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Our Daddy Is Invincible! is the resource she produced to help other families in similar situations. Maxwell drew upon her family’s experiences to create a child’s journey of discovery to find new ways to enjoy life together after traumatic injury of a parent or loved one.
“As a family, we work to focus on the positives and wanted a way to reassure and highlight the possibilities for our children and those of the families we were working with, but we found no resources to assist us in that endeavor,” said Shannon Maxwell. “Our Daddy Is Invincible is a collaboration that we hope will bring comfort to all families.”
The book is movingly illustrated by Liza Biggers, whose brother Army Spc. Ethan Biggers succumbed to injuries one year after a sniper’s bullet penetrated his brain during his second tour of duty in Iraq. Bigger was at her brother’s bedside for most of that year as one of his primary caregivers.
I began writing Our Daddy Is Invincible! when sitting in Bethesda National Naval Medical Center’s ICU waiting room after my husband, Tim, was wounded. A few days prior, in order to be at Tim’s bedside in Germany, I had left my children, Alexis and Eric, then 10 and 7 respectively, at our North Carolina home in the care of my sister, Sandra, and her husband, Rick. Telling the children that their father had been wounded was hard. Leaving them so soon afterward and seeing the fear behind their little eyes was heartbreaking. Despite the knowledge that we had always tried to empower our children throughout the many deployments with the idea that life goes on and we move forward when challenges arise, I wanted to be able to convey to them a more concrete sense of strength and hope that daddy’s wounds would not stop the wonderful experiences we had enjoyed together and have planned for the future. It was especially important to me when I felt my resolve was not at full strength, wrestling with my own emotions. Reading a book at bedtime was our comfort and cuddle time, so a book seemed a great forum for this – something they could hold and see and go back to for reassurance during the harder moments, with someone or by themselves.
Through Tim’s recovery we have been blessed to meet many other wounded families with an amazing resolve, although wrestling with similar issues. Their resilient children looked to the adults in their world to guide them through the enormous amount of unknowns about how their parent’s injuries will affect them. Adults, like us, wanted to be able to offer their children comfort and found limited resources to help. When we adopted Cassidy at age 5 and three years into Tim’s recovery, she too had questions about her daddy’s “boo boos”, especially as she experienced his second brain surgery and recovery. Our older children began expressing a desire to help her and other children like them understand the hope and comfort they found. It was time to take those initial writings and develop them into something in which all families could find benefit. On behalf of all of us involved with this project, I hope you find the book to be a good resource and addition to your library.
Whether you are a parent, grandparent, family caregiver, friend or teacher, as you read this book with those children looking to you for answers, please use it as a tool to empower not only their strength, but their creativity. Reassure them that they are not alone. There are many families around the nation experiencing these types of tragedies and yet find ways to live full and enjoyable lives together. Due to the severity of some individuals’ injuries, the level of interaction between children and their parents compared to that depicted in the book may vary, however this book seeks to instill hope and acceptance so that in large or small ways, children can find ways to continue to find their wounded parent a part of their lives. Let them know they can help in the recovery and come up with new ways to have fun and be together. Encourage their questions and provide honest answers at a level you feel your children are ready for. One of the hints our children relayed to us, was that it was scarier for them when they thought we were not telling them everything. They wanted and needed to know more information so we could put a name to it and talk about how to deal with it. The “not knowing” created more mystery and greater room for their imagination to create more gruesome images or worrisome thoughts. They appreciated the matter of fact way we presented Tim’s traumatic brain injury and its side effects – what it was and what it meant, always ending on the positives and possibilities.
You are all stronger than you know! Believe in the invincibility of the inner spirit – yours and theirs. Shannon Maxwell
As a child, growing up, I always thought of my daddy as a superhero. This helped me when he was deployed overseas and went away on trips, because I thought he was invincible and could never get hurt. When he came home wounded, I was ten and a little confused. “How could my invincible daddy be hurt?”
As I learned more and finally saw him, I realized that the best part of him was there – his love for me. Even if the bad guys got him, he was still my daddy—a little different, but my wonderful father, who loves me. My superhero would heal. Superman is hurt by Kryptonite, but he gets better and beats more bad guys. Same for daddies and mommies! You should always be proud of your parents because even if they had to leave you for a while and got hurt, they did it to protect you and your family. They risked their life for you and for others who needed help, like Superman does for the people of Metropolis. Your parents are strong and brave and can make it through anything—and so can you!
