Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The First Gala: One Guest Shares her Story

Imagine this.

A gorgeous April evening in Washington, D.C.  You are in town to attend Hope For The Warriors® Annual Got Heart, Give Hope® Gala. Being a part of this event is close to your heart – you know the Hope For The Warriors® story. You believe in the organization’s mission, its leadership and vision. You also know its programs and results are unique, needed and powerful. You already know some of the wounded warriors’ stories. Their stories always move you.

Union Station is the venue for the gala and your hotel is only a couple of blocks away and you decide to soak in the weather and scenery with a walk. As you make your way to the corner, you not only notice another gala-ready girl, but three! The woman, now walking beside you, has two adorable little girls. All three are smiling, have long blonde hair and look fabulous in their formal evening dress.

You can’t help but assume you are all heading to the Hope For The Warriors’® Got Heart, Give Hope Gala – so, you say hello and introduce yourself. You have just met Erica and her two daughters. You see Erica is holding a piece of paper showing the Got Heart, Give Hope Gala logo.

“I think we’re heading to the same place. Are you going to the Hope For The Warriors® Gala?” I ask.

“Yes, but I’m not exactly sure I know where to go.” Erica replies.  Then she shares,

“We just drove up from the Virginia Beach area…ran into a lot of traffic and got lost. My daughters were getting restless…the drive took a lot longer than I expected. My husband was scheduled to speak at the gala tonight, but he overbooked himself. Unfortunately, he is not with us, but, we’re here and all is OK.”

While you can tell that Erica is a bit flustered, and maybe even a bit irritated, there is also a strong presence of calm, grace and gratefulness. She is still smiling and delightful. Simply, delightful.

You don’t know it yet, but you are about to know another story.

“My husband overbooked” is rolling around in your head. You wonder if he is a high-ranking military officer who was asked to speak at this year’s event. Or, possibly he is a celebrity who was scheduled to attend to help raise awareness.

You only wonder about this for a minute. You have arrived at Union Station. The event is well attended – the atmosphere and guests are stunning. Erica and her daughters are whisked off and you wonder if you’ll ever again connect with her.

Along with all guests, you are anxious to hear more about the award recipients and their stories. From your table, you can see Erica and her two daughters. You feel a slight ping in your heart. Your instincts tell you she and her husband both wish he were sitting beside her.

The behind-the-warrior stories begin.

As the military honorees are presented, you find yourself leaning slightly forward as the evening’s hosts begin to announce an honoree that is not able to attend in person. You start to learn about LT Jason “Jay” Redman, USN (SEAL) and his story. You hear…

“…With only three weeks left of his deployment in Iraq, Jay was hit three times in the arm and face with a machine gun while on a mission...”

You also hear about a sign on the door of Jay’s room after he arrived at Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center. The sign read…

“If you are coming into my room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere.”

There is applause and respectful shouts of “hooyah.”

Jay is accepting this honor via video.

The hosts continue to describe Jay’s prevailing resolve to move forward. Jay is currently training at Mt. Rainier – the reason he is not present at the Gala. The video of Jay begins - Jay shares a very brief description of how he was wounded.

He describes his arrival at Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center and feeling scared and unsure.

“My wife walked into my room…seeing me for the first time. There was zero hesitation in her voice and actions. She whispered in my ear…”

“Together, we will get through this.”

Now, your heart is not only pinging, you also have a tear rolling down your cheek. Yours is not the only tear. Again, you see Erica and her two daughters. Jay continues and describes how grateful he is to be alive. He goes on to say how he is even more grateful for the love and support of a special person. One, who kept him going with strength, courage and unwavering faith. 

“…I am not deserving of this recognition. I would not be here making this video if it were not for the most important person in my life. This award goes directly to my wife, Erica…”

This is a surprise.

Tears. Applause. More tears. And, many “hooyahs.”

Imagine that.

Jay’s and Erica’s story moves me. I believe God puts people, conversations, music and circumstances in front of us every day…words and situations intended to move us. Yes, I was moved by this story…still am. It took place in 2010.
An exciting night comes to an end
I was fortunate to see Erica again at the 2011 Hope For The Warriors® Got Heart, Give Hope® Gala. I am in the same camp with everyone of being ever grateful for the sacrifices made by Jay, Erica and their family (one son and two daughters). Thank you.
The entire Redman family attends the Gala in 2011
This was contributed by Shellie, a supporter and volunteer with Hope For The Warriors®.


1 comment:

  1. I did not know about Hope for the Warriors before now. I am reminded of the courage and commitment and sacrifices they make. I will always remember and be ever grateful for what our soldiers give for us and what our love and appreciation can do for them.