So in my last post about just us, we were assigned another recovery coordinator that I wasn't so sure about. Mostly because I hadn't had a chance to really talk to her or give her what we have done and haven't done in the past. We are after all, as a family in the whole, gun shy and not used to holding on to hopes. It's more like "Oh yeah? I got to see it to believe it honey". I feel horrible because we have changed so dramatically and there is no such thing as miracles, hope or even magic anymore. I spent hours on the phone calling the First Marine Division, the Pentagon, and anyone else in between just like I have in the past three and a half years. It finally paid off by getting in touch with the right person who cared and took the time to look my husband's military records up. Low and behold, there was absolutely nothing.
After some stupid, head banging "are you freaking kidding me?" questions from the Pentagon like "Is he still Missing in Action?", and my favorite "Are you sure he isn't still missing?". I told her "Well I am looking at him and don't you think I might have called you sooner in regards to him not coming home three years ago?". Sheesh! I am amazed that I walked away from all of the past two weeks with only a minor twitch in the eye! The Reserve Recovery Coordinator we had that I second guessed, turned out to hold true to her words and what a go getter she is! She did more for us in less than three weeks, than any of the Congressmen or state representatives we had on our case. That in itself, is just sad. Rather, it's infuriating and I know that my state's congressman will NOT get my vote this coming election. I chose carefully among our state's political gurus choosing what I thought was wisely, and picked those who pushed the support of veterans! Turns out, they didn't do much at all that I, as the spouse, couldn't do on my own. Now they have "stated" they worked very hard and tirelessly on our case. Hmmm....this makes the Mistress wonder just how hard they worked. Seems to me a young lady three states over did all this in less than three weeks so what went wrong? I can imagine the conversation going something like this:
Congressman: "Is that the crazy lady on line two?" Sigh "Tell her I am looking into it and when you get off the phone call over to St. Louis records department and see if this soldier's records are there".
Secretary: "Sir, St. Louis records only hold retired and discharged records"
Congressman: " Call them anyway so I can give this woman some type of answer!
Secretary" Sir? St. Louis doesn't have them and neither does National Defense".
Congressman: "Ok, well we have done all we can do so just send her a nice letter apologizing but be sure to add my computer signature so she knows that I am sincere. Make sure you remind her how hard we worked and to please return the favor in her vote in the upcoming election".
Harsh? Yes. Close to the truth? Most definitely.
After more than 150 hours logged on the phone, 78 individuals later, one meeting, and some secondary sun burns...I managed to find validation for my husband and was able to close that chapter in our life. The Army has been on our case for the past two weeks with TONS of people calling from neurologists, Child Youth Services, to mental health counselors and therapists. We were also assigned a Military Family Life Consultant or MFLAC if you choose the short version, who is helping to get our finances straightened out.
So where, do you ask, does this lead the Mistress now? Well, I am not really sure. I don't believe in my heart that it has truly sunk in just yet that the fighting is over. Seems that I have become quite comfortable in harassing people for the past few years, staying in that fight mode with no way to get to the flight part that goes with it. I am walking around in a daze now. No more, will I be calling Ft. Benning on a weekly basis, or sending tons of letters and emails...and although we have definitive proof now, I feel sort of out of whack.
From these Line of Duty injury forms, means my husband's awards and benefits will be put in finally which be somewhat closure for him. From what I understand, and there are many involved, they are backing up to 2007 and assigning him to a Wounded Transition Unit. This will also help us when we go before the MED Board, which is one thing we are scared of and going into blindly. This will also help overturn the "not combat related" bullshit the VA keeps giving us on all of our claims for disability. Well, at least a small part of us hopes that it will help that latter part. I find that when dealing with the VA, "hope for the best expect the worst" has been our motto.
Having these LOD's will be nice and most definitely help, but do I think the fight is completely over? Nope. I somewhat think that this will mean a new fight and one that I am completely out of my comfort zone with. It is truly like being a captain and sailing in uncharted territory. After they emailed with all of this, I wanted to shout it from the roof tops because I have been told by so many people just to walk away, not to write or document any of this especially on the internet, and even told to stop calling period. Some days I was placed on hold while I am sure, five or more military personnel were playing "rock- paper-scissors" to see who was going to have to deal with the lady on line three. So this was not only a victory for my family, but for all of us spouses and Veterans who keep hearing "you are the strongest advocate anyone will give you". It's true. I am proof that effort, time, patience, research, education and the willingness to not give up...pays off. Some have asked me in the military world, how in the hell I pulled this off or how I found them. They would be most definitely surprised to see that in research and time put in, information is to be gained easily....on the internet.
I wanted to place the damn confirmation on billboards leading up the highways, I wanted to march in front of the VA and yell at the top of my lungs "how do you like me NOW" or possibly a strong sentiment of "go suck an egg"! Instead, my husband and I just sat on the back porch, heads held in our hands and we cried. My husband looked at me and said "what does this mean?" and for the first time in three and a half years, I was able to look at him straight in the eye and say "baby, this means you can hold your damn head high and know that you are validated". Sigh....alas, the Mistress refrained from placing such items on billboards, no anti-VA-egg sucking-go screw yourselves march in front of the VA, but gotta tell you all dear readers, it was a moment of triumph. And I myself, can hold my head up high because I did it and on my own.
Since then, it has been a roller coaster of emotions and while grateful for all those who have suddenly found a deep interest in my family, I can't help but wonder......"where were you three years ago?". Why in some of these resources, are we just now hearing from some of these? Why did it take me so many years to get someone in the right department and then discover that "oh well, we have been here". I think the victory was was most definitely rewarding, but hard to swallow at the same time. I have made sure that they remembered this one simple phrase, "You deployed a soldier and disposed a hero". I want those involved and responsible to sleep on that phrase every night they lay their head down. I want those who didn't do their job to know that there are some who will not give up and will continue to fight. So if you have gained anything from this blog at all, take with you the knowledge that you MUST fight or they have won and that's exactly what they want you to do, give up the fight. For those of us bloggers, who constantly remind you that "You are your Veteran's biggest advocate" we aren't spinning some BS for you that we expect you to walk away and accept.
Between all of this, my family and my husband was awarded a PTSD and TBI service dog, which we are very excited to have in our family. Although not a cure, we are hopeful this will give my husband some type of normalcy and confidence. We leave to go work with our new family member in July, but will talk more about that later. I am way behind in blogs as I wanted to talk more about the HAVE (Helping a Veteran Experience) Alaska program that my husband attended, and my trip with the Wounded Warrior Project's Writers Guild Program in New York City this past weekend. I am very behind in emails, but please know that I have read each and every one you all have sent in. I am super honored that many of you have shared your stories with me and I will definitely get back to you. Be patient with me as I am trying to juggle so many things right now at the moment and with not only physical exhaustion, but mental one as well. Many thanks to all of you who kept me going, this was a small victory for all of us.
Still Holding My Head High,