And finally, one last phone call from Dad tonight...

Thursday night

One last note for the night--I spoke to my Dad on the phone for a bit and he gave me some updated information. Tomorrow Andy will be moved to a regular room for what they anticipate will be a 7-10 day stay before he leaves Walter Reed. Andy smiled some today and even laughed a little at times. He's watched a movie or two and told Dad that he wanted to watch Hogan's Heroes at bedtime. (It's a pre-requisite that all Burnett's are old classic tv lovers.) Daddy and Andy have talked alot lately about all kinds of things, but especially about the future. Andy still seems undaunted by it.

He was visited by a 2-star General today. Daddy said that he could see Andy "slip back into his uniform" mentally when the general stepped in his room. I saw that too, when I was there. He straightens his posture (to whatever degree he can), he gets his manners in place, his is all about the yes sir and no sir and he's tough as nails.

There's an error I need to clear up...I wrote earlier that the Army's Spinal Cord injury units for rehab were in Tampa, San Diego and Maryland. That is incorrect. Andy has three units to choose from that are specially staffed and equipped to deal with spinal cord injuries in the Army. All three 30-bed units are located in Texas--Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. That's sure to put a smile on Texas-boy's face. :)

Daddy was careful to tell me that Andy's looking better--his lips have healed, his complextion is improving, and the color returning to his face. I'm looking forward to seeing that all for myself soon.

Pray for a peaceful night and may you have one too.

News Articles about the Attack on Chosen Company

Again for storage and access, here are some links to news articles about the attacks on Chosen Company in AFG.

Stars and Stripes News: article from Vicenza Italy (where the 173rd is based)

Stars and Stripes News article

Washington Post article

Article with interviews from parents of fallen soldiers

LA Times Article of those who were lost

Stars and Stripes News 7/20


Map of Afghanistan...I've notices several people saying Andy was serving in Iraq. I realize it's easy to get has a way of becoming all "over there" to us but to keep the story accurate--here's a map of Afghanistan that is easy to read.

Because I am trying to keep it all in one place...

Because I am trying to keep all my Andy writings and readings in one place (here) I am going to post this note (term used father has never been the master of brevity) from my dad dated July 27, even tho it's out of the order of things.

Hello family,

I am sorry I missed an update yesterday. I know everyone is anxious for news. The computer room that I was using was locked when I got there. Walter Reed, we are discovering, becomes an entirely different place on weekends. They kind of "roll up the sidewalks" on the weekend. What is normally a very bustling place, looks more like a ghost town unless you are actually in a ward. There the business of healing goes on non-stop, 24-7. This is truly an amazing place. You really have to be here to comprehend the high level of professionalism, and yet everywhere there is compassion, consideration, and kindness. Even the housekeeping people, if they see you looking lost, which happens a lot in my case, stop what they are doing and either direct or take you to where you need to go.

Yesterday I went to another floor and another ward to check on one of Andy's friends. He was not in his room but a very pleasant young nurse met me as I came back through the door and offered to let them know that I came by. She seemed so very young. As I walked back down the long hall I realized that everyone here seems so very young: doctors, nurses, Army staff.

Finally I realized why I had been feeling so old. It is because I go for a grandfather among all these "kids." 40 years old is "old" in the Army. But, I also have begun to realize that I have underestimated the potential that young people have when they are directed and devoted to what they are doing. And I have now observed and remembered again the vast, I said the vast, amounts of energy that they bring to whatever they are doing. No wonder I feel like an antique. I am an antique when measured beside them on the energy meter.

As I write this, Andy is getting another CT Scan. Then they are going to roll him outside, literally, to a courtyard on the fifth floor for a while. He continues to cooperate with the healing process and, when he can get away with it, to direct it. He is still in and out a lot, but he is resting noticeably better. Thanks so much for your prayers for that.

He has some pancreatitus, but the doctors are right on top of it and they say that it should not impact his surgery on Tuesday. That is the next big milestone toward which we are moving. After that surgery and recovery process he will have much more freedom of moment without the temporary brace that he is now wearing.

His arms are becoming stronger by the day. Their movement is beginning to be more deliberate and look more normal.

We have discovered that Andy really played down, in his phone conversations with us over the last 15 months, the level of activity that he was engaged in. I remember what he said when I took him to the airport to return from his last leave, he said, "Don't worry about me Dad. I'm just going to work." I know that he wanted to spare us the worry, but I have now "read him the riot act" that he is never to do that again. It pains me now that I was not somehow engaged at the same emotional level that he was.

Andy is in 3rd platoon, c (Chosen) company, 2 Battalion of 503 Infantry (The 173rd Airborne Brigade ) We found out just today that Andy's unit "The Rock" has been awarded 6 Silver Stars, 48 Bronze Stars with valor, more than 140 Army Commendation Medals with valor, 98 Purple Hearts, more than 150 other awards have been submitted for approval, including 2 for Medals of Honor, 3 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 3 more for Silver Stars as of June 30th. Obviously not the stuff of business as usual.

Each member of our family seems to relate a little differently to what has happened to Andy. This new awareness of the level of his combat environment has stirred what I know to be, on some level, irrational questions in me. Really they are probably better described as instincts: "If I could just have been there." "Could better preparation have been made in their position?" "Did they choose the right defensive position?" "Were they careful in their planning?" "How could I have fixed this?" Those are really the same instincts that were practiced and expressed a thousand times when Andy was still at home and safe with us. But they were just all rolled in to one short sentence each time he went out the door: "Be careful, Andy."

I think our children never really understand the careful soul searching of the parents who watch for them. They don't know what it's like to be constantly watchful. They will, maybe, but they don't understand it as a child. They think life is a hoot. We see it as the great adversary. So, when they get in their cars to go off somewhere out of our sight we always say, with way more anxiety than they know, "Be careful." But within that simple admonition are all of the questions of "is everything all right?" "Is it safe?" "Have I covered all the bases?"

