I wasn’t looking for a battle buddy, although I now believe everyone is better with one. I certainly wasn’t looking for a new “job”. But what we’re looking for and what we need are sometimes very different.
I think most people would think of a Battle Buddy as someone who has your back when you're in the trenches. And sure enough, that’s part of it. But it’s the day in and day out that hones how you react in the trenches. While I won’t insult a soldier by saying it’s the same as an Army’s Battle Buddy, I think Lisa and I certainly fit the basic description - in a civilian kind of way!
What is a Battle Buddy? Per Wikipedia, a Battle Buddy is a partner assigned to a soldier. (OK, I’m a Marine mom, so please forgive me!) A Battle Buddy assists his/her partner both in and out of combat. A Battle Buddy is intended for company and to maintain morale. Since each watches his partner's actions, a Battle Buddy can notice negative thoughts and feelings and intervene to provide help. Battle Buddies keep each other up on important information, problem solve together, boost morale and confidence, help through stressful times, and help to build better leadership skills.
It’s having a Battle Buddy that has made the journey in Full Circle Home not only joyful in helping others, but downright fun! And I know I could never have accomplished sending 15,000 gift set for the troops to send to their heroes at home and for the Wounded Warriors at Walter Reed to give to their loved ones. I can’t accept responsibility for the national media exposure, our logo on a LeMans Series Race car, hanging out with Patrick Dempsey (yes he IS that cute!) and the friends we’ve made in DC. But I will say that I am incredibly fortunate to have stumbled upon a Battle Buddy that makes us so much more that we are individually. (Ok, forget the stumble upon - there were SO many links that we discovered that we must have been blockheads not to have made a connection years ago!)
Lisa and I met in the airport in 2006 when our sons were coming home from different deployments. Big hugs, congratulations, and a few tears - but I never expected I would see this family again! (Yet 8 years later, we now have places in the Adirondacks 2 camps down from each other. Battle Buddies in and out of the trenches!) However, in 2007, Lisa heard about what I was planning through a mutual friend (Thank you Peggy H.!) and we reconnected. Our first phone call lasted over an hour and we were off and running, and have never looked back.
It look more than a few years to fully accept that Lisa was every bit as committed as I was. She acted that way and was willing to pull long days and EXTREMELY late nighters, multitasking and doing whatever was needed whenever it was needed. I just couldn’t believe that there was someone that would do that - that believed as completely in Full Circle Home as I did, was willing to work so hard, and pay to do it. I was afraid she might get tired of having no life and choose to relax on occasion! I’ve come to realize that there is no more fun that diving into something that helps others, makes you feel good and gets you into situations that are new that stretch you - and through it all, you know that someone not only has your back, but makes you better.
Full Circle Home is unique and heartfelt and sorely needed. However, there is a reason no one else does what we do! It’s labor intensive and has some basic hurdles. Full Circle Home is free to the troops. We have to raise rather large amounts of money - a big job for 2 people. Hurdle #1: Did I say that I would rather eat worms than to ask for money? We also need to get sensitive information from troops that are overseas. Hurdle #2: No, the military does NOT provide us with a list of who is deploying and how to connect with them! The good news: Lisa and I love to prepare gifts! We love to make things special and beautiful and make people feel loved. All of the abilities that are necessary to accomplish our goals did not come from skill sets that we possessed! So we have to figure it out, get out of our own way, and just do it. Passion and belief are fuel that propels us.
So there are some interesting challenges right out of the box. But also incredible opportunity! We are not hampered by how things should be done. We see what needs doing and do it. We do it with the expectation that Of Course those we are reaching out to will agree and want to help! We reach out to people as we would to our friends, and so often, our contacts become friends of a sort, whether it's the president of a company, high ranking military personnel, or high school advisors.
But it’s this Battle Buddy of mine that gets us in situations that leaves us hooting with laughter, openly shedding tears, and loving the journey. When you know that you're covered, you’re fearless. And when you're fearless, you can do anything and expect everything and not get bound up if it doesn’t go your way. Because if it doesn’t, it’s probably because there is a much better way coming down the pipe! And oh my, there always is!
When I tell our story to others, it sometimes feels like I’m telling another person’s story because these crazy things couldn’t have happened to us! We thought we were all THAT when one of our local news stations did a piece on us the first Christmas. We were so grateful that they would help us get the word out. When Family Circle Magazine called, (between screams and jumping around) I asked Lisa, “How did they hear about us?!” Oh yea, we sent them something the year before! And when Rhiannan Alley of Better.tv saw the article, she and a cameraman flew to Rochester to do a segment on FCH, airing nationally on Christmas Eve day. (It’s a good thing she wasn’t made up for the camera because when I was reading the letters from those we’ve touched, I looked up and she was a tearful, soggy mess in the nicest way!) From there it was working with the USO, the Congressional Spouses Wrap at the Vice President’s residence with Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden, Fox News, a dinner at the Air Force Chief of Staff’s home (the night of a violent storm that put the area in a state of emergency, somehow appropriate for us!) The Today Show and more.
Sometimes when we have to do something that we’re not comfortable with, one of us will say to the other, “It’s ok, you go ahead.” like we’re being polite instead of too big a chicken to do it ourselves! And so the other steps up and get’s it done. Somehow we always know who's turn it is! But in the process, we’ve both become bolder and more efficient - each a better leader. We know when we have to be the Strong One, and when we can be angry or disappointed or sad. We can carry the other, or be transparent enough to let the other know that we need help.
Since Full Circle Home is about connections, and love, and appreciation, I have to admit that we wear our heart on our sleeve, as my mom would say. And that somehow gives others permission to do the same, or at least to open up and show who they are in a business environment that rarely rewards that. I think the joy and enthusiasm that Lisa and I share is infectious and contagious. When we are able to laugh and have fun in an environment like Walter Reed, or be joyful as we talk about the troops’ stories of separation and strength even as tears are spilling over, we remind people that FCH is all about people and families and loved ones. And that together, we are far stronger, can do far more and can live more fully, and it starts with a Battle Buddy.