Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Memorial Day, what does it mean to most people? An extra long weekend? A day of cookouts and party? A day to watch a parade, but not get what it is about? Not in our family! I however am ashamed to say, that for many years it wasn't like that, we thought of it as a long weekend, a cookout and party, a parade, that is it, nothing else.

I am proud to say that through Taylor and because of Taylor, we understand what Memorial Day really is and what it really means. We understand we have a long weekend and cookouts and parties and parades because we are FREE to do so. We are free to do so because of the many of generations who have fought for our country and others. If there was no need for a Memorial Day, really think of how things would be for us.....

Taylor and Tanner were in the parade this year. Taylor all decked out and looking squared away, got to lead the rest of our local Heroes, what an honor! Tanner decked his bike out and showed how proud he is to be American by flying the colors.

Taylor wasn't feeling well, but she said there was no way she was going to miss being able to march to show how proud she is. It was hot out and the route was long, but Taylor kept the pace up right along all those grown men. She held her own and never faltered and never fell back. She led them with her head high the whole time. She stood side by side with her 'brothers' and raised a crisp beautiful salute when called to do so.

Not to take away from any of those men there, but there were maybe a few that didn't take it to seriously. There were a few middle agers there that didn't stand at attention, were turned around talking while the others were all showing their respect, raised the salute way after the others. Now on the other hand, there were many older men there, that stood out in that heat and did that long walk, stood tall as they could, stood silent. I am proud to say my daughter was with them. I stood there looking at all of them, seeing the pride they held within them, seeing how they moved forward when they must have been tired, and I wondered to myself.....what stories do these men have to tell? What have they done, where have they been? I think that my Gunny would love to meet these men and listen to the history they hold, I know I would.
(don't know why the pictures came out so small, I have tried to redo them and they still come out small, but they are added to her photobucket page link that is on the right)

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Taylor had been asked to be in the Michigan Week Parade and to ride with The Daughters of the American Revolution. Taylor was excited about this and wanted to know if her brother could ride along with her, the ladies were very kind and said yes he could. This is a huge parade and the weather was beautiful. Well, it was nice for the parade, but on the way there, the 2 ladies and Taylor and Tanner nearly froze to death on the way there in the convertible!

We found out that afterwards, the VFW was having the Grand Rapids District Pipe Band come in and play. If some of you remember, this is the Pipe Band that played at Taylor's Day. We were invited to come in for some food and to listen to the band, and you know how much Taylor loves the bagpipes so we didn't have to be asked twice! They played magnificent and they played Amazing Grace for Taylor, wow!

There was one man, Donnes, who let Taylor hold onto his pipes. Taylor thought it was so cool to do so, until they told her that the pipes were over 140 years old and worth a LOT of money! Give Taylor a machine gun and she is tough as nails, put a set of 140 year old pipes on her and she turned to jelly! She was scared to death and was so glad when he took them from her...........

Friday, May 18, 2007

She's a fighter, article in paper

Taylor was in the Kalamazoo Gazette today.

She is a fighter, giving back
Friday, May 18, 2007
By Sarita Chourey 388-8575

Thirteen-year-old Taylor Batten can say she shot a machine gun.
Well, a simulator, anyway.
During a week at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, the Mendon girl ate meals with Marines at the chow hall, watched a graduation ceremony for the School of Infantry, and zapped enemies as they charged her on a dark screen.
Her goal, she said, is ``just being able to help the guys.''
The Mendon Junior High student had been invited to the base with her mother, while undergoing medical tests at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland and visiting the Naval Medical Center. Taylor has Turner Syndrome, a chromosomal condition that required five sinus surgeries and heart surgery, and left her with chronic-fatigue syndrome, scoliosis and impaired visual-spatial functioning.
Taylor's efforts to comfort wounded Marines last month at Camp Lejeune was good for both the veterans and for her daughter, her mother said.
``It was hard for me to tell who was more excited, Taylor or these guys,'' Cathy Batten said. ``You could just see their whole demeanor change as well.
``Their life right now is dedicated to their wounds, doctors visits, physical therapy. They're not well enough to be back with the guys. They're not well enough to be at home.''
Taylor, who is small for her age, has also volunteered in other ways to help injured veterans. She attends funerals, sends cards and care packages to soldiers stationed abroad. She has also held a blanket drive and sent 150 blankets to soldiers in Iraq.
In October, she was named an honorary U.S. Marine Private First Class and an honorary state-ride captain for the Patriot Guard Riders, an association of motorcyclists who honor fallen soldiers. She was promoted to honorary U.S. Marine sergeant and, most recently, to honorary gunnery sergeant.
``I just really feel like I need to help out,'' Taylor said.
That's why she's started a collection to raise funds for ``Hope for the Warriors.'' The program, initiated by the wife of an injured veteran, provides medical supplies and other support for the wounded.
Taylor has placed collection containers at a restaurant, gas stations and a bank in Mendon. Donations may be sent to Gunnery Sgt. Taylor Batten; P.O. Box 350; Mendon, MI 49072. Checks should be made out to ``Hope for the Warriors.''


