Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wounded Warrior, American Hero

Yesterday, once again, Taylor was given a gift. One that can't be found in any store or bought on line for any amount of money. She got to visit a wounded warrior, Joshua Hoffman.

I have sat and tried to think of ways to describe the visit so that it does justice to Joshua and what he has been through. There is no way to do that, other then to speak from the heart.

We didn't know what to expect, or how he would react to having a 'kid' there to visit him. We walked into the apartment and Josh was in the middle of the room with his special chair. Taylor came around to his side, he moved his eyes to focus in on her. I introduced myself first and he nodded, but moved his eyes back to Taylor. She got closer to his side and let out 'Nice to meet you Marine, my name is GySgt Taylor Batten, but that would be GUNNY to you son' Josh's whole face lit up!!!!

It was an incredible visit, because Josh can't speak, but yet, he speaks volumes. He was funny, animated, truthful and a smart ass! He does this through his eyes, face, head movements and his spirit and soul! We were there for 3 hours, but it didn't feel like it, time really flew by and I know that Taylor could have sat along side him all day long.

He got a kick out of her and her famous 'suck it up cupcake' line to the Sgt. she made drop and give her 20 and to sound off like he had a pair. He REALLY liked that.

I was able to tell Josh about Taylor and her health and the things she can't do because of it. I told him of the things she has done though BECAUSE of it. There was one profound moment between the 2 of them when talking about not being able to do things that you want....she told him it flat out sucked and he looked right at her and agreed with his whole being. I have a picture of the two together and it is one of my all time favorites. It is my favorite because here are two people with bodies that will not allow them to do what they want, what they desire. Yet, these two with damaged bodies, have the spirit that will NOT allow those bodies to make them anything less then what they are, warriors. Inspiration is all I kept thinking in watching them together.

You bet he wishes he wasn't in the condition he is in, just the same goes with Taylor. But, they both are taking what they have and they are making it work. They are making themselves be true, hard core, inspirations for all to follow.

They both have to work harder then the average person to do what everyone else takes for granted. They both face not what they thought their lives would be. They both struggle when it is hard to understand why those struggles were given to them. Yet, they both smiled, they both joked, they both love and they both are alive.

Josh has an amazing fiance, Heather. I was awestruck by her love for him. When we walked into that apartment, it was clear the minute we saw her speak to him and take care of him. She loved Josh how he was before and she loves him how he is now. So many people could learn so much from her and him being together. They are what love is about. I am so fortunate that Taylor and I got to spend a day with them and we plan on making a pest of ourselves and becoming a permanent fixture in their life.

I forgot to ask permission to post about how Josh was wounded and his story, if it is alright, I will post here for you all to know just how amazing his story is.

I am going to apologize to Josh right now, one of his pictures, his eyes are closed. I actually took the picture a couple of different times and each time, his eyes just didn't want to agree with the camera. I love the picture though because it captures one of his expressions and believe me when I say this, meeting him and seeing his expressions, left a life time IMPRESSION on Taylor.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Gunny's Veterans Ride

July 12th has come and gone. There was much work to be done in such a little time, often when planning an event, you have a long time to plan, we had only a few months to put together 'Gunny's Veterans Day'.

There was such an outpouring of generosity from donors as far as door prizes and raffles and food to helping out with funding. We are so very grateful for each and every donor.

The weather was not our friend that day, as there were severe storms predicted, starting at the time the ride was to begin all the way to when the 'party' was to start. We watched the radar and there was a nasty line coming our way. We had many phone calls come in to us from friends that were supposed to come from afar and they were not going to come because of how bad the weather looked.

Despite that, we had many people show up and brave what was to come. The riders took off and the wind picked up and it started to drizzle. The band decided to not set up outside just knowing they would be facing certain death if they stayed out. We moved some tables around getting ready for the horrible stuff coming. Guess what? NOTHING CAME!!!!! Every place around us got down pours, but where it was predicted for, it didn't happen. So, we were so happy for that, but so disappointed as well because it stopped many from coming in.

We had great food and the band was WONDERFUL even if many people didn't get to hear them. Many people left with not one prize, but multiple prizes. Most of all, everyone was so generous with giving their money to Taylor to help out her beloved veterans.

We plan on doing this again next year with hopes of it being bigger and better and beautiful weather!


