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Written By Bobby Schuller
Rebecca Pepin (RP) is a news anchor on the NBC, FOX tri-cities affiliate in Virginia and Tennessee. She is also the author of a new book entitled Faces of Freedom. After feeling as if the nightly news were merely reporting the number of casualties of the Iraq/Afghanistan war, Rebecca decided to put a book together of 52 service men and women who have lost their lives in the conflict, one from each of the 50 states, including D.C. and Puerto Rico. All proceeds from the sale of the book go to Fisher House and Wounded Warrior Project. Rebecca's book, Faces of Freedom, is available at rebeccapepin.com. Bobby Schuller (BS) will interview Rebecca.
BS: My guest today is Rebecca Pepin. When Rebecca became a U.S. citizen, she wanted to give something back to the country she loved. So she created the book Faces of Freedom. In addition to writing this book, endorsed by General Colin Powell and Senator John McCain, Rebecca is a news anchor for NBC and FOX affiliates in Bristol, Virginia and Tennessee. Please welcome to the Hour of Power, Rebecca Pepin.
RP: Hi Bobby! It's great to see you and it's an honor to be here.
BS: The first thing I noticed when I was reading your introduction, was it said 'when you became an American citizen.' So are you Canadian?
RP: I was born Canadian and I became an American in 2006. America is a wonderful country and I know that I'm here today because of our service members, so I want to thank all the veterans out here today.
BS: So you became an American citizen and decided to write this book about American troops. What was your inspiration behind the book?
RP: Well Bobby, you mentioned that I'm a news anchor, and I found that in the beginning when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars started, we did a wonderful job in telling about who these troops were, and their sacrifice, their service. We were highlighting these service members, telling their personal stories, and showing their faces on the news.
I found that as time went on, and as more casualties happened, it became more of a numbers game. Eleven people killed in Iraq. A helicopter crash in Afghanistan claims the lives of nine. I wanted to make sure that we weren't just telling the numbers, but we were also sharing the faces. So the book Faces of Freedom was born because I just want to make sure we do not forget these men and women.
BS: So it sounds like it's very much an image rich book where you're sort of trying to live out that old saying, 'a picture is a thousand words;' this idea that if you can get the picture of a soldier's face or a family's face, that you can, in a way, maybe tell a different story. Tell us a little bit about it.
RP: The book has many beautiful pictures of these service members. It includes one service member from each state, D.C. and Puerto Rico, and it tells personal stories of these service members that you might not otherwise get to know. These aren't just people in uniforms. These are husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, and it's important that we get to know that these are our neighbors who are sacrificing for us.
BS: There is something really special about your book, and in fact, I would love it if people would buy your book, specifically for one reason: you don't get any of the profits. Tell us where they go.
RP: They go to Fisher House and Wounded Warrior Project. These are two incredible organizations to help our veterans, and every single penny goes to these two fabulous organizations.
BS: That's great!
RP: Fisher House is kind of like the Ronald McDonald House for veterans. They build military homes near military hospitals so that service members who are doing outpatient therapy can stay with their families and recover. We're talking about service members who have traumatic brain injuries, in many cases they're double amputees, they have severe burns. So if they're staying in the hospital, the families can come and stay in these homes. Who do you want to be with when you're hurting, when you're sick?
BS: Obviously your family, of course.
RP: Your family, absolutely. And this helps them do that at low cost. Many service members' families are quitting their jobs so they can help teach their family members to re-button their clothes or to walk again.
Wounded Warrior Project is the other charity that benefits. They are a multi-faceted organization that helps these service members do so many things. One of the greatest things about Wounded Warrior Project is that they get the service members out into the great outdoors, to enjoy the beauty again. They do adaptive sports, they get to learn to ski again, they get in kayaks or on the golf course.
And a big deal, Bobby, is the mind. I spoke to a VA nurse during my travels out here, and she said that even if you do not see an injury on the outside, so many of our service members are facing PTSD. They are damaged and you cannot see it. So Wounded Warrior Project steps in and helps them become well-adjusted and productive and have regular relationships with their loved ones again.
BS: That's great. That seems like that is a very common injury. You see these soldiers who seem like they're fine on the outside, but really there's a lot of trauma on the inside. They're waking up with nightmares and are obviously very stressed out.
RP: It's devastating.
BS: You talk a lot about families. Were you engaging with the service member's families as you were writing this book?
RP: Yes. I had interviews on the phone and I met with a lot of the families. It is an incredibly humbling experience to come across these family members who tell me "thank you for what you have done." I cannot tell you how humbling that is. I feel all I've done is something to say thank you to them, and I'm so grateful that they're appreciative, but we owe all the thanks to these families. It's incredible.
BS: Ed Arnold said that when he was reading your book he was actually brought to tears as he was turning each page. Now you have a few of these pictures that you would like to show us this morning.
RP: I would love to show you. I know this book is a very difficult read, but I think that's exactly why we should all have it on our coffee tables so we can share these pictures.
The first picture is of First Lieutenant Ryan McGlothlin of Lebanon, Virginia. My husband and I even named our son Ryan after Ryan. He is a true hero. Completely brilliant. He's a Silver Star recipient. Ryan had finished his master's degree and was on track to get his PhD at Stanford University when he joined the Marines. He was killed by small arms fire while assisting his men in Ubaydi, Iraq in 2005. They found in his pocket a copy of his favorite poem "Don't Quit," which is how Ryan approached everything in life. His family said he had a moral compass that never wavered. When he was applying for colleges, one of the applications included an essay question, 'do you ever feel that it is okay to cheat or lie?' Ryan refused to apply to that college. He said there's never an occasion to cheat or lie.
Lance Corporal Kyle Price is from Illinois, and look at him holding that little Iraqi girl. This picture just breaks my heart because I know exactly what's going on in his mind. He was about to have a little girl himself. He would call home to his family and would talk to Brea and ask her to put the phone to her belly so that he could talk to his little girl. He couldn't wait to be a daddy.
This last picture is of Harper Bruckenthal. Petty Officer Third Class Nathan Bruckenthal's widow would take their little girl, Harper, for frequent visits to his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. Nathan was attempting to board a suspicious vessel in the Persian Gulf when the boat exploded. He was the first U.S. Coast Guardsman to be killed in action since the Vietnam War.
We've lost so many incredible young men and women with countless injuries and this is exactly why we're paying tribute to these service members. But at the same time, we're helping wounded veterans and a hundred percent of the proceeds go to the organizations we talked about.
BS: Thank you, Rebecca. This has been a deeply touching and moving story that you're telling us, and of course many of us are deeply connected to this. We have brothers, friends, loved ones, people that we know who have been a part of defending our country, so we're glad that you're doing this, especially with Veteran's Day coming.
BS: It's just really appropriate that you're doing this, so thank you, Rebecca, for coming to the Hour of Power. We're so glad that you shared your story with us and we hope you'll come back again soon.
RP: Thank you. It's been an honor to be here.
BS: Thank you. Rebecca Pepin's book, Faces of Freedom is available at rebeccapepin.com.