Somewhere along the way I became a "father" to all of my children. It didn't happen the day they were born to me. It happened later as I became aware of what I was supposed to do for them. Somewhere I came to know that I was supposed to protect them, to keep them safe, to provide what they needed, to be their first line of defense against the harshness of this world.

And somewhere along the way this fathering thing stopped being a thought process and started being an instinct.
It is always there.
It never sleeps.
And it comes to life and reacts instantly, and sometimes not very rationally, concerning the issues of my children.

So, that is going on now, in this place. It is certainly not unmanageable but I would appreciate your prayers as I sort through these issues in what represents a really tough situation for all of us who are used to being "their protection."

As I prayed this morning the Lord reminded me of the early verses of Psalm 40. There the psalmist said that he cried out to God and that God inclined his ear to him and heard him. He said that God lifted him from the pit and the miry clay and set his feet on a rock and put a new song in his mouth. We are today anticipating the time to sing again. Thank you all for waiting so faithfully with us. It is coming. God will make it so. Love in Christ, Larry, Donna, and Family

end Daddy's "note".

Andy on Thursday

My sister Deborah arrived in Washington DC yesterday and she reports that Andy sat up on the edge of his bed for 5 minutes todayay! This was surprising to the PT...she said it usually takes a week to work up to 5 minutes. Go Andy! Precision in his movement of his arms is increasing as is his strength. The right arm, which was lagging behind the left a good bit, is definitely improving.

My Aunt (daddy's only sister) and Uncle came to visit on Wednesday--they live in Maryland and came in for the day. My Aunt is a nurse who got her start in the Army.

Andy's team of doctors are anticipating a move to a normal room (non-SICU) as soon as the inflammation of his pancreas is under control again. There was some progress in that area--enough to allow the surgery to proceed--but as soon as one of the antibiotics was cut out, the fever came back. The feeding tube complicates matters in the pancreas.

Decisions about a rehabilitation center are looming in the near future. Daniel and Andy will be considering all the options in the coming days and making a selection. If I recall correctly, the options are San Diego, Tampa and Maryland. Pray for wisdom in the selection process for Andy and Daniel.

Mom, Dad, Daniel and Deb are sharing the rotation of spending time with Andy. Continue to pray for each of them--for their strength and health and stamina.

It seems that as the meds clear out of Andy's head he's beginning to deal with reality a little more, and that's not an easy thing. I wish we could know more about what he's understood and felt these last 2 weeks. I'm sure there's alot of confusion and that may be a gift.

Wow. It's been two weeks. I hadn't even thought of that until I just wrote it. When I was there it seemed as though time passed at a quarter of it's usual rate. An hour seemed like four. A day seemed like four days. Now, as I've pulled back a little, by virtue of being at home and on a somewhat normal schedule with my family, time is back to normal but it stops intermittently...every time the phone rings and when I'm reminded of something Andy said or did.

Today I remembered that at one point when I was there Andy asked for some S'mores. He was unusually insistent that he needed more chocolate bars to make more S'mores. I feel sure that wherever he was in his mind, the S'mores were tasting really good and that he was in good company.

Blessings to you all,


So back to scrapbooking for just a moment...

My favorite scrapbook store closed a little while ago. I was heart-broken. Rather than drive so far to the other stores in my area I thought I would give a monthly kit-club a try. Every month a box of coordinated scrapbook goodies is to arrive on my doorstep. It's like shopping without the drive time. :) Good, right?

July was my first month to receive a kit and I loved it. Very cool stuff. Fast-forward to August. The teaser photo is up on the website this morning, first thing. OK, so I know that a subscription is always a risk. I'm OK with that. I'm not blown away with this kit but I can use it. My beef is that all the "add-on"--coordinating ribbons, stamps and extra paper are already sold out. Where's the fun in that? Plan ahead...go big or go home. Don't think that this is a good marketing ploy. It's not. It's making me want to not continue my membership.

Ya'll know I like 2peas. Always have. I've been hanging out there for years, mainly because peas are real. If something stinks, they will call you on it. In a heartbeat. Bad product gets called bad product. Great products become legendary at 2peas. So I'm a little turned off by all the sappy sweetness of other boards...the rah rah rah of every single thing like it's breaking news and pure genius...the "our design team can do nothing less than spactacular" mentality is lost on me. And no, I don't leave fake praise.

Why can't someone come up with a QK-based monthly kit club?

I can't win today. I think I need to go for a walk.


After lunch on Tuesday

Andy came thru the sugery with flying colors...he should have full use of his neck and that "blasted" brace is gone. Can I get an AMEN to that?! :) He is resting.

Thanks be to the Lord.

As you may have noticed, Daddy and I deal with stuff by writing it down. It's a therapy of sorts, I guess you could say. I have spent my life believing that the stories of our lives hold immeasurable value--that our stories are woven together in a tapestry that extend down through the course of time and that there are things to be learned from every story and every experience. We are not simple observers...we are each characters in every story, to varying degrees.

All the world is a stage...and all that.

That's what "Love Letters Illustrated" was about before Andy became the focus. Preserving the stories...

With that in mind, I'm dividing the rest of this post into two sections. Here's part one of some random, back-story thoughts that I've been writing:

Wounded Warriors

The term "Wounded Warriors" is common-place at Walter Reed Army Medical. It's on the walls, on the signs, used by the caregivers and staff and is even found on t-shirts and mugs. The first time I saw it on the WR website, it hit me in the chest like a load of bricks. It just seems like those two words are the most unlikely pairing of words imaginable.

While I understand cognitively that Andy is wounded, as his sister--particularly his older sister--I have trouble (still) with the warrior part of that phrase applying to him. I saw the film at his bootcamp graduation 2 years ago showing clips of his class preparing to fight a war--preparing their minds with the strategies and equipment of war and training their physical bodies for the rigors of combat. It was not particularly graphic, but it was very personal as even to me, they seemed so very young. Thoughts plaugued the back of my head like they really know what they are getting in to, I wondered. Do I really know what he's getting into? Probably not.