Monday, July 7, 2008

4th of July

Another 4th of July has come and gone. For many people, it is a long weekend, a sale, a party. To us, it is a time to be thankful for our nation we call home, and a time to celebrate those that made it possible for us to do just that.

Taylor was invited to ride with the veterans in the Schoolcraft parade. This parade is a parade like no others, they do it in grand style (I however HATE to see it turn into a political hey day to get a vote)

This parade has always had a great showing of veterans, but this year, we were shocked when we actually saw how many were there. There were 5 big hay wagons of veterans! All these men proud to show they served and sadly, for those that we have lost. Taylor sat proud amongst these men. Some knew of her and the others that didn't were just very curious about her. I did have one man break down and sob over her and even as I type this, it still breaks me down over his reaction to her.

I wish the pictures had turned out a bit better. We were so incredibly proud to see Taylor take her place with these men and for them to open their arms and hearts to her.

Iwo Jima

On 4th of July, Taylor was invited to ride on a float with veterans. She was very excited about this and was very honored. It was at this parade last year, she met her friend, Floyd Holes. He fought on Iwo Jima and he was with Joe Rosenthal when the famous picture was taken. Floyd was a communicator with the 28th Marines 5th Division.

Taylor was able to meet with Floyd on several occasions and just sit and talk with him. He was a bit hard of hearing, but sharp as a whip and a memory that was amazing. He had written a book about his time and he gave Taylor a copy of it and signed it for her.

We went to a military appreciation dinner and Floyd and his wife Millie were guest of ours. There is a post about Floyd further down on Taylor's blog.

Why am I writing about this again? Because Taylor was so incredibly excited to ride on the float and to be with Floyd again. When we saw Floyd, we could tell right away how much he had aged since we last saw him in the fall. He was now using a walker and he looked much older. Taylor almost trembled with excitement as he got closer. He got to where she was and she just threw her arms around him, so happy. Sadly, Floyd did not remember his 'little Marine gal' as he so affectionately had called her on their many visits together.

It took some work to get Floyd up on the float, but once they did, Taylor climbed right up to be with him. She told him who she was and he just didn't remember. He told her the a few of the stories he had already told her, but she sat there and listened to him as if she had never heard them before. I could tell she was sad, but she smiled at him and listened intently. While Floyd may not remember her or many things from recent history, when he spoke of his time on Iwo Jima, he was very clear on what he had to say.

I post about Floyd and Taylor's heart break so that any of you reading this realize, this great generation of WW11 veterans are leaving us fast. Do not wait, do not hesitate to visit with a veteran. Do not wait or hesitate to find out their story. Even if you know them, and they act as if they don't know you and tell their story to you again, listen with your heart. There will be a time, in the very near future you won't be able to hear that story first hand. There will be a time in the very near future you won't be able to look into the eyes and a real hero as you shake their hand and thank them for what they did for this country.


We went once again to Missouri to be a part of the fund raiser. Great time, GREAT CAUSE!

Last year, Major B and Taco (Lt. Col. Bell) were there and this year they were not, for they have both volunteered to go back to Iraq and Afghanistan and they are serving our country, so we dearly missed them. Sue, we missed you as well!

The weather was great, no rain gods mad this year like last! It was a bit on the warm side, but no rain so that was a trade off. Della did a wonderful job as usual in getting things organized. However, the morning of the ride, there was a funeral for a fallen Marine and many people couldn't make the ride due to being at the funeral to give this hero his proper send off. We still had an outstanding showing of people there.

Last year, we went through some beautiful mountain scenery and it just went on and on and on. This year, the route was different and part of it was even closed off because of the flooding going on. We actually got to see some of it. In the one picture we have on here, you see water up to the road. That is not supposed to be there. The river was about 8 miles away and that is how far in it was in that spot.

The roads were scary, and we followed in the van, driven by Marty's son, Jesse. He was an excellent driver, I can say that for certainty. On the roads we were on, once it was white line, there was no more road, no dirt, no nothing but drop off's and he did an outstanding job in making sure the Batten family made is back safely! Thanks Jesse!!

Taylor had a great time being there. is something she believes in with her whole heart and it is one of the many organizations she is very proud to be a part of. Thank you Marty for all the hard work you do to make sure our deployed are taken care of, and thank you for making sure that my Gunny is taken care of!