I’m a cryer. It can happen during a commercial, a news story, a segment for “America Strong” with David Muir on the nightly news, something my kids do (a good thing, not a bad thing), and sometimes even with Sam when I see how far he has come in his journey of healing.
Yesterday I was an emotional mess.
It started at school, after being off a week for “Fall/Thanksgiving Break,” I met with several students before and after class. Some shared some personal stories of homesickness and stress, and some shared stories of loss.
As a writing teacher, I often meet with students to discuss their progress in class or on an assignment, but there are some days where I feel like I am in more of a “mentor” role and just need to listen.
Those are the days when the curriculum does not always get taught, and we just have to have a heart to heart because students voices need to be heard.
I came home and began to reflect on the day thinking to myself, “I’m not sure I had that many pressures when I was their age.”
Before school started, I knew that something very special was happening on Monday.
Veterans from across the U.S. were coming to southern Illinois to begin their journey of healing at This Able Veteran. Service dogs and Veterans were paired yesterday and now the three-week trauma resiliency program begins.
I’m partial to days like Monday. I’m aware of the magnitude of the commitment to healing and working through trauma. I’m emotional thinking about how my very own Veteran made a commitment to moving forward with life back in 2016.
Cue the tears.
Yesterday pictures and videos flooded my Facebook newsfeed. Veterans meeting their canine partner for the first time. Their faces full of joy, hope, love, and some tears reminded me that healing continues, a commitment to our Veterans continues, and the love and support from a community can make all the difference in the world.
I went through my photo album on my phone and found a few photos. Some of them have been shared with you all before, some have not. These photos capture precious memories, a day and time that can’t be forgotten, a moment that was once never thought to be possible, these photos show hope and healing.
I get so emotional thinking about how far Sam (and our family) have come.
Sam and Memphis meeting during their introduction to each other when the trauma resiliency class began in April of 2016. We secretly hoped that Sam would be paired with Memphis. We’d been fortunate to attend fundraisers and local events where Memphis was out with some trainers. What a joy to see them come together to be partners in this world.
This is Sam and Memphis at home for the first time after the three weeks training at This Able Veteran. We also had to introduce our two dogs, Archie and Kip, to their new brother. They were all unsure of one another at first, but now they get along very well. We had to adjust to a new routine and a new way of traveling to and from daily events like work, school and trips to get groceries or nights out to eat. The best part of it all: moments like this one captured here. Snuggles on the couch.
2016 was such a big year! I attended a national conference for composition instructors, Sam was in training for three weeks at TAV, and in June we got married. This fella was the “best dog,” and did so well on a long trip to Florida. He helped Sam in a variety of situations, and he even spent some time on the beach. Travel with Memphis is not always easy, sometimes we encounter people that do not understand what a service dog does, and at that moment, we just use it as an opportunity
to share the joy and goodness that Memphis has brought to our home.
One of the great joys in life is to see these two have little moments like this. Before Memphis, Sam had moments of being so uncomfortable in public, he went out and about anyway (to please people he was with and to seem as if things were okay). Sometimes we just didn’t do certain things that would involve people, crowds, uncomfortable situations, triggers, and anxiety. We sat in the back of resturants, theatres, and church. Now, those situations and others are easier because we have the ability to go to events and Sam can have Memphis. Dinner theatres, no problem. Navigating sporting events? We got it. I’m so happy to see Sam comfortable in his own skin. Though there are battles, he has one of the best battle buddies with him.
Happiness. Joy. Love. There are days that Memphis brings all of these and more to every single person he meets. Sometimes there are days when he just wants to snooze and take a break. When you see the images of Veterans and their service dogs, the videos of the Veterans and dogs meeting for the first time, and when you read stories of how important these dogs are to their Veterans, please know that lives are being changed. Love and hope are going through these dogs to Veterans who may have had no hope at all.
I get so emotional thinking about how incredibly loving these dogs are and how incredibly grateful these Veterans and their families are to be blessed. <3