Looking into the Eyes of my Father: A Veterans’ Day Story

//Looking into the Eyes of my Father: A Veterans’ Day Story

Looking into the Eyes of my Father: A Veterans’ Day Story

by GSCA Member, Jackie Simmons – condensed from the book: The Game Changer: Volume 3

Startled, shocked, I held my breath.

In one dizzying instant I was transported away from the professional offices of Veterans’ Services and back fifty years…

Daddy?

. . . the smell of Old Spice filled the hot car. Even with the top down on the old white Thunderbird, the smell surrounded me as Daddy drove us through our sleepy southern town on the way to a cookout.

It had been a normal year, except Daddy had missed it, again. Daddy had missed most of the last three years. We hadn’t really seen him since we waved good-bye from the back of the ship that took the four of us and Momma back to the States, in the middle of my first year of school.

Daddy stayed behind on Okinawa, he was going on tour to someplace called Vietnam and this time we couldn’t go with him. This time we were scared, though no one really told me why. I thought it was because we would be on the road over Christmas, driving from California where we got off the ship, all the way across back to Fayetteville, NC where Momma had a teaching job and new schools were waiting for us girls.

None of that mattered now, Daddy was home! Daddy was home, and we were headed for grilled hotdogs, burgers, and maybe even marshmallows. Daddy was home with his Old Spice and rubbing my face with his scratchy beard. The day was bright, and the car was bubbling over with high-pitched voices, all four of us talking at once until suddenly the brakes slammed and the tires squealed as Daddy hauled to the right, fast as lightening pulling hard on the steering wheel . . .

We bumped over the curb onto a sidewalk, I was tossed to the floor, my face pressed to the carpet, my sisters on top of me and Daddy using his hands and body to cover and protect us as best he could, not letting us move, barely letting us breathe . . . and in our ears . . . the lingering sounds of a firecracker.

It was July 4, 1968. We girls were in North Carolina but Daddy, Daddy was still in Vietnam. We thought he had come home.

We were wrong.

In that instant, on the floorboards of the car with the wind knocked out of my 8-year-old body, I knew the man who just hurled me to the floor wasn’t my Daddy.

It couldn’t be; my Daddy played cards, and took us fishing, and taught us how to stay safe around fireworks, firearms, typhoons; and in that one instant, on the floor of the car, I was afraid of the soldier that used to be my Daddy.

All of this was firmly tucked away in the past when I arrived at the offices of Veterans’ Services on the last day of May 2018. I hadn’t thought about any of it in a very long time. In fact, over 30 years had passed, and I had long since claimed a sense of safety in the world.

It hadn’t been easy.

I approached the veterans’ event knowing I was at the top of my game. I brought copies of my best-selling book for the participants. I knew I would be able to help. I had overcome my fear of soldiers and was coming into Veterans’ Services to teach networking skills and elevator pitches to veterans on the verge of homelessness.

I walked in the door and looked into a pair of slightly vacant, slightly widened blue eyes, the scent of Old Spice filled the air and suddenly I was looking into the eyes of my father.

Daddy?

“Breathe, Jackie, just breathe” ran through my mind. As I presented, I realized that these vets weren’t struggling to get jobs because of lack of skills. They were struggling to get and keep jobs because of pride, chronic pain, and the mental anguish that haunts many soldiers. They were struggling with the emotional betrayal that comes from serving a country that doesn’t seem to know how to serve them back.

In the space of a heartbeat, I saw that the slide from homelessness to helplessness, and from helplessness to hopelessness was so short that it explained the statistic they shared that had staggered me.

Today we’re losing our military to suicide at the rate of 27 a day. A DAY! That meant that in the time I spent teaching the class, another soldier, possibly somebody’s Daddy, couldn’t handle the pain and took their own life.

And in that moment, I got it. My Daddy couldn’t handle the pain either and he committed suicide too. He just did it on the slow plan. And then I saw all the Daddies and all the Mommies who put on uniforms and give up their identities as individuals to serve our country and I decided, it’s time our country served them back.

Since that day in May, I see the eyes of my father in the face of every stranger on the street and I’m on a mission to end homelessness, starting with our veterans. I don’t know how to solve the whole problem, but I’ve found a way to address the chronic pain and mental anguish that I know knocks many vets out of the job ring . . .

My friends thought I was nuts when I told them that I was on a mission to end veteran homelessness and then one of them found a drug-free way to reduce chronic pain and improve stability. A way to improve physical, mental, & emotional stability – without drugs. The products were durable (socks and insoles), drug-free, and new to America.

Finding them was step one.

Then I tested their effectiveness, first with family, then with friends, and finally with the veterans on staff at Veteran Services. The product worked in local testing, not statistics, soldiers. Soldiers, able to walk further, stand straighter, and focus better.

Testing was step two.

If it was your Daddy and there was a way to reduce his pain without drugs, would you want to know about it?

That’s what I thought. I knew I liked you.

Making the mission self-funding is step three.

Step three: Our mission is to put pain-reducing, high-performance socks on the feet of vets who are struggling to find and keep jobs. Funding it is where you come in. Not by donating . . .

By the time you read this, the www.HelpAWoundedWarrior.com site will be live.

All we want is for you to share the website, and if you know someone struggling with chronic pain, or wanting to improve their strength and stability, please tell them about the site.

Or better yet, “sock-it-to-them” by buying them a pair of socks or insoles. When you buy a pair for yourself or someone you care about . . . the sock company helps me sock-it-to-a-vet and . . . Everybody Wins.

Our Mission: Help every Vet find their way home, all the way home; physically, mentally, emotionally, and most of all with a place they call home.

www.HelpAWoundedWarrior.com

 

 

By |2018-10-02T19:09:58+00:00October 2nd, 2018|Living a Full Life|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Linda Tarkenton October 6, 2018 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    Amazingly true story about our daddy! I was there in the Thunderbird, on that Fourth of July.., your sister. Linda

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