A Miracle Moment at the Winery

 by Julie Leconte     August 2016      


A few weeks ago my husband and I planned a summer evening out with good friends and friends of theirs – a potluck picnic dinner on a lovely grassy area at a local winery to enjoy live music by a great local band.  There were about 8-10 of us in the group.  It was a warm, clear evening.  We covered the t

able with an old quilt and laid out the feast.  We bought bottles of wine to share amongst us all.  The sun went down; the twinkle lights came on; the music was lively.  We danced.  We drank.  We talked.  We laughed.

I did not expect to cry.

As the mother of a veteran and CEO of Military Family Support Group (MFSG), a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting local military families, I always look for opportunities to reach out to veterans.  It turns out that two of the guys in our group were Vietnam veterans and I had the chance to express my gratitude for their service and hear a bit about their experiences.  Neither one of them knew the other was a veteran, so they made a special connection that evening.  I have discovered that many veterans do not take advantage of the VA services & benefits that they earned as a result of their military service, so I always make sure to ask.  It turns out that neither of these veterans understood about these VA services & benefits and both shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and promised to make an appointment at our local Veterans Services Office.  They each had suffered ill health effects as a result of their military experiences and neither was receiving any disability compensation or free health care from the VA, so I was feeling pretty good about getting them to agree to make inquiries.

Our lovely evening continued. The band agreed to do a benefit for our non-profit organization and I met some fun people who had their blanket spread out next to us.  I also touched base with some of the local food truck operators who were at the venue – great folks who had previously participated in a food truck fundraiser at a PTSD awareness event hosted by MFSG.  They know that I am passionate about educating our community (especially veterans) about this disorder that wreaks so much havoc and misery in people’s lives.  A

s I approached them, they were expressing some concern about a veteran with PTSD who was just leaving with his wife, and I decided to go after him to make sure he was okay.  They told me his name and pointed me in the ri

ght direction.  MFSG had recently designed and printed some thank you cards for veterans with our contact info on them, so I grabbed some and dashed off in hopes of catching the veteran and his wife in the parking lot.  It was getting dark and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find them, but as I rounded the corner of an outbuilding, there they were.  I called out his name as I caught up to them, held out the card, introduced myself, and thanked him for his service.  This can be tricky with veterans – especially veterans with PTSD – they do not like to be approached by strangers; they do not like to be surprised or taken off guard.  It was just barely light enough that he could read the card and I stood there facing him as he read it with his wife looking on.  Once he read it, I looked him in the eye and told him that no matter what he was feeling and experiencing, he is valuable.  He is worthy of being cared about.  I told him that in my experience, people with PTSD are some of the strongest. I told him that I understood how hard it can be just to get through a day.  It was at that point that I noticed the tears running down his cheeks.  I knew he was not only listening to me, but he was actually hearing me – I pressed my point further with words I know to be true.  The next thing I knew, I was in his arms and he was sobbing on my shoulder and holding on tight.  I continued speaking softly but firmly into his ear – I don’t remember my exact words, but I was thankful the words came to me.  I am not a religious person, but I believe that those words came to me from a divine source – a source other than myself.  They were words of strength, encouragement and love.  His wife also was crying.  It seemed as if the three of us were suspended in time there in that dusky gravel parking lot.  I remember saying the words, “Do you hear me?” as if he was a child.  But he was not a child.  He was a full grown man – a complete stranger – having an emotional moment.  As he let go of me, I hoped that moment was life changing.  I told him not to give up on himself because I never will. I gave his wife a quick hug, left them with that card, and awkwardly apologized for my random intrusion.  I made my exit as quickly as I had made my entrance.  As I rounded the corner of the building, the intensity of that encounter hit me like a wave and I leaned against a tree and cried in the dark.  I returned, clearly shaken, to the group who had sent me after the veteran and they offered me tissue for my tears.  As I gathered my composure I was able to tell them that, “I got him”, and that “I think he heard me.”  It felt like a miracle moment. After a while, I returned to my group of friends.  I drank deeply savoring the red wine in my glass & feeling hopeful that perhaps I had been able to make a difference for someone.

In hindsight, that moment seemed surreal…had my words been enough? …had it only been the wine? …had I made a difference? …had I remembered it the way it really happened?

But today I received a phone call from that veteran’s wife.  She had kept that card.  Now I know for certain that my words had been enough. She cried and called me an angel.  And words came to me again – the perfect words – words I know she needed to hear…words of strength, encouragement, and hope.

I didn’t get their names, but I hope to meet them again one day.  I hope to hug them again.

I hope to keep making a difference one veteran at a time.

I hope for many more miracle moments.

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  • Author Bios

    julieJulie Leconte

    Julie is a 3rd generation California native married to a Frenchman and together they have 4 grown children.  Many of her family relations have served in the US military, but most were quiet about their experiences.  It wasn’t until her own son joined the Army in 2005 that she understood the sacrifices, pride, fear & emotional chaos involved with being a military family.  It was the isolation part that struck her the most since most civilians do not understand what it is all about.  It was a relief to discover the Military Family Support Group with her husband in 2009 (when their son was deployed in Afghanistan) and realize that here was a group of people who understood…who ‘got it’!  She has been an active member ever since. Her son is now a veteran.  In 2014 she took on the role as Facilitator of the organization with the goal of making El Dorado County military families feel valued & understood.

    Lisa Rodriguez

    Lisa is a proud wife of a U.S. Army Reservist.  A mother of two, IT consultant, avid reader and guest blogger/IT administrator for Military Family Support Group.  Lisa has a background in government consulting regarding military service members benefits, specifically Combat-Related Special Compensation, the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program, Family Readiness Support with the U.S. Marine Corps and Social Security Disability benefits.  She has lived many places to include North Carolina, Washington, DC and overseas.  She is a military spouse that has endured many months of having a spouse deployed and serial volunteer for veteran/military service member organizations.



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