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Wounded Warriors Honored at SCSRC Conference

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October 11, 2012

Soldiers wounded while serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan have touched the hearts of respiratory therapists everywhere, but AARC member Randy Lydick, RRT, has taken his admiration for these wounded warriors one step further.

AARC President Karen Stewart addressed the SCCRC.

A couple of years ago he decided to see if his fellow members in the South Carolina Society for Respiratory Care (SCSRC) would be interested in sponsoring one of these veterans of service to attend the state society’s annual respiratory care conference, a four day event held every September in the resort community of Myrtle Beach.

The service man or woman need not be a respiratory therapist—the idea is simply to provide the chosen individual with the opportunity for some much needed R&R while at the same time introducing him or her to the respiratory care community.

Edward Bolds began his term at SCSRC president.

Rock star treatment

“For many years the SCSRC has supported our members who were military members or veterans by providing discounted or free registration at some of our educational offerings,” explains Lydick, who currently serves as SCSRC vice president. “This worked very well, but seemed to affect the same people every year, so we began looking for a new way to honor our military.”

When he approached the Executive Committee with the idea of sponsoring a wounded warrior, the committee jumped at the chance. Funds to support the wounded warrior’s attendance are raised through generous donations from the membership along with vendor support and support from the Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort where the meeting takes place.

While the wounded warrior is free to spend his time in Myrtle Beach any way he would like, the SCSRC welcomes him and his family to all of their activities. “Our conference format provides multiple activities, including educational sessions, meet and greets, a banquet with DJ and dancing, our vending hall, and multiple meals,” he says. “The wounded warrior and family are encouraged to come to all of these.”

At each event, the SCSRC takes a few moments to recognize the wounded warrior and his family. “They are definitely treated like stars and made to feel very special,” says Lydick.

SSgt. Rodriguez and his wife, Christina, participated in many of the SCSRC events.

Paying it forward

Lydick says the SCSRC works with Operation Homefront, an organization that supports all branches of the service and their families, to identify soldiers who might like to participate. He and his colleagues take it from there, contacting the selected warrior and inviting him and his family to attend.

“I have been very surprised at how emotional this part of the process is for the soldiers,” says the therapist. “Two of the three we have sponsored have cried when we made the offer. This is just one of the ways that I know we are making a difference for these special people.”

This year the SCSRC sponsored U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Mathew Rodriguez and his wife Christina. SSgt. Rodriguez, who suffers from a post traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder, completed six combat tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and was actively involved in the capture of Saddam Hussein’s palace in Bagdad.

“This year SSgt. Rodriguez and his wife came to almost all of our events, including two lecture sessions,” says Lydick. He addressed the audience at one of the sessions, talking about some of his experiences in the war. At the end of the presentation, he related the soldier’s mission to the mission respiratory therapists carry out every day—to help people who need it. “I had goosebumps,” says the therapist.

When it came time to ask for donations to support next year’s wounded warrior, Lydick says SSgt. Rodriguez was the first to put $20 into the pot. “When we told him that he absolutely didn't need to do that, he said, ‘This has meant so much to us. We want to make sure someone else gets to come next year.’"