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A Special Father to Remember this Memorial Day

Honoring the courage of our soldiers and veterans and their caregivers



Photograph courtesy of Lori-Ann Lytle

Dear Alex,

Although I don’t know you, I saw you once on a very sad day almost two years ago, at your dad’s wake. My partner, Jim Diamond, was your dad’s lawyer and friend, and when your dad committed suicide, Jim was very sad because Rob was a good guy who had ended up in a bad place—but for some very understandable reasons. So we came to pay our respects to him, and to you and your mom, grandparents, and aunts and uncles.

We learned a lot about your father that July day in New Milford, and since then Rob Lytle was a true American war hero. Your dad proudly served our country in the Army as an MP in Panama for Operation Just Cause and in the Middle East for Operation Desert Storm, among other places. (He was even rescued by selfless young military comrades who had no idea who was injured, they just saw a man down. That’s the kind of men and women who serve.) Then he served his country with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which brought him back to Connecticut when he transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury. He worked hard there, getting promoted to lieutenant before he died.

Even though it was difficult for other people to see your dad’s injuries, they were very real and hurt him terribly every day for years. Your dad wasn’t alone. So many soldiers and veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress (including many thousands in our state), depression, anxiety and alcoholism, like your dad did. Some are lucky enough to get help; your father tried, but the Veterans Administration denied his claims. We need their system to change now so that other people don’t hurt themselves because they aren’t getting the help they need.

You are a lucky guy, because you have a mom who loves you and loved your dad so much that she is willing to share his story to help people understand the importance of treating the war injuries that we sometimes can’t see.

I had a brain tumor that doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital removed, so I know how important it is to get assistance to people who have had traumatic brain injuries or PTSD and I help the hospital promote its Home Base Program, a collaboration with the Red Sox Foundation to assist veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars who have these conditions. I also work with Bob Woodruff and his wife, Lee, who started the Bob Woodruff Foundation after Bob recovered from a brain injury he got from a bomb while he was a news reporter in the Iraq war. Last month, Jim and I hosted a party with two other local women from Connecticut who are on the foundation’s board of directors with me—Eileen Lynch and Cynthia Blumenthal—at our house in Stamford to raise money for the foundation. I’ve met a lot of veterans who have been hurt (and the unsung heroes who take care of them the way you and your mother took care of your dad), and even though Americans understand more every day about these hidden injuries and are giving more money and time to the cause, we still have a ways to go.

Home Base Program
Photograph: Getty Images

I’ve been thinking about you and your mom and dad as Memorial Day gets closer. (Seeing the sailors from Fleet Week near my office in Manhattan reminds me of the holiday every year, too.) Lots of people plan fun events for the weekend, but while they’re doing that, I want to remind them (and help myself remember) about the true importance of this holiday: honoring the courage of our soldiers and veterans and their caregivers.

I’ve been spreading the word about your dad’s story so that people will know he was a hero—and so that when someone’s brain is in an accident, they can get the care they need to get better. Plus, I want people to remember to always take care of their brain and other people’s brains. Brains are just as important as all the other organs in our bodies that keep us alive. (So don’t forget to wear your helmet and your seatbelt!)

I’m going to ask people to think about you and your mom, Lori-Ann Lytle, or even send notes to you at tigarlori@aol.com, to thank you for the sacrifice your dad and your whole family—scattered from New Canaan to Brewster—made for our country.

They could even send donations in your father’s honor and memory to the Woodruff Foundation (ReMIND.org or P.O. Box 955, Bristow, VA 20136) or to the Home Base Program (give.massgeneral.org or 617-726-2200) or to the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust (3725 Alexandria Pike, Cold Spring, KY 41076), a nonprofit that provides services to veterans with PTSD.

Thanks for letting me tell people a little bit about your dad. You must miss him every day. But this Memorial Day weekend, remember him fondly as we all will, an inspiration to get better care for our returning veterans.

Marian


Marian SalzmanMarian Salzman
CEO, Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America and ER Life PR

Named one of the world’s top five trendspotters, Marian Salzman, CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, an entrepreneurial agency network now ranked ninth in the world, was PRWeek’s 2011 PR Professional of the Year, among other top honors. Before heading @erwwpr, she was CMO at Porter Novelli, CMO at JWT Worldwide and CSO at Euro RSCG Worldwide. Among her most famous consumer campaigns are the launch of the metrosexual to create a marketplace for SAB Miller’s Peroni, Pepsi’s “It’s Like This,” and “It’s America Online.” She co-founded Cyberdialogue—the world’s first online market research company—in 1992. (Marian was named to New York magazine’s first “Cyber 60” list, in 1995, the same year she was honored by Crain’s New York Business as a “40 Under 40”; the following year, Fast Company said she was keeper of one of the best job titles on the planet: Director, Department of the Future.) Marian resides in Stamford.

Twitter: @mariansalzman

 

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