“On Memorial Day, each year since 1945, Depoe Bay has hosted the FLEET OF FLOWERS. This colorful ceremony is recognized as one of the most impressive observances held in the United States. The event was initiated to honor the memories of two fishermen, Roy Bower and John Chambers, who died at sea in an attempt to aid another fisherman. The Fleet of Flowers is to honor those who have been lost at sea. The event has grown over the years to include members of the Armed Forces as well as fishermen and firefighters who gave their lives to serve others.”
Although we are not home for the “Fleet of Flowers” every year on Memorial Day, we are there in spirit. Since moving to the Oregon Coast over 10 years ago, we have come to know the honor bestowed on the legacy of coastal fishermen. Lives have been lost and saved at sea over many decades either because of the extreme weather conditions at times or in a rescue effort by the US Coast Guard stationed in Depoe Bay and other ports along the Oregon Coast. Memorial Day is the time for honor and remembrance of those who gave their lives while building Oregon’s fishing industry. It is also the time to honor the US Coast Guard’s historic role in providing homeland security and protecting the coastal waters of Oregon. Depoe Bay has a strong presence of the US Coast Guard who serve our community along with the firefighters, emergency medical services, and local police 1st responders. With great pride, we honor the Armed Forces of America on Memorial Day as well.
The long tradition of the Fleet of Flowers on Memorial Day brings much joy and healing to the community. We celebrate and honor those who have risked their lives while serving America and all the families who served too…
“We send our prayers and condolences to the families of Marines involved in this tragic incident,” said the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force commander, Maj. Gen. Raymond C. Fox. “We mourn their loss, and it is with heavy hearts we remember their courage and sacrifice.”“Since World War II, when the facility became the staging area for ammunition, bombs and rockets for the war, Hawthorne has held an important place in U.S. military history. The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection said the depot employed more than 5,500 people at its peak. Nevada was chosen for the location because of its remoteness in the wake of a crippling explosion at the government’s main depot in New Jersey in the 1920s.” Quoted from a Fox News report published on March 19, 2013
“In the small town that calls itself “America’s Patriotic Home” near the depot, a massive flag in a park across from the local war memorial waved at half-staff.” Huffington Post March 19, 2013
On our way to Las Vegas on Interstate 95, Judy and I stopped for a break and visited the local memorial where the Marines who were killed in the referenced explosion are remembered and honored. Every day across America in communities large and small there are military installations where men and women train to be the best and to secure vital resources. There are also 1st responders in the same communities who protect us each and every day. In both cases the lives of our heroes are at risk, sometimes in accidents or in responding to an emergency incident or crisis.
On this Memorial Day, we remember the fallen who risked their lives in conflicts and wars abroad and also those who serve America to protect us on the home front. It was an honor to visit the Hawthorne, Nevada Veterans Memorial yesterday and take a moment to be reminded of so very many who have given their lives in service to America..
“According to prosecutors, an employee of the museum approached Boston Police and Suffolk prosecutors on April 9 after discovering an unfamiliar thumb drive in her car, plugging it into a computer, and finding that it contained apparent images of child pornography. The employee told investigators that she allowed some co-workers – including Fest – to use her car for errands and did not know who the owner of the thumb drive was.”
“The Talking About Touching child personal safety curriculum is a research-based program for children Pre-K to Grade 3 developed by Committee for Children in Seattle, Washington. It offers age appropriate ways to teach children skills to keep them safe from the dangers of abusive situations. Talking About Touching empowers children to tell an adult to get help if something happened. Participants learn skills to take an active role in protecting children from abuse by learning best practices to teach Talking About Touching to staff, children, and parents, understand and train others on the indicators of abuse, how to handle disclosures, and about the responsibilities of being a mandated reporter.”
Teach your childto know and say his first name and last name.
Discuss with your childwhat he can do to make sure other children do not get lost.
Teach your childabout the “buddy system” and how to use it.
Help your child rememberthat guns are not toys. If someone wants to play with a gun, he should say, “No, that’s not safe,” and then tell a grown-up about the gun.
Teach your child the “always-ask-first-rule.”Teach your child that he must always ask you or another person in charge first to go somewhere with someone. Your child must understand that he must ask first to go away with someone. Practice the “always-ask-first-rule” with your child.
Tell your childthat if someone is touching him and he wants them to stop, he can and needs to say words that mean “No!” Let your child know, the person must stop the touching. Similarly, if your child is touching someone else and that person says, “No,” your child needs to be respectful and stop.
Help your child practice safety rules, like saying “No,” getting away, and telling a responsible grown up.
Your child should know this rule:A bigger person should not touch a child’s private body parts except to keep them clean and healthy. If someone does, a child needs to say words that mean “No.” Then get away and tell a grown up.
Tell your child to never keep a secret about touching.
