had done this a few times in the past—only one time and they he couldn’t do any more, but this time, he did it seven times in a row…rested a few minutes and then did it three more times. As he was doing it, the therapist said, “I think he’s having a break-through”.
Speaking of Sam’s right side, Erin and the therapist have been working on his right arm which has been improving lately. The photo shows him pushing his wheel chair with his left are, but they have been noticing some movement in his right arm as he tries to use both hands to propel him along. Very small improvement, but none-the-less, a significant improvement on his right side.
For those of who of you who are using facebook, there is a “group” called “Support for Sgt Samuel Nichols”. Just search for this group in facebook and join. Erin and I will start adding quickie updates on this facebook page. The group page was started by Patrick Couhie who happens to be the Navy Corpsman who first brought medical add to Sam right after the roadside bomb hit their convoy. I’m sure Patrick’s quick actions are the reason Sam is with us today. I hope to start adding more frequent updates in this blog too…I tend to wait until I have almost too much information and then life happens and I put off updates for weeks at a time! I will try to do better.
Speaking of life happening, Erin’s sister, Allison had a baby on January 4th (Holly Quinn). She was 6 pounds 10 ounces. Allison brought Holly to see Sam about a week after she was born. After holding Holly for about a half hour, Erin asked Sam, “what do you think of Holly?”. And Sam, or course, had the perfect response. He said, “I love her!”.
From Sam’s Father Eric:
Good Morning All,
Isn’t it incredible that after 2 1/2 years since Sam’s injury, that the
interest in His recovery and progress hasn’t waned in the least? What is it about Sam’s particular case that makes He and Erin so special and the object of everyone’s prayers and good wishes? Have you asked yourself why you await word in the form of an update or new submission to his blog? The answer is simple really, and probably doesn’t escape most of you; but it was a real encouragement to me to glean this from a conference I recently attended. That is, "Faith is what sticks after you’ve had an embrace from the Faithful One". That couldn’t be more true for all of you. God selected each and everyone of you to pray for Sam and Erin, and in so doing laid on your hearts the faith by which to accomplish just that. Yes, their love is a classic story and of great human interest as well; but human interest stories come and go. Only what is done by God remains, and what he does is usually accomplished through people. Scripture is full of those examples, so we continue to stand together for Sam’s total restoration. His healing is already here; just ask God to show it to you….
We’ve had some very special friends from a sister church in Redding, Ca., (Bethel) come and pray for Sam and Erin. It is a 3 hour drive one way, and then they spent 4.5 hours praying with us, and then 3 hours back home. All of this on top of working that day and having to be back at work the next day. What an inspiring time that was too. They not only came here under the direction of the Holy Spirit for Sam, but for the rest of us as well. My faith soared as I observed a young couple on fire for the Lord, aggressively pray for Sam’s release. Their mentor, quietly praying in the background, and all 3 of them displaying the love of Jesus and the early apostles. We are truly thankful to them for their obedience and faithfulness to God’s directions. Also some ladies from our church choir, including my sister Jan and sister-in-law Debbie, came to sing some worship songs to Sam. It was wonderful to see Sam mouthing the words to "Jesus Loves Me"…The picture of Sam and I was taken during one of those prayer sessions; but what made it so special to me was while I was praying, Sam reached up and held the side of my face and neck. This melts my heart about as much when he says "I love you, Dad".
Some might think Sam has plateaued in his progress forward. This is not so, but maybe have to see the daily details of all that he does or is able to do. Erin continues to make him her full time job and is responsible for all of his immediate care. She asks the right questions when appropriate, and gives good reports every time I see her. Her spirits are high and defeat isn’t in her vocabulary. She approaches everyday with new enthusiasm and it is infectious of all those around her. She edifies the other patient’s families and answers many of their questions. She attends class a few nights per week as she studies sign language for an eventual career in speech therapy. We love her and try to support her in all that she does. Her sister’s new baby has made her a doting Aunt, and that too is precious…
When Sam was at the VA hospital in Palo Alto during a previous Christmas season, there were always Christmas Cards in a basket in the day room. The “get well” cards were from local school children “to a wounded soldier” and it was always a treat reading what they had said and looking at the pictures they drew for the wounded men and woman. Erin would take a few cards into Sam’s room and read them to him to cheer him up. It was such a good feeling knowing that there were teachers in the local area who where teaching the children about the sacrifice our service men and women make for their country.
About three months ago I contacted the local elementary school that Erin attended and asked if any of the teachers might like to sponsor Sam and Erin and send get well cards to Sam (Sam is also from Citrus Heights). I received a very courteous and apologetic reply from the school passing on my request. The reason was basically that the “war” in the Middle East is controversial and it might upset some students or some parents may object to their children’s participation. [It is not my intention at all to point the finger and any individual or institution so I won’t be mentioning any names…I understand this situation could happen anywhere in our country…sadly].
