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COLUMN: 'First to fight for right and freedom'

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By John Lapp

The above is the fifth line of the first verse of what is known as The Marine Corps Hymn. I was a proud member of the Marine Corps from 1957-1963.
The United States of America and its military have always responded to defend and assist other nations who reportedly desired freedom as we know it to be, and have made the most profound impact in the many wars that have been fought.
As we approach Memorial Day, we need to pause and remember those who are no longer with us as they gave their lives for our wonderful country, but also those who are currently serving, and especially those who may not have given their lives in order to encourage freedom, but have lost body parts, and sustained serious brain damage with what is currently going on in the country of Afghanistan and before that, Iraq.
In a recent training program I attended, the seminar presenter displayed statistics that shocked the audience as they related to the number of casualties, including severe brain damage, from the enemy using those hidden devices which are designed to do the most possible damage, including, of course, death.
We have friends in the Michigan who alerted us to a family friend who sustained severe injuries in Afghanistan.
A brief summary of Army Sgt. “Travis” is included to give us a sketch of the men and women who have served and/or are currently serving. When Travis was a high school student, he was a superb athlete, playing many years for his high school football team and performing at the highest level of expectation. After high school, he enlisted in the u.s. Army, during which time he married his sweetheart (they have a 6-month-old daughter).
As a result of his combat responsibilities, he was
exposed to one of those aforementioned devices, which did more than what is considered serious damage. In fact, he is now a quadriplegic, having lost both his arms and legs. He is in recovery, and continues in severe pain, including what is termed “phantom pain” which is “felt” in his body as if it were happening in one of his lost limbs. He has also suffered some brain damage and, of course, has been having serious “flashback” memories of the incident. He is in the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Maryland and will be there for quite some time.
Now, information to help us digest the future of Travis and his family is longer than this column can allow, but here are a few things to consider: he will never be able to do what all good fathers would desire ... to cradle and hold his little girl. (A recent photo shows the baby laying up against his upper torso, having been placed there by an attendant, maybe his wife.) And although he may eventually receive the assistance of artificial arms, they will be mechanical, steel-like, and not the soft warmth of his natural arms. It is also important for him and his wife to face what used to be the warmth and sensuous feel of an intimate embrace. Another factor is, while many are also fitted with artificial legs, he will experience sever limitations and may never be able to perform athletically as has been always the case before this tragedy. Many other obstacles stand in the way, and over the years, both he and his wife will attempt to overcome them with training, and, of course, true grit.
My heart goes out to him and we have already sent a couple of cards to him and his wife as a way of
encouragement.
Maybe, along with the brief presentation of Travis, you may be acquainted with someone with serious injuries which have come about by serving in the U.S. Military. If so, that person, will appreciate any word of encouragement and personal concern that will come his/her way.
War has always been with us, maybe not as we have been directly involved as is the present case, but it will probably always be with us, sad but true as that sounds.
I was born as the sounds of war Were already coming from Europe, and from WWII to present day, there have been wars, rumors of wars and skirmishes all the way to this year.
So, at this upcoming Memorial Day, please don’t just see it as another weekend extension which includes Monday, count it as an opportunity to bow your head and thank God for each of our military members, whether known or unknown personally, and pray for their safety. Also when you see a military person in uniform, or see someone wearing a ball-cap with the name of a branch of the military displayed, thank that person for serving us and helping preserve the freedoms which are ours.
May God bless you for your effort. If I may be of any service for you or your family member, you may call me at 502-477-2818.