I got the pictures loaded onto photobucket today

I will also be adding this to her links section.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Taylor's story

Ok, here it is. It is long and it might be a bit outdated, as this was the letter that I sent out about her last summer. I will try to go and change a few things to get it up to date though......

Thirteen years ago we were blessed with the birth of Taylor. Such a small little thing when she came into this world, not crying, but just sort of trying to move her eyes around and just so content.On Taylor's second day of life, she was not eating and I had to take her to a nurses station to have her blood sugar checked before I fed her. There was a nurse that was standing there with a sandwich in her hand and the second she saw my daughter, her sandwich was thrown to the ground and Taylor was scooped out of my arms and all I saw was the back of that nurse almost running into another room with my baby in her arms before I could even register that I was standing there empty handed.

My knees just about buckled, but by God, I was not loosing sight of that nurse!!! I ran after her and by the time that I got to her, she already had Taylor hooked up to monitors and an oxygen tent over her head. Talk about your stomach up to your throat, I could not even speak. I just stood there in disbelief, eyes wide, mouth shut.

After this nurse worked on her for what seemed eternity to me, she finally told me that she was not sure what was wrong, but something was. She told me that Taylor had not a right color to her and her instinct told her something was not right. She called in the pediatrician, on a Sunday, and I guess he was not happy. When he entered the nursery, it was with a kick to the door. He did not look at Taylor's chart, he did not even really listen to the nurse, he lifted the oxygen tent and said very clearly, 'There is nothing wrong with this child'. And he started to walk away. That nurse got in front of him and blocked his way. I can't tell you for sure what was said, but the last part we heard loud and clear and she said to him, 'my husband does not talk to me that way and you sure the hell aren't going to either'. Needless to say, that got our attention!

She proceeded to tell him she did not care what his degree said, she had been a nurse in the NICU for 20 some years and there was something wrong with our child. All I can say is thank God for that nurse!!!! Taylor's heart was actually starting to shut down. She had to stay in the hospital for a week before we were able to bring her home, she fought and fought well and her condition improved. But we knew she had to have major heart surgery. From day one my daughter has had to fight and she has had to fight hard, every day of her life. Her struggles are many. Her first surgery was at 6 months old and she has since had to endure 5 others and we know she will have more.

We always felt there was something else going on with her other then just her heart condition. At 10 years old, she already had 4 charts full just at her pediatricians office, not to mention all the specialist we had been bounced around to. She was very small for her age, and never healthy. She struggled with things that came so natural for other kids. To say that she has been medically traumatized by all the testing and poking and prodding and surgeries she has had is just about the biggest understatement there could be.

Finally, when she was 11, I couldn't stand it any longer and insisted that we take her to Mayo Clinic to find out what was wrong with her. I had to take on our insurance company, and I had to fight all the way to the top as well as getting a state Senator involved. I was determined to get her there one way or the other and after months, I won and we were on our way. What we found out there, devastated me at first. It was that double edged sword, you fight to find out what is wrong but once you do, you wish you didn't. After her 4th day there, they had pretty much a diagnosis, but didn't have the blood work to confirm it. Mind you, 4 days there and they knew what it was versus 11 long years of misdiagnosis here. We found out she has a genetic chromosomal disorder. She is actually missing a chromosome. In that missing chromosome, she has lost miles and miles of genetic makeup. She is not mentally impaired like Downs, they actually have an extra chromosome.

We found out that this condition only effects girls and it is extremely rare because only LESS then 1% of these girls are even born. Well what the hell more of a miracle do I need then that? That right there told me just how amazing she is and just how strong she is. In being born, she had already beat the odds. This condition basically effects her from head to toe. The most major problem being her heart. We know she will never be able to have her own children, that eventually her hearing and eyes will more then likely be effected. Her body is resistant to its own growth hormone and that is why she is so small. She is now on growth hormone injections and she is responding to it very well, but she will always be small. Her brain does not wire in some areas as it should and then it has over compensated for it in others.

In neurological testing, her verbal areas are considered to be in the genius level, while her visual spatial areas are in the impaired area. Her kidneys will eventually give her issues. She has chronic fatigue syndrome and is tired a lot. Her bones do not nor will ever have normal density. She has scoliosis. From all the radiation she has had, it has given her brain some slower growth rate. This is just some of the issues she faces. In her short time already, she has faced more and fought more then most adults will their entire life.

Now, onto the amazing part. For what she has had to endure, for the amount of struggles she has had to do, she always has a smile on her face. She is so compassionate and so caring. She has this light about her. I know every parent feels this way about their child, but I kid you not......her light shines just a bit brighter. Ever since Taylor was very young, she has always had a huge fascination with the military. If she saw someone in uniform, it is like she had this respect for them, even before she knew what respect was.

