June 15, 2011

Honoring Heros

I often think about my grandparent's generation and how their lives were so radically affected by war. Every aspect of the economy shifted into "war mode." Everyone knew a brother, son, father, nephew, cousin or friend who was off fighting. It's different today. We hear about the troops all the time and pray for them daily, but at least in my realm, I do not have any family members actively serving and only a few friends.

Through my work in Congressman Harper's office, I had the privilege of meeting CJ Stewart--a young man from Madison who served in the 101st Airborne. CJ is really good buddies with one of my co-workers, Jimmy. A year ago today, CJ was very seriously wounded. Since then, he has gone through 39 surgeries and endured untold pain. Our office has been following CJ's progress and helping him with some casework and combined with the unique angle Jimmy provides because of his friendship with CJ, we have all gotten very interested in his case. Jimmy shared with me a summary that CJ's dad wrote and posted on facebook today. Through tears I read it and knew it needed to be shared. This is a great reminder that we live in a country where people are ready and prepared to sacrifice their lives for us--but also a reminder that God is in control and can use situations that we view as "bad" for GOOD! Mr. Stewart does an excellent job (as does their entire family) of giving the glory to God--and that is truly uplifting and so encouraging.

Continue to pray for CJ as well as our military members and their families.

"One Year Later" by Chuck Stewart

365 days ago Satan tried to destroy our world. But as He always does, God took what Satan meant for evil and turned it into good.

1) CJ should have died in the explosion. Because of the position of his body his right arm prevented the RPG from hitting his unprotected heart. I say “unprotected” but we know God had been protecting his heart for 21 years.

2) He should have bled to death. He lost 40% of his blood and it was a miracle they were able to slow it down enough to start transfusions that saved his life.

3) He should have lost his right arm. Two days before his injury a 2nd medic was added to their platoon. “Ski” had only been there 2 days and CJ was his 1st patient. His quick, calm, and decisive action gave the doctors a chance.

4) Before his 1st operation the doctor noticed him moving his fingers. She stated that the x-rays indicated enough damage that she would have removed his arm if she had not seen his fingers moving. He later told us she saw him waving good-bye to his hand.

5) In Germany two of CJ’s best friends from Medic School were on staff and took great care of him. Robin was worried he would be alone and God showed us His universe is pretty small and He has no issue putting people exactly where they need to be to protect His children.

5 miracles in the 1st 2 days. Many more to follow. We were advised early that CJ would have some horrible months, weeks, and days. They were wrong. CJ’s had a few bad hours, but he never got depressed or angry. I NEVER heard him complain one time that getting hurt wasn’t fair. Every person who touched him said he was the best patient they ever had. That’s after 39 surgeries (36 in 4 months).

CJ has touched so many people with his faith, attitude, and bright smile. The Under Secretary of the Army left CJ’s room in tears and told me, “I will never be the same after meeting CJ Stewart!” Ned Yost, Manager of the Kansas City Royals told me he needed to bring his entire team to meet CJ because he was such a tremendous example of trusting God and dealing with adversity. Sen. Bob Dole told me that CJ’s has more tenacity and determination than any wounded warrior he had ever seen.

A lot of people have been there for us. 99% of the people at Walter Reed have been wonderful. The other 1% ensured I prayed every day. When they brought CJ to his room June 20th I will never forget his nurse walking to his bed and saying, “Thank you and welcome home hero!” That is how they viewed him and you could tell as they helped him get better. Executive Services & Wounded Warrior Project have been amazing! Operation Homefront came to our rescue a couple of months ago and have been super.

The 101st Airborne has demonstrated daily that CJ is 101st for life. Maj. Gen. John Campbell and his wife Ann have cared for us more than I can explain. Walter Reed tried to get CJ to give them back his Purple Heart so Pres. Obama could “present” it to him when he visited. I’ll never forget his reply. “I was given my Purple Heart by Maj. Gen. John Campbell, the Commander of the 101st. No offense to the President, but that means more to me than receiving it from anyone else”.

The rest of the 101st has been awesome. Too many names to mention between the liaisons, retired warriors, Moms and Wives of CJ’s commanders and teammates, Rear Command from Ft. Campbell, and so many others were there daily to take care of CJ and Robin. We are honored to be part of the Screaming Eagles. And Stacy Davis, we will never forget you and others responsible for finding our cross!!!