I’m now sixteen and each day my daddy and I are able to enjoy life together more and more, despite his injuries. He comes to my soccer games and helps me practice. We go to the beach, watch movies, play video games and cook together. We can’t play all the same games we used to, but we found some new ones and continue to have fun. Some things have had to change, but it doesn’t have to be all bad. Different can be good too!
I hope you enjoy our story and Mrs. Biggers’ beautiful illustrations. You, too, can find joy with your daddy and mommy.
p>Our Daddy Is Invincible! is a beautiful, healing reminder for both children and parents that, no matter what life throws at you, the power of love and the unbreakable human spirit survives and thrives in all of us. Told through the eyes of military children who have watched a parent go to war and come home injured, this book reminds all that they are not alone and that even though daddy’s or mommy’s body may be altered, the human heart is truly invincible.-
Shannon Maxwell, Author of Our Daddy Is Invincible!, is an active and respected advocate for wounded warriors and their families. She grew up in Texas. After graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas A&M University, she married her college sweetheart, Tim Maxwell, and worked as a Junior Account Executive for the advertising agency, Hershey Communications in Irvine, California. She experienced the gravity of life as a Marine Corps spouse early in 1991 when her husband deployed in support of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Safely reunited, she began to look to career avenues, which she could transport to various military duty stations and make a difference. She worked as the business manager for a Child Psychiatrist and studied and taught self defense while raising her then two children. In 2000 she returned to school, earning a Masters of International Management from University of Maryland University College. She then lent her talents as a marketing consultant and volunteer to various civic and military related organizations.
In 2004, when her husband, LtCol Tim Maxwell, USMC (ret), was wounded with a penetrating traumatic brain injury (TBI); her focus became furthering wounded warrior family initiatives. She currently serves as Vice President of SEMPERMAX Support Fund which she co-founded in 2009, having first co-founded the non-profit organization, Hope For The Warriors™ in 2006 to address immediate and long-term needs of families recovering from traumatic injuries. In addition, Shannon sits on the Advisory Boards for Thomas Jerome House, Inc., a community home for service members with TBI, and the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program. As an appointed member of the Traumatic Brain Injury Family Caregiver Panel, established through the National Defense Authorization Act of 2007, Section 744, Shannon helped create training curriculum that would educate and assist Family Caregivers in understanding traumatic brain injury and participating actively in the care of their wounded family member. The curriculum was adopted by the Defense Health Board and approved for distribution on April 14, 2010. Shannon has been recognized for her efforts in support of the wounded with the Presidential Call to Service Award and became one of five recipients of the 2007 National Military Family Association’s Very Important Patriot Award.
Shannon and her husband, Tim, adopted their youngest daughter in 2008. They now reside with their family in Northern Virginia. Their work as advocates for wounded, ill, injured families is ongoing.
LtCol Tim Maxwell, USMC (retired), is President of SemperMax, a company dedicated to working with and aiding wounded warriors and consulting those in a position to make a difference. He served as an infantry officer and advisor to the Wounded Warrior Regiment until June 29, 2009, when he retired due to combat injuries after twenty-one years of honorable and dedicated service. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University, a Masters in Operations Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Park University. He deployed six times throughout his career with three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. During his final deployment to Iraq, LtCol Maxwell suffered a severe traumatic brain injury on October 7, 2004 when his forward operating base in Kalsu was mortared and shrapnel tore through the left side of his brain. Through his recuperation, he discovered that for himself and others, recovery was enhanced by being together with other wounded warriors. Today, due to his extraordinary leadership and vision, Marines at the Wounded Warrior Barracks (Maxwell Hall, named in his honor) located on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, find improved recovery through team healing. His push to ensure that the needs of Wounded Warriors are met and the success of Maxwell Hall became a catalyst of reform and wounded warrior programs throughout DOD. His insight is attributed to the development and establishment of The Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment.
LtCol Maxwell’s personal awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal (3), Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal (2), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (6), and others. Civilian awards for service include: The R.Lee Ermey’s Ooh Rah Award, The President of the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania Award, Esquire Magazine’s Best and Brightest Recognition, The Mack McKinney Award, and The Bobby Simpson Memorial Award.
LtCol Maxwell’s article “The Team” has been published in the LA Times, and his interviews and motivational story have been highlighted over the last five years in the following media outlets: Esquire Magazine, CNN, The Dallas Morning News, The LA Times, NPR, VFW Magazine, The Washington Post and others.
He has provided motivational speeches in such forums as The Patriot Gala, CAT Team Leadership Meeting 2005, The R. Lee Ermey Celebrity Experience – Gunny’s Ball, Marine For Life Command Conference, HQMC Resource, Evaluation and Analysis (REA) conference, and the Force Health Protection Conference.