As she has grew, so did the fascination. When the war in Iraq started, she always wanted to do something, I just never knew what we could do. One day, a little over a year ago, the website for was passed onto me. Taylor and I sat down and we read almost every entry from that day. As luck would have it, we came upon a Marine who posted GO BLUE (for the Michigan Wolverines) and that he loved the Detroit Red Wings. That was it, this was her man she choose to send to. She loves her Wolverines, as that is where she had her heart surgery at and she just loves the Wings. She sat down and wrote out a letter to this Marine and then her and I went shopping. I had no idea on really what to get, so I asked her if I put her down in the middle of the field with not even her pooh bear and blankie, what would she want. At 11 years old, she set out on a mission and picked out things that I never would have thought of, and things that were so appropriate!

I wrote a note about her to the Marine, as I wanted him to know about who was sending to him. I told Taylor that we probably would never hear from him, as he had a very important job to do. In Taylor's grown up way of saying things, told me that it was OK, she wasn't doing it for a letter back, she was doing it because it was the right thing to do. 11 YEARS OLD!!!!! Amazing how she seems to get 'it' while most adults don't and never will. We sent off several packages to this Marine and one day, we checked to see if he had any updates and were crushed to find out anysoldier had not heard from him and he was dropped. We knew as well that his time to go home was more then likely close. But, we thought, go onto someone else.

A few days later, a box came for Taylor and I saw the customs form on it so I knew where it came from. I don't know who was more excited, her or I! I got my camera all ready, for her little face was just aglow. She sat down in the middle of the living room floor, surrounded by my husband, my mom, her brother and myself. She opened her box and the first thing she pulled out was a boonie hat with a pin in it that we weren't sure what it was (we later found out that it was the chevron this Marine was promoted to Sergeant with), and Marine shirt. Then she just sort of gasped, and so slowly, pulled out an American flag, folded into a triangle. She said 'mom, look at what I got!' with it, was a certificate that it was flown on a mission in her honor. She just sat there, holding that flag, staring at it. You know, the whole time this was all going on, I had that camera in my hand and never took one picture! I was so enthralled by her and what was happening, I couldn't take my eyes off of her! She never let go of her flag, and I should add that this flag is by far, her most prized possession EVER.

She found a letter and started to read it, holding her flag to her heart as she did. What happened next, I can only describe simply as life altering. She read the letter to us, speaking slowing and clearly. This young Marine told a bit about himself but then talked about her and how special she is. He told her how wonderful it was that she was trying to take care of them while they were out doing their jobs. He told her that her courage was amazing and her spirit was that of a Marine and because of that, he was making her an Honorary United States Marine. When she read that, she looked at me dead in the eye, with a tear rolling down and said in a tone I had never heard before, 'I am a Marine, ooh rah'. With that, I swear, I saw something in her I had never seen. In that moment, that Marine had given my daughter what I had tried to her whole life. Her spirit just grew by leaps and bounds. I could actually not only see something in her, but I could feel it. Needless to say, I was bawling. From that moment on, things have been very different for Taylor. She now faces her challenges head on. Instead of fighting against what is being done to her, she fights for it. I can remember the very first time she had to have something done after this happened, she walked into that room, head held high and chest just puffed out. She got up on that table, she still had tears, but she did it! When it was all done, she jumped off that table and ran to me yelling 'I DID IT I DID IT OOH RAH' All I could get out was OOH RAH baby, because my throat and emotions wouldn't let me say anything else.

The little things that used to frustrate her, just didn't matter any longer. Her whole demeanor was completely different, it was like she wasn't even the same person. Life altering. Her and her Marine have kept in touch through email, and he was thinking of getting out of the Marines as he had been in for 8 years. She just got a surprise from him, he wrote to her and said he had decided to relist, as he liked helping people way to much! He lived in PA and is being transferred to Texas. He made a surprise visit to meet her. I never will be able to give this young man enough praise for what he has done for my child. In his one small gesture, in words on paper, changed our whole lives forever. How do you thank someone for that? And true to form, he claims he is nothing special. I beg to differ!

She has since picked out many others to send to, and even picked out someone from the Army, just to be fair! LOL She has a Marine Major that is keeping in great contact with her through email and it means the world to her, he tells her that her courage is inspiring to him. While my daughter will never be able to join the service, never go through basic training, never get that Eagle Globe and never be able to wear the uniform, in her heart and soul she IS a United States Marine and she IS an American Warrior. I can't even convey on just how proud I am of her for this. Her obstacles are many, but she takes them one at a time.

UPDATE: Ok, most of you all know the things going on for Taylor now from reading the blog. In October, I had to take her to the National Institute of Health in Bethesda for a week's worth of testing. Again, we found out some significant things on her medical condition. Most of them negative, the major one being her heart. We are now working with pediatric cardiologist at the University of Michigan.

It is so incredibly scary, not knowing Taylor's outcome. But, we have taken Taylor's cue and we are looking at the positive side of things. Taylor has survived already what most children with her condition don't. She has the compassion of 1,000 people all rolled into one little body, she has a deep understanding that most of us never will.

She loves her country on a level that is almost mind boggling and her desire to be there to help out her troops is like no one we have ever met.

