Warriors come from warriors: a mother's perspective
May 11, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 11, 2012) -- Marilyn Durso cherishes a Mother's Day gift that she calls "a sweet acknowledgment from a son to his mother."
It's a shirt with the words "Warriors Come From Warriors" sprawled across the front that her son, 1st Lt. Greg Durso, gave her a few years ago while he was attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
At the age of 23, Marilyn's son, an Army ranger, deployed for the first time.
"Wearing it meant more to me personally than wearing it for show," she said, explaining why she wore the shirt under sweaters during her son's deployment.
When her son returned home, Marilyn donated blood, April 13, for warriors and their families through the Armed Services Blood Program and would meet several warriors and another "Warriors-Come-From-Warriors" mother.
A platoon leader with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., 1st Lt. Durso led 40 American and about 30 Afghan Soldiers. One day while on patrol, his platoon encountered several roadside bombs. When the platoon stopped, Pfc. Rex Tharp, took a knee and triggered a pressure point. After he hit the first one, Spc. Joe Mille ran to help him, but in the process, triggered a second bomb.
"They never cried out, they never lost their cool," Marilyn said. "They were more concerned about the other one."
Both Tharp and Mille lost their legs from their injuries.
"But because they were so poised and had it together, the medic and the rest of the team were able to attend to them more efficiently," Marilyn said. "It's survival, spirit and camaraderie. Who wouldn't want to belong to a group of people who live under that code?"
Not long after, 1st Lt. Durso learned that another friend of his had been severely injured during a separate mission.
One month into his deployment, 1st Lt. Nicholas Vogt's platoon also struck several roadside bombs. Moments after the first detonation, Vogt pushed one of his Soldiers out of the way of a second bomb, and took the brunt of the blast himself. Vogt survived, but before his ordeal would be over, he would require nearly 500 units of donated blood.
"Nick's story is a heart-wrenching account of survival and what people are willing to do keep others alive," Marilyn said. "Once you have an intimate knowledge of the experience, you can't just sit there.
"Even though I had never met Nick, when I heard from Greg about what happened, in that moment, everyone becomes your son and daughter," Marilyn said. "You quickly learn that the military family is large, and it's not just the people in uniform; it's friends, the community and the people who are willing to donate blood."
Marilyn said her son had wanted to become a Soldier from childhood.
"As a mother, you don't want him to do anything that puts him in harm's way, but you have to rely on his confidence, his training," she said. "It's roulette out there, you worry from [the time they enlist]."
But for Durso, knowing the Armed Services Blood Program is able to provide lifesaving blood to ill or injured service members worldwide helps alleviate some of her fears of sending her son off to war.
"When I hear the story of Nick's injuries and the story that led to his survival, I know in my mind what [our sons and daughters] are doing is real. And it reminds me that there are men and women over there right now who still need our help," Marilyn said.
Vogt, Tharp and Mille are all recovering at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. When 1st Lt. Durso returned from Afghanistan, he, his mother and his grandmother, Nancy McCauley, went to visit them.
Marilyn and McCauley were able to donate blood while they were there.
At first, Marilyn said she worried the visit would make her worry more, but she said "it brought me peace and confidence instead."
"It was an emotional feeling to experience how truly dedicated the Durso-McCauley family was to the well being of those who do so much to serve and protect us all," said Vikki Fernette, blood donor recruiter from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
During her visit, Marilyn was able to meet and spend some time with Vogt's mother, Sheila, and said she could see where Vogt got his strength.
"She's amazing," said Marilyn of Sheila. "A mother will do anything to help her children get through a rough time. The mothers of those who are injured stop their lives to support their sons. Visiting them and donating blood is so simple, and it's so humbling."
"It was an honor and a privilege to meet and chat with three generations of patriots who have experienced firsthand the close fight, both deployed forward and in support from back home," said Lt. Col. Robert Pell, chief of blood services at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. "The Durso's truly define commitment, to each other, their military family and especially to the Armed Services Blood Program that they support with their selfless blood donations."
Marilyn is eligible to donate blood again in July, and is planning on making the trip down to Walter Reed to do so.
"The facilities are beautiful and you get the chance to thank a Soldier firsthand and see what they are up against, see their spirit and their great attitudes," she said of the hospital.
For Marilyn, knowing that her donation can save up to three members of the military family, the brothers and sisters in arms of her own son, is well worth the drive from New York to Bethesda, Md., and an hour in a donating chair.
"I can't wait to go back," Marilyn said. "How do you not do something that is so simple? If donating blood can keep them alive until they get to come back home, it's a privilege."
To find out more about the Armed Services Blood Program or to schedule an appointment, please visit us online: www.militaryblood.dod.mil. To interact directly with some of our staff, see more photos or to get the latest news, visit us here: www.facebook.com/militaryblood, www.flickr.com/militaryblood, and www.twitter.com/militaryblood.
Pfc. Rex Tharp, Spc. Joe Mille and 1st Lt. Nicholas Vogt are still recovering at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. Md.
(Jessica Overbeck writes for Armed Services Blood Program public affairs)