Two years ago my husband left for fifteen months. He went to military training, and then he went straight to the Middle East for a year. I understood when he left that it would be a journey we’d both have to take alone, but it wasn’t until he came home that I realized combat and deployment were experiences I would never really comprehend. There were many nights after he came home that we sat motionless in our own silence, even though we knew there was much to be said.
That’s the way it is for friends of mine whose spouses have civilian jobs. They can’t imagine the lives of military families: being away from loved ones for long periods of time, moving to strange places over and over, celebrating anniversaries alone, supporting their spouse’s decision to volunteer for dangerous jobs that take them in harm’s way, and doing it all over and over and over again. My friends say they don’t know how I do it. They say it’s something they’ll never fully grasp.
My husband survived his recent tour unscathed, with the exception of some separation wounds and a few missed holidays. But I look at the wounded warrior families I know and I wonder how they make sense out of the longevity of their condition, the unending doctors visits, the health challenges seen and unseen, the loneliness of their eventual separation from the military, and the loss of employment and self-worth that many face. I realize it’s something that can’t be understood unless it’s experienced. But because I am a storyteller, I wonder how I can help tell their stories, help others catch a glimpse of the sacrifice they’ve made.
In her speech to the Democratic National Convention this week, Michelle Obama remarked on the amazing American Spirit she has witnessed during her time in the White House. She said:
I’ve seen it in our men and women in uniform and our proud military families … in wounded warriors who tell me they’re not just going to walk again, they’re going to run, and they’re going to run marathons … in the young man blinded by a bomb in Afghanistan who said, simply, “I’d give my eyes 100 times again to have the chance to do what I have done and what I can still do.”
When I heard the First Lady speak those words, it was so meaningful. Not only did I personally know the proud military families of whom she spoke, I realized that the blind swimmer she referred to was Brad Snyder, the warrior I recently wrote about. The quote was even the quote I used in my article. And though I can’t be sure whether it was my article she read, it still underscored for me how universally touching these stories are, how they resonate even at the highest levels, and how they impact people simply because they tell a story about someone who rose to meet what seemed like an insurmountable challenge.
It occurred to me, in that moment, that rising to meet a challenge is something we can all fundamentally understand.
I’ve been given an amazing opportunity to do just that, and this is the first article in a series that I’ll be writing to help raise awareness about the challenges veterans face and their continued importance to the community. Home Depot is sponsoring a “Celebration of Service” campaign once again this year, and I’ve been chosen to write about some of the families assisted by the program. I can’t possibly write about them all – in 2011 The Home Depot Foundation made a pledge to commit $30 million to veterans’ nonprofits, and they announced this morning that they plan to increase that pledge by another $50 million over the next three years.
“Celebration of Service” is a two month program running from now through Veterans Day that recruits Home Depot store associates to volunteer to build, repair, and remodel the homes of veterans and the facilities that serve them throughout the United States. They will make mobility modifications and help reduce utility costs by installing energy-efficient upgrades. I’ll be participating in a local service project for a family in the Northwest, and bringing you the stories of the Veterans and volunteers I meet along the way.
It’s true. Home Depot gets their name mentioned a few times in this blog and several others, and they will undoubtedly get national recognition and accolades for their generosity and dubious corporate responsibility. But really, I hope people realize that they don’t have to do any of this. It isn’t something that makes any sense at all to the bottom line on their balance sheet. It is the idea of giving to Veterans without the expectation of a quantified return that makes me want to participate.
So – I sure hope I look good in orange, because between now and Veterans Day I’m honored to bring you the stories of some of our Nation’s warriors on behalf of Home Depot, and the people who are taking steps to do what they can, it their own way, to say thank you for these sacrifices. You can follow my “Hero Chronicles” here at Witty Little Secret, and many others on the Home Depot Foundation’s Facebook page. I can’t wait to narrate a part of that amazing American Spirit Ms. Obama spoke about. I can’t wait to remember what it feels like to rise up and meet a challenge.
Disclosure: While I am being paid to write these stories, I’d honestly do it for free. (Don’t tell the Home Depot, though.) I’m not being told what to write, not being told to wear orange, not being asked to endorse any products or services, and will as always share my own opinions in my own words. All posts align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations. I have my own Home Depot stories to tell, but if you have a personal Home Depot experience, I’d much rather hear about that. Feel free to email me at wittylittlesecret at gmail dot com.