Coraopolis, PA --
“I’m a strong person.” “I can take anything you throw at me.” “I don’t need any help.”
These are just a small handful of things someone might say if they are at war with themselves. How do you battle your own mind and win? Not all remedies work for each person, but finding what works for you is the hardest game of hide and seek you may ever play. Tech. Sgt. Amber Lang played that game and came out on top.
Amber is a full-time Guardsman at the 171st Air Refueling Wing. Working in the same place and doing the same thing day in and day out makes it easy to fall into a routine and allow it to consume your way of life. However, when that routine becomes disrupted, you can become lost. It’s a scary situation to be in. Like most of us have experienced, Amber’s everyday routine unexpectedly changed and the result was foreign and unsettling to her.
“I was in my right mind to realize I was sad and had to figure it out,” said Amber, “so I turned to my mother for help.” Her mother made one simple recommendation - volunteer.
Amber had visited the Southwestern Veterans Center with the 171st during a holiday visit and found there wasn’t much time to actually meet with the residents. Taking her mother's advice, Amber chose to make a personal visit to the veteran's center. She walked in unsure of how to act, what to say, or what to even do while visiting complete strangers. Through the confusion, scary feelings, and the personal uncertainty, Amber met Helen, a 93-year-old World War II Marine Corps truck driver battling dementia, who was nothing less than accepting and loving of Amber.
On one of the first visits, Amber had taken yarn to crochet with the former Marine. During the very next visit, Helen told Amber that “they stole all of my yarn” but didn’t specify who “they” were. Amber knew that nobody stole the yarn and it was just misplaced so she decided to look around the room in hopes of solving the mystery of the “stolen” yarn. Since the residents at the veteran’s center don’t have a lot of storage, it would be a short search. A few drawers later, there it was, the long strands of fiber that both Helen and Amber needed.
Since she began volunteering, Amber has received donations of yarn for projects to be made and donated to those in need. For example, her donations have been used in the NICU at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Amber’s volunteering and simple acts of kindness have helped her pick up the pieces of her life and move forward. Unknowingly, she used crocheting as a tool to rebuild herself all while volunteering just to stay busy. Amber thought she was helping the residents at the veteran’s center but in reality, it was the residents who were helping her.
“The real problem is we get some strange notion that only we have these problems and no one else does, but really we all have our own struggles,” said Amber. “Even the happiest, most smiley person has their own struggles”.
It wasn’t easy for Amber to rebuild herself but she found a way that works best for her personal situation. Unfortunately, many service members think there isn’t a way to make it work. The holiday season can be a dangerous time for someone who is alone like the men and women living in the veteran’s center. If you wish to volunteer or contribute, contact the center directly or you can donate yarn directly to Amber by e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org