We now believe, Taylor has a purpose in life. She is being shown her path and she is not only following it, she is charging full force and bringing many along for the ride. How many can honestly say they knew at such a young age what they were to do with their life? I am an adult and I still don't know! Taylor has a mission, and it includes healing the many she can reach out and touch. This in turn, helps her get stronger to fight her daily battle. We are very proud of Taylor and are so happy that we have her to share with you all.

Gunny on the airwaves

Well, we just got back from Taylor doing her talk on WNWN this morning. They were very busy, and it was just Kim on the air. We think that Tim got scared when he knew that a 13 year old Marine was coming in.....maybe he thought she was gunna be to tough on him?! Anyways, he was out sick and he is the one that had all the info! GO FIGURE! LOL Kim did a great job, and Taylor got to speak for a few minutes and she did a great job as well. We are hoping to have reached some listeners.

I will post the pictures from this morning once I get them downloaded. I have also been asked to put Taylor's WHOLE story on here from beginning to what is going on now, as some people are just now learning of her and haven't heard it all. So, I will also try to get that done maybe later on tonight.

Taylor's new fund raising is for and if you are able to help her out, that would be great. There are 2 ways to do this. First, anysoldier runs on donations alone. They are a point of contact for just about 3/4 of our deployed troops. This is THE place to go to get information on who to send to, where to send it to and how. You get to pick and choose who you want, from any branch. They need our help in keeping this going. So, sending checks made out to ANYSOLDIER, INC would be great. You can send it to,

GySgt. Taylor Batten
P.O. Box 350
Mendon, MI 49072

We will then after a bit of time and collecting, will send those all onto ANYSOLDIER's president.

You can also help out your troops by visiting there, going to the tab WHERE TO SEND and there will be a menu on the left hand side that has the contacts names on there. Click on one and it will show you the correspondence from them. Send off a care package to our American Warriors who are doing the fight, for our country, for the betterment of the world. It doesn't matter if you support this war or not, what matters is that you support your troops and that it is done in anyway possible.

(Taylor is also still collecting for and will do so until the end of the month)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gunny on the radio

GySgt. Taylor will be on the radio, WNWN 98.5, tomorrow 5-17-07. Not sure exactly what they will be talking about, but one will be her new fund raising for While Taylor is still collecting money for she has been doing this for a few weeks and it has come a long nicely it is almost time to wrap that up and she will be then campaigning for anysoldier.

It was through that Taylor had the blessing of her first encounter with Sgt. Pavlowski (he is the one that sent her a flag from Iraq and made her the honorary Marine and that was the start of the 'change' in Taylor) is very close to our hearts. They are the point of contact for just about all (not all, but pretty darn close!) troops deployed and they represent every branch. This site makes sure that the troops can tell us back at home how they are doing and what they need. This is also how she came to know of Major Pain (Major Bourland) and I know most of you will remember he is the one that gave her the surprise of her life while she was at The National Institue of Health last October for her medical testing.

So, if you are in the area and can hear 98.5, tune in from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and hear what the Gunny has to say!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Congratulations to Shannon Maxwell

Shannon Maxwell, co founder of Hope For the Warriors and Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell's wife, was invited to The White House and she was given an award by the President.

If you remember, this is the wonderful family that opened their home and their hearts to Taylor and I and made it possible for us to be at Camp Lejeune for Taylor's wonderful week. Congratulations Shannon, you have worked harder then anyone I have ever met and you deserve this!

This Saturday, 5-19-07, Taylor has been invited to be in the Michigan Parade in Sturgis Michigan. This is a very big parade and she is pretty excited about it. Her dad thinks that he and Tanner will possibly walk behind the car that she will be in and carry a Patriot Guard Banner. We were asked if any of the Patriot Guard Riders would like to be in the parade with her, but they would have to walk instead of be on their bikes and so far, that didn't get a favorable reception, so dad and Tanner will try to represent on foot!

Hopefully, next Monday, 5-21-07, she will be air with WNWN promoting and She will be able to spread the word of doing the right thing, just because it is the right thing to do. I will keep you all posted and let you know the date and time for sure on that one.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gunny Taylor, the criminal!

We did some hugging at the Wounded Warrior Barracks, being told this is not goodbye that we will see everyone again. It was hard for Taylor and I. We were leaving so many people who didn't just say HI to us, but to so many that opened their lives to us and made us feel like we were family. It was exciting to know we were coming home to see Tanner and his dad, but just so sad in what we were leaving.

Taylor was quiet as Sgt. Coon and his family drove us to the airport. I could feel the tears starting to well up again and I looked at Taylor and she felt the same way. Once it was just her and I, we talked just a tiny bit about what had happened that week and Taylor just said it was literally the best time of her entire life.