Andy is 13 years younger than me so in some ways I still have some motherly feelings towards him. He's 6' 3" now and weighs about 190 but when I say "he's my little brother" it's mostly because that's how I think of him. He was 5 when I got married and in some ways he "got stuck" in my head as that cute 5 year old boy with the flaming crazy red hair who would go and go and go until he just crashed out. When Andy ran out of gas, he would simply sleep, wherever that happened to be. My mom has a picture of him asleep in the dirt under a tire swing...that's just how he has always been. He goes full-tilt.

On that hot day in June 2006, as we gatherred in Lawton to witness his bootcamp graduation, I cried sweet tears of pride for his first real Army accomplishment, while at the same time I pushed away the fear that had started growing on Thanksgiving Day the year before by telling myself "he's going to be a medic".

My brother will be the medic.

He will jump out of the belly of a plane wearing a parachute for kicks but his main job will be to patch up broken soldiers. He will be the Band-Aid Boy. (Sometimes older sisters have the right and responsibility to be disrespectful, right?)

He's a medic.
He's a medic.
He's a medic.

This was the mantra I clung to. And then the photos started to come in via his myspace page and his facebook page. You know me...I craved photos. His first assignment was Italy. "The photos will be so cool", I thought. He will visit Venice and Rome and spend his downtime enjoying being abroad. He did those things...he even surprised me with photos from a snowboarding trip in the Alps, but he also started sending back photos of his men.

Other soldiers...groups of soldiers.
On tanks, with big guns.
And progressively, the guns got bigger and bigger.

The smile on his face changed...and then finally disappeared altogether.
No more smiles.
No more Italian sights.
As his crew was deployed into Afghanistan the photos slowed and each new one that did appear, showed somber serious, grown-up Andy with other somber, serious grown-up guys and guns that looked way too big for one to carry while being a "band-aid boy".

My image of him as a medic wasn't withstanding the test of time very well. I wanted to think that his guys would protect him because they needed him. I knew in my head that I wasn't getting the real picture of all he was doing. I felt like a slackard sister for being content to wallow in my lack of accurate knowledge. I was afraid to ask and Andy didn't volunteer. Our IM sessions were jagged. I wanted to know he was OK...but we couldn't get past the small talk. Whether that was for his security or for my lack of guts, I just don't know.

I don't blame him--I know he thought he was protecting all of us by keeping quiet about his "job" and the inherrent dangers. I have a feeling that this is a common theme among Army families and maybe it's not completely unjustified. Maybe he needed to feel like he was protecting us from the knowledge of things that we have no ability to process.

I think I knew that there was more going on than Band-Aids by his first visit home. I knew but I didn't ask him to confirm it. Denial can be a very cozy place.


Andy's surgery is scheduled to begin at 8am Eastern and they've been told it could take as little as four hours or as many as 8. Pray for Mom and Dad and Daniel as they do that horrible task of waiting and wondering. Pray for Andy and the hands and hearts of the medical team. Pray that this procedure incurs no setbacks to the progress that Andy has worked so hard to achieve already. Pray that healing begins today in completely unexplainable ways.

In other news,they finally got permission to let him receive mail, so I will be changing the address in the sidebar to reflect a more direct route for cards and letters.

Psalm 103
Praise to the Lord of Love
Of David.

1 All that I am, praise the Lord;
everything in me, praise his holy name.
2 My whole being, praise the Lord
and do not forget all his kindnesses.
3 He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
4 He saves my life from the grave
and loads me with love and mercy.
5 He satisfies me with good things
and makes me young again, like the eagle.

6 The Lord does what is right and fair
for all who are wronged by others.
7 He showed his ways to Moses
and his deeds to the people of Israel.
8 The Lord shows mercy and is kind.
He does not become angry quickly,
and he has great love.
9 He will not always accuse us,
and he will not be angry forever.
10 He has not punished us as our sins should be punished;
he has not repaid us for the evil we have done.
11 As high as the sky is above the earth,
so great is his love for those who respect him.
12 He has taken our sins away from us
as far as the east is from west.
13 The Lord has mercy on those who respect him,
as a father has mercy on his children.
14 He knows how we were made;
he remembers that we are dust.

15 Human life is like grass;
we grow like a flower in the field.
16 After the wind blows, the flower is gone,
and there is no sign of where it was.
17 But the Lord's love for those who respect him
continues forever and ever,
and his goodness continues to their grandchildren
18 and to those who keep his agreement
and who remember to obey his orders.

19 The Lord has set his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over everything.
20 You who are his angels, praise the Lord.
You are the mighty warriors who do what he says
and who obey his voice.
21 You, his armies, praise the Lord;
you are his servants who do what he wants.
22 Everything the Lord has made
should praise him in all the places he rules.

My whole being, praise the Lord.

From Daddy on Monday

Dear Andy's Family,

It is the end of the day on Monday. It was a bit of a rough night last night. They called me about 1:30am at the hotel and said that Andy was somewhat confused and agitated. They asked if Donna or I could come back to the hospital and reassure him.

I was in the process of getting ready to go when the hospital staff called back and said it would probably be OK. But, at that point the only thing that would make it OK for us was "eyes on." So, I grabbed a cab and headed out.

Andy was hallucinating again. He explained to me the other day that these times are not exactly nightmares. He is just still working in the battle zone in his mind. He is just still mentally doing his job as a medic. So, he barks orders and fixes problems and makes it happen in his mind just like he did on the battlefield.

That was what I found him doing when I arrived at the hospital. Then, his present reality merges with all of that and it becomes very confusing to him and it robs him of very needed rest.

Andy also told me the other day that sometimes at night he had problems of one kind or another just being comfortable but he said he had trouble communicating the problem. It is not unlike what a stroke victim sometimes goes through. He know what he wants to say but other words or ideas substitute themselves. And again, it's frustrating.