As a board member and children’s advocate of www.neighborsforkids.org…”Kids Zone” in Depoe Bay, Oregon, this news hits close to home! We just received, follow-up child safety training, entitled “Darkness to Light,” from the Lincoln County Children’s Advocacy Center… As a non-profit public private partnership we are mandated to be up to speed on child abuse legal reporting guidelines and what to look for. Child safety is our number one priority at Kids Zone! Safety is probably the one topic we talk about the most with parents, staff, and at our monthly board meetings. In our mission statement, “safe” is the most critical word we use.
“Neighbors for Kids’ mission is to provide youth in our region with educational enrichment, positive youth development, and recreational activities; all in a safe environment, which focuses them toward healthy lifestyles and leads them to become responsible, contributing adults.”
Please take quality time and check out the story and critical resources referenced above. Please do your part in helping to keep our kids safe!
“Reciprocation is the safe way to let go of fear and build trust in a relationship without being vulnerable. He or she does something nice, you do something nice back. He or she opens up about something personal, you open up about something personal. Great relationships are built over time where trust is developed by continuous positive interactions.”
For most of my young adult life, it was very challenging to be completely open and comfortable with dating. Trauma can cause a person to be both emotionally numb and to lack self confidence. I had a poor self-image for many years that hindered my chances of experiencing deep love and affection. My early relationships didn’t work out very well at all. Growing up in a toxic home circumstance where there was little or no trust did not prepare me well for building loving relationships. I had no idea how to relate intimately. Nor did I really understand what love was all about. In later years all the discomfort changed with maturity and in finally finding my soul-mate who showed me what true love and friendship was all about. My wife, Judy and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary by renewing our vows recently over a long weekend in Cannon Beach, Oregon. I am a very lucky guy, especially in these later years of my life to have such a wonderful partner…
What I have learned is that being ignorant of the basics of a healthy relationship, and the potential damage of post trauma symptoms to building intimate relationships, is that awareness and treatment would have been a big plus for me as a young man. I may have avoided making painful mistakes that affected others and myself. The article, 3 Steps in Regaining Your Love Life Following Trauma by Emily Avagliano, is a good bet to memorize and take to heart sooner rather than later for trauma survivors.
“Mike is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, engineer, and producer committed to personal and planetary transformation. His primary tools are sounds and music. He is also a Licensed Massage Therapist that works closely with healers and therapists of various modalities to create music perfectly designed to meet their needs and the needs of their clients.
Mike resides near Seattle with his wife, dearest friend, and co-producer Pam and their feline roommates Nacho, Beany, and Zach. He draws upon the natural beauty of the Northwest for inspiration. He also travels with his portable audio equipment and instruments, recording the sounds of nature, which he sometimes weaves into his healing soundscapes. With eyes, ears, and heart open, Mike is thankful for every day, for sound, and for all of the loving beings that touch his life.”
The story referenced in this blog post, is very real to me, and the tragedy can happen to any family living with the painful circumstances and toxic behavior connected with family dynamics in the privacy of home. I write in my book about the constant fear and threat that can make loved ones feel trapped and in fear of their own lives. Constant outbursts of anger and rage causing emotional and physical abuse have the potential of a life threatening action either as a suicide to end the pain, or the ultimate act of defense by a loved one to escape the nightmare of domestic violence.
We must do more in our communities at the local level to take ownership for helping veterans on their journey of healing in life after war. In my view, the VA does not currently have the capacity to provide critical care or appropriate personal connection with veterans when they return home. Veterans suffering from the painful symptoms of PTS feel lost when they return home. If there is an unrealistic expectation of what the VA is supposed to do or not do, responsibility for caregiving in the local community can suffer. The lack of speedy access to “tender loving care” and the ignorance of denial at home where our warriors live, puts lives at risk every day. I know from my own childhood experience how scared we were as siblings observing my father’s frequent rages and angry outbursts. We had no choice but to stay out of the line of fire as much as we could. We couldn’t wait for the opportunity to get away from home to be with friends or in the safety of teachers at school.
If this tragic story, along with my own reflective comments, rings a bell in your own circumstance, or with someone else, do not hesitate to seek help from friends and neighbors, including local mental health resources. Do not give up or wait for the VA to act. The local community must take action as the primary caregivers of veterans who struggle adjusting to life following extended deployments in combat. Don’t let your hero feel lost in the shuffle of a higher bureaucracy and alone at home suffering in silence not wanting to impose on friends, family, and local resources. Our warriors protected us and risked their lives. Now, we must do our part to care for them when they return home.
“Shame is one of the most unhelpful emotions you can experience. To live in shame is to live in a world of destructive internal dialogue and to perceive that others think this negatively about you too. It can also mean you are extremely self conscious, and this negative self awareness fills your thoughts and actions. You may feel there is something intrinsically wrong with you, and that other people will also find you somewhat unattractive and undesirable. These powerful feelings can spill into many different areas of your life.”
My own family dynamics, as a military child growing up in a post WWII and Korean War home, was centered in shame…”shame on you and shame on me!” My parents built a complete culture of control and abuse around making us siblings feel shame. The Catholic Church at the time made it easier for our parents to reinforce the shame we felt all the time. We went to confession every Saturday and then communion on Sunday to rid our minds of all the shameful things we did. We were commanded to seek forgiveness or live with mortal sin and the prospect of going straight to hell.
