Thursday, September 29, 2011

When Old Wounds Don't Heal

It's been sort of a rough week here. I am swimming in paperwork that I don't know much about, trying to figure our next move on the Social Security Disability denial/appeal and then Strep/Flu hit the house with full force on the little ones and myself. We have dealt with some issues of my husband's that have come like a small whirlwind and hit us unexpectedly, much of which has left me walking and stumbling blindly. A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks, and though I have shoved much under the rug over the last couple of years....seems like when we have a "spell" those old wounds open back up and man, do they bleed. Scars can be covered, eventually healing and fading....but when they keep being reopened...I don't think they ever truly heal.

The nasty sewage that spews forth from his mouth can be hurtful, the demands he places are not reasonable, paranoia can be so wrong and ludicrous that its almost laughable and there is no counterattack that I can launch to make him calm down. Some things he says, breaks my heart all over again. Just when I think I have things all pushed back inward and numbing myself once more, something happens and the past four years tumble out in one tangled mess breaking my already shattered heart into pieces. I end up going to bed and crying myself to sleep, or lying awake trying to sort out the mess in my head. I get so angry, so bitter, so damned resentful that I can barely stand to look at myself in the mirror some days. I am often ashamed of my own self....then, I am ashamed of him. Yes. There. I said it. Sometimes I am ashamed of him. I want him to be the man I loved, married and would have given the world to on a platter and that's gone. It didn't come back, it didn't come home in pieces..what was him is just dust in the wind that is scattered and lost forever. There are times where I get knocked to my knees so many times that I just can no longer stand. It's very hard to stand alone and then carry the weight of another constantly. It's not just my husband that I am carrying, but my children too. Lot of weight for one person that has been knocked down and buried many times.

I look back over the past years and think to myself  "Does he not understand all the things I have given up and done for him?" I go through all the hurdles, the challenges, the obstacles that would have made some of the fiercest military wives yell RETREAT and, then not understand where he thinks I am the enemy. I understand the battlefield came home with him, but I have spent the past four years this October trying to make that battlefield greener. I sheltered him from the world, although the world was beating me on the back. I protected him from fear, from hurting himself, and from hurting others even when I was hurting so badly myself. I sought him refuge, help, safety and stayed on the defensive for four years all while battling my own inner wars.

I gave up sleep to watch over him as he tossed and turned yelling to a dying soldier in dreams. I held him as he woke up covered in sweat and tears, soothing the panic and the pain. I gave him light when there was darkness, took his hand when he was lost, and led him in the right direction. When he was sick, I nursed him back to health. When he cried, I wiped away the tears. When he was sad, I made him laugh. I have given him everything he wanted and still, it doesn't seem good enough to him. I gave him the push up to be on top of the world, while all was left for me was to brush off the dirt and footprints. I never let him stumble, didn't let him fall, and I never will. I just wonder if he knows while doing it, I am barely keeping myself up in the process? There is nothing short of laying my life down for him I think, that would change his point of view of me being the enemy.

I am sick, alone, scared, and lost....and he turned me away. There is no outstretched hand, no friendship, no comfort, no light, no soothing...there is just absolutely nothing. My health isn't that great, and sometimes I panic because I wonder what if something happens to me, would my family be ok? I can't get any sicker because I have no one to care for me. I shouldn't have to panic when the doctors start talking about surgeries. It's not because I am scared, or worried of the reasons why I need it....its because who will help me? I often wonder if I should pass tomorrow....would he even miss me? Would he realize then how much he lost? Or would he simply fill my shoes with another replacement? I don't want anything but love in return. What happened to them over there that keeps them from loving back?

You'd think I'd have given up by now. I don't know where the strength to keep going is coming from. It's a war within myself to really decide. Is it love for him? Or is it simply the challenges that I needed as a woman and a person to accomplish? Is it the combination of both? Is it the fight for all of the Veterans coming home because I refuse to let my husband become a statistic on the VA number list? Was it because my parents raised me to be a fighter despite the fears and I learned to fight for what is right? There are days where I have the fuel, but not sure where I am driving to. This past two weeks has absolutely sucked me dry and left me weak. I just don't have the strength in me to fight anymore.