When I was a young child in elementary school, we would always start out the day by standing next to our desk, put our right hand over our heart, face the flag and recite the pledge of allegiance. I truly believe this was part of the foundation for the love I have for our country.
I Pledge Allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one Nation under God, Indivisible,
with Liberty and Justice for All.
I wonder if the “Pledge” is still being recited in our elementary schools today? And if so, are the children being taught what it means? [see Red Skelton’s monologue for review] “with Liberty” — do they know what those two words represent? Do they understand that men and women of our military fought and died for our right to say those words? Sadly, I think not.
A few weeks ago, I told the above story to a lady who’s daughter goes to another elementary school our town. In fact, I wrote a blog about her daughter and a club at their school called the Barrett Battalion. We were all visiting Sam at CareMeridian and this family had come to support Sam and hear myself, my wife and a few friends play Christmas carols for the patients and their families. A few days ago, we had a small get-together at my parents house and this family was invited. Towards the end of the evening, the mother pulled out a gift bag and presented it to Erin and me. It was a beautiful binder with about 120 Christmas letters to Sam written by students from Carriage Elementary and John Barrett Middle School. Many of the children expressed their appreciation for the sacrifice Sam has made for our country and wished him a speedy recovery. What an incredible Christmas gift for Sam and Erin…and what an incredible gift these children have been given by their teachers—the gift of respect and honor for their country and those who have sacrificed their lives and health to keep it strong.
Merry Christmas to all…
Good Morning to All,
It has been a tremendous holiday season with many miracles unfolding around us. Even in the face of diminishing resources, (the county in which I live and work is nearly broke, and from which we derive most of our funding to feed the homeless). My job has seemed to double in scope. Greater need + less resources = miracles of God’s provision. Our annual turkey drive netted us more than double what it did last year; FEMA has come thru with some awesome donations of highly useable foods, and a federally funded program has enabled us to pay young people to gain work experience in our kitchens. Although we should expect the miraculous from God, we often don’t and then act surprised when it happens. The Sam Nichols story is proof that prayer changes circumstances. Prayers offered for Sam from the Nichols and Neria families, our extended families across the country, and a host of friends from around the world that believe in his total restoration; continue to drive his progress in a positive direction.
Erin loves the attached picture. She says that when he attempts to smile, is the only time you can tell the brain injury by merely his appearance. His smile is lopsided and just makes him all the cuter. Sam has had quite a month which includes getting to eat ice cream, the rediscovery of some emotions he hasn’t displayed since the injury, and the introduction of some new and experimental drugs by a new Doctor. His physical therapist is smart and often rewards his hard work with some tastes of ice cream. He thoroughly enjoys this time and it is often the social aspect of the moment that makes it special for him. Although everyone agrees that the new display of emotions is a positive step in the right direction; the behavior is hard to imagine from him as he has been so placid up until now. When Erin brings comfort to another patient, (a young man with a brain injury) by adjusting his pillows in his wheel chair; Sam doesn’t like it. He becomes agitated and surly. When Erin asks what is bothering him, he just replies that he doesn’t like the guy. Ha! Of course he denies that he may be jealous of Erin giving another some attention, and then the next day it is all forgotten and peace has returned. I understand that this type of behavior is to be expected from recovering brain injury patients, but Erin and I can’t help but see the humor in it. It just underlines the man in Superman Sam….Erin is very excited to get to try some treatments for Sam that may or may not be beneficial. He has had some positive reactions in the past to some brain stimulants, so it may be in God’s plan to have these be a part of his recovery. The one thing I always notice is that until he becomes accustomed to the new drug; it totally wipes him out and he gets sleepy. Rest is a good thing as his body does what God intended at creation to help heal itself.
Someone had caught a baby lizard just outside the home where Sam resides and given it to him to observe and hold. He named it Sebastian and when Erin asked him what he wanted to do with it, he replied to keep it in a box. Erin foresaw that pandemonium would ensue from a lizard loose in the rehab home and talked him to letting it go in the garden. He reluctantly agreed. It put me in mind that Sam was the one when small wanted creatures around the house. We had snakes in an aquarium, lizards and bugs in terrariums, crawdads, goldfish, and dogs…It was good training then and I believe has value now.
