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The Soldier and the Squirrel introduces children to the Purple Heart

through a loving story of a friendship between a newly wounded soldier

and Rocky the squirrel with his backyard friends. This story began as a

blog during my first year in bed after my incident. With much

encouragement, it is now a book and has been placed in the

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. Please watch the video

on the About page to learn for the Soldier & Rocky are changing children's

lives.

 

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Thursday
Sep122013

Reggie Up!

A hundred hands surround Reggie, my therapy dog. His tongue bounces from his pant to form a smile the students love. Reggie is hard at work, breaking down the wall of uncertainty that exists between children and a soldier's scars. Reggie is my wonder dog. I wonder what I ever did without him.

Yesterday we spoke to the fourth graders of Hesby Oaks School, launching our program called "Reggie Up!". It is a program that uses the magnetism of Reggie, my therapy dog, and Stephanie's and my book The Soldier And The Squirrel, to pave the way for a wounded warrior to share his or her story with students around Southern California.

"Reggie Up!" Is the command I give Reggie to stand with front paws to the sky so I can pull him to my hold. It is a mantra I hope they remember when it is time to answer the call of our wounded when they are grown.
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After Reggie had his face-time, The 60 unweathered faces locked their gaze upon our open book, The Soldier And The Squirrel. Stephanie Orehek, the magnificent illustrator of our book, held the portfolio while I read each page. A book that began as a thought had come to vibrant life.

The Soldier And The Squirrel is about a wounded warrior, newly home from war. Little does he know, a squirrel lives on the hillside behind his house. And this squirrel has been watching over his family each time the soldier was deployed.

This time the soldier came home with a metal leg and two sticks beneath his arms. His enjoyment now comes from watching his children play in the yard, and naming the animals he sees on the hillside that make him smile. There is Rocky the Raccoon who makes their dog Blue Belle bark. A family of quail walks by named Moe, Curly, Thing One & Thing Two. A bird named Eyebrows eats from his hand. And rabbits named Thumper abound.

Each animal brings the wounded soldier joy. But it is the squirrel who learns from watching the soldier interact with his hillside mates - that the meaning of life is to make others happy. It is as simple as the end of a day.

The children applaud as we close the book. I announce we have a wounded soldier of our own to speak. LyVell Gipson stands and rolls up his pant-leg. Deep and checkered wounds patchwork the muscles of his calve; A remnant of what it was when he left for war. Forty-five surgeries later, he shares his scars like he has so many times before. But today is different. This time children will touch his skin and know that war is real. We do this so they will one day remember the soldier who came to share his scars. And when these children are adults, they will support this next generation of our wounded veterans and carry on the work that will need to be done.

LyVell begins his talk. The enlistment. The suicide bomber. The shrapnel that marked his life. And the speaking that opened his world to one of healing.

Sgt. Anthony Valentine from the Los Angeles Army Battalion joins our Question and Answer session with humor and wit. We close our session with unity. No walls remain between the children and the uniform. Our work is complete. But now it is us that doesn't want to leave.

A magic occurs when hearts come together for a common goal. The 4th Grade teachers at Hesby Oaks in Encino , Kathie Yonemura and Danny Pattison, are always seeking to expose their students to new ideas. We are forever grateful and hope our ideas stay with their students for a lifetime to come.

"Reggie Up!" Can be booked for your school or organization beginning January 2014. Contact Micaela Bensko through www.ReggieUp.com.

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