Spreading Joy for The Holidays

I am LTC Scott Brannon. God has blessed me with a wonderful wife, Stephanie, and three outstanding children: Samantha, Mackenzie and Andrew. Our family has been a military family for over 20 years. Stephanie and I married in 1993 and I enlisted in the United States Army in 1996 and was stationed at Fort Drum, New York. I was selected to attend Officer Candidate School in 1999, where I was commissioned as an infantry officer. I have served in all leadership positions from platoon to brigade level, and I served with 3rd Infantry Division, 101stAirborne Division, 82nd Airborne Division, Joint Readiness Training Center and the Airborne & Ranger Training Brigade. With the tremendous support of my family, I have successfully completed five combat deployments in support of the Global War on Terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We, just like all military families, are strong-willed and appreciative of our 20161204_160243_1480972170375family and what we have.  We are incredibly flexible, we have good problem-solving skills, we value being together, and we understand our strengths so we can overcome our weaknesses. This resiliency has been forged into us because we are a military family, and with it that comes separation, missed family events, and duties that prevent us from participating in normal family events that a lot of people take for granted.

In May 2016, I assumed Battalion Command at Fort Benning, Georgia. The family moved to Fort Benning in June and we begin to get settled. It was a busy summer and we started noticing our most active child, Mackenzie, was getting tired faster, going to bed earlier, bruising easier, and while playing on two soccer teams, she pulled herself out of a game which has never happened before—she usually asks to stay in!

Over Labor Day weekend, we traveled on a family vacation for Mackenzie’s birthday, and while enjoying the parks, Mackenzie asked me to take her back to the hotel. As soon as we returned to Fort Benning, we scheduled her an appointment with her doctor and when her lab tests came back, the doctors couldn’t believe she was still walking as her blood levels were extremely low. She was transported to Elgeston Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, where she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. This news devastated our family.

Since September 7th, our family has been living apart from each other—separated while Stephanie and Mackenzie are in Atlanta, and I have Samantha and AJ at Fort Benning. We do weekend trips to Atlanta to allow the children to have some normalcy of our family being together.

The news took weeks to swallow and to be able to take a breath and figure out how to stop spiraling out of control. As many of you know, as a father, especially as a military father, I have a deep-seated requirement to protect my family and yet, in this situation, there wasn’t anything I could do about it. The loss of control continuously eats at me. Further, the hardest thing that I have had to learn during this was to let go enough to let people help us.

Another military family friend reached out to us and told us about the Semper Fi Fund/America’s Fund. Of course it sounded nice but I had no intention of applying for it. Then the friend called me because she knew I wouldn’t , and she insisted I fill out an application for my family. I am glad I did.

There have been numerous organizations that are associated with the hospital or leukemia that have provided assistance but nothing compares to the assistance we received from the Semper Fi Fund/America’s Fund. Further, nothing has compared with the way the Semper Fi Fund/America’s Fund personnel treats, cares and goes out of their way to make you feel like family: The smile on my daughter’s face when she receives the random gift in the mail, or the Christmas tree from the Semper Fi Fund/America’s Fund, is priceless.

Mackenzie’s personality encompasses every attribute of what you would envision a military kid’s personality to be: resilient, adaptable, caring, diplomatic, and strong -willed. It is rough to watch your child go through all the stuff she has been through but she is a fighter. She amazes me daily with her attitude and she has quickly become our hero. She has taken 16 transfusions, numerous doses of medication, numerous spells of sickness, she  just completed her third chemotherapy treatment, and she is currently considered in remission. She is currently experiencing some bad side effects from this round of chemo and is sick and isn’t able to eat, and sadly we will spend Christmas in the hospital. Nevertheless, we are going to tackle it like a military family—sucking it up, doing it together, and being thankful for what we have and that we are together. Thanks to the Semper Fi Fund/America’s Fund for reminding us—we are a part of a bigger military family and that we are not alone.