At the time I wrote the column below, news had not broken about the massive and devastating explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas. Of course, all of my condolences and commendations about the victims and crisis care community in Boston I extend with profound correlations to my own heartbroken neighbors in Texas. One television news report estimated that 700 first responders were deployed immediately into action there. Let no one say the selfless and sacrificial American spirit isn't alive and well!
As with others across the nation, my wife, Gena, and I are so proud of the first responders and host of rescuers, medical personnel, law enforcement personnel, firemen, military members, crisis counselors and good Samaritans who immediately were called into action and undoubtedly saved lives, limbs and souls because of their heroic efforts. Truly, America's best shine brightest during our country's most difficult and darkest moments.
At the same time, Gena and I join the rest of the nation in offering our most heartfelt condolences and prayers for all the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. We weep in particular with the families of 8-year-old Martin Richard, 29-year-old restaurant manager Krystle Campbell and a Chinese graduate student at Boston University, Lu Lingzi, all of whom were killed by the blasts.
In the end, the criminal thugs who are responsible for such heinous, despicable and cowardly acts win only if we allow their monstrous beings to intimidate us into fearful and recluse lifestyles, including not participating in public recreational and sports activities such as the Boston Marathon.
We, too, pray for the families, relatives and friends of the victims, who we know will, in due time, rise up, find the courage to face tomorrow and build a better day for themselves and others -- just like the parents of the 8-year-old victim, one of whom serves as the director of a local community group and one of whom works at Neighborhood House Charter School, where their daughter attends classes just as their son did.
Speaking of wounded healers, I recently was reminded of a troubling health trend among U.S. wounded warriors. More than 600,000 troops have returned from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, resulting in increased rates of drug abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, chronic depression and even suicide among service members, according to Fox News. Tragically, about 22 veterans commit suicide each day in America, according to a February report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. That is nearly one every hour!
It's high time that we all fight to do better to take care of the precious souls who take care of us. Mostly, honor and befriend our military vets. And if you encounter one in trouble, stand by him or her or, at the very least, encourage him or her to reach out for help. Help can be reached 24/7 by calling the caring professionals at the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK, sending a text message to 838255 or going to http://veteranscrisisline.net for an anonymous chat session. Since 2007, the VCL has answered more than 745,000 calls, helped more than 83,000 in chat sessions and made more than 26,000 lifesaving rescues.
And please go online and learn more about the mission of the Wounded Warrior Project (http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org) and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (http://www.fallenheroesfund.org).
Another superb example of valuing vets is the way they are welcomed at the annual Rancho Cucamonga High School Remembers event in California, which was started by history teacher Aaron Bishop, who calls on local vets to share their service experiences with students. Aided by fellow history teacher Robert Sanchez and others, the program started with 38 veterans and has grown to involving more than 200 veterans from all branches of the military. As an Air Force veteran myself, I salute Bishop, Sanchez and Rancho Cucamonga High School for annually and actively not forgetting about those who serve and the power of their oral history. The sixth annual Rancho Cucamonga High School Remembers will be held May 1.
One last outstanding example of service and fortitude I'd like to mention happened during the Boston bombings. Carlos Arredondo was at the marathon to support a group running for fallen veterans, and he was handing out American flags. When the explosions hit, he was among the first to rush in and help those who had fallen.
What's amazingly poignant is that Carlos' son Alexander S. Arredondo, who was a lance corporal in the Marines, died in battle in Najaf, Iraq, in 2004. And just before Christmas in 2011, Carlos' other son, Brian, 24, took his own life as U.S. troops withdrew from the battlefield on which his brother had died.
One of the iconic images from Boston is of Carlos standing somber with a blood-drenched American flag, which apparently was used by him to aid a victim.
An even more moving photo is of Carlos in his cowboy hat and with blood-soaked hands running alongside one of the victims, who was obviously in shock, wounded and being wheeled to safety. We now know it was 27-year-old Jeff Bauman, who was waiting in the crowd for his girlfriend to cross the finish line when "a man wearing a cap, sunglasses and a black jacket over a hooded sweatshirt looked at (him) and dropped a bag at his feet," according to Bloomberg. Two and a half minutes later, the bag exploded, and Jeff's legs were decimated.
As NBC explained, the photo appears to show Carlos "pinching closed a severed artery protruding from the victim's thigh, stanching the flow of blood from a torn and shattered leg."
Jeff's testimony and face-to-face confrontation with one of the Boston bombers helped the FBI track down the murderers.
I take off my Texas cowboy hat to Carlos and all who stood by their fellow countrymen to help on that heartbreaking day.