So, because he had given me that information when he was lucid earlier, I knew that what he was dealing with might not be the actual problem. He was asking me to remove a pulse lead that was lightly taped to the end of his finger. It could not possibly have been a source of discomfort so his nurse (Xavier - a great nurse) began checking the leads on his other arm. Sure enough, his IV had gone bad and the fluid was collecting in his forearm. it was hard to seen in the darkened room. Xavier replaced the IV quickly and and Andy calmed down a good bit after.

However, we have had concerns about the psychotheraputic medicine that they are using for a couple of days. It is supposed to help with the dreams etc, but observation seemed to indicate that it makes things worse. So, when I came into the room at one point this morning Daniel was having a serious though gentlemanly conversation with the doctor and the word I heard him use was "unacceptable" concerning the drug in question. The doctor changed the drug shortly after. I cannot say enough about the sensitivity and pro active demeanor of this staff. If it needs fixing, they fix it immediately.

And I cannot say enough about the heroism of my other son. Daniel has been amazing. When he first arrived here, he discovered that Andy did not have the dexterity to push the button on his pain medicine. He immediately got with some of the hospital staff to get him some supplies and he built an assembly that held the pump and only required Andy to bump it with his hand, which he could easily do.

He has entirely plugged into the hospital staff and environment. We are constantly hearing from one staff source or another when they meet us how impressed they are with our older son. He actually has a bit of a reputation here in his own right, and rightly so. He seems to be daunted by nothing and stays constantly ahead of the game, whether it is administration, checking on Andy's needs, dealing with hospital staff, or navigating this huge facility to discover new resources. And always the kind gentleman. What a blessing to have two heroic son's.

Tomorrow is surgery day. The big event is at 8:00 AM. They have scheduled the operating room for 8 hours, but the doc said it could take as little as four. The main issue is of course to fuse the damaged vertebrae, but they will also do some other less serious things to basically tie up "loose surgical ends."

Thanks so much for your enjoined faith during this time. We are bound in Christ through Andy. It is a wonderful thing to experience this level of human kinship. It is a high plane of existence.




My dad referred to Andy as "undaunted" earlier today.

"What a great word", I thought. I knew basically what it ment...but I looked it up anyway. Here's what the great Mirriam-Webster had to say as the definition of the word "UNDAUNTED":

"courageously resolute especially in the face of danger or difficulty : not discouraged"

I kept looking for Andy's photo to pop up as a reference. :)

Be undaunted, my brother!



I'm going to stop trying to think of catchy titles...I'm "all thunk out" these days. We'll just stick with the day of the week, if that's OK with everyone. Also, I'll start using the label system for Andy posts so that if you want to easily find all the posts related to Andy, you just click on his name in the small print under any post.

For those of you who are new around these parts, the latest entry always stays at the top of the page, so you'll always see the most up-to-date message first. And the final piece of house-keeping news is that I usually wait until my boys are down for the night to check in with Mom or Dad and then generally you can expect new posts between 10 pm and midnight (Central time).

In news of a favorite soldier, Friday night was difficult for Andy--lots of dreams and only fitful sleep. Saturday morning brought orders to eat at least 2000 calories a day (again to promote the healing of the neck) as well as a record-high fever. A new CAT scan revealled an infection in his pancreas. This is a development of major concern because if the infection is not able to be controlled right away, Tuesday's surgery will have to be postponed. Andy has his heart set on this surgery on Tuesday...because that will allow him to have the restrictive neck brace removed soon after and the work of real physical therapy to begin.

So, there is only one prayer request tonight--pray that the medications will get the infection under control ASAP so that the surgery will not have to be delayed.

In other news, Mom and Dad printed out several emails to read to Andy before they left home. I will continue to print more and send them up in bundles. The more the merrier. :)

Last Sunday, my pastor, Scotty Smith (Christ Community Church, Franklin, TN) spoke about Why We Pray in response to a question posed by one of our members:

If God is sovereign and knows all things, why pray? If
prayer doesn’t really change God’s mind, or change
anything else, why
pray? It’s getting easier and easier not to pray.

I'm not going to repost all that he said but if you should like, you can listen to the entire service here. It's a worthy listen.

Psalm 5:1-3
Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing.
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God,
for to you I pray.

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.

May the Lord bless each of you with a worshipful Sunday!

PS I've been getting bundles of emails.
I'm working my way thru responding but it's a little slow.
Thank you for overwhelming us all with your compassion and concern.


Progress and Ponderings

Andy is progressing. He is eating solid foods and sat for a short time in a large chair yesterday. The chair was quite uncomfortable and completely exhausting...but he did what was asked of him. The MRI is done and the second surgery is scheduled for Tuesday. The goal of the surgery will be to fuse the two shattered vertebrae to the nearest good ones, above and below, to secure and stabilize his spinal cord. Once that is done and healing, Andy will be allowed to start the real intense physical rehab practices. He's very anxious to get to that point.

Mom and Dad arrived yesterday safe and sound and Andy was very glad to see them. He reached out to hug Mom with both arms--that's no small feat for him. He's already been introducing Dad to everyone and telling the staff how much having his father around has helped him and is going to help him.

Yesterday the doctor told Andy that they had to get his caloric intake up to promote the healing of his injuries and get his body fully functioning before the surgery on Tuesday. The doctor told him if he didn't want to eat, the feeding tube could be reinserted. At that point Andy informed him that he would eat anything and everything they put in front of him all day and all night...he'd eat dirt to avoid that tube going back down his nose. (He had major personal issues with that tube from the get-go and that's one of the few things he has really complained about.) Eating and drinking is still slow business and he tires easily from it...but in what has come to be "Andy style", he's ready to tackle it.

