It was almost overwhelming.
The first Guardian Ball for severely wounded and injured veterans took place on Saturday. There were 700 people there, including a Congressman, the Lieutenant Governor, and a representative of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And cartoonists. There were lots of cartoonists – the biggest names in the country – there to donate their talent and art to benefit the Wyakin Warriors.
There was big band music all night long. The Masters of Ceremony were two prominent talk show hosts. The tables seemed to stretch for miles.
All eleven of the wounded warriors were there too, of course, as VIPs. For most of them, it was the first time they had ever worn a tuxedo, let alone host their own tables. It was billed as a gala fundraiser, but we considered it training – the graduation ceremony for the etiquette training they had received a few days before. We know that some of them will attend an event like this in the future. When that happens, they will have been there before.
What we did not expect were the smiles. These things are supposed to be stuffy.
People were actually enjoying themselves. Instead of the usual stampede for the door once the dancing began, people stayed. Hundreds of them. I cannot be certain, but I believe a part of the night’s success was due to a shared sense of community. The warriors in our program were moving forward with their lives, and those in the room were contributors to that movement in their own, personal ways.
Toward the end of the evening, I saw a beautiful sight. One of our blind Wyakin Warriors was on the dance floor with his wife, jitterbugging to the big band music. For them and all those who watched, the act of dancing represented freedom, and gave him a chance to express the joy he was feeling on that happy evening. His life was no longer black. Instead, it had become a colorful kaleidoscope of options for him and his family.
The blind man dancing instantly became a metaphor for all the good that had come his way over the last eighteen months. He and the community that supported him had become one; not just for an evening, but for a long, long time.