Military Wire: What would you do with $101,000?

Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler

The knock at the door was expected, but what was in the briefcase was not. American hero Dave Bronson fought in the Iraq war and ended up losing his leg during combat. The producer wanted to do a documentary. And like many veterans, Dave wants to provide for his growing family, but is facing serious physical challenges that may result in him living the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Like so many military wives, Cara, Dave’s wife who is 8 months pregnant, has stepped up to provide for her family by working as a nurse. Finances are tight. The perfect documentary — but with a twist.

“The Briefcase” is a new reality series premiering just after the Memorial Day holiday on Wednesday, May 27 at 8 p.m.  ET/PT on CBS. It’s a powerful story of two struggling families suddenly coming into $101,000 and having to make a hard decision between keeping the money for their own family or being generous to another family facing hard times.

Keep it all. Keep some of it. Give it all away. Seventy-two hours to make a decision. What would you do with $101,000?

I had the opportunity to interview Dave and Cara and hear firsthand how this experience revealed to them how circumstances often impact the decisions we all make and a lot about who they truly are as individuals and as a couple.

It was easy for me to armchair quarterback this decision without actually being faced with it. With that in mind, I challenged Dave and Cara with this question, “How difficult really was this decision? After all, in the military we are trained to think of others first — mission above self, which is really service above self. The decision was easy, right?”

Give it all away, of course.

The decision process was far from easy for Cara. Eight months pregnant, the primary income earner and no maternity leave, Cara was focused on how the money could help relieve some of their debt, provide for their 2-year-old son and future child, as well as shore up any expected challenges they may face with Dave, who had already been through 33 surgeries.

The decision was no longer easy for me either.

For Dave, the decision was just as tough. Trained to help and to give to others with little in return, the decision seemed like it would be predictable- – he could help another family who may be in a situation far worse than himself. But he’s got his own family to think about as well.

OK, keep some of it.

How do you compare your situation to that of another family? How do you balance the very real needs of your own family and what is best for them with that of another family and not feel guilty if you choose to keep it all? Or even some of it? Or, if you give it all, you are left with nothing — except a warm feeling and your very real, very overwhelming circumstances.

Challenge yourself to watch “The Briefcase” and then discuss it with your spouse or family. The interview and episode forced me to reflect and ask myself, “What would my wife and I do?”

Bottom line: What would you do? This episode and the five that will follow are far from predictable and very revealing in a self-reflective way. Be sure to tune in.

— By Michael Schindler

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

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