Mom, I forgot to tell you that when Andy got his first bowl of Jell-o, Daniel and I were there with him. Daniel told Andy he had to swish the Jell-o around through his teeth, like we used to do as kids to aggravate you. As an explanation for everyone else, it was one of those funny brother-sister-brother moments that made all three of us laugh because we were all three raised by the same woman who h-a-t-e-d when anyone swished Jell-o.

I'm sworn to secrecy on whether or not Andy actually swished his Jell-o... :)

In other news, I'm getting my bearings again at home. I told Joal that I'm not sure how to integrate being the wife and mommy who's going on about her regular fairly-normal life with the sister who has seen and done so much out-of-the-ordinary stuff in the last five days. I feel a little like I've stepped off the constant roller coaster of information and back into that world where the phone could ring at any minute and the news could be good or it could be bad. For the life of me, I can't figure out which side I'm more suited for. I have gone straight to bed just after the boys for two nights in a row (that's totally unusual for me...I'm my Daddy's daughter when it comes to being a committed night-owl.) and I still feel like I could sleep for about three days.

One of Andy's buddies came by day-before-yesterday for a visit. "A" is a fellow soldier who is also from a small town in Texas. Apparently, they were pretty close friends and Andy was grateful to see him. A told Andy that all the rest of their guys were now safely in Italy, which was a great relief to Andy. His concern for "his men" (the group of men for whom he was "Doc", the medic) was quite obviously laced in Andy's brain these past few days. He has welcomed each new wave of visitors with gladness and some trepidation, because of course he knows that if one of his men is standing in his door, that man must also have been wounded in the fight. While Andy's glad to see them present and accounted for in the here-and-now, it's a club of sorts that he doesn't want to see any of his guys be members of.

If you want to see a photo of Andy (taken at his request and shared with his permission) you can click on the link below. If you know Andy personally, be prepared for seeing him in a whole different way. He's laying in a large hospital bed, with tubes and feeds and lines, and he's wearing a steel brace with a chest plate that prevents him from moving his head and chest, almost completely. I cropped out he equipment in hopes that the photo would be less crazy and overwhelming. Take me's intense.

Photo of Andy.

Did I tell you yet about the box? One of my duties as "first family member on the scene" was to assess Andy's belongings and go through the backpack of stuff that came in with him. The backpack came with him from Germany and it contained some paperwork, a notepad and pen, several t-shirts, a pair of pajama pants, a small uniform-clad teddy bear with a gift card for any incidentals he needed, and a small box that looked like a necklace box. A necklace box?

My brain was not fully engaged while I was going through these things so I snapped open the box top (it was hinged) without much thought about what might be inside. I quickly realized that there was not enough oxygen in the room for what I was holding in my hands. I am well-practiced these days at feeling huge waves of uncontrolled emotion come barreling out of me in the blink of an eye--sometimes there's a reason for the fresh waves and sometimes they just randomly appear. I was standing at the foot of Andy's bed and so I worked hard to get it all under control or "squared away" as he says...before I got in his line of sight again. I held in my now-trembling hand the box that contained a purple heart. My brother's purple heart. The medal no one really wants. The bar for his uniform and the actual medal. I have to say, it's a very humbling thing and I was not prepared for what I felt.

From Wikipedia:
Per United States Army regulations, the Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Services after 5 April 1917, has been wounded or killed, or who has died after being wounded.

I told Andy and then I showed it to him. He scrunched up his face and squeezed his eyes closed for a moment--a look I had already come to know as Andy trying to hold back his emotional outbursts. "Random misfires" he calls them. A few tears slipped out and rolled down his scruffy face. That's something else I was not prepared for--seeing my Army Andy cry on a regular basis. or perhaps more accurately, seeing him attempt to hold back the tears and not succeed. After a moment, he asked me to hold it up closer so he could see it better. I did and he sorta nodded his head so I snapped the lid closed and set it down. I kissed him and told him how very insanely proud of him we are--not for the medal, although we do honor the tradition of all those men and women who have given of their bodies in the service of this country and now wear the purple heart insignia, but because it's an indication of the kind of man he is.


John 15:13--Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.

There was no ceremonial presentation, there was no saluting--no brass band, no pomp and circumstance. I snapped open a box and was freshly astonished to realize yet again how much our country and those who serve her mean to me as an American. All of them...but especially my brother.

I asked Andy if he wanted me to take it with me for safe-keeping and he said "no, I'd like to keep it here" so I left it in the backpack. And I resisted the urge to tell every person inside a fifty mile radius "Andy has a purple heart"--not to brag but just to say it out loud. This is not a medal that anyone really wants...but it's an acknowledgement of what has been given and the sacrifice--sometimes temporary and sometimes permanant--that have been made on the field of battle.

It's in moments like these that you realize you either belive in something greater than yourself or you don't. There's is no half-heartedness here. Get in or get out of the way.

Years ago (1998) when the movie, Saving Private Ryan came out, I couldn't watch it--it was too much for my heart (even then, long before Andy thought about enlisting). However, I did catch the first and last few minutes of it and Joal filled me in on the rest of the story.

I feel like now I understand more of it all.

As I walked the halls of Walter Reed and saw soldiers of all kinds--in all sorts of physical conditions, I sometimes had to fight the urge to begin shouting to my fellow Americans... "My brother and so many others have given of themselves so deeply...we owe it to them to--as Captain Miller implored the young Private Ryan--earn this."


Love you Lieutenant Colonel-ly

I arrived at Walter Reed shortly after Andy did on Sunday evening and fortunately, got to see him right away. Daniel came on Monday. We stayed there together on Tuesday and I was scheduled to leave for home on Wednesday morning very early, given that I would be driving the 700 mile trip straight through. I originally planned to say my goodbyes on Tuesday night and leave from the hotel before the sun came up on Wednesday morning, but when Wednesday morning came, I just had to see him one more time.

