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Jenna Biddle (Daughter)

My name is Jenna and I’m here to tell you a story. It may not seem the happiest at times, but it is my story. Before we can talk about my senor project, there are few things you should know about my past. I’ll start off by saying I had what everyone envisions as the perfect family: dad, mom, brother, sister, and me. We were a happy bunch. My dad was a military man who was often deployed for long periods of time in different intervals. My mom was strong, taking care of three kids alone while also going to work; not to mention the extracurricular activities my siblings and I had. My brother was a handful and was a huge mama’s boy. My sister, well she was still a baby. Me, I was my dad’s girl. My dad was my best friend. When home, he would help me with math and science homework. Being home was a precious keepsake to him and we never took it for granted. As a family we took vacations all over. We traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico when I was in fourth grade. We’ve traveled to Disney World at least two times and Disney Land once. We travelled up to Vail, Estes Park, Aspen, and Breckenridge and all these beautiful, peaceful, mountainous cities in Colorado. We may have not always been together, but we were certainly always happy. My dad and I had a dream together that I would become this amazing pediatric endocrinologist. My dad was always there for me and he supported me in everything I did. My family, as I’ve come to understand, wasn’t perfect. No family is, but we were pretty close. We argued, stepped on each other’s toes, and got annoyed with one another, but we would do anything to keep each other safe and together. Things took a wrong turn when my dad returned home after his last tour though. He was different, more distant. My dad didn’t seem like he was totally with us when he was with us. He was distracted. He had his good days, and his bad ones. We tried to keep most of the stress off him, but he just didn’t seem to get better. He had unexplainable back problems that the doctors couldn’t fix. He had random black outs and towards the end he would get frustrated more and more quickly. Later, my family learned these were all symptoms of an increasingly popular disorder. You know that saying, “If we had only known then, what we know now”, well that applies greatly here. My dad was a strong man, and he was my best friend. His name was Thomas Allen Biddle, but all of his friends called him Al. My senior project is projected towards him, and other soldiers like him. My dad was soldier from the time he was eighteen until three years ago when he passed away. Al was a brave man who had seen things no other man or woman should ever have to experience. Like I discussed in my speech first trimester, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is on the rise in our soldiers across the nation, and unfortunately my dad was one of those soldiers. PTSD is an awful disorder affecting around 7.7 million adults. Most of the time PTSD is brought on by combat scenarios. But let me stop there, before I get too far ahead of myself. Now I am sure you have forgotten about my first speech, so I will recap on what PTSD is and how terrifying this disease really is to both the victim and the family. According to Psychology Today, the definition of “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that may develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which severe physical harm occurred or was threatened.” PTSD is growing disorder in our armed forces affecting almost three million Afghanistan-Iraq veterans, stated by Veterans and PTSD. Also stated in that article was a fact that about 50% of these soldiers don’t go out and get treatment once diagnosed. Based off of stats from September 2010, PTSD is spread out with Army having 67% of cases, Air Force with 9%, Navy with 11%, and Marines with 13%. PTSD isn’t limited to just our armed forces but is definitely more prominent with them. The Veterans and PTSD articles says, “in a time of peace, in any given year, about 4% (actually 3.6%) of the general population have PTSD (caused by natural disasters, car accidents, abuse, etc.)”. PTSD has several identifiable symptoms, such as flashbacks, sleeping problems, negative mood swings, violent behavior, and distancing themselves from things which they once may have loved (MedicineNet). PTSD can cause loved ones to become distant to their loved ones, which not only doesn’t help them get better, but it can also make the family members feel like they have done something wrong or are not loved anymore. You are now more aware of a fraction of the symptoms which affect a patient with PTSD and what PTSD is. However, you still don’t know the difficulties their symptoms cause and how the loved ones have to deal with this disorder. According to the US department of Veterans Affairs, family members experience distress due to their loved one’s pain and suffering. Families can experience marital problems and more violence can present itself if a veteran is having a flashback to their past experiences. As previously stated, those affected by PTSD may distance themselves, and because of this they may also have a more difficult time experiencing and expressing emotion. Due to the lack of feelings being expressed throughout the family, members can become more agitated with their suffering parent or spouse. This brings me back to the family feeling as though they are not loved anymore. PTSD can tear apart not just a veteran’s life but also the family as an entirety. PTSD is a disorder sweeping across the nation, but there is no cure due to the fact that it is a psychological disorder. Family members can try to ease the pain of their loved one by simply being there and not giving up on them; this however may be the hardest part. There are a few treatments, but none are long lasting. There are special pets who aid in the soldier’s pain, yoga has been proven to help because of the fact it can help with depression and anxiety, or going to a special therapist who can help talk through their flashbacks or thoughts on returning home. In 2011, my dad passed due to PTSD. He wasn’t overseas at the time and because of this fact, my family has been denied certain benefits from many foundations. The military, though there to protect us, can be quite stingy at the most inconvenient times. When a soldier passes away and is in the military the family receives certain benefits. The military becomes very picky on who and how these families receive benefits. Because