All the shame never left my soul completely, but after leaving home at age 17 to join the US Navy, I started to learn about breaking away from shame. I found out about typical and normal human behavior by engaging with others outside of my home as an adult. I discovered a more healthy perspective about religion, including the Catholic Church, and actually started liking myself. It was very difficult to trust others at first, until it was proven without a doubt that I was really an okay dude. I was afraid of young women for the most part until finding girlfriends along the way that treated me with respect and built trusting friendships. I found male companionship and mentorship through my work in the Navy, and in surfing with my buddies. I learned about trust for the first time in my life. This was the beginning of a very long work in progress and ultimately finding my voice and self-confidence by trusting and engaging with others. Although it was not an easy road with personal challenges, I managed to carve out a very successful and rewarding professional career. It was not until the prime age of 64 and in retirement that my journey of healing finally took hold when researching and writing my book along with starting this blog.
These days the persistent “destructive self dialogue” is no longer in control. Sure, there are triggers and flashbacks that put me back in the “shame box” briefly, but I now know how to break away. The solution and treatment that works best for me is writing this blog, speaking about my book, and participating in appropriate forums that go a long way to keep the pain of shame and guilt at a safe distance most of the time. The hard work of recovery pays off in the end when as survivors of an abusive childhood and traumatic life experiences, we begin to thrive again living a life of joy and happiness with yourself and those around you… It is never too late to start the journey of healing from invisible wounds…
“As I reflect on the national conversation we have initiated about military and veteran caregiving, one number continues to ring out in my mind – 5.5 million. The RAND Corporation report my Foundation commissioned revealed that 5.5 million Americans are caring for ill or wounded service members and veterans. When I first heard the figure, it astounded me. To think that so many loved ones have been quietly caring for those who have cared for us…
When I was growing up as a post WWII and Korean War military child, the term “veteran caregiver” was not used nor would the significance or implications be understood. Caregiving was something you heard about in nursing homes or hospitals, not at home. Who would ever think that a WWII hero like my father Vernon, who was training boots at the US Naval Training Center in San Diego in 1948, needed a “caregiver.” Not a chance! But in reality my Dad, like thousands of combat veterans from that time, needed lots of help inside and outside of the home. As a family we were the caregivers at home by default, so to speak. My oldest brother, Jerry, as an example became very much part of the family caregiving team along with Mom. He didn’t ask for it, he had no choice… And we were all affected by the emotional turmoil of my father’s suffering following WWII and the Korean War.
We siblings knew something was out of sorts in our home, but didn’t really understand, so the toxic behavior and struggles as a family were thought to be normal and private…not a word to anyone outside of the home! So we moved forward one day at a time as a family, fearing what each day would bring. It was a blessing for us to get away from home for school and play. We hated to return! When we did return, hiding out in our room, in the basement, or outside close to home when the weather permitted, felt safer. We wanted to stay clear of Dad because he was always angry… The sad part is we took all the emotional baggage with us well into adult life, and needed “caregivers” as the next generation of trauma victims. Reference the “Trauma-Informed Caregiver Practice Guide.”
I am now very encouraged that all the awareness about the needs of the children and families of veterans and those who served in combat is creating a new culture of sensitivity in America and around the globe. Caregiving is no longer a word that belongs to a nurse or doctor in a facility outside of the home. The stigma of mental health will someday be a thing of the past, probably not in my lifetime. What I do see happening, and participate in my own work as an author and blogger, is heartwarming. I have peace of mind now with clear understanding of my own past living in a toxic home following WWII. I am also convinced that the momentum of the new “caregiving” culture for our heroes is taking hold. The “suck up” mentality and “go home and forget about it” coaching from the military is over.
I am especially grateful that the conversation and the work of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation includes the children and families, the primary caregivers of warriors, who served America too…long after the wars of our time are over. The war clearly comes home to the military families to begin another fight to bring peace of mind back into the hearts and souls of the loved ones who served on the battlefield or at sea fighting to protect our freedoms.
Judy and I are going to visit my mother, Marcella in a couple of weeks. Mom is a survivor and still a fighter on this Mothers Day 2014. She raised her children as a military Mom while Dad was fighting for our freedoms during WWII and the Korean War. She was a single mother with her first child, son Jerry, born 3 months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 while Dad was serving on the USS West Virginia. She waited for my father for all of WWII while he was serving aboard the USS Belle Grove (LSD2) in the Asiatic Pacific Theater. The rest of the Sparks clan came into the world right after the end of WWII and joined the boomer generation. There were thousands of WWII military mothers who served America during the “Greatest Generation” of warriors of that time. We now honor all military Moms on this Mothers Day, May 11, 2014. Never forget that the families of veterans of all wars served too…especially mothers, including my Mom…
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22, NIV)
We try to get Mom to laugh and usually have no problem doing so these days. We are grateful for she shows peace of mind. She is surrounded by loving caregivers. Our loved ones deserve peace and comfort at this time in their lives. My Mom like so many from WWII are all heroes and served too!