I stood quietly in the SICU, memorizing his face, holding back ugly tears, and rubbing the top of his head--he said that was the only place that did not hurt. We talked quietly for a few minutes despite the people moving around us doing their jobs, and then it really was time for me to go. What do you say in that moment? I had already said the "I love yous", the "I'm so proud of you" and "You will make it through this."

Andy's my youngest brother and he's been a cut-up since the day he was born. He does serious from time to time but not often and not for long stretches. Serious was all around us, in that room and in his life, but I was determined, serious wasn't gonna be the way I left it with him. More than anything, we needed a moment of light...of laughter, in the midst of everything. Serious needed to take a hike, just for a moment.

Lord, just give me a smile.

I stood up and gathered my things. I moved to the side of his bed and stretched up on my tip toes to reach him. I got right near his ear and said "Julian always says 'Moma, I love you majorly.' So Andy, I love you majorly."

He grinned a little--as much as he could. "I love you Lieutenant Colonel-ly, sister." he said. It must have been clear by the look on my face that I didn't immediately get his little joke and it was no small miracle that he noticed this. In true Andy fashion, he rolled his eyes because of course, there's nothing worse than having to explain your joke. "Lieutenant Colonel is the next rank higher than a Major." he said, as if this was a fact I should have known.

And then for just a moment, we both laughed. In the midst of absolutely nothing funny--most everything terrifying--there was a moment of laughter shared with my brother. That smirk is something I hold onto even though I'm pretty sure he doesn't even remember it. The drugs were heavy and the pain almost unbearable. He was in and out, back and forth...mostly out and that was probably a good thing.

I, on the other hand, was grateful beyond words but I knew in that moment that the damn was about to break and I had to get out of there, or risk being the sister who couldn't keep it together. I kissed him on the head and walked out the door. I made it to the car before the birrage of tears came and I cried all the way home to Tennessee.



It's Wednesday evening and I am finally back home in Nashville, after 13 hours of driving. I saw Andy before I left this morning and he said he had managed to get some longer periods of sleep last night--a major blessing. He thought he might have slept as long as an hour at the time a couple of times...not consecutive hours...but that's still a big leap from sleeping only minutes at the time for the past 5 days.

There was a bloodclot in his lung discovered yesterday which necessitated a filter to be put in today--a very painful process. Andy had some moments of discouragement but also moments of goodness during visits from other members of his company and regiment that are also receiving care at WR.

Today we are happy to report that their was much ice cream and jello being consumed. Did you know that Andy loves ice cream? Butter pecan to be exact...but in a pinch, vanilla seems to do well too. :)

Daniel was with him today and our parents will arrive in DC tomorrow afternoon. Pray for their smooth and safe travel and their strength as their day of traveling will end at Andy's bedside--and in those moments a whole new world will begin for them. I can not yet put into adequate words how it felt to walk into that surgical ICU room for the first time and to see my brother in his current state. I am fumbling around with a journal so I can remember...but coherency is not my gift at the moment. Seeing him the first time was kinda like having a convulsion and an out-of-body experience all at the same time.

Hours after my arrival, Andy asked me to take a photo of him to show him what he looked like and to post on his myspace. Now that I'm home, I can post it (tomorrow) but I'm going to post it somewhere else and link it here, that way it won't load unless you click on the link. It's pretty intense, and I don't want people who know and love Andy to be caught off guard by the image.

Now that I'm home, I will post updates here with more regularity. Feel free to pass around the blog address...who knew my little love letters blog would go from primarily scrapbook pages to love letters of a different sort? I'm now the self-appointed information officer/public affairs office for all things Andy since I am now at home for a few weeks, away from the hub of activity. I want Daniel and Mom and Dad to be able to focus on taking care of Andy and managing their lives away from home and--quite honestly, I need something tangible to do to be helpful.

My email is Use it at will.

Quite a few people have asked if Andy can receive cards. At this point, we are directing all cards here to me and I will send them in bundles to Daniel. Andy loves photos so feel free to include photos of yourself too. We will see that all cards and photos are prepared so that they can be hung up in his line of sight.

Address for Cards, photos, letters, notes, etc...

Andy Burnett
c/o Sarah Devendorf
7408 Harness Drive
Nashville TN 37221

I will print all emails...between all of us, we already have a few hundred emails of thoughts and prayers to print for him from people all over the world--most that we know and a few that we don't. Don't underestimate the value of these to us and to Andy.

I realized on my drive home today--down through the most beautiful hills of central Virginia--that my hands no longer smell like Andy and this crazy realization made me sob. I know that must be an odd thing to read's also an odd thing to miss it already. Andy came straight into the hospital in Afghanistan from a combat field, where he'd been on a mission for a few weeks. One of the first coherent things he said to me was "I'm sorry I stink. I haven't had a shower in two weeks." At that point, I could not have cared any less about his smell, not had I really even noticed it and I told him so. Given the severity of his wounds, I'm sure that all the medical personnel around him at every step had far better, more important things to contend with than making sure he smelled nice. And believe me when I say...I did not care how he smelled at that time. At all.

His hands and elbows were still caked with bits of dried blood and dirt (that's probably as close as I'll ever get to Afghani soil). His feet were soldier-ish. His beard was overgrown and his hair matted. His forehead was sweaty and grimey. One of my first tasks was to find a wash cloth and wipe off his forehead. I was grateful to have a task and to find anything that might helphim to feel comforted, even a tiny bit. Given the state of his body, the only place available to touch him at that time without causing pain was the Army-short hair on top of his head. So that's what I did for 3 days--rubbed his hair. Alot.

After repeated washings with a wet cloth, by myself and the nurses, his hair started to look more normal, but my hands were bathed in the smell I came to associate with him--it wasn't bad, it wasn't worth bottling and selling, it was just Andy. :) The smell of Andy on my hands seems like a silly thing to be sentimental about but it's just part of the experience that didn't even register until it wasn't there anymore.

