Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Reflections

Pam and I come from families that have served our country. Pam's grandfather, Claude, died fighting in WWI. My uncle John went missing in hostile waters during WWII. My father, who became a citizen of this country from Canada, served in the U.S. Navy during WWII. My three brothers served, each in a different branch of the military during the 50s and 60s, and Pam's two brothers also gave years of service during the Vietnam era.

Since we opened Capabilities nearly four years ago, we are honored that so many of our customers are veterans. It is striking how much pride there is with older generations who want to tell us about their experiences and how grateful they are to have been part of the greatest military force around. Many of the men will still use their rank when they give us their contact information or write a check for their purchases. Their pride of having achieved the rank of Captain or Lieutenant Colonel swells as they walk back in time to days of heroism and competence, qualities many struggle to find in their everyday lives marked by so many of the challenges of aging.

The women are quieter about their service, although occasionally a story will spill out revealing that Mary reached the rank of Lieutenant or Captain serving in the Army, or Alice went on to play a leading role in the U.S. Navy after enlisting in the early days of the Korean War. A recent customer stationed at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs was on her way to a new assignment in California. She wears compression stockings for her long days of work.

Our work with the VA and other organizations that support our veterans introduces us to both the tales of glory and satisfaction as well as those of pain and suffering. Younger veterans returning now from their mid-east assignments speak to us most often of head injuries and trauma. Their limbs may be intact, but their battles now are with memory and emotional balance.

We recently featured John Garrett and Inga Tomasino who work with veterans and others addressing PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), an ever-present outcome for so many returning from war zones. The national organization, Easter Seals, is teaming with one of our favorite suppliers of products, Posit Science, to help veterans address the more temporary, but confounding, affects of head trauma, especially the impact on long- and short-term memory. Using the Brain Fitness program to retrain the brain's ability to product essential neurotransmitters for memory and recall, Posit Science and Easter Seals contribute greatly to rehabilitation efforts of veterans.

As Pam and I honor our families and customers who have served our country so selflessly, we reflect, too, on the challenges for veterans returning from their tours of duty today. Some of our family members were killed during war, but happily our brothers all returned safe and sound. If any of them suffered from PTSD, we never knew it. Perhaps they never knew it, since in their day no one spoke of such a diagnosis. We are fortunate to be part of a culture that now has so many alternatives for respecting our veterans and helping them get back on their feet, literally and figuratively.

Thank you to all who have served to protect our country and freedoms. We appreciate you and your families very much.

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