As Christmas approaches tomorrow, I ask simply that you all remember the reason for the season, and that’s Jesus. It is because he came into this world to reconcile man to God, and restore our blessings that we can boldly stand on God’s statement of fact that by his stripes, Sam is healed. Not will be, but IS! Not some future hope, but now. Faith is evidence of things not yet seen, so just because we haven’t seen it yet doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have it. Rejoice with us in the knowledge that Sam is healed this Christmas….
I believe I’ve mentioned in the past that I am the choir director at Saint Lawrence Catholic church in North Highlands California. North Highlands is also home to the U.S. Coast Guard air station who lost 7 crew members as their C-130 Hercules collided with a Marine Corps Super Cobra helicopter. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan involving our Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, our Coast Guard sometimes gets forgotten when it comes time to mention the sacrifice that is being made our military. Hopefully, one day soon, we will no longer have our military sons and daughters in harms way in the Middle East—but the U.S. Coast Guard will always be ready to risk their lives for our country whenever we need them. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Coast Guard members who died recently…and of course with the families of the two Marines who died in the mid-air collision. When I’m driving in North Highlands and see the big red and white C-130 in the air, I will say a little pray for the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard. Thank you for your service and for putting your lives on the line for us.
From Eric, Sam’s father: I’m often touched by the precious exchange that goes on between Sam and Erin when I’m visiting, but every once in a while he says something or she does something for him that just tugs at the strings of my heart. Yesterday, as I sat and visited with Sam while Erin was out of the room, we talked of many things like Thanksgiving approaching, Darfur, (because he was wearing a shirt that says save it) and where he was in his faith walk for healing. Erin returned and came up behind him to give him a great big hug. (See the 1st picture) Since the hospital staff loves Sam and Erin so much, it is not uncommon for Sam to receive such a hug from them as well. I asked him, "do you know who is hugging you"? He looked at me squarely and said, "It’s My Wife". He often refers to Erin as "my wife", but didn’t realize until yesterday what he means when he says it. He holds their relationship so sacred and that he is so grateful for the love that she shows him, that he just can’t help but remind himself that this angelic creature is "his wife". He is thankful for his many God given blessings of which Erin is the foremost one. I said to him recently, that God orchestrated that He and Erin be together many years ago because He (God) knew that he would need someone extraordinary to stand beside him during this season of challenge in his life. He responded, "I know Dad, I Know". Sam knows, his family (Nichols’ & Nerias’) knows, and we want you all to know as well.
We apologize for starving you all for news and information regarding Sam and Erin. I can say that I am extra busy at work, that I am a newlywed, or that the class I’m taking is time consuming; and all would be true; but when some people ask me when my next update regarding Sam and Erin is coming, then I trust I’ve waited too long. Sam is doing tremendously! The tests show double digit percentage points of improvement in flexibility, strength, eye coordination, speech patterns and volume, and how far he can turn his head and neck. One day during physical therapy, he was in the standing frame. He was given the bicycle wheel to turn with his arm strength alone. He usually can’t generate much volume to his voice while standing because of the straps that hold him in it; but this day he was at full volume. In addition this day he seemed to be having trouble with the exercise. Carrie, (his therapist) asked him if he didn’t feel like it today as he was having trouble turning the wheel. She told him that he always does this so easily and encouraged him to try harder. In his true fashion, he lowered his head and put his whole heart and soul into the exercise and in no time was turning the wheel as always. It wasn’t until after he was done, that they discovered that the resistance was set at 3 time his normal routine. He was a tired boy that afternoon, but got loads of accolades from everyone present. It is further evidence that he has dogged determination to achieve any goal or task set before him, and that his spirit is as strong today for his recovery as it was many months ago…A father’s pride knows no bounds. The 2nd picture is of Sam on Halloween, where Sam was Clark Kent-Superman, and Erin was Lois Lane. This kind of fun and creative thinking is indicative of the everyday options that Erin provides for Sam. We often stop at our favorite coffee shop on the way over and will call Erin to see if she would like one too; she in turn asks Sam if he wants one also…(Sam can’t drink yet by mouth, but that doesn’t stop her from including Sam in the process) Yesterday he asked for his to be with 3 Splendas…I commit to generating an update on more of a regular basis…until then,
From Tony, Erin’s father: I wanted to add one more photo to share with everyone. God actually blessed me and my wife with two beautiful daughters, Erin and Allison. This past weekend, Allison married Luis. The photo was taken in the parking lot of the Alta Sierra Biblical Gardens near Grass Valley. When Allison was a very young girl, my mother took her and Erin to the Biblical Gardens—and during the visit, Allison declared that when she got married, it would be at the Biblical Gardens—and so it was. It was a beautiful day which was made even more special because both Erin and Sam could be there.
Peace to all,
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
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 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 believe 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.
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 start 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….
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”].