A quick lightweight story...
Andy is a medic for the Army but as my dad has already said to many people, it's not just a profession for Andy. He was an EMT before he even joined the Army. Being a medic is who Andy is wired to be. Never was that more clear to me than on Monday afternoon when one of the doctors was putting in a new a-line (an access point in his forearm). Because of the immobilization unit on his neck and chest, Andy couldn't see what the doctor was doing, so he said to me "take a picture of this so I can see...I've never done one of those.".

Photographing a medical procedure involving blood and very long needles was a completely new thing for me... I don't think it's going to be something I make a habit of. :)

And on a final light and personal note--I (she who does not like to drive at all) drove on the famous (or perhaps infamous) Washington Beltway! Yes, me. And survived.

LBJ in Dallas--check
That stretch in Atlanta that I can't remember the name of--check
and now, the Washington Beltway--check, check...

Next time I'm there I'm going to hunt down Dupont Circle. :)



Tuesday morning

Andy had a difficult night and is having a difficult morning. It's a roller coaster for sure today. He needs rest and a clear head. Pray for these things.


PS to the peas

continued thanks to all the peas who have been posting good thoughts and prayerful wishes for Andy...I can't seem to log into the pea site here are Walter Reed so I can't actually post to peas...but I am reading the thread.

Thank you so much.

Hi from Walter Reed

Hi all.
It's Monday evening (I think).
Andy arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical in Washington DC on Sunday afternoon around 4:30 and I was holding his hand by 5:30 pm. He's receiving round-the-clock care in the surgical ICU. I only have a few minutes on the computer so I'm just going to give you the super-light version. Basically, there are three areas of concern, which I have dubbed the three F's so I could keep track of it all....

fever--his fever has been on a roller coaster since he arrived here, which may be an indication of infection.

fragment--there's still a fragment in his spinal column, which they are still attempting to determine the best course of action on.

flem--which I realize doesn't actually start with an f but I needed a system for remembering...there's some drainage into his chest which is difficult for him to expell given that he a) doesn't have muscle control below his armpits and b) can't really cough due to the the immobilization unit the prevents about 98% of his head movement.

I list these three areas so that you can pray specifically.

Pray for Andy's emotional healing as well as his physical strength. There's so much to handle...and he's heavily medicated and doesn't have the full use of his mind, which he finds extremely frustrating!

Do not underestimate the power of your prayers.

The sniper's round was--in the words of one of the doctors here--a big a$$ bullet. It severed a portion of his spinal cord and there is still a small fragment of that round in his spinal column. It's not likely at this point that they will attempt to remove that frag. He may be facing another surgery--the goal of which would be to stabilize his spine, by fusing at least three of them together.

Andy has quite a few buddies that are also here in the hospital with a variety of injuries. It's a mazing to me the depth at which the connection runs between this band of brothers. It's almost sanctified...he gets emotional when they show up. It does them all good I think. He asked me to take pictures of everyone who comes to vist. He wants to post them on his myspace. ((Crazy boy.))

My other brother is scheduled to be here in a few hours, for which I am very grateful. I know how deeply good it will be for Andy to have his original brother here too...

I will be coming home with newly developed and perhaps even slightly sculpted muscles in my own arms from all the stretching Andy and I have been doing. He's deeply concerned about keeping the strength and use of his arms and hands and he tries constatly to stretch his upper body out to keep the blood flowing. I've learned to work his arms around and given that he was already quite muscular, that's no small feat. :) He keeps telling me it's not good enough unless it hurts...and I have a difficult time "hurting" him. We've already seen significant improvement in the upper body abilities, especially in his arms...just since yesterday. Glory to God.

Pray for the speech people...they need to get moving and Andy's ready to tell them so in no uncertain terms. He's in dire need of ice cream and the speech team is holding that accomplishment up.

Pray that neuro can find the right kind of immobilization unit for's a long story...

More as I can...


I Just talked to Andy

I was able to speak to Andy for a few minutes this morning. He sounded good, despite the drugs and the sore throat.

Looking forward to seeing him tomorrow.


One last note before I crash...

Andy's waking up post-op and Mom and Dad talked to him on the phone for just a bit this evening thanks to the generous cooperation of a very sweet nurse in Germany and an Army information officer in Virginia. (Isn't technology grand?!) He is pretty groggy and worried about the other soldiers in his unit...and how much of an imposition this is going to cause his family. Typical Andy stuff.

Mom asked if he was in pain and he said "No, the drugs are good."

The doctors said they pulled a 3" long Russian-made sniper round out of his neck. The doctor said that this is the kind of round that pierces brick it's no small miracle that Andy's still here. There's extensive damage to several vertebrae and while they are not for certain yet what the outcome will be, it's likely he will have limited use of his legs. Swelling, infection and other factors will determine the extent of the damage over the next few days. I guess you could say that we are trying to prepare ourselves to deal with the worst--seeing him permanently injured--while still expecting healing and complete recovery as a gift straight from the hand of God.

Whatever the case, God is God and Andy is Andy and when the two get together...mountains move.

Daniel and I had a long talk tonight about all this and came to the conclusion that Andy has--since very early childhood--operated under the belief that if he wanted to do something, he could do it. He could find a it what you will...stubborness, determination, strong-willed, bull-headed, whatever...he's always been that way. Andy is 5 years younger than Daniel but Andy has always believed that he could do absolutely anything Daniel could do--even when Daniel was ten and Andy was 5 and the height/weight difference was decidedly in Daniel's favor...I digress. I think these traits will serve both of them well in the coming days.

At the last report Andy is likely to be on a flight from Germany to Walter Reed Army Medical by Sunday afternoon. It is my plan for Daniel and I to be there in time to meet Andy's plane. I simply can not abide the thought of him arriving without someone to meet him. I'm hoping to fly (there are a few direct flight options from Nashville to DC) but if I have to, I will drive. I am the closest to DC (Daniel is in Texas) geographically...I intend to be there.

