Happy Veteran’s Day! Veteran’s Day always falls on November 11, and this year, it just so happened to appropriately fall on the same week as Election Day. Without our veterans fighting for our freedoms, I don’t know that we’d even have the privilege of Election Day, so I’m especially thankful this week for everything our vets do to ensure that we maintain one of the most essential and sacred practices of a democracy.
I always hesitate when writing posts like this – what in the world do I say? I cannot possibly say anything that even comes remotely close to having the gravitas necessary to express indebtedness to those who sacrifice so much.
But perhaps it’s just that – perhaps it’s just that insecure feeling of being unable to fully express appreciation that holds us back from doing something, one thing, to say thank you, and well, I just don’t want to let that happen in my case!
Veterans, THANK YOU for paying a debt that we all owe but do not all have to pay. For those of us who haven’t had to pay that debt, if you’re looking for a way to give back – for a small way to make a big difference – I’ve got an idea for you!
My husband is a veteran – I’m so very proud of him and what he stands for. I could gush all day about it. I know there are thousands, if not millions, of others who feel the same way about their vets.
When Aaron was in Afghanistan in 2009-2010, he lost his one and only teammate, Chris Coffland, to an IED explosion. Unfortunately, I also know there are thousands, if not millions, who have been affected by this same type of loss.
This is Aaron’s journal he kept while in Afghanistan. One who reads it would find out his heart behind his mission there, find out how big he viewed his God to be, and catch a glimpse of how much he treasured the relationships he developed while in Afghanistan.
After their pre-mobilization training and before they actually left for Afghanistan:
“I think the best part that came out of all the training was the relationships and friendships I’ve built. The sad part is that I’ll only be working with one of my good friends, Chris Coffland, as we will be split up and sent to all parts of the country.”
Once in Afghanistan, Aaron wrote a few days’ worth of entries about their mission in Afghanistan, but just a few pages later, he was already having to write about Chris’s death. Chris was killed less than two weeks after they arrived to the country.
“Oh Lord, where do I even begin? Chris was killed 3 days ago. It was about 10:30 13 Nov 09 when his MRAP was hit by an IED.”
Recanting the memorial service Aaron’s unit was able to have for Chris in Afghanistan before Chris’s body was taken back to America:
- “We spent half our time sharing stories, laughing, and joking about Chris. That’s what he was best at, making people laugh and feel good. He had so many classic, hilarious stories. We spent the other half of the rehearsal silent, shedding tears. As we put Chris on the plane, people passed, saluted, paid their last respects, and dropped coins on his transfer case. He must’ve had 250 salutes that day, 14 Nov 2009. He deserved every last one of them.”
- “The service left me feeling honored at celebrating his life and memory, but also left me feeling very drained & devastated. It doesn’t feel right that the world keeps spinning & that we must all move on. I feel like the world should stop for Chris, and that we should be permitted to perpetually grieve and mourn. We’re supposed to go back to ‘normal,’ but that can never happen.”
I could make this post about a mile long with all the stories Aaron could share about Chris and how awesome Chris’s family is. We’ve come to know them and love them, and we look forward to seeing them every November when we visit Chris at Arlington Cemetery.
Soon after Chris was killed, his family knew they wanted to do something in his memory, and within a couple of years, Catch A Lift materialized, and they have taken the country by storm!
Aaron, and anyone who knew Chris, could tell you – he loved the gym. I remember Aaron telling me about Chris after they had met, and Aaron told me that, though Chris was about twice his age (Chris enlisted when he was 41-years-old, just about a month before he would have become ineligible, because of age, to join the Army), Chris was in much better shape than he was. Staying fit was a mandatory part of Chris’s life, and his family has made that a reality for so many other vets around the country, too – the Coffland family, in Chris’s honor, turned their grief into celebration, and now run a successful non-profit that offers wounded vets scholarships to join a gym for mental and physical rehabilitation purposes.
When Aaron and I visited the Cofflands last November, we had the privilege of attending our first CAL fundraiser. It was awesome, and we got to hear a few testimonies of how much the organization deeply affects the veterans it serves.
We’re going back to visit Chris at Arlington, as well as visit Chris’s family and attend another CAL fundraiser this year, and we are really looking forward to it!
So, going back to my feelings of inadequacy as I try to muster up how to say “Thank you” on Veteran’s Day, if you’re looking for a way to give back, for a small way to make a big impact, here’s an option – one option – out of probably a ZILLION options out there! Catch A Lift serves thousands of veterans across the country, and I’m certain that thousands of lives have been changed through this organization – a need of wounded vets is being met, and the Coffland family ensures that they know just how valued they are for their service.
And if you’re in the Austin area and looking for a way to get physically involved with CAL, Aaron’s cousin, Jessica, can get you connected! She’s an up-and-coming personal trainer and is beginning to host regular CAL workouts & fundraisers!
Happy Veterans Day! If you have served, or if you have a loved one who has served, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.