We walked to go through security, I made it through but as it was Taylor's turn the alarms went off. She had a bit of a startled look, but we thought that it just might be her chevrons. We took them off and she went through it again, alarms go off again. Taylor started going through her pockets and out she pulled a spent blank shell casing she had gotten while she was at MOUT. She had put it in her side pocket of her cammie pants and we never gave it another thought. As soon as she pulled it out, we were immediately swarmed by the security people. I still had a semi smile on my face, not thinking this was a serious matter. I tried and I say TRIED to start to tell what it was from and why and I got shut down, yelled at that Taylor broke the law and they were calling the FBI. WHAT?! They took Taylor off behind the glass wall and wouldn't let me go in there with her. I turned around and tried and I say TRIED again to explain where Taylor had been, why she had been there, why she had a blank casing. Again, I was shut down and couldn't get anything out. I looked over at Taylor and there she was, spread eagle, terrified. I could actually see her shaking. Then I kicked into MOM mode and immediately started talking of her health condition and her heart and how she is to avoid stressful situations and.....again.......before I could get anything out.......shut down. I was told nothing mattered, Taylor broke the law and we could go to jail. WHAT?! I tried to get into Taylor again and I was stopped again. I had to actually yell to her that it was OK, we were OK. Not one of those people took the time to explain to her what they were doing or why. All she knew is that she set off an alarm, they pulled her away from me and she was being patted down criminal style. OK, forget her being a tough Marine, she is a sick CHILD and they did not care.

She was humiliated and terrified. They didn't talk to her, all she heard was them yelling at me that SHE didn't matter, what mattered was we broke the law and that her mom was getting yelled at. I was so shocked, I kept saying over and over again 'we are sorry, we didn't know, please let me get to my child' Finally, when the one guy turned his back to me, I slipped into the opening where they had Taylor and the lady said out loud, 'she is clear'. I grabbed Taylor and hugged her. I then turned around and the guy held up her shell casing and looked right at her and said, 'you aren't getting this back, but you can go'.

All I wanted to do was get her out of there and get her calmed down. I grabbed her stuff and we walked away, in shock over how she was just treated. I couldn't believe they as adults, did not view her as the child she is. I couldn't believe that these adults could hear me trying to plead that she has a major medical condition and they would hear no part of it. I honestly don't even think I got a full sentence out the whole time because as soon as I started, I was talked over to and loudly.

There was a lady behind us and when we got to the gate and I got Taylor sat down, she came up to me and said she flew a lot and she had never seen anything like that. I felt so incredibly bad for Taylor. Here she just told me not even 10 minutes earlier that she had the time of her life and she was feeling so strong. Now, she was broken emotionally and this was going to be what really stuck in her head and her heart.

We got on the plane and then I got mad, I got really mad. When we got home and opened our suitcases, the only word I can use is that they had been ransacked by security. I had many things that were breakable and I had them wrapped up nice and neat in the clothing so they would be safe. In our suitcase was a notice that our bags were searched. Nothing was put away safe as it was found. Things were broken. Nice huh?

I made several phone calls when we got home and I finally was able to talk to the guy that is head of the security. I just wanted to know if this was the way all children were treated, especially ones with significant medical conditions. I won't go all in detail on what was said, but I have a feeling it is going no where because he told me he would call me back once he talked to the people that were involved to find out and I quote 'what really happened'.

Our good friend Jimmy BEAGLE K picked us up from the airport at midnight, now mind you Taylor had been up since 6:30 a.m. with only 2 hours of sleep. Jim and his wife let us stay at their house for the night so Kevin and Tanner didn't have to drive over 2 hours to get to us so late at night. Once we were alone, I won't say how, but Taylor finally let out how scared she was and how upset she was. Once I got her calmed down, before her head even hit the pillow she was asleep. And she slept hard and didn't wake up until after 10.

Once she was able to show off her collection of everything she got while at Camp Lejeune and she showed him some of her pictures, she felt better.

As time as gone by, she doesn't talk about 'the incident' as much but she is still greatly bothered by it as am I. I am very thankful for our security agents, I want to know that when I get on that plane I and my child are safe. The pain of what happened on 9-11 has never diminished and I never want that to happen again, so I am thankful for them for that. However, where in the hell is their compassion and common sense at when it comes to a child? I will keep talking to the man in charge, if anything, so they are aware that there are some times that sensitivity just has to be used.

We don't focus on it when Taylor is around, for I don't want that to be a reminder to her of how her magical week ended. I learned that a spent blank casing is considered ammunition and apparently, some very serious security agents just don't care who they are dealing with, everyone is treated the same.

When we got home, Taylor went to her room and just hugged on her bear and said,' I am so glad we aren't in jail'. I said 'me to honey, I wasn't sure on how I would explain that one to your teachers!'

Monday, May 7, 2007

Last day, part 2

Once we were done at the Air Station, we were able to just drive around the base and see things. One thing that we got to see that was extremely special was The Beirut Wall. This was made in honor of those that died from Camp Lejeune from the bombing at Beirut. While it is not as massive as the Vietnam Wall, we were easily overcome with emotion looking at the names and knowing why they were on there. Sgt. Coon also explained to us that down a highway on base, there is a place where there are trees planted in the median for each name on the wall.

