So, I decided to write a letter to the first lady. She has been passionate about helping military families so I thought maybe it would do some good. After all, if we don't share our stories with those who can make change happen, how can we ever expect them to do something for us? I posted a copy of that letter on my blog, http://theinvisiblewounded.blogspot.com/2011/01/letter-to-michelle-obama.html. I emailed the letter to the white house and also followed that up with a hard copy in snail mail. I wasn't sure which way was best, so figured I would do both.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed when I never received a response. I expected it to take several weeks before getting one, but I really didn't think I'd not hear anything. Well, that all changed last week when I received a call from the White House! Allen answered the phone and brought it to me whispering to me that it was the guy from the white house. I was completely confused while trying to figure out why our neighbor who lives in the "white" house was calling for me. (He's the manager of our walmart so I was completely confused.) Soon after saying hello my confusion cleared up. It wasn't our neighbor from the "white" house, it was Tyler, from THE White House! Tyler is a staffer there and told me that the first lady had received my letter and was considering using a quote out of it for an upcoming speech. They needed to get my permission as well as all of my personal information. He also informed me that things can always change but he would let me know if they decided to go ahead and use my letter.
I was completely thrilled to know the impact simply writing a letter could have. I have always heard people encouraging others to write their elected officials but honestly, I never really figured it did much good. I now am an avid fan of writing or calling your elected officials! (I know she's not elected, but it seems to be about the same thing.) Whether she used my letter or not, I was deeply honored and humbled that she received, read, and was impacted by my words and story. Now, we just had to wait to hear from them again.
Much to my surprise I didn't have to wait long. On Tuesday, January 10, Tyler called me again. Mrs. Obama was going to be making a speech at Virginia Commonwealth University and was going to include part of my letter in her remarks. We could log onto the universities website and watch the live feed on Wednesday afternoon. I didn't know what she was going to be talking about, but was eager to hear her speak. (The only thing better would have been to be able to be there live!)
Allen and I set up both of our laptops, side by side and tuned in. We were hoping that our internet didn't spend a lot of time buffering but we didn't have much control over that. Thankfully, it wasn't too bad, and we were able to watch most of the speech uninterrupted. Her speech was amazing. Of course it was special to me because she called me by name and used part of my letter. But, even without that, I was deeply touched by her speech. She gets "it". Not many people, unless they are personally touched by the invisible wounds of war get "it". She however seems to have a pretty good grasp on it as well as a passion for helping us. It is refreshing to see that people who have the power to make changes are truly listening.
The main topic in her speech was launching a new initiative between 105 medical schools to devote more training, time, and resources for their students to treat PTSD, TBI and other "invisible" wounds of war. These schools have committed to fund research as well. It is an exciting time for wounded warrior families, although it can't come soon enough. Many are still really struggling everyday for basic care and benefits.
To hear Mrs. Obama's speech in it's entirety, go to http://www.youtube.com/vcu#p/u/5/dR8ye3ADC90 . The part where she quotes my letter is at about the 20 minute 40 second mark. But, I encourage you to listen to the entire speech.
Thank you Mrs. Obama for all you do for military families, specifically wounded warriors and their families. It is refreshing to see someone remember the entire family and not just the service member/veteran.