Sunday, February 22, 2009

One (little) person, making a difference

Sometimes, one person really can make a difference.
You have to want it. You have to be dedicated and passionate. You must be able to motivate and energize others to rally around your cause. And from what I’ve seen, it helps if your first name is Taylor.

One of my many “internet buddies”, Cathy, is the mother to an amazing young lady. Over the past couple of years that I’ve known Cathy, she’s often written to us about Taylor’s commitment to our military, and how proud she is of her “little Gunny”. Taylor is also sick. She has a chromosome disorder that makes her life painful, but it doesn’t hold her back. She’s been to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda several times for special tests and treatments that are exhausting and painful, but it doesn’t stop her from visiting with the wounded while she’s there.

In addition to the everyday heroes she’s visited with, she’s also met, either in person or over the phone, some very well known men including bloggers Major Pain (click to read his post about meeting Taylor for the first time) and Taco Bell, Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal (yes, *that* Brad Kasal), and LTC. Tim Maxwell, founder of the Wounded Warrior Barracks program. Taylor has organized fundraisers and card campaigns supporting our wounded, and she’s met dozens, if not hundreds, of those wounded warriors. About a year ago, Taylor was back at NNMC for more tests. In Cathy’s report to all of us, she related the story of Taylor’s visit with the wounded. In it, she wrote about how respectful and unafraid Taylor was to meet these men. They had horrific injuries that would make adults shy away, but not Taylor. She didn’t force herself on the men, but rather respectfully and artfully made her way from room to room, encouraging them in her own special way.
She went into a room of an amputee. I could feel the unease in the room. I don't think he wanted us in there and I can't say that I didn't blame him. He was polite to Taylor, but in a very distant way and in a way to make his displeasure known. He was pretty straight forward with her. I am not sure what made him do it, but all of the sudden, he threw back the covers and lifted what very little was left of his leg. I got upset, as this is the one thing Taylor told me she didn't want to see. The man stared at his leg, then stared at Taylor. I can't say what he was thinking, but his face was speaking clearly. He was angry. Taylor stood there for a few seconds looking at it, then looked up at him and just as defiant as he was being with her, she said to him, 'well you know what? It could have been a heck of a lot worse'. I was ready to throw up and thought to myself.........this is NOT good. He glared at Taylor and then, then.....he broke out into the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. It filled his whole face, heck, it filled the whole room! He said to her in a completely different tone he had been using, 'You know what little lady? You are right, it could have been a heck of a lot worse'. Again, there are just no words to ever describe the feeling. When we walked out of the room, I was told that was one of the few times that young man had smiled. As we walked by the door, she looked back and he was still smiling. She stopped and sent of a perfectly executed salute to him, and he did the same back. AMAZING!
I consider myself a military supporter, as do all of us who read this blog. But nothing I have done even comes close to what this little girl has accomplished in her short life. She never ceases to amaze me. A couple of days ago, I got another “Taylor Update” from Cathy. Walking through her high school, she paused to look at the trophy case. Every school has one, or two.. or three… depending on how many championship sports trophies they have to display. Taylor was discouraged to see that, amongst the awards, there was nothing to honor the true heroes of her school: those who graduated and served our country in the military.

In typical Taylor fashion, she went right to the school board and passionately made her case. How could they refuse? It’s been a year, but the memorial was finally unveiled last week.
One of Taylor’s wounded warrior buddies, Sgt. Dean Cugliotta, is a graduate of her school, so naturally, Taylor wanted him there for the unveiling. What Cugliotta didn’t know is that against all odds, Taylor arranged to have his cousin, Thomas, a fellow Marine stationed in California, present for the ceremony. The following is rough video Cathy shot of the event.

Taylor, I salute you. Thank you for your dedication to our country and the men and women who defend her. You’re an incredible young lady, and patriotism personified. If you, like me, want to continue following Taylor and her passionate support of our military, please check out her blog, Proud Young American.

*cross-posted at The Castle ARGGHHH!*


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