Ten Days

So sorry for the ten day hiatus on yon blog.
Swamped with stuff here and news from Florida has slowed. Andy's not slowing...just the flow of news around him. From all accounts Andrew is kicking butt and takin' names, as usual. Dad spent a week with him last week and I will post his email following.

The good news:
I can have my personal life back now that the 52 page cruise scrapbook for NWYC is done. Joal's taking it to the company anniversary gala this weekend. For those of you who may have missed it, every year NWYC (the company Joal is part of) sends their top producers on a Caribbean Cruise. We went on the cruise in March. Every year I make a scrapbook of the cruise for the company to show off in their home office in Dallas using as many photos as I can cajole people to contribute. This year I took more than 800 photos myself!

The book should have been done months ago but I've been a bit out of sorts and getting it done was like giving birth...slow and painful. :) Next year you better believe that I will not let it drag out.

I feel like I can breath again, finally.
Now we can focus on the wedding!

Here's Daddy's note about his time with Andy:

Dear Andy's Family,
Well I'm back from Florida and it is a beautiful place. It has breath taking views down extremely long halls. It has sparkling, beautifully waxed floors. It has ceramic tile... oh, no, wait, that is the hospital. Well, come to think of it, that's about all I saw of Florida, but it really was beautiful. It was a place of healing and hope and I saw a lot of that going on.

Really, I did see a little of Tampa on two occasions. One was coming in, on the plane. Again the Hero Miles Program operated by the Fisher House Foundation made the travel super easy. As we arrived over Tampa I looked out the window of the plane to see beautiful homes lining what seemed like endless shore lines. It could easily have been one of those aerial shots for CSI Miami. (Maybe they really shoot those in Tampa.)

Daniel and Staff Sargent Main picked me up at the Airport and took me to the hospital. When I first saw Andy, he was working on some occupational therapy and he had his back to me. My first impression was, "he looks frail," so I hugged him even longer. That was the last time I got to feel sorry for him because he would have none of that.

Knowing that I was the "rookie" who was going to be filling in for Daniel (Mr. Experience, at this point) Andy gave me two very important instructions while I was there. The first went like this: "Dad, the idea is for me to not look like a dork, and you to not look like a chauffeur." The second was: "Dad, if I don't ask you to do it, don't do it." (He raised his voice a little on that last part - for emphasis I guess.)

He had to repeat that last instruction a few times over the first couple of days. It was the little things that tripped me up. They seemed so easy for me and so hard for him, so I did them automatically. Then would come that raised voice again (I let him get away with a little more along those lines than I used to). Mr. independent might ask for a bottle of water, but he didn't want it opened. He might want his razor off the table, but he didn't ask me to turn it on. And so it went until I finally got the message: "I have to learn independence again."

It is at once an inspiring and heartbreaking thing to watch. It is inspiring to observe the character of my son rising to such heights in the face if such a daunting task. It is heart breaking to watch the pain of the process, itself. Every little thing has to be consider and analyzed. The small things, the ordinary things, the automatic things - there are none of those any more. The frustration is enormous but every day he goes at it, and every day he gets better at it.

Andy is surrounded by some great people at James A. Haley. The therapist are mostly young highly trained professionals. They seem to not only know therapy, but people. Andy relates well to all of them and he looks forward to therapy every day. He seems more at ease working there than anything else he does through the day.

While he works they also laugh and joke and talk about movies and music and pick on each other. Often in the last therapy session of the day (3-4pm) there are fewer patients in the "gym" and other therapist will come over and sit around and talk and gab and laugh. But the work always goes on.

On one such occasion when Andy was on the "Tilt Table," a device that re-trains his body to control blood pressure when he is vertical, Andy decided to entertain the group. He was strapped to the table and standing at 80 degrees while his blood pressure leveled out. Somewhere in the background some music was playing, so, Mr. Andrew put his hands on his hips and started moving his head and hips as though he was dancing. He made all of our hearts dance with him. It was quite a moment.

Andy has a way of creating those moments often though. At one point we were discussing some mistake that I had made in "disability etiquette," and he was giving me a hard time. I wasn't really looking at him, I was just listening - mostly. Then I caught the end of a paragraph. He said, "I don't know how I turned out so good." I instantly cut my eyes around to his face only to meet that stupid, crooked smile of his.

And the boy never quits pushing himself. If you remember from previous Andy Updates, because his energy level was so low at first, the therapists wanted him in the fully-motorized chair so he negotiated for half time in the assisted chair (You put in a little energy, it puts out a lot of spin.). Some of you may remember that I told you that he would re-negotiate that deal before it was over. Well, it came to pass. When I got there Andy was in the assisted wheel chair. He had already negotiated that to full time but he still wasn't happy about it. He wanted a manual chair, so he warted them until they gave him one. (Really they are very accommodating to his aspirations.)

The first day or three, it exhausted him and frustrated him to no end because his hands don't have quite the strength of grip required. It was difficult to watch him return to his room at night with zero energy left for anything. After a couple of days, I had watched about all I could. I asked him to consider that maybe it took too much energy for now. Big mistake. He said, with perfect resolve, "Dad I can do this. And, I have to do this."

And he did.

