Saturday, September 25, 2021

Perspective from a Wounded Warrior's Mother

Editor’s Note: This is a followup to a story about the CJ Stewart Foundation that we posted on Jan. 20, 2014. Click Here to read the first story for background.
Robin Stewart, CJ Stewart’s mom reflects on her son. She carried him, loved him, and knew he was special long before anyone else did!

The Stewart Family
The Stewart Family

As you can see, {by these photos} my sweet little man has always had a smile on his face. He was the happiest baby. Such a pleasant child to be around. Everyone loved CJ. I don’t believe he ever met a stranger. He loved playing outside and anything with a ball. I do believe his first word was “ball.” He absolutely loved sports and played them all! He was very competitive yet always the little encourager to his teammates. His coaches called him the quiet leader.
He also loved working with kids and participated every year helping out with sports camps. He and a few of his buddies would often pop into my first grade class to read and mentor those precious students of mine. And now those kiddos are seniors, juniors, and sophomores at MRA—and once again CJ is involved in their lives as one of their Young Life leaders.
In high school, he was involved in Sports Ambassadors traveling and sharing the Gospel through sports during spring break. He was so excited to be able to share his faith at a juvenile prison in Guatemala. He came back with an empty suitcase because he gave away all of his stuff. I remember the week after Katrina he came home asking me if I still had a box with all our board games, because he and several buddies were on a mission. They were gathering up games and balls and heading out to all the area churches to play with all the kids who were displaced and living at the shelters. He felt that would give the parents, who were already stressed from not knowing if they had a home to return to, a much-needed break from their kids with cabin fever.
There are so many more stories going over and over in my head of how he has always put others first. Sharing his gifts and talents with the younger kids. Giving away his baseball glove after his last game his senior year to a young man who thought CJ hung the moon. He was always aware, and occasionally I would remind him, that the younger boys were watching and to be a positive role model.
CJ played youth baseball
CJ played youth baseball

Was I surprised he emerged from his injuries with this passion and purpose? I would have to say no, not at all. His passion and purpose has always been part of who he is. He’s always been a very caring and giving individual. That is why when he told us that he wanted to join the Army to become a Combat Medic I wasn’t surprised at all. He loves his country and loves helping others. It was the job that he had prayed for. The job he could not wait to train for. The job to deploy for. It was his calling.
It was tough not being able to be there for CJ in those early days before and after each surgery. I was ready to hop a plane and fly to Afghanistan or Germany but was told I needed to wait. He would be stateside soon. Then some pictures were emailed to us by a friend of a friend who just happened to be in Germany, and when I saw his smiling face—that sweet smiling face—I knew in an instant he was going to be fine. That whatever had happened to him was going to be okay. That smile was a smile of acceptance and, “don’t worry about me, Mom—God’s in control!”
While at Walter Reed with CJ, I witnessed things that no child should ever have to go through. Those were so pretty tough days—the surgeries, the pain, the challenges, and the unknowns, but I’m so very thankful that we serve a God who answers prayers. During those days, I saw a young man turn to God and seek His will for his life. I saw him accept what had happened to him and embrace that God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers. That God had given him a story to share with others who may be going through pain, challenges, and unknowns too, and that there’s no obstacle too big for God to overcome.
As soon as CJ was able to start learning to write left-handed, he did. Seeing him writing with his left hand with his right arm in a sling, brought back sweet memories of a little boy of about 4 years old coming to me with a rope asking—almost demanding—his mother to tie his right arm down because he wanted to be a lefty like his sister and the grandfather he shares his name with. I had to remind him of that and to be careful what you wish for. We both had a good laugh that day. Some days we just needed a good laugh.
The days I shared with CJ while at Walter Reed, although they were some of the toughest days of my life, were also some of the most precious and beautiful days. I can say that I’m closer to God now because of the journey I was so blessed to travel with my son. Seeing my son draw closer to God, seeking His will for his life, sharing the vision God gave him, and witnessing how God places individual in CJ’s life to help at that very moment with the foundation is truly a blessing! I cannot wait to see the young lives that are going to be touched and changed for eternity with Down Range.
Chuck Stewart, CJ’s proud father, shares his thoughts on his son’s journey.
CJ in elementary school
CJ in elementary school

We were warned early that CJ would have a lot of bad days and we would need to be very patient during those days when his anger would take over for a while. But CJ never had a bad day. He recognized early that he was where God wanted Him to be and was being prepared for something special. I know people have a hard time believing that, but he never wavered.
Forty surgeries and more pain than I thought the human body could endure are hard to watch your son experience, but CJ reminded me that he had two great examples of men (his grandfather and great grandfather) who lived with daily pain. He lost over 30 pounds in a month fighting bacteria and told me that for a week, the smell of water made him sick. Yet in all that, he continued to remind us of Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”
I’m not surprised CJ wants to help young people. Kids have always flocked to him. Most 24-year-old men have no desire to be a role model, but he relishes the chance to be a positive influence. The Foundation started with a disability check and has a vision that will cost millions of dollars to execute. He is so steady and reminds me daily that the battle is the Lord’s and our job is to simply be faithful.
We live in a world of instant gratification. CJ understands that he has a lifetime purpose and simply puts one foot ahead of the other knowing God will open the right doors on the right days.
Go to www.cjstewartfoundation.org. Check it out. It would be hard to NOT want to help here!
CJ as a member of the Sports Ambassadors
CJ as a member of the Sports Ambassadors

CJ serving in Afghanistan
CJ serving in Afghanistan

CJ received treatment at Walter Reed Hospital
CJ received treatment at Walter Reed Hospital

– Metro Christian Living, January 2014
 
 

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