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Archive for the ‘Inspirational’ Category

Gabriel and Donna Lorrig 2017

Some young people enlist in the military to discover what they want to do in life. Others make serving a life goal which they pursue intentionally. Such is the case of my son, Gabriel, who spent his childhood playing war games. As a teenager he applied himself as a member of the Civil Air Patrol. Completing his Search and Rescue training, becoming a certified First Responder, and reaching the rank of Lieutenant-when he achieved his Billy Mitchell award-are just some of his early accomplishments. Although his best friend had accepted a commission into the United States Air Force Academy, Gabriel’s desire was to begin serving right out of high school as an enlisted airman. He intended to work his way through the ranks as his grandfather and great uncle had before him.

Gabriel Billy Mitchell Pic

During his Basic Military Training he developed a pretty severe case of bronchitis, but was still able to graduate without being held back. We knew he was disappointed not to have achieved honor graduate status. But were not really surprised when the honor graduate from his flight stopped by to chat with us while we were enjoying lunch after the graduation ceremony.

“Gabriel really helped me through this whole basic training and made it possible for me to achieve this award,” he shared. It is very much in Gabriel’s character to help others reach their goals-even if his own aspirations ended up on the back burner.

Over the next two years of his active duty, he was proud to have been ‘coined’ 5 times by a variety of his superiors and attracted the favorable attention of a three-star general at Maxwell, AFB, in Alabama. In the fall of 2012, he was excited to find that he was being deployed to the Middle East. He had always enjoyed traveling and experiencing different cultures.

2012-11-29 13.20.54

We knew that he had been experiencing some complicated health issues and growing up in a military family myself, I understood the seriousness of the call I received which let me know he was being ‘medically evacuated’ to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for treatment. The most challenging health conditions of soldiers from deployments often ended up in Germany.

Once the news came that he had been admitted to the hospital, I immediately began to make the arrangements necessary to get to his side as quickly as possible.

Colorado Springs area, where we live, is a military town surrounded by Peterson AFB, Schriever AFB, Fort Carson, NORAD, and the US Air Force Academy, and it seemed that everyone I encountered that day was filled with compassion and understanding. At ENT credit union, the teller seemed upbeat and interested as I made my withdrawal.

“Big plans for the weekend?” she asked kindly.

“Heading overseas,” I replied with tears beginning to brim in my eyes.

“Where to?” she countered.

“To see my son in Landstuhl…” the ‘Germany’ caught in my throat and I couldn’t say anymore.

Immediately assessing my situation, she replied, “I was born at Landstuhl. Quite a complicated delivery they tell me. All the best doctors in the world are there and I’m sure he is getting the very best care possible.”

Words were impossible for me but as I completed my transaction, she spoke encouragingly again, “I’ll be praying for you both.”

How thankful I was that she seemed to know the situation was dire and didn’t ask for details that I couldn’t share.

Within twenty-four hours of the initial call, I had boarded a flight headed to Germany.

While on the plane and waiting in line for the lavatory the man behind me asked amiably, “Where are you headed?”

“To Landstuhl,” I replied, almost choking out the, “Visiting my son.”

“I spent some time there many years ago,” he replied reflectively. “I’m glad you are able to go. The doctors there are all top notch. Thank your son for his service for me.”

After the plane landed in Frankfurt, we waited to get off the aircraft. Finally, the pilot announced, “There’s been a delay with the plane sitting at our gate. We will disembark here and shuttles will take you from the tarmac to the terminal.” As I boarded the shuttle and sat down, the woman behind me asked cheerfully, “What brings you to Germany?”

“My son has been admitted to Landstuhl,” came my vague reply. After a quiet moment, her husband leaned forward and put his hand on my shoulder. “Would you mind if we pray for you? I’m a retired military chaplain…” I nodded my consent, not trusting that I could actually form the words to reply.

When we arrived at the terminal the chaplain asked, “Is anyone planning to meet you at the airport?” Shaking my head, the realization dawned that while my focus had been on getting to get to Germany, I had neglected to make plans for getting to Landstuhl or for where to stay once I arrived.

“Follow us,” the chaplain had directed. “We’ll get you through customs and take you to the USO.”

