If you are having a bad day, an irritating day, like the kind of day where you fail your tests, or you find out that you have gained two pounds even though you are following the diet, I think I can help you put everything into perspective. I will tell you a motivational story that will help you take a step back and re-look at yourself. It will help you re-gain your energy, and fight your own fight, whatever it is. The story is about a wounded warrior, and his unbelievable family. It is amazing.
His name is Joshua Hoffman. He is a corporal, a medically retired corporal, but a corporal just the same, in the United Stated Marine Corps. And he is crippled, from his neck on down. (Please pray that he regains mobility.) He was hit about 2 years ago, in 2006, and he just got out of his hospital. He got to go home, to Michigan, in early 2008. For as long as I was able to visit him, his mom and his friend, in his current hospital, he had wanted to go home, to Michigan. But again and again, he had stayed in his hospital for another month.
Last fall, I was joking with him about the Buckeyes vs. Wolverines game. I was telling him that he needed to get home soon, so he could be there when they lost. Surely, he did not want to see the Wolverines lose while he was still sitting there in the hospital.
“Back in Michigan, people are used to that.”
He rolled his eyes at me, opened them as wide as possible, and then looked directly at Heather.
“No Way! Michigan is winning this year!”
I smiled when I looked a Joshua. He was rolling his head, and he had said “No way!”Although the sound of his words was quiet, it was intense. It was clear; the Wolverines were going to win!
“Ok. Ok!” I said. “Got it”
One year ago, none of this ever took place.
After the bullet had punched through his neck, snapping his spine, he was not speaking at all. Doctors were telling his mom and Heather that he would never talk; never respond to anyone’s words. Basically, they were told that his heart was the only thing that was working. And for a long time, even that had been dicey.
The Power of Families’ Vision
Since I began visiting Wounded Warriors in NNMC, I have learned about talking. Or rather, about warriors who were not talking. I have learned that talking is, during the first phase of the injury, irrelevant. I learned back then that it is the eyes that matter. Look in their eyes. If they look back at you, then, some day, they will “wake up”.
When I meet a seriously Wounded Warrior, who is lying on a hospital bed or being pushed around in a wheel chair; a warrior who is holding a stuffed animal or maybe just mom’s hand; a warrior, who seems to be doing nothing, I look in their eyes. And I have seen many, MANY, that are looking back. And when I see those eyes, those burning eyes, I tell the family that he is going to “wake up”. Because that is what I have seen.
I have been told by my wife, Shannon, that it was exciting when I spoke. I can’t even remember it. That must have been pretty good news for my family. I also believed that Shannon always knew that I would come out of it. But I am not sure that anyone else felt the same. I suspect that she was chewing me out, quietly, passionately, but chewing me out. Ordering me to wake up.
Believe me, that works for many warriors. We have just come home. And we don’t even know it. And intense discussions are what we are used to. It is the way we tend to speak during a battle. And this is just that. A battle. All I know it, it worked for me.
My son, Eric, who was only seven-years-old at the time of my injury, recently told me that the only word I used for the first couple of days was “the “F” word”.
Ahhhh, yes. War.
Hazel and Heather are Winning
But in Joshua Hoffman’s case, with one of the worst injuries I have seen, I did not know what to say. I could see that his eyes were awake.But I had little hope that he would ever be responsive to anyone’s works. My “experience” had been learned when talking to warriors with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), not with what Joshua has. I was nervous about his future. Would he be able to respond, if not talk, to his family? Did he understand what people around him were saying? If not now, would he ever? So I asked his mother, Hazel, what she believed about his future. She had said “Oh, he’ll be talking.”
Heather said “He’s already talking”.
And she was right.
After they had been transferred to the McGuire VAMedicalCenter, in Richmond, Va, they were holding entire conversations with him. And Joshua was not saying a word. None of us understood it. But they did. Heather did.
There were people who did not even believe that Joshua was part of the conversation. They thought that Heather and Hazel were pretending. That they were giving themselves some hope, by talking to themselves, pretending that he was part of it all.
Obviously, they were wrong. Joshua now talks.
There are other stories. For example, Heather saved Joshua’s life once. Literally. When you are in a hospital, you do not get to have a nurse beside you unless you are in the ICU. The problem is, if you stop breathing, you need some help.
The first time they had removed his breathing tube, they had not put him in the ICU. He was to stay in his regular room. The nurses who take care of him every day meant to do their best, and according to Heather, they are good. But later in the day, after the nurses had just left his room, Joshua lost his ability to breath. Heather was there. And she saved his life. What she went through to make that happen is a story all by itself. And that is just one of the major battles they won.
Today and the Future
Personally, I hope that Heather writes their book some day. I believe that the experiences, which continues to happen every single day, would be motivational. I am not suggesting that all of the events are enjoyable. But some of them are. For example, on July 3rd they spent the night down in Decatur, Michigan for a parade/grill-out/etc put-on by the Decatur VFW. They had raised money for Josh and wanted to present it to him.
So what can we do for them? I think that Heather has one answer; come and visit Joshua. Don’t leave him sitting all by himself. Remind him that he is still a Marine. Tell him that he is a great American. Tell him that the Wolverines are going to WIN! I think that what she would ask for is just that. Come and visit Joshua.
But I think there are a few other things that they must need. Like money, for example. While I know nothing about donations of money, Shannon does. Her organization, Hope for the Warriors is filled with wonderful people. You can contact them on their web page and ask them any question you have.
Finally, on Friday, Sept. 12, 2008 , there is an event in Conference Center Dr, Brighton MI. Hosted by Support for Our Troops, who is a wonderful organization. You can get involved. If interested, contact them by calling Jan Taylor at (810) 299-2915 or (810) 923-9083 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also see the entire invitation on the SemperMax.comweb site. They would love to see us all there.
Heather has done an amazing number of things. And Joshua Hoffman, Cpl. USMC (MedRet) is an amazing man.