Monday, November 10, 2014

Veteran's Day: Meet Cliff

Last night I had the opportunity to travel 80 miles to meet an amazing person. I'm so glad I brought my husband with me to record some of our visit. The video is the short version he gave us right as we arrived. We stayed much longer and I certainly wish we would have kept the camera rolling but here are more of the details.

Cliff called 3TV on Saturday morning after seeing this clip while I was there with my cheer squad performing. He said he didn't have a computer but he wanted to donate and asked if I could possibly drive to Sun City West to pick it up. My first thought was "that is way too far" and then I thought if I contacted someone in Far West Pop Warner near his home, they could drive over to pick up the check and mail it to me. But, Cliff said he was going in for surgery on Monday and we needed to pick it up before then. Something about that phone call made me want to meet him. I'm so glad I did.

Cliff joined the Marine Corp. when he was 18 years old. He was drafted into the Vietnam war shortly after. He didn't give any details to how long he had been there before he was captured but told us he had been a POW for about 30 days. He was the only prisoner that particular group had at the time. Like all prisoners, he was constantly hungry for sufficient food and clean water and suffered from the mind games they played with him such as Russian Roulette. Lucky for Cliff, he won every time. After 30 days he knew he was on his way to the Hanoi Hilton, a famous POW camp. Resigned to the fact that he would most likely die as a prisoner, he figured making an escape wasn't such a bad idea.

So one day he escaped by running away and hiding in the bushes when patrols went past him until he saw a group of Americans. When the last man in the group marched past, he ran up to him from behind and put him in a choke hold covering his mouth with his other hand and whispering "I'm an American, please don't shoot me." He was afraid they wouldn't recognize him because he looked so mangy.

Upon his return home to the states, he suffered from un-diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which caused him difficulty in many aspects of his life. He courageously fought through his struggles even starting his own construction business and eventually meeting and marrying his sweet wife Tora.
They had struggles in their marriage mostly in part, he believes from his struggles with the PTSD. At one point, Tora mentioned that they had a fight and she went to her room to pray and the name of Bishop Taylor came to her mind. I'm not sure if she called him or if he simply showed up, but she had never had her prayers answered so specifically before when he arrived shortly to meet with Cliff. She started taking the missionary lessons from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and was baptized shortly after.

I don't know how much later, but there was a specific incident (he didn't make it clear what that event was or who it involved) several years ago that left him feeling humiliated about his life, he decided that for the sake of his wife he would go out into the desert with his "favorite weapon" and end his life.

Out in the desert he put the gun to his head but when he pulled the trigger all he heard was a click. It was at that moment that he knew he had something to live for. He drove home and then to the VA and checked himself into the hospital. At the hospital they immediately put him into the psych ward, a place which reminded him of his time as a POW. Because of his PTSD and his feeling that he was mean to still be alive, he and his doctor decided the safest place for him to be was at home. Tora chimed in here and said, "he was joking around about staying at the hospital and I told the Dr. that as long as he remained able to crack jokes he was ok." Tora took him home.

Tora sat there as we visited and you could feel the love she had for her husband even through his struggles. It was obvious she loves him very much.

Cliff said that since that day several years ago and because he is on disability, he sits and watches the news to see if there is anyone's life he can touch. Every year for Christmas, he offers a substantial amount of money to someone in need. That's where the story of my sweet cheerleaders comes in. That's why he called the station and asked if someone would come by and pick up the check.

Our visit to Cliff that night Tora noted, was an obvious answer to her prayers as her husband prepared for surgery tomorrow for a hip replacement. He is extremely nervous about the outcome and I'm so appreciative that I listened to the spirit and followed the prompting I felt in my heart to visit him myself so that he would know there were many who would pray for him.

I mentioned to Cliff that I was forwarding his story to the news so that he could perhaps be a support and a light for others suffering from PTSD to show that there is hope. For Cliff, reaching out to serve others is one of those ways he copes. Cliff is anxious to hear about how the girls are doing and he requested that I wish them each good luck from him personally.

Cliff is more special than he realizes and because of our becoming friends, I hope I can continue to be more courageous and spread love by supporting those in need whatever way I can. Thank you Cliff for your service in the military and to our country. Good luck with your surgery today and Happy Veteran's Day tomorrow..

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