Christmas Can Cure brings holiday hope to veterans
It's time, Dr. Gerald Carrier said, "to reflect on what they have given us" which allows us "to stand here today and enjoy the sunshine."
Carrier, his wife Del, son Andre and other family members started the Jackson Christmas Can Cure several years ago. The 2012 Christmas vacation gift to the families is the project's fifth annual Christmas Can Cure. The non-profit works with the Wounded Warrior Project .
"Our veterans travel to distant lands in defense of liberty and freedom and return to face many challenges," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement read by North Country staffer Chuck Henderson. "Christmas Can Cure creates a special opportunity for veterans and their families to get away during the holiday season and share in the hope and joy of Christmas with family."
Among those welcomed was four-year-old Drew Kennedy, one of the three sons of the late Army Sgt. Joshua Kennedy. Drew and his brother, six-year-old Chase.
Friday they were intrigued by a hump of Styrofoam-like snow that remained on the lawn from a previous storm.
The boys tried to loosen chunks of the snow by kicking at it, having better success later, when they and five-year-old Bradley Strickland worked on a pile closer to the driveway. That pile yielded some good slabs, and the boys quickly had the makings of a fort.
The boys, along with the third Kennedy boy, seven-year-old Tyler, and teens Hannah, Samantha and Justin Adams, were only beginning their fun in the White Mountains, where the magic of Christmas, and the fresh air of winter activities in the mountains, were before them.
"I told them when they first arrived, 'get a lot of sleep, '" Carrier said in his opening remarks. He held up a 15 page itinerary, complete with colored tabs. "People just call us and ask us, 'Gerry, what can we do?'"
It's the first Christmas that the Kennedy boys will spend without their father. Kennedy died in April, having returned after an 18-month deployment to Iraq in 2005 to later wage a losing battle with ALS.
Tyler, his mother Ernesta said, will have the hardest time during the holiday, "but we're surrounded by so much love and support." Josh's legacy, she said, was making sure that his family had a community of support.
The Jackson vacation is a welcome gift. "We were very excited, she said.
Larry Adams enlisted in 2006, and during a 2009 deployment to Iraq was thrown to the ground by a blast. At the time he didn't think he was injured, though he later ran into a concrete barrier as he fled from a mortar attack, reinjuring his brain. He now suffers from vision and balance problems and is awaiting a medical discharge.
Adams said he was looking forward to going on the Polar Express. He'd watched the movie for the first time on Thursday night. His daughter Samantha was looking forward to skiing at Attitash. Hannah hoped to go horseback riding. After the flag raising, his wife, Danette, was beaming with excitement.
"Chris and I cried," Mandi Strickland said, remembering her reaction and her husband's, Retired Army Cpl. Christopher Strickland, when they found out they'd been chosen as one of the Christmas Can Cure families.
Strickland was injured in Afghanistan in 2006 by an IED blast. After multiple surgeries for broken bones and other injuries, he lost the sight in his right eye and his arm below his elbow. He met and married Mandi, naming their first child after a friend who was killed by an IED a week after he was injured.
Friday Mandi Strickland was looking forward to a visit to Santa's Village, and a ride on the Polar Express. The Polar Express, she said, is her son's favorite movie.
Closing ceremonies for this year's Christmas can Cure will be held on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Jackson Town Offices.