my dad was not deployed at time of death, my family doesn’t qualify to receive money as say a man who was in Iraq based on other foundations criteria. Take into account my dad was in Special Forces for over twenty years, yet we wouldn’t get the same benefits as a man who was in his first deployment at TOD. This may sound rational to the foundations, but for a widow with three children, no job and moving half way across the globe, this is hardly appropriate. I believe that no matter where the death of a soldier, his family should be compensated based on length of service and number of deployments. Another example would be, a man who was in training to go back overseas and has a sudden heart complication, his family still is shorthanded in the end because one, they’ve lost a loved one and two, they aren’t being justly compensated because he wasn’t “killed in action”. If you are beginning to think I am digressing, I promise I am not. All these “random facts” as you may call them lead back into my senior project. Now that you know a small portion of how the military has affected my family and story we can move on to my senior project. My senior project is about more than just bettering the community. My senior project reaches across the states and maybe later even across continents. My mom has started a foundation, the Thomas A. Biddle Foundation. My senior project is raising money for our foundation and getting that money out to the families who are in need of it. This foundation is going to help those families in which I spoke earlier about who are shorthanded in these dreadful situations. We are here to help families send their children to grief camps or have extra money for their child’s college tuition. We are also here to help those families who have gone through the heart break of seeing their loved one endure through a psychological disease sweeping the nation. “Dreams and futures should not be hampered by lack of funds. Our soldiers gave their all to make things possible and live free. We should do the same for the children left behind” (Thomas A. Biddle Foundation). Since we are in the beginning stage of the foundation, our first run was held December 7, 2014. We worked with the local running store, Vac N’ Dash, and I organized a free 5k. I designed a shirt for the run which I called the Egg Nog Jog. My family and I served eggnog and hot chocolate after the runners were finished. For our first event, I feel it was a great success with over 120 participants. We raised over one thousand dollars from the proceeds of the shirts and other donations, which all went towards the foundation and then back into the community in a positive manner. Our foundation sent 12 gift cards to Army children that would otherwise have had no presents for Christmas. This was a good start but now I know this December we need to publicize our run more. We hope to be able to do more in the future and need to hold additional fundraisers in order to accomplish our dream and help the children in need. With family members in Washington State, there will be more events held. Relating back to my senior project spreading across the continent, a two-day motorcycle ride is being planned to ride across Mt. Baker. My dad’s mom is one of the main contributors to this ride. The ride is being supported by American Legion Riders. On Saturday July 18, 2015, riders will register before a dinner, live entertainment, dance, raffle, and silent auction. On Sunday July 19, 2015, a pancake breakfast will be held prior to the ride. Once all the riders reach the top of Mt. Baker a ceremony honoring fallen soldiers and their families will be held. A large portion of the money raised from this event will go back into the foundation. My family and I go back to Colorado for one week during the summer. We are invited to a camp called Knights of Heroes (KOH). This camp is special for children and spouses of fallen soldiers. For most of the invited guests, this is the best week of their summer. Children are separated from their adult accomplice and children over the ages of twelve are taken to secret places in the mountain where they are cut off from electronics and anything not pertaining to the camp. KOH lasts a full week and during this time each group experiences life changing moments. The girls are separated from the boys, in which they stay in a log cabin hotel, and the boys go camp at a Boy Scout campground nearby. The widows and children under required age stay down in Colorado Springs. The first night split up, everyone has an opening ceremony in which a child can choose to speak on behalf of the fallen they are there for. Most first years don’t speak because it is painful. This will be my family’s third year and the last for my mom and I. Due to the fact that we are flown out and stay at no expense to us, parents are limited to three years and a child’s last year is congruent with their last year of high school. Because our foundation was started this past fall and this being our last year, my mom is scheduling a run while she is down in the springs. As I had previously stated, we were stationed in Colorado Springs for around seven years. We have friends there that are excited to help my mom in this endeavor, since I won’t be able to come down from the mountain to help. We are excited to see how Fort Carson comes out to support one of their fallen soldiers. This foundation means the world to my family and me. It is the legacy we get to leave from my dad. I told you my senior project wouldn’t only help the community but one day might stretch across continents. As you can see, we are well on our way to helping the families’ of fallen soldiers who are denied some benefits from other foundations due to the location of their fallen soldiers’ death. This is a very personal topic, but it is one I am head over heels passionate about. My dad used to always say how much he supported my family as a whole. Thomas Allen Biddle was a man who deserves to have his story told, because he was an amazing man who anyone would be happy to call friend. My dad may not be with us physically anymore, but the least we can do is show the world how it is affected by his death and soldiers like him. Winston Churchill once wrote, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood for something, sometime in your life”. This quote sticks out to me, because I feel it can be interpreted in several ways relating back to the armed forces. The world lost a great man on December 6, 2011; a man that can never be replaced.

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