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Monday, October 13, 2008

Missed Opportunity

Jim and I wanted to write this together. (Can you tell the twins have gone to spend a week with my parents? We are cranking out all the blogs we have been waiting to write!) I was telling him about this experience I had earlier in the week. I was in a store and saw a man come in. As you know my vision is still really blurry and I can't see details of people's faces from a distance. But the thought crossed my mind that maybe the man had been burned. The salesclerk told him his merchandise was in the back and that he would be receiving the military discount. As he walked to the counter and stood near me I got a better look at him. He was burned beyond recognition. I have never seen anyone with such severe burn damage. He had no hair, very tight discolored patchy skin and was missing most of the ear I could see. His physique was that of a young man. His arms and legs were also scarred badly. I stood there so saddened for him. For the man that he still very much was that was now hidden under layers of burned flesh. With the clerk"s comment about the military discount, my mind began racing that he must have been burned in the war. And my heart began beating faster knowing I should maybe ask him if his accident happened in the war and if so thank him for his service. I only had a matter of minutes and knew as he was paying my opportunity was slipping away. I feared if it wasn't from the war then maybe I would offend him. I didn't want to make him uncomfortable. Yet even as those thoughts ran through my mind, I remembered how I felt when I knew people avoided me and just didn't tell me how sorry they were that I had lost my husband. I remembered how much it meant when people told me or the kids that Troy's service to our country and ultimate sacrifice were greatly appreciated and would not be forgotten. And when I was in a crowd of strangers I thought, "Don't you see how badly I hurt? Would you just stop and hurt with me for minute so I know you care?" Yet my battle wounds were on the inside. My scars were invisible to the naked eye. And here was my chance to share God's love, possibly my own story of loss from the war or mainly just the privilege to show gratitude to one of our servicemen for the high price they pay everyday for my freedom. I KNOW all this and still let him walk out the door. I could tell the man had been in before so I asked the cashier if he knew if he was burned in the war and he said yes he was. I missed my opportunity. I got in the car and my eyes welled up with tears. I walked into that store thinking of nothing but the fire pit Jim and I wanted to put on our patio and left thinking of the fire that soldier must have been through. What he still must go through everyday, I cannot imagine. I thought of Troy and if he had come home as so many do, with physical, mental and emotional scars. That would have been so difficult as well. I prayed for that man as I drove all the way home. I prayed for him in the night when I awoke. I will continue to pray for the struggles he has. That part I won't regret like I do for not talking to him as the real hero he was. I told Jim about him the next day and he reminded me of the time he spent in Brooks Army Medical Center (BAMC) with Andrea. I will let him tell you in his own words.

When Andrea told me she needed to go to the emergency room I did not know where to take her, to BAMC which was closer or to Wilford Hall which was on the other side of San Antonio but it was where the Oncologists worked. Seeing as she could not breath I decided to take her to BAMC. As it turns out BAMC is the military burn center and treats most if not all victims from the war. During the 21 days that Andrea was in BAMC I saw many heroes and their families, mostly at the cafeteria eating lunch. My sister Maureen spent quite a few days with me at BAMC visiting Andrea and several times we would see this one solider and his wife at lunch. He was severally burned much like the man Ginger describes. His young wife was always by his side helping him eat. I will tell you it was difficult to understand what they were going through and I felt for them, even though I could not relate to task that lied before them. One day Maureen asked, "Do you think they would mind if we talked to them?" I said probably not especially since Maureen wanted to tell him thanks for his service. So we went over and sat down with them. Immediately you could see they appreciated someone talking to them and just treating them normally. I thought the man he was was still there. The young man who was so proud the day he finished basic training, or the night of his senior prom, or his wedding day. Inside he probably felt the same as the day before he was injured, the wounds hid from us his physical features but he was the same we just had to look past the scares. I think that is what they wanted, that is all Ginger wanted, it's probably what all of us want when we are hurting; to just be treated normal. I remember Andrea saying that when people would ask her how she wanted people to see her. "Just as a woman, mother and wife, not as a cancer patient." She did not want cancer to define who she was. Although once you loose your hair and put on a scarf cancer becomes your identity, much like I'm sure these men feel when they are burned. Much like we may feel when we look at ourselves in the mirror. Do we see our past failures, sins or mistakes. Failures and sins we feel cannot be forgiven? Mistakes we feel cannot be overcome? We seek someone to understand us and look beyond our sins and mistakes. That someone is Jesus, when He turns his eyes upon us he does not see our sins or who we are but who we will be in Christ. When you see someone who has physical scares or a scarf remember to take the time to look at them as the person they are inside and not the reflection of what you see on the outside. Remember we all carry around scares and most of them are internal and unseen. To others we appear "normal" or successful, maybe even happy, but inside there are deep scares. Those scares are easily hidden when our relationships are superficial, and stop at, "Hello how are you?" "Good and you?" It takes a little time and a little effort and a little empathy to look past the masks we wear and see the struggles we all have

The lesson God taught Ginger and I this week is to look at others as Christ sees us. Just as our friends did when they got past the uncomfortable feeling of approaching us and gave us support when we needed it. We need not fear saying the wrong thing or feeling foolish, just take the time to express love the way Christ command us.

Mark 12:30-32

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."


  1. Dear Ginger and Jim,
    You do not know me. My brother served in Iraq with Troy and this is how I have learned of your journey. I am 28 years old and 3 weeks ago I lost my love. We have been together for 2 years and he died suddenly in his sleep. My sister-in-law sent me your blog knowing that this entry would bring me peace and comfort in my time of sorrow. I have been "strong" and making it through these days but with my heart breaking inside knowing that I just have to continue even though as you said Ginger, I want to stand in the middle of the crowd and scream for someone to see my pain. I thank you for sharing your story, your hope and your amazing faith. May the Lord continue to bless you and your family.
    Lisa Distelzweig

  2. Dear Ginger,
    I am Lisas sister who sent her the link to your blog. My husband Kurt was in Balad with Troy and that day almost 2 years ago changed our lives forever. Reading your blog post made me realize what a silly thing it was not to comment and let you know that you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers every day. During our short phone calls during that deployment Kurt would tell me of this great friend he had made. He refered to him as the guy from Luke since they werent supposed to use names. He was so excited the day we found out we were headed to Az once he returned home. Trojan even helped us pick a place to live by answering the tons of questions Kurt asked him. We are now in the 62nd and Kurt is even the flight commander in the same flight that Troy was. I just wanted to say I am sorry for being one of those people that never said anything or made an attempt to meet you while you were still in Phoenix. I just never thought it could really matter much...and now as my sister in law is hurting so badly I realize how every little gesture does make a huge differnce. Thank you for writing so openly and honestly...it is truly inspirational to read. We are sooooo happy for you and Jim and your families. Just wanted you to know that we will never forget Troy and you will always be in our prayers.


  3. I read your blog after my morning devotion. I read: "What Jesus has been and done for us, we must do and be for others. There really is no choice in this; our life in Jesus and our ministry in his name are inseparable. A spirituality that does not lead to active ministry becomes an indulgent preoccupation with self." Your Missed Opportunity blog carries the same message. Thank you for being a source of encouragement and truth. May the risen Christ bless you and empower us all to step out of our comfort zone and share openly with each other on the journey.
    Love & Appreciation -