Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Please Lend A Hand

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.


Uncle Skip, said...

You can count this sailor in. Normally there's some inter-branch rivalry... sometimes it's stronger than that. But, it really doesn't matter in the end who donated or who raised the most. It is really about why and for whom.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

i beati said...

I'm there and did you know that veterans returning now some do not receive life long help..Also we hear 5,000 deaths multiply that by 60 for injuries, maiming, devastating injurioes.

Remember the iron lung. A wonderful author of childrens books died 2 years ago her entire life in an iron lung

Suldog said...

Uncle Skip - Thank you!

[Usual disclaimer, mostly for my Uncle Jim who comments here regularly. Uncle Skip is not actually my uncle. He just plays one on the internet!]

i beati - Yes, it is very important to remember those who sacrifice, as well as remember what extraordinary circumstances some have overcome. Thank you.

Daryl said...

I am in... gonna donate the same $50 I was ripped off on the quilt repair .. that should work better than burning sage to ward off lingering bad vibes

Suldog said...

Daryl - Yay! Thank you, very much. God will bless you - you'll see!

Buck said...

Dang... what a post! Thanks, Jim... this is just too, too, good! Simply excellent.

As for... "From my experiences and interactions with him, I think you’d be hard-pressed..." You sure you got the right Buck? :p

Hilary said...

I'll do what I can.. which isn't much, but better than nothing. :)

Suldog said...

Buck - I know I've got the right Buck. Thanks for the very kind words.

Hilary - Whatever you do - whatever anyone does - is worthwhile and welcome. Thank you.

Jeni said...

I'd like very much to help you with this cause -just not sure right now how strapped my finances are going to be between now and then though. I'll try to see however if maybe I can at least pull together a post to give the organization a plug that maybe -if nothing else -will at least spread the word.
(And, I'm of the same opinion as you pertaining to the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq -left up to me, the troops would be home asap but that doesn't mean non-support of the people who are serving there. Just that I believe there are much better -also safer -ways to utilize those in our military.

Suldog said...

Thanks, Jeni. Every bit helps, whether it's monetary or an effort to spread the word. And you express my sentiments exactly concerning our troops. They're good people who deserve support, especially during a time of great personal need. Politics should never interfere with doing what you believe to be the right thing.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

My grandson is brain injured. People stare and say ignorant things when they see him, without regard for anyone's feelings but their own self-centered viewpoint. We've all learned to become quite thick-skinned regarding other's blatant ignorance. While I would love to donate, times are hard and we give all extra money to help out with the numerous expenses and therapy required to care for the little guy. I admire this blog post. I admire our troops. I am praying this economy will turn around soon.

Mrs Greyhawk said...

Really great post, you can also tell your readers that if they cannot donate money, but they have something of monetary value, they can donate it to the Valour-IT auction. You can contact me at [mrsg@mudvillegazettedotcom]

Auction Info can be found here: http://soldiersangels.org/auction_rules.rtf.

(Team leader's post is up with a little rivalry added ;p)

katney said...

A noble cause well stated.

I grew up less sheltered from such things. My uncle, though he had both arms, did not have the use of them. He was one of those victims of polio in the early 40s. An amazing man, despite his handicap, he was a successful businessman and chairman of the March of Dimes in his community.

I can't participate at this time--my walk for Breast Cancer is coming up in three weeks and I am short in my fundraising. But I do want you to know that, though American Hero Quilts, I have participated in making at least twenty quilts for returning injured military. There are lots of ways and places to help.

Knucklehead said...

Great work, Jim. As you may remember from an ancient post of mine, my grandfather lost a leg due to smoking (will that get you to even THINK about quitting, Mr. Sullivan?) so I was forced to deal with this reality at a very early age.

You are a true humanitarian for furthering this wonderful cause.

Brian Miller said...

great post suldog...the cartoon wrapped it all up in a bow...will pop over to check it out and help how i can.

Ananda girl said...

Well done, my friend... and yes, of course! Consider it done. So many of my students are there (war fronts) or have been there... scares the crap out of me.

BostonMaggie said...

Great post! Thanks for helping to spread the word. Team AirForce is lucky to have you.

Uncle Skip - You have the personal dispensation of the GODNAVBLOGSTRIFOR for crossing over to the AirForce Team. Team Navy loves you anyway.

I see that some of the other commenters have Blogger IDs....linking and posting helps too. Pick a team or stay neutral like Switzerland, it's all good!

lime said...

i had an uncle who lost an arm in a grisly quarry accident. he was the toughest man i ever knew even minus an arm. i didn't loose my hand but i lost the use of it for many months and worked like hell to get it back. neither my uncle not i had our respective problems as a result of any noble deed, just stupidity on both our parts.

the men and women who have selflessly put themselves in harm's way and have lost limbs deserve to be given the most state of the art equipment to help them regain the greatest amount of function possible. thank yo uof making us aware so we can aid in that process.

Pouty Lips said...

Count me in!

Anonymous said...

Suldog, I am in. I will do whatever I can to assist in your efforts.

You give duty and common decency a good name.


Greta Perry said...

Thank you for supporting Valour-IT. You post really moved me this morning. Off to tweet about ti now!

Suldog said...

Elizabeth - Such a shame. Some folks, and I suppose I have to include myself among them, just don't deal well with disabilities. We are, in our own way, disabled in that regard.

Mrs. Greyhawk - Thank you very much for the kind words. And, please, folks - do contribute as she suggests, if you are able!

Katney - Excellent, about the quilts! So many people who do good deeds... Mister Rogers, very much a hero of mine, once said that his mother taught him a very valuable lesson, and it was this: Whenever a tragedy happens, look for the helpers. There will always be people willing to step forward and help those who need help. It will reinforce your feelings concerning the overall kindness of people. Truth.

