I got some great news last week. My cousin’s son won his local Patriot’s Pen contest, sponsored by the Thomson, Ga. Veterans of Foreign Wars post and its Ladies Auxiliary. He placed third at the state level.
At first glance, you might think, so what? A lot of kids enter essay contests and many of them win some nice prizes. Happens every day, right?
But this is an extra-special case, considering Tyler Shelton is an extra-special boy.
Tyler is the son of my cousin, Tammy Shelton and her husband, Jeff. Tyler is in the eighth grade and gets all A’s and B’s on his report card. His classes and tests are the same as every other eighth grader at his school.
But Tyler’s accomplishments are a little more extraordinary, considering that he’s got some special challenges.
You see, when Tyler was 10, he began having a lot of headaches. To make a long story short, doctors found an almost golf ball-size tumor wrapped around Tyler’s brain stem. Surgeons were able to remove the whole thing, but it was vascular, and Tyler sustained a lot of damage.
This active kid who loved sports and the Georgia Bulldogs was in a coma for 5 weeks. When he woke up, he couldn’t see, speak, eat, walk or use his right arm. He had severe balance issues and shook all the time. Tammy says it was like having a 65-pound newborn.
Tyler’s come a long way since then. He has regained everything except his balance, and has to use a walker. He’s still in physical therapy twice a week, and doctors say he may never walk without assistance. He’s had seven shunt revision or replacement surgeries.
He gets tired easily and it takes him a long time to do some things, like write an essay. In fact, he was on home care, which lasted for 6 weeks, when he wrote this essay.
But with a lot of effort and determination, Tyler can do anything his peers can. He is a member of an adapted aquatics swim team and has competed in shot put and club. He took first place earlier this year in the 25- and 50-yard freestyle and backstroke in a swim meet.
Tammy says her son has to work at things 10 times longer and harder than most of the other students, yet he still gets better grades than many of them. His school makes only slight modifications for his disabilities. His accomplisments come through sheer grit.
Tammy’s a proud mama. And rightfully so.
Just knowing the determination behind his essay makes reading it all the more special. So I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy reading it, knowing a very determined young man penned it. It appears here, just as he wrote it.
We’re all proud of you and love you, Tyler. You inspire us every day.
Why Should Veterans Be Honored?
Can you imagine going to work everyday not knowing if you will ever make it home? Not knowing when or if you will ever see your family, friends and home again? How would you feel to know that you might be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice of giving up your life to ensure that your friends and family can live a free and secure life? Can you imagine how scary this would be?
History has shown that America's Veterans have done just that. They were ready at a moment's notice to fight to keep our country free. America's Veterans have put their life on the line to provide a secure place to live and raise families for all Americans and many other countries around the world. Their numerous sacrifices ensure that we all have the opportunity to live a protected, free life. Veterans didn't make these sacrifices for the money, the glory or the honor. The bottom line is they make these sacrifices for me and for you.
There are literally thousands of memorials honoring America's Veterans of War in this country. We have the holidays, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day honors Veterans who died in war, while Veterans Day honors all American Veterans, both living and dead. These holidays provide many opportunities to honor Veterans with awards, ceremonies and parades.
I think these holidays are great ways to honor Veterans, but two days out of the year don't really seem to me to be enough to ensure that Veterans know how deeply we appreciate the sacrifices they have made to keep our country free. I think one of the best ways to honor an American War Veteran is to treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve. We should take care of our Veterans and their families. We should volunteer to help out in any way we can, whether it is sending a card or note to a Veteran in the hospital, helping older Veterans with chores around their house, or just visiting them in the local nursing home. It is our turn to give a little back to them for all they have given to us.
So, the next time you see a Veteran, take the time to tell them "Thank you. Thank you for putting your life on the line for me, my family, my country and my world."
E-mail your comments and suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.