By the first of the next week he had tried several different kinds of gloves that successfully improved his grip and therefore his ability to move the chair. His body began to adjust amazingly quickly to the energy need. So, by Monday Night Football time he was wheeling and dealing in the manual chair. We went to Fisher House where I stayed on the hospital grounds, propped up in front of the big screen TV in the den area, ordered pasta from Pizza Hut, and stayed up late watching the game. It was an amazing time and a highlight of the trip for me. By 11:00pm he was tired but then so was I. So, much for "can't do."

Besides personal independence, the other issue that Andy is dealing with is "perception / respect." He has a new identity that is connected to a wheel chair and he is still a little insecure about that. The idea is "How will people look at me now?" But, as usual, he is dealing with it, and he is doing a good job.

Over the last several days of this visit, I have been amazed at the escalating personal gravity that Andy has. So much so, that I have begun to see him so very differently myself. The child image and awareness that has been so long ingrained in my mind seems now to have gone away somewhere. To the point that, where once I was more likely to give Andy advice on life, now I am just as likely to ask his advice. I think he will have no trouble with the issue of respect. He just needs a little time to discover that for himself.

Well, I better close. It was a great time in Florida. I cannot wait to get back. It is a pure joy to be with Andy there. Thanks so much for your continuing prayers. They become the energy of his daily achievements in the very real terms that I described.

Our love,
Larry, Donna and Family


Newspaper Article part 1

If you want to read the first part of the newspaper article Dad wrote for the Texarkana Gazette, I have posted photos of the actual paper to my photobucket account. Maybe it's weird but I like reading newspaper articles from the newspaper. These images are huge--that's the only way to make them readable. It's a big story. If you are using dial-up, you'll probably be pretty frustrated. Sorry about that.

See them here...4 images.

Have a blessed weekend.

Thursday Night Update

Sent from Mom on Thursday evening (9.18.2008)

Dear Family,

The procedure to help Andy swallow easier and speak louder was a success. Larry saw on the screen the vocal cord on the right was working as it should. The one on the other side was arched to the left so when they flexed, they did not come together as they should. Following the injection the cord straightened up and the two cords came together.

Success but not without cost.

When Andy spoke for the first time following the procedure, he could only speak just above a whisper--much softer than before. The doctor did not tell Andy that the needle would cause temporary swelling and much less volume than he had. The swelling should wear off in a day or two, bringing back his voice and hopefully to new levels. But immediately, Andy was devastated.

Larry said that it was a real set back. Andy felt (and said) that the one thing that he had (his voice) had now gone away. He did not speak much all afternoon.

In spite of the disappointment, Andy worked hard in PT. He was asked and shown how to do something new, I think, sorry I can't remember exactly what. Whatever it was, he did it for 8-10 MINUTES! The PT was blown away. He expected 8-10 SECONDS! OORAH!

Andy transferred himself from his chair to his bed -- no assistance needed. That is a big accomplishment. Before Larry left for the evening, he and Andy had one of those special Dad/son times. Larry encouraged Andy to rethink how to keep his dreams alive. Of course, there are some he has had to let go of, but he can replace them with new ones. They talked a long time and I am sure there were a few hugs involved.

Daniel has done an excellent job for and with Andy. I am sure there have been many brother to brother talks but sometimes a guy just needs to talk with his Dad. Many of you, through financial support have allowed Larry the time off from work to actually be at the hospital to be a father/counselor to his son. I am grateful.

With my sincere appreciation for your continued interest and prayers in Andy's behalf,
---Donna B
for Larry, Sarah and Joal, Daniel, Andy, Deborah and Matthew



I have the great pleasure of being married to a man who is a writer of songs and a player of a pretty mean guitar. His newest CD arrived on Monday! Yes, we are very was a very long process.

Joal's music has been called "the thinking-man's music" and "John Mellencamp meets Jesus". :) He's a rocker with soul.

For a free song, you can visit his myspace at

I have a few free CDs at my disposal...if you'd like one, shoot me an email.


Wednesday--Go Andy!

This is a picture of Daniel that I stole from his Facebook page. We always talk about Andy and show pictures of Andy...I thought you should all meet Daniel, face-to-face. For all the ooh-rah that Andy is, Daniel is ooh-rah under a little more control. A little. Not much. He's the oldest brother--#2 in the lineup of Burnett siblings, but in many ways, he is--I think--viewed by Andy and Deb as the oldest. It's complicated. Daniel is a little quieter but alot sneakier. He has learned, over the years, how to operate under the radar of Andy. He knows Andy better than anyone and that makes him very dangerous. :) Daniel told me not too long ago that he and Andy are like "Garth and Hub" from Secondhand Lions. And they probably will be even more in 40 years. I hadn't thought of it before, but I can see it now.
Dad arrived in Tampa and will have some time with Daniel to get acclimated before Daniel leaves tomorrow for a few days at his home.

I spoke to Daniel this morning and he reported the following "good news" items:

--Andy had a swallow test yesterday and did really well with it. A swallow test is done periodically by the Speech specialists using a scope to determine how well controlled his swallowing is or isn't, which in turn is a deciding factor in what alterations can be made to his meal plan and approved foods and drinks. There's always concern that if swallowing is difficult or there is further damage in the area, that food or drink will get misdirected.

As a result of good news on the swallow test, water and other non-thickened liquids are back on the approved list. This is excellent news, especially because at least one of the medications makes his mouth very dry.

--One of the newest goals that Andy has set for himself is to go from using the power-assist chair to the regular wheel chair in the next two weeks. Daniel says this is a very reasonable goal and has no doubts that Andy can do it. Building upper body and arm strength is the key to success here...and he is continuing to do that.

