Our day started out in the usual manner. We woke early, made breakfast, got lost on the way to Comin’ Home, and finally got there and started our work. During the course of the morning we continued rehabbing the apartment, built most of the smoking hut, and even had time to paint a gorgeous red Maryland M on the side of a shed. At lunch, over delicious fruit slushies from Eegee’s provided by Comin’ Home, Seth and Rachel surprised us by announcing that instead of our usual afternoon of work we were going to drive up Lemon Mountain and do some exploring. It was during this excursion that I had time to reflect on my experiences on this trip so far…
Sitting on top of Lemon Mountain. The sun is high in a cloudless sky. It’s much cooler up here than down in the valley from which we came, and the chill wind wips our hair as we all try to get in the best poses for pictures. We climb, we jump, we hang, and finally come to rest on various ledges and rocky platforms.
A mother and her two children pass by me as I lay bathing in the sun.”Mom, I want to go run around on my own!” says one of the children. “I can’t let you,” says the mother. “Why not?” asks the child. “Look down there, says the mother ” you see the tiny road with all the cars. It’s so far down and I want to keep you close up here.”
I am 20. I lie on Lemon Mountain now because my parents have let me run on my own. I come from a loving, protective home and my parents kept me close until it was time to let me jump, climb, and hang on my own. Many of the veterans I have met and conversed with on this trip have not been as lucky. Today was Saint Patrick’s day and during the meal that Comin’ Home cooked in honor of the holiday, some of the veterans opened up to us. Many of them come from broken homes, had horrible experiences in foster care, and turned to the army for refuge. A solid, loving family was not a part of childhood for these men and women. The army provided structure and a sense of family, yet when their service ended they were lost once again. They turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with their problems, which seemed to just create more problems. Organizations like Comin’ Home provide the structure and support that these veterans never had as youngsters. A lot of the veterans became sober for the sake of sons and daughters, so they could provide a loving, safe family dynamic. These men and women are some of the strongest people I have ever met. They did not give up on lives that at times did not seem worth living. Everyday the veterans open up a little more about their experiences. Everyday I realize how lucky I am, how amazing this trip is, and how good it feels to see a smile on a veterans face and know you helped put it there.