Kids' Support Boosts Injured Sailor's Spirits
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- U.S. Navy sailor Taylor Morris and girlfriend Danielle Kelly have had many visits and calls from important visitors during Taylor's ongoing recovery from disabling wounds in Afghanistan.
Movie and television actors. High ranking military officials. Renowned medical specialists. Even President Obama.
"I can't remember all their names," Taylor admits.
Today, Taylor, Danielle and Taylor's father, Dan Morris, will be at the White House for dinner and fireworks.
Sometime this week Taylor is expected to stand on two prosthetic legs, barely two months since a bomb blast claimed portions of all his limbs in Afghanistan. His progress has exceeded doctors' expectations. He's already been fitted with a prosthetic left arm and right hand.
However, in achieving those goals, all the lofty meetings with famous and powerful people pale in comparison to the many letters, cards, drawings and personal visits from neighbors right here in the Cedar Valley --- especially scores of young school children.
That support, and he and Danielle's own determination as a couple, has brought Taylor this far.
"A special thanks to all the Cedar Valley elementary students that took time to handcraft thoughtful and entertaining letters of encouragement," Taylor and Danielle wrote.
"These letters were extremely unique and would put a smile on our faces after the roughest of days. It definitely shows the teachers are hard at work and doing a tremendous job with our young ones."
They've made the couple laugh; they've warmed their hearts.
"They're so funny," Danielle said. "They'll talk about something, and then go off on something different. There's no filters." One child will be talking about what they like to do for fun, and then add, to Taylor, "I'm sorry you don't have any hands."
"Somehow they heard that I like to fish and hunt," Taylor said, and kids write about that.
They received a banner from an art class at Southdale Elementary School with photos of school kids.
Third-graders at Lincoln Elementary School in Cedar Falls had a "hat day." They paid so much to wear different kinds of hats to school, with the proceeds going to a fund to pay for unanticipated expenses Taylor may incur down the road.
Taylor and Danielle, moved by that kind of support, contacted The Courier last week to issue a public thank-you to everyone in the Cedar Valley and beyond, especially the schoolchildren.
On this Fourth of July, the support from those young people are part and parcel of the support they have received all over.
From the people here and elsewhere in Iowa who have visited them. From fellow Cedar Falls High alum Trevor McCormack and his co-workers at Tony's La Pizzeria, who held a successful fundraiser and Scratch Cupcakes for donating cupcakes.
And calls from the troops who were with Taylor when he was wounded, the guys he was protecting in his bomb disposal work --- and the guys who, in turn, helped save his life.
The letters and fundraiser by the Lincoln Elementary third-graders, in particular, brought Taylor full circle, because one of their teachers, Kelly Sullivan Loughren, also taught Taylor in third grade.
She also is the granddaughter and grandniece of Waterloo's five Sullivan brothers killed during World War II. For her, seeing what happened to Taylor was emotionally difficult.
But, true to form, she turned that sorrow into a teaching moment for her current students. They learned about Taylor. They sent him cards and letters.
One little boy gave up his allowance to go into Taylor's assistance fund.
"He's a remarkable man," with a tremendous family and support network, Loughren said of her former student. "He's alive and he's going to do great things, because he was born to do amazing things."
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