--Yesterday Andy spent some time on the "tilt table". This is a PT device that stands him up--or at least starts him on the process of being upright again. The purpose is to encourage circulation, especially to his legs and to re-train his body to deal with the blood pressure issues. It's a process that will continue slowly and he will build up to success on this one.

--Daniel said that Andy started talking about some of his future plans with his friend Matt, who visited over the weekend. This is such a good thing. We can all make all the plans in the world for him, but until he embraces hoping, dreaming, doing all kinds of things in the future--until he believes again that this altered life is still worthy of all his might, it's just us making plans for him. It was a great sign to Daniel that Andy's embracing and planning his future.

Daniel said that there's not much new to report on the medical or day-to-day side of things. Andy's days are pretty routine now. He does many hours of all the different therapies every day. He works hard and never backs down from a challenge. He truly is doing the "drink water and drive on" maneuver. :)

Matt brought Andy some of his belongings--his iPod, his computer, (the shoes)...the wallet and dog tags are still in the wind. Hopefully they will come in the Army's shipment of items from Afghanistan and Italy.

Also in the belongings that Matt brought, was a copy of an x-ray showing the round when it was lodged in Andy's spine. Daniel's words were "the bullet is huge, it's as big around as Andy's spinal cord". Weirdly enough, the bullet is still perfectly shaped.

Matt told Daniel that the round "bounced" off the Kevlar helmet that Andy was wearing and then penetrated his neck. There's visible damage to the helmet...Andy's hoping that the helmet is in the gear being shipped to him. He wants to see it.

And finally, on a lighter note, Daniel said that the boys held a wheelchair time-trial in the long hallway--Matt, Daniel and Andy. :) He's still doing the math to figure out how far and how fast and who won. Unfortunately, Daniel got scolded by a rather famous nurse for not maintaining the "walking speed" rule in the hallway. He thinks Matt and/or Andy is responsible for getting him into "trouble". Daniel's considering how he can connect with one of the campus police officers in hopes of borrowing a speed gun and conducting another event in the parking lot.

(Safe travels Daniel.)


The Shoes

From Daniel...

Hi to Andy's family,

When we were at Walter Reed, I was told a story about my brother in Afghanistan.

While Andy was in Afghanistan, he ordered a pair of shoes that he really liked. They arrived in the mail but he would not wear them, because of all the dust, dirt, grit and grime that is Chowkay, he didn't want to wear them and get them dirty.

So for two months he planned to wear his shoes at home on leave.

It was told to me that he would take them out of the box and actually smell them. He told some of the guys that he liked the "new shoe smell" a lot better than the smell of the world around him. He would look at them, shine them up and imagine wearing them back home. For two months, he dreamed of wearing the new shoes, and then he was wounded.

At that point, he wasn't thinking about shoes--just surviving and getting better. A few weeks back, Andy remembered those shoes and once again they became something to hope for. After some checking we were able to find out that one of Andy's best friends had them and would be hand delivering them as soon as he could.

So more waiting--Two more months to be exact.

He had to wait four months after he bought them but on Friday of last week I put them on his feet and he got to show them off. Matt--Andy's friend--brought them all the way from Afghanistan and, like he said he would--he hand delivered them.

The most important thing Matt brought with him was not the shoes, as cool as that was. It was rather the understanding of a fellow soldier. It was a tremendous blessing to see how those two men helped each other. I am so amazed at how God works things out for our benefit.

--J. Daniel

From Sarah
And because I know some people will want to know...they are Under Armour Shoes.

Dad to Tampa

Dad is flying to Tampa today to be with Andy while Daniel goes home for a few days rest. I spoke to Daniel this morning and Andy had a very good friend and fellow Army man come for a visit this weekend and it did him so much good. Daniel said "Andy looked up and saw him and just about turned himself inside out."

I will get a copy of the first part of the Texarkana Gazette series posted later today (hopefully) and also the Vanity Fair article...

Tomorrow will be 2 months...


Andy's Address with a new room number

Slightly altered address (reflecting the new room number)

James A. Haley Veterans Hospital
13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd
Tampa FL 33612
SCI-D47-2 James Andrew Burnett

Daniel assures me that if you have sent something recently with the other room number on it, do not worry. It will get to Andy. The SCI-D is not very big...and everyone knows Andy.


Texarkana Gazette

Today's edition of the Texarkana Gazette holds the first installment of a ten-part story that was originally written by my father chronicling Andy's journey over the last two months. You can only read it online if you are a subscriber to the if you are, check it out. Know that I am jealous of you. :)


September Photo

Drive On

Sorry it has been so long getting back to you. Things have been a little bit crazy. Crazy good and crazy bad.

Bad first. Blood pressure issues are a real pain. Both of us are trying to learn what he can handle and when. This is not an easy thing and when you mess up, the price you pay is rather unnerving. But, we drive on.

Pushing papers is not my thing but I'm doing it for my brother. Your prayers that things will get to who they need to when they need to would be a wonderful help. My focus is shifting from rehab to finance--I want to be good at it for my brother. He is earning it!

He is still adjusting and because of that some days are just lousy. But he pushes through and keeps going. Paratroopers have a saying, "Drink water--drive on." That's what he's doing. Actually it's thickened Gatorade, but you get the idea.