Another dear friend of mine mentioned that too many people complained and needed to focus on the positives more in our lives living with the wounded or just in general. I agree. She has jumped many hurdles in her years and for that I admire her deeply. She is one of my heroes and although I am older than her, I look up to her. I wish I had half of her courage, stamina and positive outlook. It hurt today to see how positivity works for her and so many others. God, I am seeking that for myself. It's not from my not looking or even creating it. It just simply isn't there. Everywhere I turn in my home, the military, and the battles with the VA leaves me with more negatives than positives. When I want to celebrate a positive, my husband finds the faults. When I have my hopes up, one entity of the government knocks me down again. The military lets me down or our government shuts it doors in my face. Some days I wake up and think the only positive thing I have right now is I am alive, and my children are loved, happy and taken care of. I don't have the support, most of the other wives don't understand what I am going through, and somehow....I don't really fit in anywhere. Again, those scars keep opening up.

I often laugh when people look at me funny when I say my husband's injuries include but not limited to PTSD and TBI. Most of them, sadly, don't even know what these issues are or care to know. The others always have this struggle to find the words to say something that sounds apologetic. You can see it in their faces as if they can't decide whether "I'm sorry" is good enough to say to me? In all though, you can see the look on their faces like "What the hell is that? Is it contagious? Is he going to end up on the six o'clock news by talking a Walmart by hostage? What do I say that sounds remotely endearing enough to her?" It's ok. I don't expect anyone to have the perfect words, don't really expect you to understand, and I don't want your sympathy. I just want you to be aware our soldiers never gave up on the war long after they come home and that we as families are silently fighting along side of them.

I am struggling with myself these days, and wondering how to be everything I am supposed to for everyone when I can't even be myself for just me. I know this too....shall pass. They say when you need help, ask. I have asked. I have done everything but plaster it on a billboard sign on the highway. They say take time for yourself, but they don't say how. They say seek counseling but there is none. This is my only therapy and I simply needed to get it off my chest this evening and then let it go. Maybe some other spouse or veteran will know exactly what I am talking about.

Blaming the Melancholy on the NyQuil,

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Train A Dog Save A Warrior: Gunny and Sarge

Like many family members with Veterans of TBI and PTSD, we are constantly seeking anything and everything that we can get our hands on to help cope or ease some of the symptoms of our war torn veterans are experiencing. As many of you know, beginning in October of last husband started slipping away. We made it through December just by a thread and then in January, the bottom fell out on my husband and he tried to commit suicide. Having to have him placed in long term hospitalization was one of the hardest things a spouse/family member could ever face and do alone. Like many of your emails from soldiers and family members that you send, I too felt helpless in watching my veteran slip further away from me although I was hanging on as tight as I could.

Now in my traveling through the great online world, Patsy Swendson, Founder of Penny's from Heaven, came across my path in several different ways but never in the form of a service animal. While I didn't know her personally, I knew of her and the great work she and her team has done in the form of therapy dogs. It's funny because sometimes I have my doubts in the big man upstairs but do firmly believe that he works in mysterious ways. After blogging, reaching out to fellow wives, and my fellow blogger and friend Gina (The Invisible Wounded)....I received a message that said "I can help you" from Patsy. I had my reservations, my doubts and although very educated in the subjects of service animals for PTSD; it took me several hours questioning my next move on making that call. We had been recently burned pretty badly not once but twice from another organization although we had more than the required medical documentation and references.

Best thing I ever did........

