Tuesday, October 27, 2009
When I was very young, there was a fundraising campaign at our school. The charity was The March Of Dimes. They had started out as an organization whose goal was to eradicate polio, and polio was now pretty much beaten. Since they had nothing better to do, they switched gears and were now aiming at birth defects. And they handed out some little informational cards to all of us children.
On the cards were slots for us to slip our dimes into, as we were moved to do so, and, in order to move us to do so in a more expeditious fashion, there were photos of a couple of children who had, unfortunately, been born with birth defects.
I was a small child, perhaps 5 or 6. I had no idea that anyone was born with less than a full complement of body parts. I had no idea, until then, that it was even a possibility. And now I was suddenly seeing a photo of a boy with metal arms ending in hooks. The teacher told us how some children were the victims of birth defects, and that our dimes would help to keep future children from being born the way this boy was.
It was, for me, a vision from out of a nightmare. I was awake, though, and shocked; made tragically aware of a version of life I had never considered possible. That photo, and the possibilities it represented, haunted me for weeks.
A short time later, I was watching television. A movie came on. It was a movie about the effects of war, specifically World War Two. The movie was The Best Years Of Our Lives. Perhaps you’ve seen it? It won many academy awards, and deservedly so. It was - and is - a tremendously moving portrait of three men returning to civilian life after having served in wartime.
One of the men - played by Harold Russell, who truly was a soldier afflicted as shown; no make-up needed - had returned home with hooks for his hands.
I sat in front of the TV and saw the same nightmare vision that had recently haunted me, but now come to life and moving. And it made me even further aware of the tragic possibilities. Not only was it possible to be BORN without important things, it was entirely possible to lose them, once born, through no fault of your own.
Now, maybe I was somewhat sheltered to not know of these things before then, but that’s the way it was. I had successfully lived through six years of my life without knowing. Now that I knew, I was changed forever. Losing part of me - a limb or a hand or anything else - became my strongest fear. It still is. It is so strong a fear that I have trouble facing or meeting people who have had such misfortune befall them, whether via birth defect or accident. As I handle my fear of heights by avoiding bridges, I partially handle my fear of amputation by avoiding amputees. I don't run from the room screaming if someone is there who is less than the generally accepted notion of whole; I hope that I treat them in the same way I would anyone else. However, I'm afraid that my fear of finding myself in their situation may show through, and I would hate to have them see that. It would be so damned unfair. I also try to avoid photos, films, written accounts, and any other thing that will bring my fear to the forefront of my thoughts.
Stupid? Cowardly? Yes, pretty much. It’s what I do, though.
Why do I tell you the above?
Every day, in military hospitals and physical therapy centers across this land, there are people facing my greatest fear. They’re doing so because they saw it as their duty to put their lives on the line for you and me. They didn’t lose their lives, though. Instead, they lost their ability to function as independently as they did before being wounded grievously.
In fighting for our freedom, they have lost much of their own.
Let me state something important before we go on. Many of you are well aware of how I feel regarding some of the United States’ military adventures. If it were up to me, I’d have most of our troops home before you could wink an eye. I categorically do NOT support my country’s actions in some instances. Some of you may feel the same way. That’s not what’s important in this case, though. Whatever our feelings concerning the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the men and women in harm’s way in those conflicts are making the sacrifices they make with selfless intent. And I would be some kind of miserable human being if I used my political beliefs as a crutch to absolve me from helping them during their time of greatest need.
They didn’t ask me my feelings before putting their lives on the line. They just did it. And now I’m doing what I feel is right and necessary. I’m trying to help them heal. That’s the right thing to do, under all circumstances and with no exception.
How am I trying to help, in the small way that I’m able? Via something called Valour-IT.
Valour-IT is a wonderful program (run independent of the armed forces, the Department of Defense, or any other governmental agency) supplying wounded veterans with some good tools to aid in their rehabilitation, both mentally and physically. For instance, those veterans who have suffered major injuries to their hands will be supplied with voice-activated laptop computers.
Most of us are writers of one sort or another, whether professionally or just for pleasure. Imagine yourself suddenly deprived of that ability to write, the ability to use a computer keyboard or otherwise communicate via the written word. What would it be worth to you to regain that ability? You know the answer. It would be worth the world.
Valour-IT performs that miracle. They give back the world to someone who lost it.
I’m donating to this version of an angel’s work. I’m asking you to look into your heart and find it there to do so, also.
(I’m not just using a figure of speech when I say "angel’s work", by the way. This charity was started, and is overseen by, Soldier’s Angels, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity. All donations are tax-deductible. And, as stated previously, they are not affiliated with the government, and any government employees involved in the organization, or in the fundraising, are doing so as private citizens.)
I hope I’ve done my job and convinced you to give a few bucks. I’m giving $100 myself, if that helps you to decide. But any amount will be welcome and will make all the difference in someone’s recovery.
(Funny how life works. I wasn’t in a position to donate much. My recent dental work had left me strapped for funds. However, as soon as I committed in my mind to doing something for this cause, someone wishing to buy advertising on this blog contacted me, offering to pay me more than that amount. Cast your bread upon the waters, as the Good Lord says.)
I’m pretty much tapped out insofar as further words to make the case for this. Perhaps this wonderful cartoon will speak to you more eloquently than I have.
I need to mention a couple of small details.
First is that my good friend, Buck, from Exile In Portales, would appreciate it if you’d donate to the cause in the name of his former service branch, The United States Air Force. Each year, the separate branches of the military have a friendly competition to see who can raise the most money for this cause. Since Buck is my good buddy, and he’s on the Air Force team, I’ll be donating to the Air Force team effort. I hope you will, also.
(Let me reiterate what Buck has said at his place, though. The important thing is to raise money for this, not for one branch or another to be victorious. That’s just a fun way to spur on some fundraising. If donating to another branch will get the dollars out of your pocket and into the fund, so be it.)
The other thing to mention is this: This fundraiser runs only until Veteran’s Day, November 11th. That’s just two weeks from now, so your action is needed as soon as possible.
If you wish to donate, here’s how. At the very top of my sidebar, you’ll see a widget that you can click onto. I’ll have it there through the ending day of the drive. Clicking on it will take you to a place set aside for donations made through the Air Force team. So, if you’d like to help in that fashion, there you go. Donations may be made via Pay Pal, credit card, or electronic check. If you’d like to donate in the name of another service branch, cool. Go to the Soldier’s Angels website and you’ll find the necessary information for that. Or, if you’d like to donate via check, you can find an address for that, too.
Of course, if you’d like to try your hand at doing a bit of fundraising at your own place, that would be nice. If you’d like to do so as part of Buck’s team - the Air Force team - that would be swell, and greatly appreciated by him. Click onto the widget, where it says "share".
(Funny thing – in the movies and on TV, sergeants are usually portrayed as hard-asses and bastards. Buck is a retired Master Sergeant. If I were to believe all of the stereotypes, I’d have to conclude that he’s scamming me. From my experiences and interactions with him, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a more decent, caring, sweet, gentlemanly guy.)
You know me – I say a lot of stupid things here, and I usually go for the laugh. This is as serious as I get, however; it’s no joke. Please donate, in whatever way you’re able and in whatever amount you can afford. Thank you.