Friday, August 02, 2013

Serendipity, Bunnie, and Thunder Road

Serendipity. When a former boss and friend bestowed that word upon me over twenty years ago, she opened my eyes to all of the fortuitous twists and turns that life has unfolded before me. In life, one move takes you away from one path and towards another. One friend can lead to two friends, which can lead to three others...and so on. On the right of the first photo is Marlene, one of the first friends I made at my University job. Marlene eventually transferred to another department, and through that new job met Janice and Bunnie, standing to her left. Today's post is about Bunnie, who has been a frequent partner in crime during my visits to Disneyland. I love going to the park with her...she "gets it." She buys into Walt's vision lock, stock, and barrel. She shared that love with her one and only son, Cody, taking him there frequently as he grew from darling cherub to a fine young man and respectful son.

Here's Cody in 1999, zooming around Tomorrowland on the Astro Orbiter.

Bunnie was also a great adoptive mom to all of Cody's friends, who would often join them for Cody's birthday celebration at the park.

From early childhood, Cody wanted to join the Army, practicing for that day by playing flashlight tag and donning camouflage and face paint. Enlisting during his senior year in high school, Cody made that dream come true, going overseas as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Don't think this was because Cody was violent or a bully; he was best known as the guy who would be looking out for the little guy. A protector. A leader. By April of 2008, Cody was looking ahead, making plans to be a firefighter or emergency medical technician, and buying a house where he could build a future with his girlfriend. Those dreams were permanently postponed a few months later on June 4, when Cody's life was tragically lost, not surprisingly, protecting two other soldiers in his unit.'re a single mother. Your world revolves around your son. Your only son. Not just any son, but one who respects you, brings laughter into your world, and is beginning to grow into a very respectable young man. When Bunnie lost her son, it shook her to the core. Her close friends were on secret watch, hoping and praying that she would get up every day and be able to find a reason to get out of bed and live her life. Surely you can imagine what a dark time it was for her. The times that we all got together, I could see that her signature sense of humor had become sharper and her eyes held a mixture of confusion and deep anger. Each day, she questioned a lot of things, including if there was any purpose left for her on this earth. She gave her Country her son, and in return, she got a flag.

The first time I saw that portrait I had to do a double take. Photographer Rob Daly captured all of the pain that Bunnie experienced, creating a visual reminder of the ripple effects caused by conflict and war. It's now been five years since Cody's passing, and although she still suffers from her loss, she has serendipitously found new purpose, thanks to filmmakers Charlie Bewley, Steven Grayhm, and Matt Dallas. The three could not have found their way to Bunnie at a more fortuitous time.

Their goal was to create a film that dealt with what happened to the soldiers that returned home from Iraq, while exploring the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that resulted from what happened during combat. This wasn't going to be the glossy Hollywood version of a shell-shocked soldier. The script that they crafted came together from a cross-country tour where the three interviewed doctors, soldiers, and family members (most notably Bunnie) who had personal knowledge of the effects of war. As they state on their website, "Many films neglect to show the rehabilitation process, both mentally and physically. We have created characters that you will CARE about. Characters that you can relate to and follow and root for on their most extraordinary journey!"

Please take the time to watch the trio discuss the importance of their project:

I am hoping that my post will compel you to support this project which seeks to entertain and educate, while doing some much needed healing. My posts are typically lighthearted and fun, but I thought the importance of this film was worthy of a deviation from my standard formula.

Bunnie still celebrates Cody at Disneyland, doing an annual visit to the park on his birthday while checking out his brick at the entrance.

I don't think it would be much of a stretch to say that he would be very proud of his mother, allowing his life's story to continue to help the underdog.

Please head to the Thunder Road Fundraising page and donate whatever you can to get this worthwhile project off the ground.


Major Pepperidge said...

Wow, how awful that Bunnie lost her son; we all know that people die in wars, but we know it in a sort of abstract way. Seeing the pain in Bunnie's eyes is really heartbreaking.

K. Martinez said...

A very sad story. I've known a couple of families who have lost a son in the military. It's all too real, painful and impacts many. I'm always grateful to those men and woman who serve our country in military. Thanks for sharing this personal story.

Mark Taft said...

Thank you for sharing this story, Dave.

Anonymous said...

Very well done. I'm at a loss for words. KS

Anonymous said...

"That solemn pride you must have felt, to have laid so costly a sacrifice on the altar of Freedom."

thank you.