On his last leave back in the spring, Andy ordered a custom motorcycle helmet (he really does have a big head, even with the Army's haircut) and had it shipped to Daniel to keep for Andy when he got home. The helmet arrived last week. Daniel's bringing the helmet when he comes and I'm taking a new pair of motorcycling (is that a word) gloves. It's symbolic, I suppose, about an unwaivering belief in him and his future. Andy's not in the habit of not doing whatever he pleases and we expect no different of him way or another.

I'm rambling...Please forgive my spelling mistakes...I'm working on my second 2-liter of Diet Coke...I've been up for almost 30 hours.

I did happen to find this article on the military news site about the attack on Chosen Company. Our prayers are with those 9 Chosen Company families who received a very different kind of call from the Army. Our hearts ache for their losses and we morn for them and with them.
Andy's always been the kind of man for whom the world was just barely big enough to hold. Everything he's ever done he has done with bigness. When he plays, he plays hard. When he takes something on, his red head is in it to win. When he fights, you can plan to lose. When he loves you, you know it down deep.

The surgery is done and prelim reports indicate that his legs may have suffered some damage. Several vertabrae in his back are in bad shape. He's not yet awake from surgery.

He may be to Walter Reed by Sunday...or as late as Tuesday.

I'm grateful for the notes and prayers and I will in time respond to each one. I will write the stories that have already come out of this experience and I get the feeling that there will be many more. Writing is kinda what I do...but right now, I just wanted to post the basic info so as not to leave ya'll hangin'.

Daddy says that no matter what comes Andy's way with regards to any physical damage, legs do not define a man. What has always defined Andy, can not be taken away with a bullet. It's far more eternal than that.

As of 9ish Central Standard Time on Friday, Andy's in surgery. Several of my 2peas friends have assured me that Ramstein/Landstuhl is staffed by the military's finest and he's in the best place for care, well, next to being in the hands of the Father, of course.

Two Sundays ago, during worship at church, my heart was overcome with the truth of these few phrases from Amazing much so that I came home, printed it out on a piece of cardstock and hung it over my desk. I've been clinging to it for many things lately, and now even more. I realize it's not scripture, per se, but that song is such a part of my life and always has been, that it has much the same divine power as scripture does, when it comes to my heart.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be.
As long as life endures.


Army Andy

Army Andy on the left, with our parents.

Andy (currently deployed to somewhere in Afghanistan) called Daniel (my other brother) this morning to say he's been shot. It's just like him to want to make the call himself. We are waiting by the phone for more info...but your prayers are appreciated.

According to the medic, who assumed the call when the drugs started to kick in, Andy will go to the local med unit for stabilization then it would be a 10 hour flight to Germany for surgery. The Army will call Daniel from Germany.

Waiting and praying.

6:45 PM Central UPDATE:
Not much to update except that the Army has contacted my parents and my brother and are begining the process of arranging transportation (although it's not clear where to yet). His assessment in Germany is pending...not sure yet if he's arrived there or when he will. Hurry up and wait has a new meaning.


Acrylic Purse

A few weeks ago I was completely inspired by Nichole Heady's blog to make a purse out of something non-purse-like. The same day, I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and ran across this cool acrylic container...and it seemed to fit the bill.

I started out with this project trying to use a different paper but I wasn't feelin' it. I couldn't find the right ribbon to go with the paper...if you only knew how nuts it is thatI didn't own the right ribbon. LOL!

Anyway, yesterday my first installment of the Little Red Scrapbook kit arrived containing beautiful papers from October Afternoon. Oh I am so lovin' these papers. Cardstock-weight and double-sided...

Happy Tuesday.


Waitin' on a Woman

Brad Paisley's Waitin' on a Woman

I think this is positively one of the best videos of all time! Enjoy! (Not to mention that it was filmed at The Factory in Franklin.)

Speakin' of waitin...Have you seen Layle's blog lately? It's just overflowin' with good stuff coming out from Scenic Route this summer! Pretty pretty pretty.

Happy Monday!


A very happy fourth!

We watched fireworks this evening with some friends and Joal's parents. This was the best fourth of July I think we've ever had. It wasn't outrageously hot or was comfortable in fact. Friends and family...that's what it's all about.

It made me think of my brother in AFG, who sees a different kind of fireworks too often for my liking. I'm counting the days until August. (Godspeed little brother.)

Have you used the QK Exotic Island font yet? I ordered it tonight for the 08 Cruise book...can't wait to get it. Speaking of my cruise book project...I am so overwhelmed by it right now. This big stack of photos is just looming over me like a basket of bricks...I can't seem to pick it up and get started. Maybe a new QK alpha will help. :)

I have a bazillion things to do next week, the most dreaded of which is to clean out my MSN mailbox. I've had my MSN address for maybe 6 or 7. It has thousands of emails in it.

Yes, I said t-h-o-u-s-a-n-d-s. Some I need to keep which means they have to be forwarded to my new account. Some can be trashed. Ugh. Tediousness makes me nuts.

Anybody need some ribbon? I have some ribbons that need new homes...leave me a comment telling about your favorite use of ribbons and I'll send you some ribbons. :)


Make It Home

I can't figure out how to disable the auto start on my regular playlist, so you'll have to manually stop it by clicking on the first small button with the two vertical lines...then start the Mark Shutlz video.

Happy Independence Day...


Pretty Colors

Yes, I gave in to the pretty colors.
Even tho it has Martha Stewart's name on it and it's sold at Walmart...I had to go there for something else...and this just was too good to pass up.

So hang me.

Closed Circuit to my sister, Deb-- this is the car I was telling you about. Whadda ya think?

Did you know that July is National Ice Cream month?
And we celebrate it heartily at the Dev...household.
Truth be told...we don't need a reason for ice cream.
I took some schweet pics to day of the boys "celebrating" with Nutty Buddies...I share them when I get the page done.

Could there be a better "holiday"?