On Monday December 3rd, my husband Jeff, one of our employees, Karalee, and yours truly, had the privilege to meet 1st Sgt. Michael Lippencott, active member of the Marine Corps, and Ramonia Diallo, Navy Veteran and Combat Casualty Visiting Nurse of the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) in Jacksonville.
Before Thanksgiving, Karalee–also a Navy veteran–met Ramonia at a charity event and learned about this non-profit organization. Touched by the stories of veterans in hardship, Karalee shared the information with our company staff. Shortly after, we created a small fund to which all the employees contributed. 1Sgt. Michael Lippencott was the service man we chose as the recipient of our donation.
Sgt. Lippencott is a father of four. He joined the Marine Corps in 1996 in Chantilly, VA, and since then, he has completed seven tours of duty to Iraq and Afghanistan for the operations Iraq Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and New Dawn. He is planning his retirement for June next year after almost 23 years of service.
Needless to say, the wounds of his sacrifice to defend our country’s freedom are not only the ones he bares on his body, but also the ones on his soul.
After our first visit, I emailed Sgt. Lippencott and asked him a couple of questions to write this blog. The first one was, what would you say to a seven-year-old boy’s mother, like me, if my son decides to enlist in the military in the future? I asked him this because when we met, he said that he never thought about joining the military. His answer brought me to tears.
“The reason I swore I would never wear the uniform was I saw how often my family was hurt by my father always being gone. I don’t think one can ever understand the commitment you must give to not only the military, but to the oath (oath of enlistment) you swear to uphold.
I recruited in Chantilly, VA in 2006. I was the Staff Non Commissioned Officer in Charge (SNCOIC) of 6 other individuals. I was very successful, and had been meritoriously promoted to the rank of GySgt, because of my performance. I don’t attribute the success to that of those I was in charge of, but to what I would tell the parents and those I would later enlist into the military.
You see, I never glamorized the military. I told of the hardships that I had to endure, the heartache from being away from family, how much at times I hated it. I was always asked by the family, as to why I stayed? My answer is not because of an oath or anything else, but because I have a responsibility to others to utilize my knowledge to the fullest in order to ensure they make it home safe. I stayed because of my Marines!
I have always been so concerned that they accomplish their goals and dreams that I forgot about my own…. I always encouraged attending a semester of college before joining the service first. Doing so, allows for other opportunities later on. I was a mother’s dream, someone that was honest and cared about what they were trying to protect: their child.“
My second question was, did you see the power of God in action at any time in your deployments? He shared this riveting story:
I’ve always thought that an individual has their own connection with God, whether they sit in church or not. In 2004, while on patrol of the airfields in Iraq, one of my friends (Sergeant Victor Carmona) and myself, were being targeted with mortars from the enemy. The funny thing is we were riding around on the airfield conducting inspections in a golf cart. As we were driving down the flight line, the mortars seem to follow us as well to the left into the right. During the time that the explosions were happening around us, Victor began to cry as he was driving.
I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking, or the fact that if I was so scared as to what would come next? But what I can tell you, as I begin to laugh! From there, Victor Saw me laughing, and he began to laugh hysterically so much, that he began to cry. Well, I told him to stop the vehicle, so he did. I came to realize there was nothing we could do, and if the mortars were going to hit us, we could do nothing to stop it.
Well, nothing ever came of that except a long story, that Victor loves to tell any time we get together without the Marines and sailors. But what he often leaves out of that story, is the fact of when I told him to stop the vehicle, he grabbed my hand we closed our eyes, and we both began to pray. Once the mortars were done, we both looked at each other and began to laugh hysterically. Victor will never say he was crying, he would never even admit to praying during that whole event. But what I will tell you during that, is the fact that we were in God’s hands that day, and for some reason he decided to spare us.”
Sgt. Lippencott’s answers gave life to something I have only watched in movies: The military bond. The love and respect they feel for each other is so sublime that, even if they have to make the ultimate sacrifice in battle, our American soldiers feel they died surrounded by family.
During this past week, the decision made by President Trump to pull our troops out of Syria has been dissected by media outlets left and right. The “expert” pundits talk about the consequences for the Kurds, the Turks, the Syrians, the Iranians, the Iraqis, and the Russians. Surprisingly, none of those so called experts talk about the consequences for our American soldiers.
In my opinion, they already earned the right to return home to their families, safe. Their voluntary and selflessly decision to wear the uniform in the first place, amazes people like me who didn’t have the courage to enlist.
However, coming home is a struggle for many service men and women. Re-entering civilian life is an ordeal that nobody prepares them for. Things change in their absence and when they have to adjust to the family life, it may very well become the most challenging mission of their lives.
This is where the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society plays a remarkable role. The Society provides financial assistance, education, as well as the remarkable Combat Casualty Assistance Nurse Program to members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, their eligible family members, widows, and survivors across the nation.
These nurses visit wounded warriors and their families at in-patient, rehabilitation, or out-patient facilities, and even their homes as long as necessary. In their own words, their mission is to help Marines and Sailors heal, both body and mind, after their wartime.
Sgt. Lippencott sent us a thank you note that read, “I want to thank your company for making me realize that not everyone forgets about the sacrifices that are made…“. I emailed him back and wrote, “Thank you for your service. And remember, we are not the only ones who don’t forget. Like us, there are millions more out there.“
If you know a service member who is going through difficult times, share my blog or visit the NMCRS website here and find the nearest location.
Thank you for reading and sharing and Happy New Year 2019!!!