Volunteer, do something special for our soldiers this autumn. My brother and his family recently toured Vietnam and several other Asian countries.
He visited the cell in which Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain was held as a prisoner of war.
Living conditions there were terrible for Sen. McCain, and propaganda about the prisoners was profuse. The Vietnamese government even used pictures of U.S. P.O.W.s to decorate Christmas trees.
Linda K. Goodwin
This journey was an eye-opening one for my brother, and he also visited underground tunnels used by the North Vietnamese for deadly one-to-one combat with U.S. soldiers and the South Vietnamese.
Today, the United States is in a different kind of war. This one is with terrorists, people who choose to use violence to hurt and promote fear in Americans and others here and across the globe.
My brother works on Wall Street, where the World Trade Center terrorist attacks occurred. It is with great joy that I'm able to speak with him every Sept. 11, giving thanks for his life.
However, my husband's former boss and his wife were not as fortunate. They lost their daughter, Mary Lou Hague, when the second plane hit the second twin tower.
After 9/11, I made several contacts with the West Virginia Nursing Association and WVU Medical Center to volunteer either on-site or at a hospital near the trade center. While nearby medical centers were on alert, there was nothing we could do since there were so few survivors.
I think of America as a wonderful place to embrace our freedoms and to volunteer for those who help to protect it - people like my husband's cousin, John Pickett, who was killed in the Vietnam War and my father, Bernard P. Wytko, a former P.O.W. captured at the Battle of Bulge during World War II.
When I visit my father's grave in Arlington National Cemetery, I'm thankful for the good company around him and try to think of ways to serve my country, beyond my job at home.
Sometimes I think about 'Taps," which played at my father's funeral, and the hot, July air that blanketed us at the graveside service. I recall my younger daughter, then age 4, running back to her Pap Pap's casket, standing on her tiptoes for one last hug. I thought about her running toward me, in her pretty, white dress with pink tulip pockets, full of life and hope.
In a way, she was my volunteer, helping me care for my father in his last years in my home. She'd swing on the trapeze on her Pap Pap's hospital bed as she ate popsicles, laughing and sticking her bare feet in my father's face, much to his delight.
Volunteers come in all ages, sizes, shapes and colors, and it's my hope that our soldiers benefit from a special project you may have planned.
Bill Dippery, Mifflin County Veterans Affairs director, said there are many efforts in place to assist our soldiers across the globe. These include providing calling cards, dry goods, over-the-counter medications, letters and cards.
Volunteer assignments also are available at veterans hospitals and centers across the country. Volunteers are selected according to the needs of the medical center, assignment preference and skills.
This autumn, as the leaves change color, please take the opportunity to volunteer for our soldiers to create hope and change in your own special way.
Linda Kay Goodwin, RN, BSN, MBA, is a nationally award-winning columnist and recipient of the American Academy of Nursing Media Award for Excellence in the presentation of Health Care Information to the Public. She is employed by Mount Nittany Medical Center and West Virginia University Medical Center.