Today is Memorial Day, remembering the men and women who died in service to America.
Families have been horrifically affected by war, including the American Civil War in which more than 650,000 people were killed or injured. Since 1900, more lives have been affected. More than 320,000 men and women were killed or wounded in World War I, and more than one million during World War II. During the Korean conflict more than 136,000 were killed and wounded, and in Vietnam the tally was more than 200,000. During the first Gulf War, 760 were killed and injured, and, according to an investigative Huffington Post report, more than 6,600 have been killed and 50,000 battle-wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Additionally, the report notes, more than 253,000 have received brain injuries, most of which can be considered moderate to severe.
My father’s father served in World War II as did my godfather. One of my uncles served in the navy and another was a chopper pilot in Vietnam who was shot down three times. Though those men survived combat, none talked much about it. Many service members who survive the wars in which they’ve engaged come home scarred and wounded not only physically but also emotionally. Experts say one in five veterans returning to the states from the Iraq/Afghan war are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Our veterans, and their families, have given so much in service to their country – it is only right we honor them. America’s veterans sacrifice for all of us. Billy Ray Cyrus has a song titled “Some Gave All” – that is so true. They have either given their lives in the physical or in the emotional for their nation and for their countrymen and women.
I was fortunate to meet Luis Carlos Montalvan, a former Army captain who served 17 years, including two tours in Iraq. Luis and his service dog Tuesday came to Casper last year at the invitation of our library. The captain spoke of what transpired prior to and since being partnered with Tuesday. His memoir, Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him, is touching and endearing, as are the man and dog which encapsulate the book. The two are making an incredible impact on our country for veterans’ causes and for companion animal causes, and I feel humbled, honored, and blessed to have made their acquaintance. Tuesday was honored last year by the American Kennel Club with an Award for Canine Excellence (ACE) for his service to Luis and communities and organizations around the country. And, tomorrow, May 27th, the release of Luis’ new book, a story for children titled Tuesday Tucks Me In, will be released.
Many of us know the emotional healing power of dogs – those who visit hospitals and nursing homes as therapy pets, those who are partnered with blind and physically challenged people, and our own companion animals. Our veterans have given everything for us and we need to honor and help them. Dogs like Tuesday can be vital in their healing so when we see a service dog, may we remember that the person with that animal may have served us in service to his/her country.
Especially in late of the VA scandal currently in the news, I challenge each of us to do something today to honor and remember our veterans… whatever you feel compelled to do to recognize and remember these heroes, do it!
The dog rescue story I’m working on includes a pilot as a character – my pilot who transports Jasmine part-way to her new home is going to be a former Airman who has a love for dogs as well as for flying. Pilots’n’Paws is a real organization that flys rescue dogs across the country – I’d bet some of those guys and gals are former servicemen and women; the one in my upcoming book certainly will be! I am working on that story again today and have been mindful of the two- and four-legged ones who serve and have served our country.
To Luis and Tuesday and to all the servicemen and women, I take a moment to say THANK YOU! Because of you and those who “gave some and gave all”we Americans have freedoms that many around the world only dream of. I salute you with humbleness and thanksgiving!
Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, to articles in Creation Illustrated and Our Town Casper magazine, as well as the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers. Her latest work is a Kindle book to help owners of blind dogs. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.