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Picking Up the Pieces

Iraq Vets: Radio Transcript

How Family and Faith Are Healing Veterans Home From War.

Francisca: Yeah, so no, no. We went– well, I stayed with him beside his bed, him lying there in the bed and I sitting down there every day from morning ’til night waiting for him to get ready and talking to him and sometime he had– well, he’d start crying and I’d say, 'No, no, no, no. No crying. No crying.'

Barry: Having visited the Martinez family at their home, it’s not hard for me to imagine the scenes they described… of up to 50 people, from babies to seniors, packing into Ramiro’s hospital room in San Antonio, and helping him recover. What difference did it make to Ramiro to have his mother at his side? Well, first you should know that Ramiro is someone with an iron will.

Ramiro: The doctor told my mom and my wife– He told them, says, 'I won’t guarantee both of you that he’ll be able to walk. He might be bedridden for the rest of his life.' I heard that from behind the curtain and I says, 'Wrong thing to say.'

That was like a big motivation. I mean that was the big kicker, and within the third week, come right after Fourth of July, I started learning to walk.

Barry: Ramiro’s first steps were across the room—to his mother.

Ramiro: Just having my mom there was the biggest motivation of all.

Barry: How so?

Ramiro: How so? Not only to say that Mom loves me, but now think about it, that we are a big family, 15 total, and knowing she loves all of us the same way, but just knowing that she was there and she would do anything to be there for any one of us, no matter what would happen. As long as she was there, she was pushing me. I mean she was actually – not physically touching me or doing anything, but just by seeing her there, she was actually pushing me to go forward.

Barry: Like many of the families I visited, the Martinezes made it clear to me that their faith was a key factor holding them together, and allowing them to concentrate on healing.

Mary Jane Martinez: The prayer from families, from his mother, and his brothers and sisters, from clergy, from everybody. I mean God has been the number-one person that has helped us tremendously and is still. I believe that if you don’t have God in your life, it wouldn’t have gotten him to where he is at all.

Shurvon Phillip

Barry Yeoman: Leaving the Martinez home it's easy to feel inspiration and hope. They are, after all, creating a new 'normal' that includes a productive life for Ramiro.

For some families, though, a battlefield injury means a permanent goodbye to normalcy—a long, heavy slog with no clear solution in sight.

I understand this best after meeting Gail Ulerie. She's a 48-year-old immigrant from Trinidad who now lives in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Today she's telling me about her son, Shurvon, who joined the Marines straight out of high school and was sent to Iraq in 2005.

Gail Ulerie: Even though I didn’t want him to go, I had to support him. And that day when they had their send-off in Akron, Ohio, I cried. I don’t know why I cried, but he looked really good in his uniform and when they were doing the colors, the march. I mean, I was so proud of him. I was so, so proud of him.

Barry: The last time Gail heard her son's voice was on April 19. She remembers the date because it's the birthday of one of her grandsons. She didn't speak to him privately but was join on the call from Iraq by Shurvon's girlfriend.

Gail: They did a three-way call and I was like, 'Oh, my God. Shurvon I’ve been worried about you. I haven’t heard from you.' And I started crying and he was like, 'Mom, why are you crying? I’m all right.'

His motto was always, 'Everything is gonna be all right, ma. Don’t cry. I’m OK. I’ll be safe. I promise. I’ll be safe.' And I always told him to read his psalms, and I said, 'Are you reading your psalms?' And he said, 'Yes, Mom. I’m reading my psalms,' and that was the last conversation I had with Shurvon. He got hurt in May 2005.

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