Wounded not forgotten
Military women and men who come back from a deployment injured often feel they are forgotten as they struggle to rebuild their lives. And maybe there is some merit to those feelings giving only one-percent of our population has served in the United States Armed Forces since post- 9/11; the impact of two wars is felt by relatively few. This is why I feel the need to share a story about one gracious gift of caring for a wounded service member to hopefully inspire others to help and to also let our wounded warriors know they haven’t been forgotten.
I was working at a bank in Southern California as a financial specialist. My position was responsible for opening accounts, offering financial advice, and ensuring customer’s accounts were in good standing. It was April 2009, the majority of accounts were in trouble as people were losing their homes and jobs as the housing market crashed.
One morning while reviewing an overdrawn checking account scheduled to be suspended, I called the customer to find a solution. A woman answered the phone sounding rushed but admitted she was aware of the accounts status. I asked what her intentions were and the woman paused and proceeded to explain her circumstances.
“My husband is a Marine he just came back from Iraq, he was wounded I have three children and we are have been running back and forth from the VA hospital visiting him. He is going in for surgery this afternoon so he will hopefully be able to walk again.”
She paused, “I am so sorry about my account with all that is going on I lost track, how much do I owe?”
I told her she owed three hundred dollars but most of it was overdraft charges.
“I don’t have that,” the woman was very stressed and upset.
Having been a military spouse myself my heart went out to her.
“Its ok, I am allowed to waive only two overdraft charges, I have to get permission to waive anymore,” I informed her.
I knew the branch had limits on waivers and it doesn’t matter circumstances the bank cant give preferential treatment. I went to the manager hoping for the max in waivers.
Since the military wife had to get to the hospital I interrupted the manager who was with another customer. As I explained the situation in general terms the customer who was sitting at the desk with the manager interrupted our conversation.
“Did you say this Marine is having surgery today,” asked the customer.
“How much do they owe can I pay their overdraft charges is that possible to transfer money from my account into theirs,” said the customer.
“Ah yes you can if you want,” the manager said.
Despite the unique circumstance the customer was given a deposit slip to fill out and when returning it to me she said she preferred to donate anonymously and she didn’t want to know the family’s name.
“Just give them a message for me, they may be wounded but they are not forgotten and thank them for their service.” the customer said.
I went back to my desk and paused looking at the deposit in disbelief by what just happened before I picked up the phone.
“I have some news for you, I just need you to first sit down,” I said to the military spouse.
“Oh no did they tell you no they couldn’t waive the fees” she said.
“No, a customer overheard my request to the manager and she wanted to help you and your husband. We waived our maxed charges and a customer donated five-thousand dollars into your account,” I said.
There was silence for a second and then I heard a little girl through the phone ask, “Mommy why are you crying mommy what’s wrong.”
“Nothing sweetie nothing is wrong these are happy tears. Thank you, wow thank you,” said the Marines wife.
I called this an Oprah moment I couldn’t help but cry myself after hearing the wife breakdown in relief.
This was April 2009, people are losing homes, jobs, out of all the people who could have been sitting at the managers’ desk it was this person. Out of all the times I could have called the military family. The timing was perfect for two strangers who didn’t know each other and will never meet to have a connection.
“Tell this woman she has no idea what this means, tell her thank you and tell her I am going to use some of that money to help another family too,” said the Marines wife.
The military wife and mom said she couldn’t wait to tell her husband the news. “He needs to know before he heads into surgery the message that he hasn’t been forgotten,” she said.
Michelle Mears-Gerst is a journalist and a volunteer for Blue Star Families in California. To find out more about California Blue Star Families, follow them on Facebook.