IMG_6263I opened up this blog site tonight and found , to my surprise that its been almost a year since I wrote my last entry… I wondered why its taken me this long to write again, and then looking back over my last year’s calender I saw that it had been one of my busiest years in 25 years of teaching … over 100, 000 miles of travel and more courses than I could easily count…some months last year I was home only four or five days…
Of all the courses that I’ve taught, the ones that are sticking in my memory tonight are the courses I taught to returning veterans and their family members , many of whom were suffering greatly from various forms of combat trauma.
What has become clear to me over time, is the value, not of what I was able to give on these courses, but of what I have received and have learned from them… My vet students have taught me the value of courage… the kind of courage that is able to face the deepest kinds of fear, terror and self-destructive emotion and to learn to move beyond  them … The values of loyalty and commitment to those they served alongside… of being willing to risk their lives in order to protect those they care about the most … their families and their fellow soldiers…and the desire to continue to serve even after their military commitment is completed.

When these veterans begin to recover from their trauma and emotional wounds they start to ask themselves what they want to do with the rest of their lives and many of their answers are to me both inspiring and astounding…
Anthony was a vet I taught in Wisconsin… he’s the one on the left in the picture above…When I met him he was working at a vets drop in center called Dry Hootch in Wisconsin. One day his buddy Tom, also a vet, told him he was needing to take some time away from his normal life and was planning to walk across the country. Anthony thought that was a great idea and asked him if he could come along… within two weeks they had planned a route across the country, found sponsors and turned their walk into a fundraiser for vets organizations in Wisconsin. They ended up walking over 2700 miles and finished their trek last weekend at the edge of the Pacific in my home town of Santa Monica. They asked me if I’d like to walk the last few miles with them through LA and I was honored to join them. On the walk I asked Anthony what he had learned on those 2700 miles of walking… I’m sure I’ll never forget his reply…
He said “I learned that there is a difference in life between those who say they support a cause or an idea… like helping vets… and those who are actually willing to take action to move that cause or idea forward. He decided , after completing his Project Welcome Home Troops Course in Madison that he wanted to live the rest of his life as someone who was willing to take action to support those things he believed in most… like helping vets.. and when the opportunity to do just that came along he jumped on it…

I too am surrounded by people who say they believe in and want to support various causes and ideas,and many of them do, but not all of them are as willing to jump in and take action… Anthony has both taught and inspired me by his actions and his commitment (he and his buddy Tom have raised almost $100,000) to this year be more about acting in support of those things I believe in most…spending time with the people I care about most, and focusing on those causes and ideas that mean the most to me…and really doing something to strengthen them and help them to grow… We at Project Welcome Home Troops are in the process of raising money to help even more vets this year and our first goal is $50 000. I am aiming to raise at least $10,000 of that myself from family and friends. If this is the first you’ve heard of our work with Vets please go to our website at http://www.pwht.org and if you would like to support our work please click on this link
http://www.stayclassy.org/fundraise?fcid=295296
Tonight I’d like to shout out to all the vets who have had the courage and determination to complete our course, over 800 of them so far, and especially those, like Anthony and Tom who have then decided to devote their time and energy to serving other vets, still struggling, and still in need of our help… I was deeply moved when Anthony told me that it was his experience on his Project Welcome Home Troops course that inspired him to take action.

22 vets are committing suicide in this country every day,and over 300,000 have come home from Iraq and Afghanistan with some form of combat trauma and post traumatic stress. These folks belong to us. They’ve risked their lives to keep us safe, and now, on their way home, its our turn to reach out and support them in whatever way we can. Next time you see a vet in uniform go up and thank them for their service… if you see a homeless vet , and they’re everywhere these days, offer to buy them a meal… help a vet find a job…and if you believe in folks like Anthony and what they’re capable of contributing when they’re back home in their local community, please consider supporting our work at Project Welcome home Troops!

Advertisements