Falling in line behind them, we shortly arrived at the USO. A spot on a van headed for Ramstein and Landstuhl was secured for me, and along the autobahn, I marveled at the serene landscape filled with vibrant autumn colors and dotted with white farm houses, each with identical red roofs. Appearing to be generations old, yet as if ordered to uniformity, they all looked indistinguishable. Maybe my mind simply couldn’t process differences, but I allowed the revolving scene lull me into a measured calm.

The van driver dropped off each of the other passengers before me when we arrived at the gate of Landstuhl, obviously the last stop on his route.

“Do you have your orders?” he questioned me.

“Oh, I’m not in the military,” the words stumbled out, “I’m here to see my son who has been admitted to the hospital.”

“Didn’t you get an email with instructions from the Red Cross?” he inquired.

“No, I didn’t even think to wait for that,” I admitted. “I just got here as quickly as I could.”

He seemed mildly surprised, but since there was no one else to drop off, he came with me to the gate. After explaining the situation to a few different people, a passerby overheard the dilemma and offered to sponsor me on to the base. Once through the gate, we walked across the street to the hospital and the kind stranger gave me directions to the information station.

With just a small carry-on in tow, I was escorted to the elevators and through long hallways toward my son’s room. The large bio-hazard notice on his door took me by surprise, but the assisting nurse explained that he was in isolation. My belongings would remain in the hall and everyone entering his room was required to ‘gown up’-including gloves, booties and hairnet-‘as a precaution’ they said.

My cell phone battery had died during the trip, so I was unable to call ahead to announceGabriel Landstuhl 2012 my arrival before I reached his bedside. Nothing could have prepared me for the overflowing sensations I experienced walking into that room. Looking down at my young warrior son-emaciated, yet, laying peacefully asleep with wires and tubes attached to his frail broken body. Could this really be the same young man who had so recently run a ten-mile race through Garden of the Gods? No, this shrunken version of that young man was more reminiscent of his ten-year-old self. The little boy who dreamed of growing up to be a hero. Frail, pale, and barely making a lump in the sheets of the bed, laid my precious son.

Suddenly realizing his nurse was attempting to update me on the specifics of his care, diagnosis, and treatments, I strained to comprehend all that she was saying. Dragging my gaze away from the sight of his motionless form on the bed.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “He tried to tell me that you were coming but I thought he was hallucinating. Let’s see if we can rouse him.”

She moved closer to the head of his bed and placed a gloved hand gently on his shoulder.

“Mr. Lorrig,” she said, giving him a gentle nudge. “Your mother is here to see you.”

His blue eyes blinked open a few times, unseeing, and then he was able to focus.

“You’re here,” he whispered and a brief smile caught the edges of his mouth. “I knew you would come.”

The next morning the doctor on his rounds caught me in the hall.

“I’m so glad you came when you did,” he shared. “Yesterday, we were not sure he would make it through the night. But, I’m happy to see him still here today-and I think he is going to make it.”

Gabriel Landstuhl 2 2012

It was a long month of treatment and recovery until Gabriel was stable enough to return to the USA for continuing treatment. Three years later, he is medically retired and finishing up his bachelor’s degree and reaching toward some new life goals.

That trip to Germany reminded me that it’s good for our heroes to know that we understand the sacrifices they make for us, and it’s not too much for them to expect that we’ll be there for them when they need us too.

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So much in our world is changing so quickly! But one of the timeless joys we experience regularly is the realization that while technologically life is rapidly evolving into an entity yet unrealized, much in our world remains the same.

A few strokes of the keyboard can send a message into the vast realm of cyberspace where folks on the far reaches of the planet can stumble across these words and get a glimpse into my world as it is today. Yet so much of this small spot on the planet remains the same as it was a hundred years ago or more. We can stroll down the dirt road a short way to the old log stagecoach stop of those pioneering wild west days. While the stage stop has been beautifully preserved and updated into a delightful home for my neighbor, local legend describes a time before the white man came when Native Americans gathered nearby for ceremonial purposes.

Today we live right here in the midst of all that history and enjoy basically the same things people of those bygone eras experienced: beautiful trees that protect us from a blazing sun, wildflowers which bloom each summer, wildlife including rabbits, foxes, deer and the occasional bear who all live here or meander through this bountiful forest. The soothing sounds of gentle breezes making their way through the treetops seeming to whisper secrets of our mysterious world, elusive yet delightful.

This is where I am today and via the mystery of the internet, combined with whatever that compelling force is that makes bloggers post their thoughts for everyone to read, Welcome to my world…

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