- Associated Press - Saturday, March 1, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Most people are aware of the sacrifices wounded warriors make. But what some people may not realize is the sacrifices their mothers make.

A new book being written by a writer and an editor on the East Coast is calling attention to such “mighty moms,” including one Juneau mother, who drop everything to care for their children as they recover from traumatic injuries at a military hospital in Bethesda, Md.

“Every one of these moms without question has sacrificed greatly,” co-author Dava Guerin, a Washington ,D.C.-based communications consultant and writer, said during a phone interview. “They are dedicated, loving, fierce, really fierce women who will do anything for their kid.”

One chapter of the book, titled “Unbreakable Bonds: The Mighty Moms and Wounded Warriors of Walter Reed,” will profile Carolee Ryan. Ryan is the mother of U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Thomas McRae, a triple amputee who was injured in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb in January 2012.

“Carolee is a great example of somebody who there isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for her son and her family,” Guerin said. “She’s a force of nature.”

The book, to be published by Skyhorse Publishing this November, profiles 10 sets of moms and wounded veterans at Walter Reed. Nine sets are mothers and sons, and one set is a mother and daughter.

Co-author Kevin Ferris, Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Page assistant editor, told the Empire that the women profiled in the book come from all walks of life. But once they received the phone call informing them that their child had been gravely injured, they all found themselves in the same hospital in similar situations.

They each experienced the same awful waiting time as their child was being flown back to the United States; they all experienced the moment when they saw their injured child for the first time in a hospital bed; they’ve all spent nights sleeping on cots in a hospital room.

Then, after confronting the initial shock and the trauma care, the mothers must figure out how to navigate the military and medical worlds in order to advocate for their children. All the while, they’ve left their past lives behind them, often times at the expense of their careers and relationships, given that the recovery and rehabilitative process takes years. Most of the wounded warriors in the book spend an average of two-and-a-half to three years at Walter Reed.

“I think what struck me, part of what’s so striking about this book, is the commitments the moms make to theirs sons or daughter,” Ferris said. “They just give up more or less their whole lives to move into Walter Reed and to focus solely on the recovery of theirs sons and daughter.”

Ferris produced the chapter on Ryan and McRae and interviewed them for the book a couple months ago. He said the title “Mighty Moms” might be a bit limited for their case because the chapter also focuses in on Carolee’s husband and McRae’s father, Tim Ryan.

Of the five chapters Ferris wrote (Guerin wrote the other five chapters), theirs was the only one where the whole family was interviewed together in the same room. He said he couldn’t help but notice how the two parents tackled everything as a team.

“What you hear in a couple of cases is how difficult it is to maintain family and friend relationships at home, moms losing jobs as a result of moving to Walter Reed, so there’s some very common themes that run throughout the book,” he said. “But what was so striking about Tim and Carolee is that they were a team. Other people, for various reasons, weren’t both present so much, and it sounds like Tim and Carolee were really there for each other.”

In the book, Carolee Ryan grows to be a fierce advocate for her son, Ferris said. He cites one instance where the military planned on reducing hours and invalidating meal tickets at the sole dining hall at “Building 62,” where McRae and about 160 other multiple amputees and their families are housed during recovery. The change would have meant that the wounded warriors, many who are just learning how to use prosthetics, would have to wheel a half mile across the facility to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“But the next thing you know, Carolee’s on Fox News (speaking out about the café’s closure),” Ferris said. “They (the military) changed their minds, and the café’s still open.”

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