Off to the side of it was something that needed no explanation, a beam from one of the World Trade Centers. Reading the plague, seeing the steel beam and knowing we are today in this world where we are because of what happened that day, again, we were over come with emotion. Both of these monuments are very powerful and very moving. While they are not in Washington with the other monuments, if you ever have a chance, both of them are something you should see and experience.

We drove around some more and then headed back to the Wounded Warrior Barracks. It was bittersweet as both Taylor and I knew this was our last time there. (for this visit anyways, we sure do hope to come back!)

We were able to joke around with the guys and Sgt. 'Zing' just started harrassing Taylor where he had left off from the last time she saw him. She finally looked at him and bellowed out to drop and give her 20! Boy, he stood at attention and squared himself right away, then he went down and started to count off. Not good enough for the Gunny! She crouched down to make sure he was doing it the Marine way! The guys standing around just howled, but they didn't dare mess with her in fear they were next! I have a few pictures that are just priceless of this.

We did not say good bye to anyone, because we were told that Marines don't say goodbye, as we know we will meet again. We did not get to give our hugs to some that we really wanted to though, so this will be our excuse to try to get back down for a visit again soon.

I know there are other things that we saw and did and I need time to have them all come back to me. So many people were involved in making sure that Taylor was given the royal treatment, but most important, that she felt like a Marine amongst her peers, her fellow Marines. To everyone who worked on this, thank you so much. To those that talked with Taylor and took the time for her, thank you so much. To those of you who didn't treat her like a kid just there for the novelty of it, but treated her like a fellow warrior, thank you so much. I could go on and on, but I really want you all to know how much this was appreciated on so many different levels and for so many different reasons.

As a mom, I will never be able to really give the exact meaning this all had for Taylor. I will never be able to tell just how changed she is, from the inside. What she had gained this week doing what she did and being around who she was, there really is no way to describe it.

Last Day, part 1

This was Taylor's last day and it started out rough. She was up the whole night before until 4 a.m. with her stomach and then had to get up at 6:30 a.m. to say her good byes to the Maxwell children. This was hard for her as she bonded with them.

She got to do some exciting things today and even though she was exhausted, there was no way she was going to miss out on any of it. Taylor was taken to the Air Station and they had pulled out a 53 and an Osprey just for her! These things are HUGE. She learned all about them and got to tour them, however the cockpit of the Osprey scared her on what she shouldn't touch and she opted to just 'look' instead of sit up there. All the time we were out there, 53's and Osprey's were coming and going and it was loud, but simply amazing to watch. For those of you that don't know what an Osprey is, it can have it's props down and fly like a plane or they can tilt up and fly like a helicopter.

As with everyone she came in contact with, these guys were the best. They took their time in explaining things to her and showing her things. They even took her into the gear room and she saw stuff the pilots wear and just how heavy they are (she could barely lift up the vest). She got to look through the night vision goggles they wear, only Taylor knows the funny faces we were all doing at her!

She then went off to look at the Hueys and Cobras that just came back from Iraq. The lure of sitting in the cockpit of these were just to much for her and she couldn't help herself, she jumped right in. I have to say, she looked pretty darn tough in that Cobra! Once again, these guys were awesome with her!

She got loaded down with tons of patches, shirts and other special gifts, including her own name tags and a flight bag with her call sign on it, MIGHTY MITE. They had embroidered it all up for her on the flight bag, her name, and her call name in bright pink on the Marine green bag....way to cool!

She then had the special treat of flying the sims of the 53 and Osprey. Words do no justice to just how cool these things are and just how real they are. Taylor did an amazing job in the Osprey, she in fact handled it like a pro. She got to refuel with a C 130 and land on a ship out in the ocean as a helicopter then take off from it as a plane. She then got to fly over the MOUT where she had been just a few days earlier and land in a soccer field right next to it. Everyone had a great time with this. The 53 was way harder for her to handle and master and there were several times I literally had to cover my eyes and I am not kidding! The instructors were great, but I know the one for the 53 was thanking his lucky stars it was just a sim!!!

One of the people who helped get this going for Taylor was Crystal. As we were walking from one sim to another, we happened to walk by a Mustang. Taylor told everyone that was her all time favorite car and Crystal said 'hang on' She went inside and came back out carrying keys. She informed Taylor that the Mustang was hers and that the 'girls' were going for a ride to the other sim. Girls with no fear + Mustang = VERY FAST! I do believe we might have even heard a YAH HOO as they took off!

Taylor was getting tired, but she fought on. All this was so special and never in a million years would I think that she could go on 2 hours sleep like she did and keep smiling and wanting to do more. She knew this was her last day and she wanted to soak it all in.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Change of Command

Taylor had an easy day compared to the others, she had a chance to sleep in and then she spent a whole morning looking at Lt. Col. Maxwell's photos and listening to him talk about 'back in the day'. If you look at the picture and see the smile on her face, what else can I add to that?! I think she soaked in each word he said to her and she was in awe. I really enjoyed just sitting back and watching those 2 together. Both of them, sitting together, 2 miracles.