Facebook has been a wonderful tool to share information with all of you. Some of you I may never meet on this earth, but will see you in heaven. Thank you for standing with us.

Our friends in Louisiana have been so faithful. Many related but many more who have been friends for life interceded daily to the Father on our behalf. So many words of encouragement from people I respect more than they know. West Lake Baptist Church has been a great friend thru all of this.

The State of Mississippi has become our home. The media paints her a certain way, but she is home to some of the finest people we know. Gov. Haley Barbour, Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker have all been so gracious as well as generous in providing anything we needed. Rep. Gregg Harper has been a great friend and has gone so far out of his way to take care of Robin and CJ in DC. Our Mayor, Mary Hawkins Butler and her team in Madison have been so supportive. We will never forget October 28, 2010 (CJ Stewart Day in Madison, MS…thanks Mayor Mary). Jimmy Stringer is not a public official (yet) but he has been our glue in Washington DC. Thank you Jimmy for ALL you have done!

I knew Scott Steele from church, but when CJ got hurt he became a friend and then a part of our family. He shared CJ’s story on his radio program on a daily basis. He introduced CJ to Mississippi and Mississippi responded. We have hundreds of new friends and supporters because of Scott. His interview w/Drew Brees where Drew talked about CJ is now a family heirloom.

All our Christian friends have carried us this year. I told someone the other day I am so glad I don’t have a lot of “proper” Christian friends…you know the ones who pray those sweet little proper prayers. Our Christian friends know how to pray and they pray with fervor and without ceasing. They bombarded heaven on our behalf, touching the heart of God and inspiring us daily with words of wisdom and encouragement. We will spend the rest of our lives earning that back.

Broadmoor Baptist Church in Madison is so much more than “our church”. Pastor Rob Futral has been a great mentor for CJ and me. Gary, Harvey, Tommy, Mike, Josh, and our other pastors stood in the gap with us and refused to let us get discouraged. I cannot walk thru the church without MANY people grabbing me to tell me they are praying every day!! Our Life Group has been awesome. We don’t get “hugged” there…we get “held”. If God ever asks me to move, my plan is to put wheels on Broadmoor and take all of you with us!!

Our parents, brothers and sisters, and all the “extended” family have done what a family is supposed to do…but it is still greatly felt. Becki, you were with CJ during his worst week. That wasn’t a coincidence and Robin and I will never forget!

DB – Robin and I know God placed you right where you are for a reason. I see CJ at his best when you are around! We love you an awful lot and want you to know how special you have become to us!! Thank you!

Megan is the best big sister in the world. I love watching her love her little brother. She has also done a great job in Mississippi keeping it all together for us. And thank you for spending so much time with me in the last year. I know you have a life but blessed you want to spend time w/Dad. I get to eat dinner once a week with my 26 year old daughter. Luckiest Dad in the world!! I love you!!

I have always called Robin the “queen” because there is no one like her, but watching her deal with this and allowing God to use her to touch so many hurting people has been amazing. A lot of us talk about our walk with God, but not Robin. She just walks. She is loved at Walter Reed by everyone (except those who mistreat her son) and I have talked to an endless number of soldiers and members of their families who tell me they would not have made it without her. CJ knows how special Mom has been. She has a Mary heart and a Martha work ethic. Robin…you are more amazing than you can possibly imagine. I love you!!

CJ – there are only a few Dads in the world who have a super hero for a Son. Being your Dad is my high honor. You have taught me so much about being a man. Your unwavering faith has made it very easy for me to believe with you. I remember several moments in the last year when your body was in so much pain, yet you would smile and tell us you were “great”. At those moments God would speak to my heart and say, “Look at CJ standing like a rock! He has a heart for me. I can use him for my kingdom!” I challenge you to continue to stir up the gift God has placed in you. The world needs men who will stand for what’s right. God has something incredible for your life. He didn’t allow the last year without an incredible purpose. Pursue it with a passion and it will come to pass. “Change the world” while you “Win the Day”! And never forget the Army of young men who watch every step you take because they want to be just like you. That’s an awesome responsibility. Thank you for treating it so sacredly.

I know I’ve missed many, but I just wanted to say thanks to all of you. God is good. I’m reminded of one of my favorite scriptures:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-32, 37-39

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