After speaking with Bart Sherwood, the Director of the T.A.D.S.A.W program, I not only felt at ease in what I was applying for but felt like someone actually cared about my husband and my family. After many months of being turned away, shot down, shoved aside, and no one was a breath of fresh air. The application process was easy so had my reservations because it was so simple. They proved me wrong though and after many many phone calls with Mr. was like talking to an old friend. He took the time to get to know us as a couple, my husband as an individual, his struggles and, my family as a whole. After those several failed attempts through another organization, I found that I was absolutely thrilled with this organization. Small, close knit, and full of determination and hope....they not only granted our application but they have now become family to us. Through it all, the factor that sealed the deal with me was that they didn't care about what my husband did in Iraq. They never asked us if he killed anyone, expected his psychiatrist to release all doctor's notes or make any demands, or what he went through...they just focused their attention on what his needs now are and what our needs as a family were. You can't find that information about families like ours on an application or get to know them.

T.A.D.S.A.W. program is relatively new beginning only about a year ago and built from the therapy dog programs already in place. PFH takes dogs that have been thrown away, tested and if they show intuition, promise and willingness to work; they are rescued from shelters in Texas for a variety of purposes such as therapy, companion and service work. To date, they have trained five PTSD service animals for wounded veterans like my husband with intense and thorough training. Currently, there are 30 to be trained this year and applications coming in from all over the world. Setting goals for not only the dog but the veteran, they took on a wish list of things that a normal person would find humorous but for us, challenging. This "wish list" for us was as simple as just being able to go to Walmart for groceries, go and eat at a restaurant without foaming at the mouth or flipping out, and my children had the one wish to go to the movies with their daddy. As I said, very simple, ordinary things that most people take for granted but for Veterans with such issues....can be as challenging as climbing Mt. Everest.

Pairing the perfect Battle Buddy for my husband was a thorough process and one that I do believe was a match made in heaven.  We didn't care what kind of dog it was, didn't matter where he came from as long as he was good for my husband, my kids and our other small dog. "Gunny" was after long deliberation, the perfect match they made. "Gunny" was actually scheduled to be euthanized when he was rescued by Patsy the founder. Shortly after, he became sick and was diagnosed with distemper. Most dogs do not survive this illness but through love, patience and many prayers...."Gunny" survived and is now a full working service animal and in 100% top notch health. Being the fighter he is, and being the fighters we as a family was decided that "Gunny" would be joining our family. Looking back, I know that decision was very hard for Patsy to make and I know she misses him so. However, I think Patsy was supposed to find him, love him back to health and then our paths crossing.

The months went by with phone calls and "Gunny's" training with the Trainers. He surpassed his testing and before we knew it, we were on the plane to San Antonio, TX where the foundation is located. I was only able to spend a week there with my husband due to our children but what an amazing experience we had. Now for those who are interested in any service animal programs, training is pretty intensive. It's go, go and go. You, as the Veteran and the family member, have got to have the willingness to work because service animals just can't be given to you and expect to know it all. Michelle, our trainer, will push you as hard as she can without cracking a whip because the more you show your emotions, the better the dog will be able to handle such issues as they arise. Michelle had the patience of Mother Theresa pushing us as hard as we could go, but in the end? Totally worth it. We liked the fact the training involved being out in places such as Walmart, airports, restaurants, and all the places my husband normally would be frothing at the mouth just thinking about. Yes, they even took my husband to Chuckey Cheese's in which that place would drive any of us crazy!

 I really don't like you sneaking up on Sarge like this!

It feels like "Gunny" has always been with us from the first. He has the patience, the will to fight and never falters even when tasks involve a ton of people, stress and change of routines. "Gunny" is part of the family now and spoiled rotten. He plays hard and works even harder. The commands he learned are amazing and unless you have actually been around one of these dogs, you will never comprehend what dogs are doing for our Wounded Warriors. I remember one training day in the San Antonio, TX airport in which I was having issues walking with my health problems and legs. I lagged behind and started to choke up a little, swallowing and biting back the tears. It was because I realized for the first time in almost four years, my husband was walking ahead of me watching "gunny" as he was walking in an S shaped fashion clearing the path at a 3 foot length of people around them. For the first time in a long time, I could breathe. I felt many emotions that day; hope, encouragement and then I wondered if my husband would need me anymore as he always did. I felt so silly but Michelle told me this was common for us spouses as we are struggling with that sudden cut of dependency. I walked behind them and I really just swelled with pride as my husband and "Gunny" walked that airport like they owned the place. My husband was nervous and of course, panicky...but not once did he stop to look for me which in itself was a miracle.

