A Track to Healing
After 40 years, one Marine discovers a place of calm.
A day he feared would haunt him forever. The men he promised he’d never forget.
John Tempone served 32 years in the Marines. Years of memories, experiences, and traumatic events painted in anything but black and white. A crucial turning point and twist of fate in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983, perhaps the most vivid.
John transferred from his unit before a suicide bomber killed 241 of his Multinational Force comrades. Decades later, he still carried the crushing weight of survivor’s guilt.
His worldview continued to live as hostage to the blaring colors of a traffic light. “Red, you’re in a gunfight,” John explains. “Orange, you brace yourself. Green, you’re safe and relaxed.”
Stuck in a perpetual state of orange, John’s mind never rested. Always plotting multiple backup plans, finding the exit, bracing for bad things. On the outside, he fought to maintain composure and hide the orange glow of anxiety. Bury the inner turmoil. Don’t let anyone see the pain.
But the buddies he lost . . . the sights he witnessed. It all became too much.
Not too much for Deedle, though. A furry confidante that runs toward the sorrow, ready to lighten the burden. A gentle set of eyes seeing into the hurt, knowing what it takes to carefully bring a life from the high alert of orange to a safe place of green.
John’s I can do this alone Marines mind – set met its match in calming Deedle. A service dog who loves him through the post-traumatic stress, bringing him to the light.
“I didn’t think I could get this zen this quickly with a dog,” John admits. “After two weeks, my wife noticed a difference. And every advocate who has helped me get here says I’m more mellow.”
Sweet Deedle’s head in his lap calms the sudden rush of red-hot frustration and piercing sting of loss that bring John back to that day in 1983. “Deedle reads me,” John says.
“And if I could sum her up in two words? Joy and peace.”
Deedle’s love starts a domino effect of hope. She’s there to make a once-overwhelming grocery store trip a breeze, and she’ll be there when John attends the annual Beirut Memorial Observance for the very first time. “I’ve never gone,” John says. “I’ve buried too many friends; I just couldn’t do it.” But this year is different. Four paws of a loyal companion amongst the survivors. Forty years since the tragedy. Healing in the midst.
A man standing tall, remembering fallen comrades. His faithful companion, her soft yet strong presence, nuzzles at his side.
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