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Thankful For Your Service

Everywhere we look, we can find a reason to be grateful, to be thankful.  Hidden within the day-to-day diversions, we pass stories that have the potential to bring us joy, comfort and inspiration.

This month along with the focus on thankfulness, we also focus on veterans as well.  Being a veteran myself, I still remember the valor, the sense of duty and the sacrifices our veterans and their families have made.  Truly there is no greater love, than that of one who lays down their life for another.  What a noble thing to be proud of, to be thankful for.

Not every battle is fought in theatre though.   It often comes home with our veterans and now they must fight to come back to life, to come back to us.  That’s where we as families, as friends, as citizens step in and fight for them.  But our fight is not one of weapons, it’s one of love.

Huntsville, meet Jaxson, the 10-year-old, 90lb Golden retriever.  He belongs to Bobby and Ashleigh Lee, members of the VFW Post 2702 here in Huntsville.

Ashleigh initially came across Jaxson when she was called to Tennessee to foster a stray.  When she entered the facility, Jaxson leaped over a partition wall and jumped into Ashleigh’s lap.   She knew right away that Jaxson was special.

Two years later, knowing he had to be shared with people, Jaxson and Ashleigh went through therapy dog training and were successfully certified.   This has now become a full-time purpose for Ashleigh and Jaxson.

The VFW post #2702 did their first tailgate party at Huntsville’s Tut Fann Home for veterans a few years ago.

Inside in a dark room and most certainly in a dark place, one of our Desert Storm veterans, “Jonathan”, was in the middle of his daily PTSD battle, far from home, far from life. This case was so extreme that he became nonverbal and reclusive. He normally wouldn’t let anyone come within ten feet of him. But the minute Jaxson entered the patio, Jonathan started his journey home. He slowly made his way around the busy passing of people and plates, sat down next to Jaxson and simply buried his face in Jaxson’s coat.  What a moving moment for the veterans gathered around, tears in silence, hope in its purest form.

Every month, sometimes a few times a month, Jaxson returned.  Jonathan started to come out for game nights to sit with Jaxson, until finally, he let Jaxson and Ashleigh enter his room.

Jonathan was slowly starting to interact with people while Jaxson was there, even appeared to experience enjoyment again. As a part of therapy, Jonathan would draw.  Soon, these drawings were pouring out and of course, they were about Jaxson.  Jonathan was coming back to us, Huntsville.

Jaxson kept showing up to Tut Fann until one day, Jonathan was on his way out. He returned from the dark to the light by the simple unconditional presence of a very special dog and his handler, a simple gift with a powerful blessing. Our Jonathan is now back home with his family and continues to improve.

So, I think the message of Jaxson is that the most gentle, kindest gesture or the most unconditional loving presence can pull one out of what seemingly is the grip of defeat to victory.  How many of us can relate in some way? How many of us have or know a similar story?  How many of you don’t know that just by your very presence, you may have healed someone in some way? Then this message, the message of Jaxson belongs to all of us.  It isn’t directed just to our beloved veterans, it's directed to you. Then it is with a thankful heart that we bow our heads to our veterans, that we become thankful for everyone who made a kind gesture without knowing the impact or showed up with an unconditional, understanding presence that has healed each one of us somehow, in some capacity, along the way.  That is service too. We are so thankful for you, and we are so thankful for your service.

Happy Veterans Day and Happy Thanksgiving, Huntsville.

This month along with the focus on thankfulness, we also focus on veterans as well.