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(Post-publication note from Chuck: At the time I wrote the article below, news had not broken about the massive and devastating explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas. Of course, all of my wholehearted condolences and commendations about the victims and crisis care community in Boston, Mass., I extend with profound correlations to my own heartbroken neighbors in West, Texas. One television news report estimated that 700 first responders were immediately deployed into action there. Let no one say the selfless and sacrificial American spirit isn’t alive and well!) 

As with others across the nation, my wife, Gena, and I are so proud of the first responders and host of rescuers, medical personnel, law enforcement, firemen, military, crisis counselors and good Samaritans who immediately were called into action and undoubtedly saved lives, limbs and souls because of their heroic efforts. Truly, America’s best shine brightest during our country’s most difficult and darkest moments.

At the same time, however, my wife, Gena, and I join the rest of the nation in offering our most heartfelt condolences and prayers for all the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. We weep in particular with the families of 8-year-old Martin Richard, 29-year-old restaurant manager Krystle Campbell and a Chinese graduate student at Boston University, Lu Lingz,all of whom were killed by the blasts.

In the end, such criminal thugs who are responsible for such heinous, despicable and cowardly acts, win only if we allow their monstrous beings to intimidate us into fearful and recluse lifestyles, including hindering us from participating in public recreational and sports activities like the Boston Marathon.

We, too, pray for the families, relatives and friends of the victims, who we know will, in due time, rise up, find the courage to face tomorrow and build a better day for themselves and others – just like the parents of 8-year-old Martin Richard, one of whom serves as a director of a local community group and one of whom works at Neighborhood House Charter School, where their daughter attend classes just as Martin did.

Speaking of wounded healers, I recently was reminded of another troubling health trend among U.S. wounded warriors. More than 600,000 troops have returned from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, resulting in increased rates of drug abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, chronic depression and even suicide among service members, according to Fox News. Tragically, about 22 veterans commit suicide each day in America, according to a February report by the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs.That is nearly one every hour!

It’s high time that we all fight to do better to take care of the precious souls who take care of us. We all need to feel valued, and who is more valued than those who protect and keep us safe? That is why I often encourage people to regularly thank and shake the hands of those who have served or are presently serving, not only to keep us safe but also healthy: including military servicemen and women, your local law enforcement, emergency rescue personnel, medical relief agents, health practitioners, crisis intervention counselors, etc.

Mostly, honor and befriend our military vets. And if you encounter one in trouble, stand by him or her or, at very least encourage him or her to reach out for help. Help can be reached 24/7 by calling the caring professionals at the Veteran Crisis Line (VCL) at 800-273-TALK (Press 1), sending a text message to 838255 or going online for some anonymous chat. Since 2007, the VCL has answered more than 745,000 calls, helped more than 83,000 on its anonymous chat and made more than 26,000 life-saving rescues.

And please go online and learn more about the mission of the Wounded Warriors Project and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

Another superb example of valuing vets is the way they are welcomed and serve at the annual “Rancho Cucamonga High School Remembers” in California, an event started by the school’s history teacher, Aaron Bishop, who annually calls on local vets to share their service experiences and testimonies with a small group of three to four students. Aided by the help of fellow history teacher, Robert Sanchez, and others, the program started with 38 veterans and has grown to involving more than 200 veterans from all branches of the military. As an Air Force veteran myself, I salute Bishop, Sanchez and Rancho Cucamonga High School in California for annually and actively not forgetting about those who serve and the power of their oral history. The Sixth Annual Rancho Cucamonga High School Remembers will be held this year on May 1, 2013. (And I’d bet that Bishop and Sanchez would be honored to share with other schools and communities across our country how they can host similar educational events for their students, too).

One last outstanding example of civilian service and fortitude I’d like to mention happened during the Boston bombings. Carlos Arredondo was at the Boston Marathon race supporting a group running for fallen veterans and handing out American flags. When the explosions hit, he was among the first to rush in and help those who had fallen.

What’s amazingly poignant is that Carlos’ son, Marine Lance Cpl. Alexander S. Arredondo, died in battle in Najaf, Iraq, in 2004. And in December 2011, just prior to Christmas, Carlos’ other son, Brian, 24, took his own life as U.S. troops withdrew from the battlefield on which his brother had died.

One of the iconic images from Boston is of Carlos standing somber with a blood-drenched American flag, which was apparently used by him to aid a victim.

An even more moving photo is of Carlos in his cowboy hat with blood-soaked hands running alongside one of the victims, who was obviously in shock, wounded and being wheeled to safety. We now know it was Jeff Bauman, who was in the crowd waiting for his girlfriend to cross the marathon finished line when “a man wearing a cap, sunglasses and a black jacket over a hooded sweatshirt looked at Jeff, 27, and dropped a bag at his feet,” according to the Bloomberg News. Two-and-half minutes later, the bag exploded, and Jeff’s legs were decimated.

As NBC explained, the photo sent around the world shows Carlos running alongside Jeff in a wheelchair, apparently “pinching closed a severed artery protruding from the victim’s thigh, stanching the flow of blood from a torn and shattered leg.”

Jeff’s testimony and face-to-face confrontation with one of the Boston bombers helped the FBI track down the murderers.

I take off my Texas cowboy hat to Carlos, Jeff and all who stood by their fellow countrymen to aid and help on that heartbreaking day.

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