The good stuff. He's still adjusting and because of that some days are really good. At the end of last week we were in on of the therapies and he looked up at me and said "my right thumb is moving". Bear in mind that he can't even make a fist with his right hand so I thought he meant it was twitching because of the spasticity. He said, "No look, I'm moving it." I looked and sure enough, it was moving ever so slightly. We debated for a second and decided that I would hold his other fingers and wrist, still just to make sure. It was, in fact, his thumb, moving.

As I was about to climb up on the table and yell out in triumph, Andy was kind enough to tell me that might not be such a good idea. I was still happy!

The other big thing has been the transfer from bed to chair and from chair to bed. When you have a one hundred and fifty pound rag doll, it can be a little difficult. OK that's an understatement. It involves a track-mounted, overhead lift system with a large sling that goes under his back, back side and legs plus one or two people to make sure that nothing is tangled, hooked, snagged or pinched.

Not easy at all.
Or at least that's how it used to be.

Now he has a board that he lays between the bed and the chair and with help, he can slide right in. It is still very hard but he has more direction and control over his own care. This is huge!

No longer does he have to be hoisted by strangers but rather they can help balance him as he sits up and slides around. It is a big confidence thing.

I'm also attaching a picture of Andy for those of you who don't actually know what he looks like these days. By the way, its not a good idea to take a picture of a paratrooper with out asking permission! Thank you all.

God bless,


Chosen Company

I have a love/hate relationship with Google. I love that it can reveal information on just about any topic under the sun, but by the same token, sometime I hate those revelations.

For instance, google the words "Chosen Company" and you can blow a whole night reading all the things that have been written about Chosen Company of the 173rd. Don't ask me why I know this is possible.

In other news, I got an unexpected letter from Andy in the mail a few days ago. Apparently, someone is cleaning out his locker and mailing his letters. It's a little unnerving. OK, check that. It's alot un-nerving. I hate it, in fact. I don't know exactly when he wrote it. It's short--one steno page. It's a letter from a soldier who's doing a job. And is frustrated by the conditions.

I hate not knowing.
And I hate knowing.

Never Forget




Southwest LUV

So, Jessica asked "What do you love about Southwest?"

Oh I am so loving Southwest...given that I have been and will be airborne more times during the months of July, August, and October than I have in the past 4 years combined.

I love to fly.
Seriously. Love. to. fly.
Take offs make me positively giddy.

From the momentary pause at the end of the runway, when I imagine the pilot saying "here we go" and then everything starts to rumble maliciously. I love that pedal-to-the-metal feeling, when you know you have to commit RIGHT NOW. When, in that instant before the nose lifts up off the runway, you know that you absolutely can't turn back now. Too much runway has been burned up...take off is inevitable now.

Then the front wheels lift off, and there's that moment when you are suspended between--half-up and half-down...and then it's gone. The rear wheels lift up off the ground and the climb starts.
The climb. That initial asscent into the wild blue yonder...the momentary miracle that propells the tin can into the sky...

When cars begin to look like Hotwheels...and I imagine children in cars on the interstate, looking out their windows and saying "look, Mommy, it's an airplane!"...just like my children do.

When swimming pools dot the landscape like raindrops.

When the things on the ground take on an oddly organized look--subdivisions make more sense from the sky...they look like rows and paths made of stepping stones all curled around into each other.

When the magic of flight thrusts you into the clouds and then burst you forth above them...and they look like the softest, most luscious marshmallows ever...

Life seems simpler in the air--like it's easier to see the big picture.

Anyway, I do enjoy flying, especially with Southwest. I adore open seating. Open seatingmay just be the smartest move made by any airline since the birth of human flight back at Kitty Hawk. Seriously.

I like the ease of checking in online the day before, I like that they have boarding down to a science, I like that the pilots and flight attendants all seem to approach things with a sense of humor...

The pilot on my last trip from Tampa to Nashville came on the intercomm at the beginning of the flight and said "Welcome aboard Southwest Flight 1234 with continuing service to Baltimore...never fear, we'll be making a pitstop in Nashville for gas and directions..." Little stuff that makes a flight a little more enjoyable...

And the fact that they have the best record of all airlines for getting there on time and getting out of the gate on time...gotta love that.

I like that they take good care of soldiers.

So that's my love for Southwest.
And flying in general.


Sweet Laughter

Here is the latest story--more than update from Daniel. I trust each one of you will enjoy this as much as I did.

With my love and sincere gratitude because your prayers brought this to life,
Donna B

For as bad a ride as Monday was, the rest of the week has been a lot more stable.

On Tuesday we had a strategic planing session with all of the spinal team. Andy set some goals that he wanted to work on for the next two week block and the team had some input as well. Because of the meeting we didn't go to the first therapy session and the meeting didn't last very long so we had some time to knock around a little bit. As most of you know, the brothers Burnett tend to bore easily and this usually leads to some form of ill-advised behavior. Today was no exception.

Let me say right now that the modern wheel chair is an interesting bit of engineering. There are three types: power, manual, and a hybrid of the two. Power and manual are the most common but the hybrid is the coolest. It has what's called force multiplier rems. Because of the weakness of Andy's arms, he can put about 2 pounds of force into the rems and they multiply that by 12 times. These facts intrigued me a great deal and since Andy was using his power chair and I had time on my hands, I thought I might investigate a little bit.

