When I first found myself at the school, it had opened its doors only seven months before. It is in the middle of its fourth year in operation. Those children who went there the first year as fifth graders aren't even in high school yet. However, it's been there long enough to expand the memorial to Nicholas' life found in the display case in the lobby:
If you look closely, you'll see a Soldiers' Angels fleece blanket, pin, coin and dogtag. You'll also see items from throughout his life: his artwork, his toys, photos, and other mementos. There is also a Gold Star Flag. I also learned that the school remembers Nicholas on the anniversary of his death, with Nicholas Perez Day. I hoped to have a sub assignment on this past September 3rd to observe these remembrances, but I wasn't that lucky.
Thankfully, not all our service members make the same sacrifice as LCPL Perez. But, even if they haven't given the ultimate in service to our nation, many of those who earn a Purple Heart face great struggles to find their new normal. Carren, the amazing wife of Project Valour-IT inspiration Major Charles Ziegenfuss, shares her perspective on what a voice-activated laptop can do for a Wounded Warrior:
Not only was Chuck able to blog with his new laptop and voice-activated software, I was able to relax a little bit more. Instead of trying to figure how to get Chuck some sort of outlet, I knew he had one. Instead of going to the Mologne House every night, wondering how Chuck will manage throughout the night, I knew he had an outlet. Instead of feeling guilty as hell when I went somewhere without him (for ME time), I knew Chuck had his connection to the outside world.
The laptop and software were truly a gift that can not be put into words. Even after Chuck was initially discharged from Walter Reed, we returned MANY times for subsequent surgeries. His Valour-IT laptop and software were always there for him, especially when he couldn't type with his hand(s). I could go on all day about how amazing this program is...
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