Suldog said...

Knucklehead - Thanks for the compliment. As for the smoking... I think I need to be locked away somewhere. As long as I can get to them, I'll smoke them. You're aware that I've been addicted to other things and quit them. Smoking is the toughest. Pray for me, if you're the praying type. If you're not the praying type, pray even harder :-)

Suldog said...

Brian - Cool. Anything you can, please do. This is such a great cause!

Ananda - I knew I could count on you!

Boston Maggie - It's the other way around. I'm lucky to have you good folks.

Suldog said...

Lime - As always, you give of yourself in the comments and succinctly state the case. You're not only one of the funniest bloggers I know, but also one of the most compassionate. I would say, "God bless you!", but you know He already does.

The Good Cook said...

Great Post. My father is retired Army. Two brothers - retired Navy. My oldest son - 16 years into his Naval career.

Soldiers, sailors, flyboys, marines. They all answer the call. They don't make the call. They go where and when they are told. They sacrifice.

You better believe I am sending my check.

Suldog said...

Pouty Lips - THANK YOU!

David - THANK YOU!

Greta - THANK YOU!

(I've obviously run out of words to express my thanks properly, to all of you. I am truly feeling wonderful about this response. Please keep it going at your places!)

Suldog said...

The Good Cook - Thanks, sincerely. And a big "Thanks!" to your family, too!

Michelle H. said...

You have such a big heart! I'll find some way to help...

Suldog said...

Michelle - Thank you, My Darker Grey Friend. I know your heart, as you know mine, so I never doubted for a moment that you would find some way to help in this.

Gaston Studio said...

Great post Sully. Ever since I went on Social Security, I've only donated to one charity, Paralyzed Vets of America, but will do what I can.

Suldog said...

Gaston Studio - Paralyzed Vets is a swell charity!

(ALL charities are pretty much swell, I suppose. I don't mean to imply that any of them are rotten.)

Anyway, that's a great cause; very similar in many respects to this one. Good job!

BostonMaggie said...

Gaston Studio -
I certainly understand a tight budget and whatever you give is wonderful. But there are other ways to give too. I notice you have a blog. You could post and link. Plus you could email friends and direct them here.

Deep pockets are nice....I wish I had them....but lots of pockets work too!

Jocelyn said...

You move me, and I don't get all moved too often. But the way you have provided your own background, included caveats about your own feelings about the war, and then linked it all together into a moment of taking action--well, I'm moved.

Also, you did a tremendous job of linking to your readers' values in noting how we all would feel without easy access to our computers and writing. I am clicking on the widget now.

Suldog said...

Thank you very much, Jocelyn, for both the extremely kind words and for the action!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

An absolutely moving post, Jim...one would have to be very callous indeed not to feel moved to action by your impassioned, and eloquent plea on the part of our service men and women! Thank you, my friend!! Hugs, Janine

Angie Ledbetter said...

Write on, Suldawg!

JihadGene said...


Good job!!! Go TEAM ARMY!!!

Great Reader KIM Jong IL
Fresno, W. Korea

GreenJello said...

Thank you so much for bringing my attention to such an amazing charity. Bless you.

Peter N said...

Great post, Sul, for a better than great cause. Thank you.

Suldog said...

You are ALL wonderful, both for the responses and for the donations. Thanks!

Peter N said...

It's all YOU, Sul. Go Petey and his Phils.

Thumbelina said...

"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."

- Or my religious beliefs.

Hear hear.

Thumbelina said...

PS You know that is aimed at myself (that comment) not you....

Anonymous said...

This is such a great post. I've stumbled across the movie, The Best Years of Our Lives... several times. :-) Harold Russell did a phenomenal job in that movie. He won two Oscars for that role - Best Supporting Actor and for being such an inspiration to returning vets. I like to think he's an honorary on the Valour-IT team.

Thanks for writing this. Oh, and Go Team Air Force!

BostonMaggie said...

Elen! Isn't that one of the best movies evah!

There was a night that I was at the gym, on the treadmill, feeling bad for myself (because the favorite Naval consort was off playing in the sandbox) and that movie came on. When Myrna Loy sees Frederick March; when Dana Andrews talks to his father; and when Harold Russell talks to his girlfriend and his uncle.....tears were rolling down my face. Fortunately the treadmills face the wall.

Buck said...

Jim: I just gotta say it again: Thank You! Your readers are coming through magnificently... reading these comments just makes my day, and there's not one iota of hyperbole in that sentiment.

Snowbrush said...

Hey, Suldog, I see that you and Michelle are on the same page here.

I admire you for admitting your fears even while taking responsibility for them and doing your damnedest not to take them out on others.

Ericka said...

i grew up in a farming community. missing bits were not that rare. if i ever post again, i'll link. and, donation sent. lemming that i am, go air force!

Jenn said...

It is amazing how the world works! I was pleasantly greeted today by a sale in my purse shop which I never really talk about let alone promote and I wondered what I could do with the funds. Mystery solved, thanks for this Jim. I'm off to donate now!

J.L. Smith said...

Hi, there…just wanted to let everyone know that I am donating a percentage of my book sales – through Veterans’ Day – to Project Valour-IT!

Why not donate to this very worthwhile cause and read a great book at the same time? You can read a sample chapter on the “Sneak Peek” tab at www.ReportingForDoodie.com. Please help support our wounded soldiers by spreading the word! Thank you!

Ruth and Glen said...

Thank you for bringing this Charity to our attention Jim. Your post certainly stirred up some deep emotions in us. Well done !! Donation made.

Anonymous said...

Really Gr8 ! Thanks For sharing..