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Whatever It Takes

Anyone who followed the NBA finals probably noticed burgundy colored t-shirts with gold lettering proclaiming, “WHATEVER IT TAKES.” This is accompanied by the Cavs basketball logo and referred to the playoffs and then the finals for the National Basketball Association Championship. It especially brings to mind the colossal efforts of LeBron James to lead the team through three rounds of playoffs and in the finals.

Reflecting on LeBron, one must give him the respect he has earned. Coming from a single parent home, in poverty, and foster care, he rose above it and has achieved not only stardom as a basketball player but as a community leader and role model. Watching him play one can see that he does “whatever it takes,” playing the entire game without rest if necessary, taking some hard hits without over-reacting, and maintaining his sharply focused determination.

At the beginning of June, I had the opportunity to attend the USO Warrior Week in Virginia Beach. I now have a whole new perspective on the phrase “Whatever It Takes.” I was there as a guest of my daughter Elana Ross, Vice President of Corporate Relations for BBMC Mortgage (Bridgeview Bank Mortgage Company), a company that supports the USO through its Patriots Charity Initiative. The event was very impressive in terms of the people attending, the sponsors, the activities planned, and the upbeat atmosphere. We had many experiences such as shooting laser rifles in the Marine trailer, “trying out” for the Air Force in a series of tasks, and watching the Navy seals helping little kids to do pull ups. During the entire weekend there were parachutes coming down on the beach. While the planes were so high they could not be seen, the brightly colored chutes drifted down carrying two people each. One person was a trained parachutist and the other was active duty military or veteran. In spite of any disability, the USO and volunteers made it possible for a courageous few to experience the thrill of floating down from the clouds to the earth below.

We entered a trailer for “Wreaths Across America.” Its mission: “Remember our fallen veterans. Honor those who serve. Teach your children the value of freedom.” It occurred to me that we take for granted the sacrifices our military have made since the inception of this country. It also brought to mind that my own father was a soldier in the Army in World War II. This organization lays wreaths at the graves of the 400,000 veterans at Arlington Cemetery every December. They also lay wreaths at over 1,400 cemeteries around the country.

There was a trailer representing an organization called End 22. Its purpose is to bring awareness to the Veterans Administration’s study, which reported that 22 veterans per day commit suicide. This number is a gross underrepresentation of the actual suicides because only 21 states reported statistics. Two of the states not reporting were Texas and California, both being very populous states. Furthermore, if an active duty military person commits suicide it is reported as a “non-combat related death,” not a suicide. This points out that not all injuries sustained in the service can be seen. We discussed the invisible wounds of war with the vets in the trailer. They described the symptoms of PTSD such as: nightmares, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, insomnia, withdrawal, anxiety and despair. The trauma psychologically leads to over 22 people ending their own lives every day.

At a concert on Friday evening there was a huge crane on the beach. From the crane hung the flags of the United States, the USO, and a black flag representing MIAS and POWS. After the concert we noticed a man limping on a prosthetic leg. He sat down on the ground and was not able to make the walk to the hotel. My daughter arranged an Uber and we all shared a ride to our hotel. He was very grateful and offered to buy us a beer, which we accepted. As we got to know each other we found out that Mike was from England and was there with a small group of vets. He had lost his leg in the service many years ago. He informed us that he was going to participate in a “Monster Mash” with the Navy Seals in the morning. His plan was to do this physical challenge not with his prosthetic leg but with his crutches.

I got up early to cheer Mike on the next day. The temperature was already above 80 degrees at 8 am. I watched as dozens of able-bodied men and women struggled to run, crawl, climb, jump and crab walk through the sand along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Mike was in the last group, and by then it was even hotter. I saw him “running” through the sand with the kind of crutches that go on the arms, not in the armpits. When it was time to crab walk, he threw his crutches to a British woman who was watching from the side. He proceeded to make his way through the sand with two arms and one leg. For the people with four limbs this was very challenging. But Mike was determined to finish the entire event, giving new meaning to “Whatever It Takes.” The winner of the race gave Mike his trophy and the Navy Seals gave him a shirt that is exclusive to the Seals to honor him.

Another event was a 20-mile bike ride. All the participants anxiously gathered in their bike shorts, jerseys, toting water bottles and pumping tires. There I met Scotty Moro of The Adaptive Cycling Foundation. Scotty enthusiastically showed me the bikes he individually designed and constructed for veterans with various disabilities. There were bikes for amputees, paralyzed vets, and even a blind rider. One bike had a special braking mechanism that was operated by shoving the rider’s rear end into it because the vet had paralysis in his arms. For anyone that has a will, Scotty will find a way. Again, doing “Whatever It Takes.”

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was the surfing event, called Surf Camp. For anyone who wanted to experience the thrill of surfing, the USO and volunteers made it possible. There were professional and amateur surfers to help each person. Each “camper,” as they called them, got as many volunteers as they needed. I saw a man who had two legs amputated above the knee and an arm amputated below the elbow. The volunteers helped this triple amputee onto the surfboard, paddled him out into the ocean and waited there with him for the right wave. He managed to get upright on the board, with the volunteers swimming alongside of him and he rode the wave into the shore with glee. As soon as he reached the shore, they paddled him right back out again, over and over. Another “camper” was a woman who was pushed through the sand in a special “beach wheelchair” with big tires. She was paralyzed, but wanted to surf. Several volunteers lifted and placed her on the surf- board. They paddled her out, waited for a good wave, and then one of the volunteers rode in on the board with her.

Warrior Week was a very inspirational experience. “Whatever it takes” is the willingness to face challenges well outside of one’s comfort zone. Doing the seemingly impossible takes courage to face fear and uncertainty. It takes support of organizations like the USO, BBMC Mortgage, volunteers, families and friends. My thanks to our military for their courage, conviction, and fortitude. And my respect for the sacrifices they make so that we can enjoy our freedom and comfort here in the United States.

Deborah L. Ross, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

Mayfield Heights, Ohio

 

 

 

 

 

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