We then went to see the Change of the Command of 24 MEU. Colonel Johnson is moving on to Washington and has had a promotion. It was very interesting to watch, as well as to see all the people there. I know that NO Marine would ever brag about this, but remember, I am the Mom so I can brag! Taylor was coined by a 2 star General and I almost had to pull her back down to the ground after that! She was able to meet many more of the higher ranking Marines and shake many hands. Nothing melts the heart of a mom more then watching these tough guys become so gentle and their faces soften as they talked with Taylor.

We were able to go back and spend some time at the Wounded Warrior Barracks again for awhile before we went off to the Officers Club for the reception. The time Taylor spent at the WWB meant so much. While her wounds are different then what they have gotten and her wounds are from a different type of battle, her soul is like theirs. I think sometimes people tend to look at Taylor as that sick child, I know I do at times. I know that when people look at a Wounded Warrior, they see just that, the obvious wound. What is hard for people to see once they have seen that is that Taylor and these guys are human. They are not a sickness nor are they a wound. There are some bonds that most of the general population will never get, no matter how hard we try to understand it or how much we think we do in fact feel it. If you have never had a very serious life threatening illness, you don't know what it is like. If you have never been severely wounded, you don't know what it is like. If you never have been in battle, you don't know what it is like. These guys have that bond, and Taylor shares it with them. Believe me when I say this, if she could spend every day with them, she would. Being around these guys, gave her so much more then I could ever do. For that very reason, it was hard for me to bring her home. I watched her flourish there, I watched a new type of strong come out of her and these Marines gave that to her. I hope they got from her as well. Please remember, if you can, help Taylor in her mission on helping out.
We then went to the Officers Club for the reception for Colonel Johnson and Taylor was able to meet him again, along with 'networking'. Many business cards were passed our way with us being asked to promise to keep these guys up on how Taylor is doing and what she is doing. Again, I think I had to pull her down to earth a bit! She was in her element!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Early Day, Great Day!

The day started out bright and early by Taylor's standards, but she was rearing to go! The day started with her going to the chow hall and eating and she liked it! There were a lot of stares her way, but by now, she was used to it and she held her head high and she strutted as she walked.
After chow, it was off to the raising of the morning colors at MCIEAST and she met 2 Sgt. Majors and was given special coins by them. She stood tall and proud as the flags were raised. When that was done, she was presented a flag that was flown in her honor in Iraq, very cool!
Then it was off to MOUT (military operation on urban terrain) There are 2 cities made up like in Afghanistan and Iraq. Before hand, she got the facts on what they do and how they do it, she was shown the weapons and how they are used (the weapons are real only outfitted to shoot paint ammo). Once this was done, a very brave Marine stood up and allowed her to shoot him up very close with the weapon and paint ammo. He put on his face gear and vest, stood in front of her, then thought better of it and walked over and put on an extra piece of 'protection' WHEW! Lucky for him, she hit him right on the vest.

She toured the cities and it was fascinating. It was almost a bit eerie though. I know as a civilian, it is hard to picture just exactly what our troops face. Get out in a city like that and walk around and suddenly, you become very aware of just how bad it is and just how dangerous it is. They showed us an underground tunnel and it was small and it was dark. It was explained how our guys go right in there, then they asked if Taylor wanted to. That is the ONE time she opted to be a civilian!!! It was a no go! It was very interesting there and seeing the new city that was just built, we pray the training our troops get there will save many lives.

After that was over, it was on to more shooting. This time, Taylor took on a 9mm pistol, M 16 again, a shotgun, and the SAW. She loved them all and she man handled that shotgun! Once again, the instructor gave the go ahead for the rest of the Marines to 'play' and they all did not hesitate again!

Once we were done, they took her to a room and it was lunch time. MRE style. She tried, she really did. She ate a bit of chicken and something we could not identify. They warmed up some minestrone for her, but she looked at it and said "I can't do it"! While we were there, out of the blue, I got a phone call from SSGT. Merizalde. He is the one that put together Taylor's trip to the National Naval Medical Center while we were in Washington. He had no idea this was all going on, so he sure was shocked and delighted when I told him what was going on. Taylor was interviewed by the base TV station.

We were driven around the base some more and were just able to take in the sights. She also got to go to the PX and I think she could have spent hours in there. Boring for just about anyone that has to go there, but to her, it was like a toy store!

Then we got to spend some more time at the Wounded Warrior Barracks. They have a pool table in one of the common area's and she asked if anyone was up for a game. A young Marine took her on and she won (although I do believe he let her have this one, as we watched him play again and he started to do trick shots, but only he knows for sure if she really beat him) It was so fun to watch the guys let her be one of them.

Taylor and I went out to make a nature call and as we came back in, some of the guys in charge were in their office area. Taylor got called over and meet Gunnery Sergeant Willis. She talked to him for a few minutes and he told her that it would not do that she was a Sergeant. He took her to his desk and asked if he could take off her Sgt. chevrons. The look on her face, she thought he was taking them away from her, she really did. He then promoted her to Gunny and replaced her Sgt. chevrons with ones that had just a few more stripes on them! The look on her face was just priceless and I think she actually couldn't breathe for a few seconds! You all know Taylor, on the outside she tries to be that stone faced Marine, but as you can tell from the picture, she was starting to crack just a bit!