Flying? Yeah, I got this!

After a good length through the terminal, "Gunny" looked behind to see if I was there. He started walking in front of my husband and started to slow down causing my husband to slow his paces. I realized then, "Gunny" was waiting on me as if he knew I was struggling to keep up but also was hurting that I was being left behind. Even today, no matter where we are or the situation we are in...."Gunny" always waits for me and gives me this look as if he is saying "I got your back and I am waiting on you".

Having a service animal is a challenge in today's society and as most owners of them say, it's a double edged sword. However, we find even with the staring, the stupid comments and questions, it's worth to see my husband have the willingness, courage and faith to get back out a little. It's not a cure, and it's not going to take all the bad things away but somehow it has made things easier and brought our family back together a little. We recently went to Panama City Beach, FL in which my husband was given a proper Coming Home along with 25 other couples. Being the secluded and homebodies we are, the amount of people was a bit overwhelming for us but "Gunny" never faltered.

We have now had him as part of our family since the end of July and it does feel like he has always been here. I can't imagine a day that goes by without him nearby. He is not only good for my husband in many ways, but good for me as well. He knows the days where I am sick and hurting, resting his head close or on the places that hurt me so badly. I have woken many nights to find him sitting on the bed and watching over my husband and will do so as long as it takes my husband to go to sleep or barking to wake him up from nightmares. The more he is with us, the more he picks up on routines, knows our behaviors and knows just the right moment to love on us as if to say "It's ok, I'm here". "Gunny" is so intuitive that there isn't a day that we aren't surprised by his actions or a new thing he has picked up. He seems to know when my youngest son isn't feeling well, and just recently alerted us to quite an aftershock of the recent earthquake. He jumped up and ran around in circles, barking at us which is something he just doesn't do. We could not for the life of us figure out what he was doing! Shortly after his spell, the house and windows began to rattle. Scared me so badly as we have never experienced that before.

Now in Panama City, "Gunny" was quite the love hound taking in all the love and affection from fellow wounded warriors that were with us there on the retreat. I noticed watching him that he seemed to draw attention from some of the guys and how it brought my husband around to talk about his issues and what he went through with these guys and how they shared their stories. For my husband to talk to others period was amazing to see and man, was I proud. He had the confidence and willingness to share his problems with the others and I believe it was because "Gunny" was there all along. To see these heroes love and pet on "Gunny" was a beautiful thing to see as well as having them say "Get a picture of us will you?". Made my heart swell in so many ways that it was very humbling to be a part of.

 Gunny was particularly fond of this young Wounded Warrior

The T.A.D.S.A.W. program is in need of help to keep going. What started out small has become such a popular thing that they are experiencing worldwide cries for help just like they heard mine. On the average currently, most service animal or therapy dog organizations are about a 2-4 year wait. Penny's From Heaven  want to be able to help any soldier or Veteran (no matter what war you served) who asks for it. There are so many loving dogs out there who are being thrown away and I think....makes them work even harder because they were saved once too. "Gunny" isn't a full blooded dog, and God only knows what he is actually mixed with but to us? He is an angel in disguise flying close to the ground and an answer to a long awaited prayer I have had. From start to finish, training a dog and getting through their ADA recognition, Good Canineship testing and everything else that goes with it, is approximately $2500.00. Today, that may not seem a lot for some and for people like us...might as well be a million dollars. What started out as a small TX based organization for TX wounded warriors, is now spreading to other states and countries for wounded veterans. They are looking for additional sponsors for wounded warriors, sponsorships for their therapy dogs and help getting the Veterans there, a place to stay and be taken care of for three weeks. Based in TX, they are also looking for volunteers, foster care for dogs awaiting training, and help with the food, lodging and other incidentals that occur while the soldier/veteran is there training.

Chaplain Choi of the Sixth Spaders REALLY loved Gunny!

