A friend recently loaned me a copy of the HBO mini-series from a few years back entitled Band of Brothers.
Produced in 2001, it’s the story of the Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airborne division and their mission in WWII Europe from Operation Overlord through V-J Day.
It was deeply moving.
I watched in awe of these courageous men who from the beaches of Normandy to the high mountain hideout of Hitler, encountered the unparalleled evils of humanity.
They watched friends die or get brutally wounded. They saw atrocities that are beyond our comprehension and yet most came home and raised families and lived the rest of their lives in relative obscurity.
These were ordinary men making an extraordinary effort.
Yes, some fell, and some collapsed beneath the weight of the moment. But these men made history, and without them the world would be a very different place.
As I interact with other parents of special needs kids, I am reminded of this series and of the uncommon valor exhibited in everyday life.
Like those brave men of Normandy, you didn’t plan for every circumstance.
You didn’t ask it; you simply responded and reacted to the challenge of the hour.
If you’re like me, you often feel unqualified and void of the skills needed to get the job done.
Some days it feels as if you were just dropped on the beach and you’re fighting your way ashore, dodging the bullets that rain from the sky.
My analogy might seem overly simplistic or even overstated.
I’m not saying that we as the parents of a special needs child are fighting for our lives in the same way those soldiers did on the morning of June 6, 1944. But we are in a battle; a fight for the survival and stability of our family and the overall well-being of our child.Very often, it seems that schools and doctors, therapists and insurance companies are the enemy we fight. Sometimes even family and friends can seem like un-friendly fire.
But when I am with other families who are going through some of the same things, I feel a great camaraderie in their company. I don’t have to explain in great detail what my wife and I are dealing with. It isn’t a mystery to these other families that we’re always looking for resources, or that we are between the last surgery and the next.
If you listen to the interviews of World War II soldiers, they regularly mention how they were closer to the men beside them in the trench than family members back home. And why not?
They’ve gone through something together that they couldn’t fully explain to loved ones five thousand miles away.
As parents of children with special needs, we need to reach out to each other. Our souls silently but decisively seek the friendship and comfort of likeminded people.
Who else will understand your frustration as you desperately try to find a way to pay for some small piece of medical equipment that can make a big difference for your child’s life — but costs more than your first car and possibly even the car you’re driving now?
My friends, quite frankly, you all give me the energy and support I need in order to soldier on. When I see your strength and compassion, your love of your children and the lengths to which you go, I am inspired beyond the words of this world. You are the oil in the lamp. When my light is low, I can count on one of you to help sustain the flicker of the flame.
Make no mistake.
It can be tough to even have the energy to extend a hand to others when we feel overwhelmed by the burden of our own problems.
But we can’t afford to do less.
At the conclusion of Band of Brothers, a veteran is interviewed and says that his grandson once asked him if he were a hero.
“No,” replied the old man, I wasn’t a hero, but I served in the company of heroes and helped win a world war.
To all of you – it is good to keep your company and to count you a hero, one and all.