Welby O’Brien, Oregon writer
Love our vets blog
When we attempt a daunting task and huge undertaking, such as writing a book to help others, sometimes it is the miracles along the way that keep us going. One such miracle just happened!
The day after I signed on with the publisher for Love Our Vets: Restoring Hope for Veterans with PTSD, we were challenged with a 24 hour deadline to find and design the book cover. Yikes! This urgency sent us all into a flurry of viewing thousands of stock photos and images searching for just the right one. Nothing was right. I wanted the cover to exude hope, support, love and encouragement. Hard to depict in most military-theme graphics. I prayed and prayed, and then went to bed exhausted with no results.
The next morning, I eagerly opened my e-mail and the publisher had sent 3 photos for me to look at, needing to choose one ASAP. First one was not great. Second one was equally not great. Skeptical, I opened the third. That picture reached out through the screen and grabbed my heart! And held it. I wept. THAT IS THE ONE! The warmth of that hug enveloped me. Then I called my husband to see it, the ultimate test. He loved it.
Ten months later Love Our Vets was released. And it has beautifully been touching many people with help and hope. Yet I have always wondered about the cover photo. Who were those people? What was their story? Was that young man even still alive? And who was hugging him and why? I prayed that someday I would know, and at least be able to thank him for his service, and thank the person who so lovingly held him.
A few months now since the book has been out, I am receiving many wonderful positive e-mails and Facebook messages about how Love Our Vets has truly been helping loved ones and their veterans. What a blessing! The other day I opened one and it read:
First, thank you for your special contribution to families like ours with the book, Love Our Vets.
It is likely you have no idea that the stock photo chosen for the cover is from a local photographer, nor that the soldier in the hug has PTSD. The soldier’s name is Tyler Perry and served in Ramadi under the harshest of conditions and conflicts. The photographer is our daughter, Shelly Perry. The hugger is his grandmother, my wife, Velma Perry, and my name is Richard Perry. My brother, Lee, is a Korean War vet who also has PTSD, and he has been very helpful in getting our grandson the help he needs.
We are so appreciative of the book.
I just sat there. Stunned. Deeply and profoundly touched. Tears poured out. This was no ordinary picture. It was a living story about real people. A real soldier and his precious loved ones, all who have sacrificed, and will always struggle with the invisible wounds of PTSD.
The next miracle turned out to be that they lived less than an hour away! Go figure. So we made arrangements to meet at a local restaurant. Kind of felt like one of Oprah’s long lost reunion shows, mixed in with first date jitters. We all sensed a bond, yet there was something kind of scary about this venture. From both sides. Would we hit it off? Would our PTSD (remember that we loved ones have secondary PTSD) mess things up? Would I choke on my food or spill my water (not that I have ever done either of those). And most importantly, what does one wear to an occasion such as this?
But down deep, under all the trivial flittering thoughts, I was so excited. I had been praying all along that I would someday have the privilege of knowing who these people are and thanking them. Now the time had finally come.
Well, it went well. My husband and I did indeed hit it off with them. Among all the many initial introductions, there were three moments that moved me most deeply. First, was when I hugged Shelly, the aunt who took the photo. What a blessing to thank in person the one whose talent, time and heart had resulted in such a profound image. Then, the soldier, Tyler, a brave now wounded veteran. Although almost twice my size, I just wanted to hug him and flood him with compassion and gratitude. A truly beautiful moment.
But perhaps the most surprising was my response to hugging Velma, the grandmother whose arms and hands so tenderly embraced her grandson. When we looked at each other through tear brimmed eyes, our kindred spirits resonated deeply. Without speaking a word, we both knew the ache as well as the reward of wholeheartedly loving our vets. That moment will continue to inspire me, not only every day as I love my vet, but in the years to come – whatever this Love Our Vets adventure leads to.
When we as loved ones are here for each other, not only are we helped, but our vets also will be touched for good.
The meal went well, in spite of the fact that I did spill my water. And in the course of the enjoyable conversation, a few more miracles became evident. First, we asked how they heard about the book. Come to find out, Tyler was at a local Vet Center for a counseling session, and happened to see one of the informational postcards about the book on the resource table. (By the way, those 5 x 7 cards are available free to anyone who wants them…just e-mail me at [email protected] ). As he looked at it, he said, “Hey…that’s me!” The counselor just smiled, but I think by now he does believe him.
Tyler took the card home, and hoping it would be helpful his grandfather ordered the book through Amazon. After reading it, he decided to contact me. And the rest you know…
Well one piece of the puzzle still remained. What was the story behind the photo? They related to us that Tyler had been at boot camp, and was now ready to go off to war. The family went down to be with him for these last few days. Finally it was time for him to go. A very difficult moment. The family gathered around him to send him off, into a battle that would forever change his life, with tears, love and support. As his grandmother held him, the picture was taken. A random moment. A spontaneous shot. A moment that will be touching lives for years to come.
As his grandfather shared, this young soldier saw things no person should have seen. He will forever bear the trauma he experienced. I honor him for being the best father he can be, and getting the help he needs, and surrounding himself with the love and support of those who truly care. Thank you, Tyler, and all who have served and sacrificed for us.
And thank you to all families and loved ones who love and support our vets.
I thank God for the miracles along the way…and anticipate many more to come!