Wellington Marathon; Being a New Father Changes My Perspective on the WWP

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be standing at or near the start line of my first real race since…last September 18th, I think. Nine months. That’s an eternity to a runner that’s accustomed to racing 8-10 times per year for the past 5 years. Of course, this is a race that I won’t completely burn out for. I’ll keep myself from pushing to the point of over extension, and, as I laid out last week, I’ll just seek “healthy consistency” (which I gauge to be about a 7 minute pace).

One not so great sign is that after a beautiful spell of weather that would be perfect for a marathon, we’re getting some rain and wind today and it won’t be gone by tomorrow. That might slow me down a bit (wind in Wellington can be notoriously forceful, and I’ll be very exposed along the course), but the chance to exert some physical energy and cross a finish line will be well worth the effort. I’ll post as soon as I can how the day went.

My second topic, related to serving the Wounded Warrior Project, is how my new role as a father has changed my perspective on my role with the WWP. My wife and I went in to the hospital yesterday for our daughter’s first hearing screening. Of course, I pointed out to the screener that this was my daughter’s first “test,” and that I was hoping for an “A” or an “A-” (the latter because she hadn’t had much time to study recently due to her pressing schedule of eating, sleeping, and you know whatting).

The tiny probe went into her first ear, and the screener pressed a little button…a minute later, presto, “she’s hearing very well.” She repositioned the probe into the second ear…and, after a minute…took it back out and fiddled with the probe. I actually started to pay attention like a hawk at this point, to every millimeter of this woman’s movement. I was worried. She put the probe back in, and this is no exaggeration: I held my breath for the minute or so until the test came back that Grace’s hearing was good.

The screener went on to tell us that sometimes it takes 15 minutes to get a good result (because the ear and machine take a bit to establish the proper connection, I think). But because there was a small blip, a hiccup, of imperfection with the test (the screener cleaning the probe), I started to worry. For a hearing test. I held my breath. For a hearing test.

So what does this mean? How does this impact or change my perspective, with regards to the WWP? Frankly, it breathes life into what parents go through when they see their children hurt in such significant ways. This hearing test does not, of course, rise to that level, but it does come from the same relationship and sense of compassion for one’s own child. It calls to mind the eloquent letter President Lincoln wrote to console a woman who had lost five children for the Union cause in the Civil War, reintroduced into the American consciousness in the film Saving Private Ryan. [There is disagreement over whether Lincoln’s private secretary John Hay wrote the letter; and after the war it was found that the woman had only lost two of her sons ]. The letter read ~

Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.
Dear Madam,
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
A. Lincoln

I think that letter is perfectly worded. There is nothing that can be done for those that have been taken…except to remember the manner in which they lived their lives and to honor the cause that they ultimately sacrificed themselves for.

Which is why I’ve dedicated so much time and effort to supporting severely wounded soldiers. I can do more for them than I can for those that have been killed in action on the battlefield.
To the left is a chart from The Atlantic Monthly, from 2005. It doesn’t fully account for Iraq and Afghanistan’s casualties, but it offers enough of a sampling to support a point. That point is, simply, that our battlefield medicine and soldier protection measures (and various other factors) are sustaining life at a greater rate than in earlier American conflicts. Bottom line, we’re saving a lot more people. That means, correspondingly, that there will be a great many more that will survive with much more severe injuries.

This next chart is from the Chicago Tribune and its subsidiaries. It displays the rising costs of these claims upon the Veterans Administration. And this is a point I try to illustrate whenever I speak on this topic. The VA does an excellent job with the resources it has been given. However, the rising costs associated with comprehensive veteran care imposes demands on the VA that it cannot be expected to provide ~ providing opportunities for effective non-profit organizations to fill gaps that would otherwise go uncovered (i.e. family care and adaptive athletic support).

When I run tomorrow and train the next day, and the next day, and the next day…until I complete my effort at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run in one year…my motivation will continue to be fed by a sense of empathy for both our severely wounded veterans and their caregivers. Being a parent makes it easier to comprehend that pain, while knowing that I can never truly understand it.

Author: ML Cavanaugh

Unequal parts strategist, assistant professor, wordsmith, runner, wine-o, reader, philosopher of firepower, and hopeless lover of three ladies named Rachel, Grace, and Georgie.

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