This post originally appeared on the TriStar Family Physicians blog.

One of the great things about my job is taking care of families and watching them grow up together. I practice with the TriStar Medical Group Family Physicians. We’re located in Middle TN not far from Fort Campbell, so many of the families we meet serve in our military. This gives us the unique perspective of seeing how much our military men and women sacrifice by being away from their loved ones, especially during holidays. We love our troops and are always looking for ways to acknowledge how much they mean to us.

That is what makes this story so special to me. If you take a moment to look at the accompanying picture, you’ll see helicopter pilot Steven Todd (Major) in the US Army. Steven has been a long time standing patient in the practice, dating back to our days in Smyrna. I remember fondly the day Steven came into my office to tell me he was being deployed to Iraq for a prolonged tour of duty. It was just after my birthday and my children, in an attempt to show me how cool a Webkinz pet could be, gave me a stuffed Bengal tiger [pictured above].  He was affectionately dubbed “Tingle” because my daughter couldn’t remember the word Bengal. She would come into my office and say, “Dad, where is the tingle tiger?”

Quite clearly Tingle was starting to get bored just sitting around my office day after day. When Steven told me about his current circumstances, we thought this might be the perfect opportunity for Tingle to get out and experience the world. And thus the journey began. My only request was that Steven would take pictures of Tingle while in Iraq. While I do not know the intricate details of his travels (they are highly classified and he would paw me to death if I knew), Steven was generous enough to take a few snapshots of their time together. I don’t want to speak for Steven, but it is safe to say that their bond became very strong. My understanding is that Tingle never came off the helicopter and that certain troops would refuse to ride unless he was onboard.

The sad part of the story is that I have forever lost Tingle – to a helicopter. He is stateside now but has refused to leave his post on the dashboard of the Blackhawk. Who could blame him?

I know Tingle has brought a smile to many men and women who sacrificed so much to be away from their family. We want to thank our troops for all they do. This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to take a moment to remember all the troops who are unable to be home with their families. It is truly something we should all be thankful for. May God bless our troops and bring them home safely.

WAIT THERE’S MORE!

We recently received this message from Major Todd ….

“What started out as a favor for a friend’s children quickly grew into something really neat.  Admittedly, I first viewed Tingle as yet one more “thing” I was going to have to lug around Iraq for a year.  I guess Tingle got wind of my attitude and he set me straight pretty quickly.  He let me know, in no uncertain terms, that he was perfectly capable of pulling his share and would watch my back throughout the deployment.  He was with me on every step of the deployment:  Ireland, Qatar, Kuwait and of course, Iraq.

I took Tingle up on his first mission and he was a huge hit with the crew.  It was summer when we arrived, with temperatures hovering (no pun) around 115 degrees.  With the success of his first mission, Tingle earned a seat on every mission thereafter.  He became part of my crew from that point forward.

Tingle reminded me, on EVERY mission, that there were people in Tennessee that wanted/needed me to come home safely.  Regardless of how bad or how long the days were over there, I always had him to remind me of the bigger picture.  For that, all kidding aside, I am eternally thankful for Dr. Cobb’s gesture.

Upon my return, I sat him down with Tingle and told him the mission was over and he was free to return to the office.  Knowing that Dr. Cobb had things under control and knowing I need all the help I can get, Tingle respectfully declined and opted to head back out to the flight line with me.

So here we are, crewmembers to the day.  Look REAL close the next time you see a Blackhawk flying over Middle Tennessee.  You just may see Tingle and me still doing what we love.

-Major Todd

Steve

Steven R. Todd
Maj, AV, TNARNG
S3”