I am sorry I left you all hanging for a little while. I am sure you all can feel this intense week as well; papers and projects being due. But Thanksgiving break is in the air! Just a little bit longer before that warm turkey and stuffing is sitting on your table. Hopefully you will be able to relax and enjoy family/friends.
It is good to stop and observe what you have and how blessed you are to be in the life you are living. There are so many people in the world who do not have the things we do.
This week I was able to see somebody else’s life and the battles that he goes through every day. This man is not just one person; he is a part of a multitude of people who see different from us. He is a soldier.
Monday, we had a Veteran’s Day presentation where veteran of the National Guard and alumni of Penn State Wilkes-Barre, Rob Donahue, came to speak about what soldiers go through, and still go through. A big part of being soldier is sacrifice. There were things that Rob had to miss out on; the “normal” things that most Americans have, such as a high school graduation party, family events, holidays, etc.
He got the news of his deployment during his first semester of college at PSUWB, and had to leave in October to begin training for Iraq. During his presentation, Rob spoke of the things that soldiers don’t have that many Americans take for granted. Things like:
- Fresh air (there was always the smell of burning garbage, and bodily waste because there were no sewers).
- Mattresses, sheets & blankets (they mostly slept on cots)
- Peaceful sleep at night (“you are always prepared to expect the unexpected”)
- Running water
- Hot, long showers
- Food choices (MRE’s were pretty much what they lived on)
Being 18 at the time of departure, transferring to a whole different world and culture was difficult for Rob. But he had the will and dedication to serve his country and to gain the finical means to go to college.
There were so many things that he said he had seen that were difficult to describe, but he did his best to share the vast difference between cultures. He mentioned how children that grew up in the area he was in were surrounded by violence everyday and it was all they knew. For example, young boys were forced to carry around bombs.
The mission that Rob and his team were on was to build up what very little Iraqi law enforcement there was in order for the Iraqi’s to not be dependent on outside aid to fight terrorism.
While driving through the streets of Sadr, Iraq, Rob was hit by an IED. He suffered from burns and brain injury which resulted in migraines, black outs, and he went through months of uncertainty of whether he could recover.
He received the Purple Heart from his run in with an IED
After his duty was complete in the military, Rob came back to finish school. It was hard to get use to a normal life again. He found himself subconsciously scanning the streets for bombs as he drove to school and such just because that is what he had been trained to do. “It’s tough to come back and stay focused and see kids (his fellow colleges students) acting normal, when you don’t feel normal from all the things you have seen and dealt with”, Rob described.
The help he received from the Veteran Affairs helped him to find some sort of normal. He encourages veterans coming back from war to find these resources to help them. He said it was good to talk to other people about the experience.
For those of us here in school that have not gone into the heat of battle and don’t know what it’s like, Rob told me that the best thing we can give a veteran or current soldier is encouragement, appreciation, and support.
Sometimes an open ear and hear of gratitude will be uplifting to them. Show your appreciation to a Veteran today! It doesn’t have to be just one or twice a year. They need to know that we care.