Needless to say, I can put more than 2 pounds of force to those rems. Furthermore, it became very apparent that the room we were in at the time was not nearly large enough to contain my new found entertainment. Andy had been sitting rather disinterested and dozing until I crashed into the tray table at the end of my poorly-executed, high-speed u-turn.

He looked at me and asked what I thought I was doing?
To which I replied, "Dude, look at what I can do."

Apparently, in spite of our age, individual lives and high level of maturity those words are still equal to a brotherly challenge.

It was on.

It didn't take but about 5 minutes to use up our assortment of tricks and with no clear victor, the competition spiraled downward into a combination tractor pull and demolition derby. Don't worry Mom we didn't brake anything. (That can't be fixed.) Unfortunately for me, Andy won that round. His chair weighs a lot more than mine.

In an effort to at least win a moral victory, I threw out my best figure-8 which he countered with a rather impressive deep-chair recline. Not to be outdone, I executed a near perfect zero turning radius maneuver. Andy countered with a series of fast and tight donuts and then he suddenly stopped, look right at me with semi-bug eyes and said with a smile on his face, " I should not have done that!"

I tried hard not to laugh--I really did--but he got himself so dizzy that I just couldn't help it. The weightless innocent humor of what we had been doing had dawned on us both and, like we did when we were kids, we laughed at and with each other. For those few minutes, we forgot what it was to be weighed down. In that time there was a joy and contentment that I think both of us had forgotten even existed.

I glanced at the clock to see it was time for our next appointment and before we left, Andy rather matter of factly said, "Daniel, I want to be one of those guys that the new spinal patients hear about."

I didn't understand what he meant so I questioned him. He explained that on the ward you hear of men who go on to do big things--things that no one thought they could do. He said, "I want to be one of them."

My reply was simple, "You will be."


From Daniel on Monday

Sarah's note:
Andy drama ahead. Be prepared.

I'm convinced that updates should come with some kind of color-coded warning for "general news", white for "medical or emotional craziness" and red for "sit down and have tissues standing by".

Might have to work on the meantime...this would be a CODE RED.
I'm jus' sayin'.



From Larry:

This is Daniel's latest update from Florida (9/3). He sends it to us and then ask that we forward it to those in our address book. So, this is information right from the scene in Florida. We are going to make every effort to forward these updates as near to the time that we receive them as we possibly can.
Love to all.

Hope you guys are OK.
Monday was not a good day. Of course, it was a holiday and the place was a ghost town. That means none of the regular therapies had to be attended. With the excessive amount of free time the brothers Burnett fell victim to a common affliction known as boar-dumb. There was plenty of things that we could have done but we just didn't want to.

A tough ole nurse told me and Andy that he had to get up and around and she wouldn't hear of anything else, so we got him loaded and we rolled out. There is a coffee shop cafe type place on our wing that always has something going on during the day and after some debate we decided to drop in. There was a Marine and some of his family that we met shortly after our arrival watching some TV and eating a snack.

We all exchanged pleasantries and made small talk when Andy mentioned that Elma (the nurse) had kicked us out. Jason (the Marine) knew exactly who we were talking about. He had her in the past and he said, "She kicked me out of bed more than once." I think soldiers fear only one thing and that is tough old nurses. :)

Andy was of the opinion that he may have gotten the boot from his bed but he was still going to take a nap. So he reclined his chair and dozed for about two hours. Jason and his family left and a few others came and went but we outlasted them all.

Apparently Andy's dinner bell still works and as it got time to eat he rousted a bit and expressed a real interest in some leftover pizza. So I left to go get it. It was a short trip and I was back in a few minutes. I then went to go get something to drink. As I left the room he was setting his chair up right and starting to roll over to the table.

Again I was gone maybe 2 minuets and when I got back Andy was hanging out of the side of his wheelchair. his head was back, his skin was ghost white and his breathing was shallow and ragged. The drinks were forgotten and I covered the distance across the room in one stride. I righted him in his chair, got in his face to see if he could tell me what was going on. As I spoke to him there was no response, his eyes didn't even twitch, and there was a distant look to them.

At that point I was scared and I hit the door at a dead run and was at the nurses station in a few seconds. The alarm was raised and help got there almost instantly. Within fifteen minuets after I had walked in to see him like that he was resting comfortably in his bed. After a few minutes of rather frenzied information exchange, I found out that his blood pressure had tanked because he lowered his feet so abruptly (the chair is motorized) and he passed out. Because of the constraints of the chair and the way he slumped it was making it difficult to breath but not impossible.

Andy recovered from that event far more quickly than I did. As I've thought about it, I think it had as much to do with the suddenness of it all as the actual condition that I found him in. I just went for some Sunny D and everything went wrong.

For the rest of the afternoon I was consumed with a sence of frustration fear and concern. Questions like what if this happens again? What if I'm not there next time. What if no one is there? How can I sleep at night, how can I ever leave him alone again? Will this ever end? Can this get better? With these questions a deep sense of dread crept over me. I did the best I could to tuck it away so Andy couldn't see it but I don't know how successful I was. That night as I drug myself up the steps to my room I felt defeated, as though hope had abandoned me.

