Welcome To Our Little Big House On The Prairie

Monday, June 25, 2012

Retrieving Freedom Wreaths

Some of you might know that I come from a long line of veterans.  

My Dad's father was a Marine stationed at Pearl Harbor during that infamous day on December 7th, 1941.  My grandmother, cowering in a bomb shelter, was pregnant with twins.  

She lost them both.  

My Momma's father was at Normandy.  

My uncle, a Chinook pilot in Vietnam.  

My husband served during peace time.  

My brother, a CH-53 Crew Chief during Enduring Freedom, stationed in 
Al Asad, Iraq.  

So many in my family were willing to give the
ultimate sacrifice for their country.

My brother.  So proud of getting his wings!

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by an organization asking if I would be willing to donate a handmade item to benefit disabled veterans.

Not really knowing much about RFI, I looked into it and knew I had to donate something to their benefit auction.

Enter Retrieving Freedom.

Retrieving Freedom is an organization affiliated with
Assistance Dogs International.  

Located in Waverly, Iowa, Retrieving Freedom is filling a need often overlooked.  

Scott and Tara Dewey, owners of Rock River Retrievers, breed and train top quality hunting dogs.  

Now, they're using their training and knowledge to give back.

Over 300,000 veterans suffer from PTSD.  

Of those 300,000, there are currently only 200 service dogs available to them.  

Thousands of our brave soldiers have come home with limited abilities or some kind of impairment directly attributed to their defense of our nation.  

The waiting list for a service dog?  

Two to four years.  

And locally, the need is even higher than the national statistics.

Over 60,000 of our men have been disabled in the 
Iraq and Afghanistan wars alone.

And let's face it, the VA is notorious for being understaffed, underequipped, and even downright negligent in providing the medical and psychological care
that our returning warriors need.

Home from Iraq, safe and sound!
Praise God!

I have watched my brother struggle with issues upon returning from Iraq.  

Coupled with the sudden, tragic death of our father a year and a half after he returned home, it took my brother years to seem like the "old" brother that I love.   

Mood swings, withdrawn, irritable...  

And this was the little brother who was such a riot that he could make me wet my pants with laughter.

I've watched as he fought the Marine Corps, struggling with the effects of flying through massive burn pits of "ordinance", the small particles of sand from sand storms that lodged in his lungs causing breathing difficulties (He stopped breathing over 90x a minute during his sleep study.)  

He struggled with weight gain because he literally could not draw a deep enough breath to exercise and run, to maintain USMC fitness standards.  

His nose would block up and yet, he was not sick.  

He is not the only veteran complaining of these exact symptoms.

My brother had been the perfect specimen of a fit Marine before he left for Iraq.  

He was at the top of his field when he returned home:  

A Crew Chief Instructor at MCAS New River, NC...  Creating a  computer training program that the Marine Corps uses today to train new recruits on the CH-53...  Eventually becoming one of the elite chosen to crew Marine One in Quantico, VA.  

Like I said, the top of his field.  

If you've seen National Geographic's special on Presidential Helicopter,
Marine One,
then you have seen my baby brother in action.

SSGT and CH-53 "Super Stallion" Crew Chief
(My Little Brother)
Press Photo
Al Asad, Iraq

Four years later, after enduring scathing criticism for his weight gain and the unknown reason for his inability to breath or sleep well, being grounded from flight, disgust from his superiors, being put through the rigorous P90X exercise program under threat of an OTH Discharge, and receiving VERY LITTLE help from the VA, while trying to figure out just exactly what was wrong with him, he decided not to re-enlist.  

Thirteen and a half years in.  

Only seven years from retirement.  

His dream. 

And it didn't matter about his exemplary record.  His meritorious awards.
His Navy Cross commendation. 

And once they had used him up and taken everything he had to give, they
tossed him away like a piece of garbage.

Final diagnosis:  Severe Sleep Apnea.  The pain in his knees? The cartilage in both all but gone, due to the constant vibration while standing on the deck of his plane.  The inability to breath normally on occasion?  Cause:  Unknown.  

He's 32.

Yes, I have a heart for our veterans.

My "little brother" and me.
July 2011

Service dogs, through a rigorous two year training program, will go on to provide men like my brother with these services:

  • Orientation to any prosthetic limbs that will need to be retrieved
  • The ability to “brace” and support the weight of their veteran
  • Training on pulling and stopping wheelchairs
  • Reduction of heeling speed to one step at a time, for veterans on crutches
  • Specific complex task chains
    • Open fridge, get water, close fridge
    • Open dryer, get clothes, place in basket
    • Un-tie shoes, take off, place at door, take off socks
    • Get remote
    • Get phone
    • Push elevator buttons
    • Get groceries off shelf, place in cart
    • Open door, wait, shut door
    • Push a panic button in case of an emergency
  • These dogs will be the hands, legs, and friends of these veterans, providing companionship while coping with an emotional overload.

And so, my contribution to the 
Retrieving Freedom Fundraising Auction...

A patriotic wreath composed of a straw wreath wrapped in cream linen cloth, patriotic fabric and burlap scraps, and iron numbers, "1776", the year of the signing of our Declaration of Independence from England.

Patriotic enough for the 4th of July, yet prim enough to hang in the home all year long, for those who believe that patriotism isn't just something we should celebrate twice a year.

I also made a smaller wreath, by using leftover scraps from
dismantling my pool noodle wreath.  

Perfect for lovers of the shabby chic style, who may not want to go
the red, white, and blue route.

Instead of wrapping the burlap, I gathered it around a straw wreath form and secured with straight pins and hot glue to give it a softer, fuller appearance.

Both of these wreaths will be up for auction at the Retrieving Freedom Dinner and Auction located in Waverly, IA at the 4-H Building at the Bremer County Fair Grounds on Saturday, July 7th.

I believe the dinner is between 5:00-7:00 p.m. with the auction taking place afterward.  

I have to check into that and will post further information on my FB page.

I humbly hope that my small contributions will help in garnering some much needed funding for such a worthy cause. 

I encourage anyone in the local area to prayerfully consider making a donation or attending the auction, to help our local veterans as they adjust to life at home, whether that be mentally or physically.

You can go to the Retrieving Freedom website, which supports both the Iowa and Mississippi branches of the organization HERE to learn more about this great organization or to make a donation to this awesome cause.

They were willing to give their life for you, what are you willing to give for them?



Pretty In Paint said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shannon at Fox Hollow Cottage said...

My father was in the Army, my cousin in the Marines and Jim was in the Navy escorting tankers at the cusp of Desert Storm. We are all about the USA and it's military in this house. I support disabled veterans yearly. This is a wonderful cause Laura. Thank you brother for his service, from our home to to yours. Have to get a tissue now... Love you!

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