When she walked back into the common room and the guys saw she got promoted, boy did the razzing begin! They wanted to congratulate her the Marine way, but MOM (me) gave them all a stern look! LOL

Sgt. Holtzinger told her he had something for her. He asked if she knew where Tikrit was then told her he had a flag from there and he wanted her to have it. But she could only have it if she could stop smiling and do a mean warrior face, she tried but then broke out in a smile.

I am going to be pushy on this and I hope I do not offend any of you, but we really are asking for help in raising funds for the Wounded Warriors, their needs and their families needs through Hope for the Warriors. There is such a outpouring for those that are in Iraq and Afghanistan right now in the form of care packages and such a showing of respect for those that give the ultimate sacrifice. I personally know that our family has sent many care packages and are a part of the Patriot Guard Riders and have attended many funerals. It however, wasn't until we went to Washington and visiting the NNMC that we realized there is a whole other need out there and that is for our wounded. PLEASE help Taylor in her newest mission in securing funds for them. I have our address posted below from a few earlier posts. We thank you for helping.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The start of being a Marine, Camp Lejeune style

Taylor's day started out early, as she had to eat her breakfast and then meet Sgt. Coon for the first time. He brought along with him, Marines Harper and Ringgold and we were on our way to watch Hotel Company graduate MCT. On the way there, there were 2 cars of us, and we went past a several signs. When we got there, Taylor was introduced to several higher ranking Marines and then we were asked what we thought of the sign. Sign? What sign? 2 cars of us drove right on past the sign announcing her as a special guest! I am afraid to even admit, that I do remember seeing the sign as I read the top line of it and then thought of our good friend JimmyK, as he was in Hotel Co. back in Vietnam. None of us noticed Taylor's name on there! YIKES! On the way back, we had to make sure to stop and get a picture of it.

We got to sit right in front of Hotel Co and Taylor's name was announced as part of the ceremony. Not being military nor a Marine, I was sitting with all Marines and next to Taylor. I was just soaking it all in and the next thing I know, everyone is standing up. I stood up. Taylor, standing tall and erect, not moving her lips a bit but what she said was loud and clear to me, she said 'SIT DOWN' Apparently, the standing up part was not for civilians! LOL Afterwards, Taylor looked me dead in the eye and told me to NOT do that again!

It was neat to watch the graduation and to be a part of it. When we were ready to leave, the young Marines were running around to get the bleachers put away and one young man came barreling towards us. The next thing I see is him jerking his body in a completely unnatural way and he went from running full bore to standing still and saluting within a nano second. He almost ran right into Lt. Col. Maxwell! Taylor saw it as well and turned around and just had that grin on her face. This poor kid I am sure, just about crapped himself to put it mildly. We got a kick out of his almost misfortune the rest of the day.

Taylor then got to go to the big boy toy area. The instructor was amazing as he showed Taylor the 240 Gulf, the M 16, and a grenade launcher. He then let her have it and Taylor came alive! She sat down Indian style on the 240 Gulf and immediately took aim and started plucking things off as if she had been a sharp shooter her whole life. Every body's eyes got big as they watched her just zero in and take care of business. Then came the fun part, she got to shot in bursts and she loved it! I had images of Rambo flashing in my head as she unloaded! It was funny for me to stand there and watch, because at first it was just Taylor shooting. Finally, the instructor asked all the other Marines standing around with us if they wanted to shoot. They all hit the deck even before he got the words out of his mouth and the energy level went sky high. A Marine+rifles=electricity in the air.......who knew! I don't know who was more excited, Taylor or the rest of the boys! She then got to move onto the M 16. If some of you will remember, back in October when she was made PFC and she was issued her cammies, we got home and she very seriously asked me if she was going to be issued her M 16 soon!! This is what she had been waiting for! Her little arms were not just quiet long enough for her to stand and hold to shoot, nor for her to go to her knees and shoot that way without help holding up the rifle, but once she got in the prone position she became that ole dead eye again! They scored her and she got a 43 out of 50, not bad for a complete newbie huh? Then she went on to shoot a 230 grenade launcher. It was so funny to watch her, she was so animated and this is something we don't see in her much. She was on fire!

Then it was on to eat lunch of at Officers club. Big shot that she is and all! She ate like a horse!

Then it was off to get her the one thing that has always bothered her that she did not have, her very own Combat boots! I think she would have slept in them had I allowed her to. When we got back to the Maxwell's, she went up and took her cammies off, but came back downstairs with her shorts on and she had put her boots back on!

(When I get all the photo's uploaded online, I will share the link of where they are.)

I think she slept very well that night, I was to afraid to ask her if she dreamt anything because I am pretty sure she would have told me she was going to be the next Commadant of the Marine Corps!