In need of consolation I called Leslie. After regailing her with all the minute details of what happened and venting my frustration, something wonderful begin to happen. She began to remind me of Gods promises--that He will never leave us nor forsake us that we are never given more than what we can stand that we have his strength and it is always sufficient to get us through the day. As I rehearsed those promises in my own mind the stress and trauma of the day was driven back and a peace that passes all understanding filled my heart. As I drifted off to sleep, I was content in the knowledge that God had once again met our daily needs and that what ever happens, God is in control.



Q & A part 2

You mentioned his speech therapy? Why is he getting speech therapy?
The reason for speech therapy is two fold:

1) During the second surgery (to fuse the two damaged vertebrae to the undamaged ones, above and below, to secure what remains of his spinal cord in that area) there was some resulting damage to his vocal chord (on the right side, I think). The second surgery was preformed from an incision on the front of his neck, requiring that they push past the vocal chords to get to the spinal column. The surgeons warned Daniel and Andy that this might occur and planned for the possibility. It’s not expected to be permanent damage and if it persists, there are a couple of treatment options.

2) Andy was intubated in the “field” and later a feeding tube was also inserted down his throat…that’s a great deal of trauma for a very fragile area of the body. The Endotracheal Intubation (breathing tube) did not stay in very long…I got the impression that it was mostly a precautionary measure. However, the feeding tube was with him for several weeks. It takes a while to get back to breathing and speaking properly after such events. The Speech Therapists are monitoring progress in coordination with Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists.

Andy is talking but he doesn’t waste words. He speaks rather softly for now.

Can Andy have visitors?
He can but he is currently keeping a fairly rigorous therapy schedule so visits—even short ones--need to be coordinated through Daniel.

What is Andy’s designation?
Specialist James Burnett
Medic in 3rd platoon
C (Chosen) Company,
Second Battalion
503rd Parachute Infantry Regimen (Airborne)
The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team
United States Army
based in Vicenza, Italy at Camp Ederle.

I hope I got all that right. I just call him Andy. :)

Did you go to the beach in Tampa?
No. I wanted to go to a little spot called Johns Pass, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. It was about a 40 mile drive across the causeway from the hospital and the causeway is famous for traffic—I didn’t feel like it was right to take so much time away from being with Andy, when my time with him was already so limited. There will be other beach trips.

Don’t you think calling him “Band-Aid Boy” was disrespectful?
Yes, but as his older sister, a healthy amount of disrespect is part of my job requirement. Or it was, before things got serious. Someday it will be again.

I have always respected Andy’s choice to go into the Army and to do what he has done and he is well aware of that. As his sister and as an American, I am deeply proud of him and every other soldier who puts on a uniform. Deeply. Part of simplifying his “job” as a medic down to “Band Aid Boy” was defensive—I didn’t want to focus on the seriousness of what my little brother was doing and the risks he was taking. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. It was my nickname for his job in an effort to lighten it up…unfortunately it didn’t really work.

I have not used the term since he was wounded and probably never will again. I’m sorry if that part of my writing offended you or anyone else.

Is your family angry over this?
Anger is a useless thing to me. I can only speak for myself here…I don’t think I have been angry or experienced any hatred yet. I’m not sure if I will at some future point or not. Perhaps it would be different if I knew anything about the Taliban soldier who shot my brother. Perhaps it just hasn’t shown up in my emotional process yet.

I will say that I have experienced some physical fallout--in the form of pretty extreme sleeplessness and stomach problems.

I hate war as a concept. I think most women (especially) are programmed to be life-bearers and life-protectors on some deep creational level. I hate that mankind has not progressed to a point that we can live in peace and make the concept of war a thing of our past. However, that being said, I do believe that this war—the operations that were set into motion on September 11, 2001 by evil, vile people—is completely justified. I believe in taking it to them or eventually fighting the same war at home. I think it’s called being proactive. I believe that our way of life—our freedoms—are God-given and worth protecting at all costs.

I also believe that the horrors of those people who live under the ruthless thumb of the Taliban regime are crimes against all humanity and on some level, those of us who enjoy peace and freedom have a basic moral obligation to carry that banner to corners of the earth where peace and freedom have not yet been birthed.

There was a moment in DC when I expressed some doubts to my husband. I was alone and hurting and it was sheer weakness on my part. I was no longer so sure that America was worth the price Andy had paid. At that moment, I was just a sister who was giving in to something less than clear and noble thinking.

Part of my salvation from that moment has been watching Andy soldier on. I think I owe it to him to never again entertain that thought. It serves no one and I think that does cross the line of what is respectable and honorable in the sight of my brother.

Why do you blog?
Does Andy read your blog?
Honestly, I blog so I can process it and remember it all. Writing has always been an outlet for me…you may have noticed that my father is quite the writer of epistles as well…so I come by it honestly. The blog has allowed me to bring many many people along for this journey and to make his experiences (and ours) very personal, for people who know Andy and people who have never met him. I want people to know Andy and the price he has paid for serving our country. I can't really explain it beyond that.

I can not abide the thought of people “changing the channel” for lack of information or connection to Andy…this story is ongoing and it’s a journey that holds value to all who choose to walk it with us. It's also very long.

Finally, it was my goal as a high school senior to be a newspaper reporter. Few things bring me as much pleasure as writing. I learned in college that I wasn’t really cut out to be a newspaper reporter of the traditional sort…but give me a photo and a topic I care about…and I can generate some thoughts. So now I’m the family reporter, of sorts.

Andy does not read my blog at this time. He’s still quite medicated and it’s difficult for him to focus and read on the screen.

