They are not victims, they are survivors. Shilo Harris in Kiev

Nowadays there are so many veterans, which return with serious injuries, mental disorders after war in the environment, where they are not often taken as they actually deserve. Shilo Harris, who was badly injured during hostilities in Iraq, endured more than 70 operations, received horrific burns on his body, lost his ears, the tip of the nose, and part of his fingers. This man was already in a step of committing suicide, but he stopped in time and radically changed his life in the better way. He published a book and started to create his film. This is the person who will inspire everyone. A sense of humor helps him live and enjoy life. We have a lot of important things to learn from him. Shilo Harris and his wife Jamie Panizza-Kimball will share how war changes people, how we should treat veterans, how not give up even in the most difficult situations and always go forward, go forward to your goals, to a better lifestyle.

I live with scars, this is my story, some people get tattoo to tell their story too. A lot of veterans come back with scars that you do not see, they are in their minds, in their hearts and it`s really important that our communities, our families and everybody understand that and talk with them, – states Shilo Harris.

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We have enjoying meeting so many veterans and military service men and women and their families. And we do hope you can continue to appreciate everything they sacrifice: they sacrifice their minds, they sacrifice their families, their friend, their body and most of all they sacrifice their hearts… They give so much to the country, when they come back; they just want to be able to live a life that gives them joys that they were fighting for and gives them a freedom; they fought for and gives them a chance to live a life with a little bit of adventure in it that they can have jobs, their loving are passion about and they feel like every day, when they wake up, they have a purpose. And we need to help people over there, their spouses, their parents, – says   Jamie Panizza-Kimball, Shilo Harris`s wife.

In a short time I`ve been here I see that there are really good programmers for veterans, about which veterans themselves may not even know that they are entitled to specific programs. I understand that also the government is not just focus on them; there are a lot of companies that are willing to help veterans. Some of them feel hopeless behinded. But what we have seen in the US that there are so many people willing to donate money, there are so many people willing to offer their hospitals. And in Ukraine there are so many opportunities to open their doors, open their avenues, where private people can help the veteran community. Do not give them a fish, give them a fishing rod and teach how to catch fish. So as the same concept instead of offering them financial system for one month, give them jobs. It doesn`t have to rely on a government, you have a community of patriots right here. Every place I`ve been here I`ve said «Slava Ukraine» and everybody respect it, feel passion about it, not just veterans, the whole community that who you are… That country has overcome so much, you shouldn’t stop now. Take care of this men and women, who take arms, so you don`t have to, – adds Shilo Harris.

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They are not victims, they are survivors. That terminology must be used. Veterans should not be ashamed of amputated leg or missing fingers or burned skin. There is no reason why veterans feel ashamed, they should be proud of wheel down the street on the wheelchair. No one should look on them differently. This country need to recognize these men and women are human beings, they still have a heard, mind, they still capable of so many things. I also recognize that we have so many non-profits organizations in the US that help with different things. One organization may provide animal therapy and give people dogs or cats, another organization may work on art therapy and bring different kind of arts for men, women and their children and intend to teach how to pain and relax. And one more thing you need to treat entire family. You can`t expect them to go war and their wife to understand everything.

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On February 19, 2007 we had to investigate possible bomb. We were determined not to hurt but to kill. As we were driving over there, our car was the third one and it literally exploded. I have three of four doors blown off and entire top of our car blow off… I was unconsciousness. I don`t know how can anybody survived… Unfortunately, I lost three friends there. And sometimes we need to say THANK YOU and to use a word HERO because actually we can save their life. They may be somewhere in a deep dark hole of depression, they may not even know that you appreciate them and their service. And if you show one minute of appreciation, you can save their person`s life. As I can say heroes are men and women that give everything to a nation.

Okay, when woke up, I was pushing on a door from me, I felt something strange with my fingers. I did not feel pain then…I can only see my uniform literally melted in my skin… Then I realized that my vest was burning and the material was melting and running down my leg. And I saw my reflection on my friend`s glasses: I can see my face turn black, my ears were gone, my nose was gone. And I shocked I was sure that it was not me. But when my friend took off his glasses and I can literally see fear in his eyes… I can see him looking at me like OH MY GO. I know you`ll think it a little bit selfish but I was thinking: «I`ll have a day off». Yeah, one day off and come back… I spent in coma for the next 50 days. I had infections, I had swellings, the doctors had to amputate my arm…

The doctor said that I had to do 10 steps, but could do only three little shuffles. And I began to feel sorry for myself. In 3-4 days I realized that if I try not better, if I show my potential, if I want to be a really good father, I need to pick myself up and do it… So I did. I turn this three steps to ten, ten to twenty and then to fifty. I can’t say that it was easy, but each day I tried to settle new goals and reach them.

I`ve had over 50 surgeries and realized that it was enough for me. You mean… three years of «roller coaster» were exhausted. And as soon as I refused from surgery, most of pills, I got into an accident and again into the hospital. I was tired of that life, just one big recover after another. I began depressed. I was drinking, I was overusing pills… I was ready to commit a suicide and so grad that I didn`t, something brought me back. I was thinking about my kinds, what kind of legacy I will give to them. And I decided to finish my book. I had to scramble out of this black hole in my life.

  I was invited to event one time in Texas, actually where I was born, so I got a wide belt with buckle, I got boots, but I didn`t have a hat. I realized that it can be hot and it`ll help me, so what a cowboy has to complement my outfit and keep a sun of me.  In a store I tell a little girl: «I do not know what size my head is because of my injuries. Let’s start small and work up way up». So she brings me couple of hats. The first one was really small and then I tried on another hat and she pushed it on my head. When she did, all my ears fell down and started bouncing because they were made with rubber. I started to raise my ears. Actually it`s true story. Then I looked up and a little girl was really scared, shocked…I just felt like a Dumbo, an elephant. Then I met with my friends, one is veteran and the other one preacher in the monastery. Actually I expected that I would be supported by a veteran, but preacher told me that I missed the opportunity of free hat.

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You have some of the most amazing men and women put in a uniform and, unfortunately, sometimes they return wounded or they don`t come on at all. And I believe that  communities, our family and country need to welcome us home and make us will full again because we still have a lot to offer, even if we have scars… scars, which you can see, scars, which you can`t see. Almost everyone has stress after the war, so they need our support. It`s all our jobs to make sure that nobody commit suicide.

Jamie Panizza-Kimball and Shilo Harris point on the main STEPS for whole life, not only for veterans, but also for everyone.

Set smart goals: achievable, time-limited and realistic.

Teamwork/tool – use the resources you have. You need to overcome all problems with your team, family or community.

Explore new options, opportunities with an open mind.

Positivity – the many positives overuse the few negatives. Try to communicate with positive people, think in positive way and surround yourself only with positive things.

Self-discovery – you need to decide who you are and where you want to be in life. If you are not happy, if you do not know who you are, you are moving anywhere.

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Somebody asked me why I named my book «Steal will», I answered because it describes great amount of will and strength internal in order to push through and go ahead. If you have an internal struggle, try to check yourself, imagine looking down and looking in dynamics what is going on in your life, what can you change, what can you take out that situation. This will help you to move forward to a better day in your life.

Violet Len