Will you scrapbook Andy's injury?
I have no idea.

What have you learned through this experience?
How long do you have?
That life is sweet and incredibly messy but God the Father is always good.
That brothers are not invincible, no matter what they think.
That war is hell--oh wait, I think we already knew that.
That given the right motivation, I can do things I didn't really believe I could do before.
That the hills of Virginia are calming and beautiful, even when you cry through them.
That God is faithful to his children always.
That in the scheme of life, nothing is more important than God, family and country.
That one can slip into his uniform without actually wearing it.
That strength comes from inside a man--from his heart--not necesarily his muscles.
That crying makes you stronger.
That hurting makes it easier for you to extend grace to others who are hurting.
That sometimes there are no visible answers to the hard queastions.
That medicine is still somewhat barbaric.
That Washington DC is a confusing place to drive.
That people who jump out of perfectly good airplanes are a rare breed.
That I still love to fly.
That I love what my husband does for work and the people he does it with.


Q & A part 1

Random Questions I’ve Received Lately…

What did you think of Walter Reed?
I was at Walter Reed for five days and I think very highly of the military staff there. The medical center seems to be staffed with people who genuinely want to be as caring and helpful as possible. They know how to deal with soldiers and soldier’s families. There was one nurse—a captain in the Surgical ICU who really went over and above with Andy on more than one occasion. He stayed late to finish certain tasks, he spoke to Andy as Medic, and he answered every question I threw at him with knowledge and compassion. He was friendly and when Andy’s buddies came in to see him and there was an awkward lull in the conversation, he asked where they were from to get them talking again. Conversely, there was a civilian employee in the med-evac office that I wanted badly to strangle. Fortunately, she was really the only negative I experienced.

Are you older or younger than Andy?
Mom and Dad have four children. I am the oldest—I’m 36. Daniel is #2 at 26. Andy is #3 at 22. Deb is the youngest at 20. I think. I have a hard time remembering the exact numbers. For years—until last summer—I thought Daniel was only 7 years younger than me. Weird.

I’m the married one, although Deb is about to be married to Matt Thorson.

Who kept your kids while you went to DC?
The boys took care of themselves…lol! No, not really. My husband Joal has a great deal of flexibility with his work, so he cared of them.

Is it “Joel” or “Joal”?
It’s spelled Joal.

Where are Joal’s parents now?
About to move to Bangor, Maine to pastor a Nazarene Church.

How long have you lived in Nashville?
9 years. We love it here.

All of your family and Joal's is Nazarene except you—how did that happen?
LOLDaddy, is that you?
Joal’s father is a Nazarene minister in Pennsylvania, soon to move to Maine.
My father is a Nazarene minister in the Dallas District.

Being the oldest, I was married and “out of the nest” before my parents converted to the Church of the Nazarene from The Congregational Methodist Church (denomination) that I grew up in. I like to point out that they abandoned me…I did not leave them. J

When Joal and I moved to Nashville, we found our church home at Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN—a wonderful place that just happens to belong to the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA).

Did the Army pay for your family’s expenses to Walter Reed?
Yes and No.

Being the closest in proximity to Walter Reed in DC, I felt like I had the most flexibility in terms of the ability to drive up there with relative ease…while my parents and Daniel really needed to fly, due to the extreme amounts of time it would take for them to drive from Texas.

Andy was able to call Daniel directly from the outpost in Afghanistan where he was shot, not too long after the incident. (I think it was within the hour.) Who knew there was cell phone coverage in the hills of Afghanistan? I think Verizon should send the “Can you hear me now?” guy over there for the ultimate test. I digress.

The Army notification process moves a little slower—wounded soldier notification to family takes a day or two, and the process of transport for family members doesn’t start until much later. Because Andy called Daniel, we all knew to go on and get started preparing to go, when the Army finally came thru with their information and orders.

When an unmarried soldier is wounded, the Army provides transportation for both his parents and one sibling to wherever that soldier is receiving care. If the situation warrants it, those 3 family members will be flown to Germany to escort the soldier home. In our case, Andy was stable enough—and being flown out of Germany fast enough—that we were told to meet him in DC at Walter Reed.

The Army issued orders for transportation for Mom and Dad to fly from Texarkana and for Daniel to fly from Tyler, Texas, up to Washington DC at the Army’s expense.

The Army has a firm grasp on just how valuable it is to a soldier to have family close by during the trauma of being wounded in combat and the long period of recuperation and rehabilitation that follows. There’s more to healing than medicine. Upon their arrival, the Army issued them each a daily stipend to cover their incidental expenses and provided meals and lodging at a nearby hotel for them. This continued for as long as they were there caring for Andy.

Mom has said several times how easy the Army transportation staff was to work with—how kind they were to her in making the best possible arrangements and how considerate of her they were. Go Army.

Does Andy need anything?
Prayers. Powerful, fervent prayers of the righteous.

All his physical needs are taken care of by the Army. Well, perhaps he might be able to put a few Pizza Hut gift cards to use…but otherwise he’s good.

He is concerned about the return of his personal belongings from Afghanistan—his cell phone, his dog tags, his wallet, his iPod and his laptop are (hopefully) en route to him with a friend who is about to embark on leave. All that stuff can be re-purchased, of course, except the dog tags, but he really wants *his stuff* back. Understandably.

Did Andy get the card we sent?
He has received a-l-o-t of mail lately. I read more than 2 dozen cards to him while I was there this weekend (8-30). All cards and letters are being saved for him to read again in the future. He is grateful, (we all are) although there are some emotional issues attached to cards and letters that I think I may understand but not enough to address or explain. Please forgive me for that…I never presume to speak for what Andy is feeling unless I know for sure. Please don’t stop sending him mail. He will, I think, respond when he can.

Does Andy need money?
If you mean is there an immediate and sincere need for cash, the answer is no. He’s still receiving his Army paycheck (although in my personal completely-biased opinion, that is a pitifully small amount for what our soldiers do) and will for the foreseeable future.

How is Daniel?
Daniel is good I think. Andy and Daniel have always been very close and Daniel said to me this weekend “I’ve always taken care of my brother…no reason I wouldn’t know.”

Daniel’s ability to be with Andy so completely in all this has been another example of the hand of God orchestrating this situation.

Is Daniel married?
No, but …well I should probably get his permission before I write anymore on that topic.

Is Deb going on with the wedding?
The wedding was originally scheduled for Sept 13—during Andy’s time home on leave. The new date is Saturday, October 11 in Oklahoma City. We are hoping that we will be able to set up a video feed from the church to Andy’s room…wherever he happens to be at that time.

Do you like Deb’s husband-to-be, Matt?
Yes, very much. More so now because he was so understanding of her desire to postpone the wedding for the sake of her brother. Matt's also a friend of Andy's...

Are you diabetic?
Yes. Having Grey stressed my pancreas to it’s limits. He’s worth it tho.

When and where was Andy when he was shot?
Based on the info the Army gave us, July 17, 2008 at around 7 am. His unit was at an outpost from Fortress in the hills of Afghanistan—I’m sure he could be more specific but I can not.

How did he get shot?
I’m not 100% clear on the details and I have not had the guts to ask him directly. I’m not sure I ever will. Sometimes I want to know—sometimes I don’t. From what I have gathered from news reports and from what Daniel and Daddy have told me, the compound was coming under attack, Andy and another soldier ran up a tower to let the gunners know about the attack and where it was coming from so that they could return fire and a sniper picked Andy off.

Andy was hit by a Russian-made bullet—I think it’s called a Dushka. Daniel knows the specifics. Andy asked for the round to be saved for him…as of yet, I haven’t seen it in his things. It’s a Russian-made anti-aircrat gun used by snipers firing a "50 cal" according to Andy (I have no idea what that means) estimated to be in the neighborhood of 3 inches long. In the words of one of his docs at Walter Reed..."it's a big a$$ bullet." Forgive me.

Andy told me that he “should not have lived through taking a round that size in the neck.”--a statement to which I vehemently disagreed, although I do understand what he was saying. He said it went thru a sandbag wall before it struck him.

Is Andy regaining movement in his arms and legs?
In his arms, he is. The left arm is stronger and able to be controlled with significantly more precision than the right, but progress is being seen daily on both fronts.
In his legs, he is not experiencing any movement, which leaves plenty of room for a miracle.

Q&A Part 2 tomorrow…


He was fairly happy...I promise.

A couple of the many cards Andy has received over the past few weeks...these two from a homeschool group in Texas. Thank you to everyone who has sent cards, gifts, and letters.

And now for the story about the police I wasn't arrested or anything fun like that.

My flight out on Sunday morning was pretty early so I wanted to get as much done on Saturday night as I could. I did some laundry for Andy, made the aforementioned spaghetti, and picked up extra Sunny D on Saturday evening. Around 9:30pm I decided to make one more trip over to his room to deliver some of the stuff I needed to take him, so I would have such a large number of things to carry on Sunday morning. Thinking ahead is not my forte, but I was trying to make Sunday morning go as smooth as possible.

So I trek over to the unit entrance with my arms loaded down.
It's not a long walk necessarily.
Maybe the length of 2 football fields.
I don't know exactly.
It's far enough to be annoying if you forget something and have to go back...

Or if you walk over with your arms loaded down, only to discover that the doors are locked.
Which is what happened to me.

So I was frustrated.
I had told Andy I would come back and say goodnight and deliver the stuff...
Not anticipating that the entrance would be locked.

So I set the stuff down on a bench by the doors for a minute, to mutter a few choice words and re-load the items I was now going to have to carry back with me.

And then a police officer appeared at the doors (big glass sliding doors), opened one of them manually and asked if I needed something. "I just needed to deliver this stuff to my brother in the SCID unit if that's possible. I'm leaving tomorrow and was hoping to get as much done tonight as possible."

"Come on in" he said "I'll walk you down there."

I was so grateful and I told him so.
How easy it would have been for him to stay seated at his security desk and not bother with me.

So we walked down that long silent coridoor. He asked about my brother...and I gave him the short version. We got to Andy's door and I went in and did what I needed to do. As it turns out Andy was still awake, so I got to say "goodnight" and make sure his drink was within reach. I could tell he was pretty settled in for resting, but I think it helped us both to be able to close the day together.

I went back out to find my escort waiting at the nurses station. We walked back down the long hallway, talking about all sorts of things. I found out that this time last year he was finishing his third tour as a soldier in Iraq. He had an injury that forced him into retirement. Now he's a Tampa Police officer.

He let me out and I thanked him again.
His kindness was indeed a special part of my day.

It's the little things...ya know.

Happy Monday.