Statistic wise, I know we have a TON of readers who read this blog, share and pass along. I am hoping that each of you might be willing to pass on this organization's information and be willing to drop a few dollars. If you own a business and are looking for a way to help our Wounded, this would be a fantastic way to do it! If you are an organization, an FRG, a support group...have a bake sale, car wash anything! Even 10.00 from many would make a difference in the life of a soldier/veteran and their families. Many other non-profits are always looking to pair up or pitch in, and this is one that could use the help and financial assistance. I have included a link HERE that breaks down the cost and sponsorships but even if all of us just saved that one trip to McDonald's or miss one Starbuck's coffee and dropped five dollars, quite a few of us could help save the life of a soldier or veteran in need. We all have talked about the fact that 18 suicides a day occur among our returning veterans. This I know, stunned and outraged us all. Statistically a year, an average of 9.6 million dogs are placed in shelters across the United States with many of them ending in euthanization. What a difference we could all make if we could take an animal that no one wanted and save the life of a wounded warrior.

I challenge each of you to give back to those who gave us all. It's easy for us to sit back and shed a tear for those who felt there was no hope left and against all odds, took their own lives. Somewhere out there, there is an animal who just longs for a home and love. Let's pair them up and let them save each other. I want to thank Penny's From Heaven and the T.A.D.S.A.W. program. There isn't a day where "Gunny" hasn't walked the civilian battlefield side by side, with my husband and I, leading the way. Every day I see my husband smile, have a purpose and a drive to keep going. That has been the greatest gift anyone could have ever given us and for that, we are forever thankful and indebted to you. You are our family now just as any T.A.D.S.A.W family has become to us. You should be proud of all you have done and your accomplishments but more importantly know that you saved so many from sinking when all doors were otherwise closed.

You can find more about Penny's From Heaven on their website along with mailing address, Paypal information and applications. I have included links to a recent story in the newspaper about this organization and service animals for PTSD. If you are interested in applying, or know of businesses or you are an organization that would like to help, you may find the necessary information here.

Two Peas in a Pod-Perfect match for our other dog, Taco

My favorite photo-Who Saved Who? 
Gunny didn't like the waterfall nearby.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Much About Nothing I Am Supposed to Write About

It's been an overwhelming last couple of days. We recently just got back from a trip to a Warrior Beach Retreat for Wounded soldiers in Panama City Beach, FL. As many know, taking a vacation usually requires you to have some down time when you come home. This particular retreat was overwhelming emotionally, patriotically, and well just being around so many people which we normally aren't. Most of it was just seeing that much patriotism in one spot just for my husband which was a part of our lives we didn't get. It was somewhat of a closure for us. My husband did very well up until Saturday night and then started to slip a little. Sunday's flight was completely horrific as we were treated like garbage by the clerks, steward and stewardesses aboard US Airways in regards to my husband's service dog, Gunny. It was humiliation, pointed out by the crew in front of all that were on the plane and then disregarded of our rights to Federal Law. By the time we got home, my husband was in full PTSD mode with the ranting, raving, foaming at the mouth and myself waiting for his head to start spinning all the way around. I had wished on that flight that I had something to knock him upside the head with!

We hadn't heard a single thing from Social Security since we applied in February and our advisers and coordinators were much under the impression of "hey, no news is good news". Now in my mind, and from reading other stories...I knew we would be denied Social Security on the first try. In my heart though, I guess I was just praying to the big guy upstairs to give us just one good push forward. Seems these days we take one step forward and get knocked thirty back. You get up, you dust your knees off and then you keep right at it. I am struggling to get back up again this year. If we had his social security, much of the financial stresses would be off both of us and we could breathe a little bit easier. I am overwhelmed, overworked, ill, tired and frustrated. We came home to find the much anticipated letter from Social Security letting us know that my husband was denied. Insert all hell breaking loose . We just wanted for once, to get our heads above water and be able to breathe. 

To make matters worse, our car which we left at the airport....had a hard time starting and the headlights are out on them. Don't know what's wrong with it, but only the parking lights work on it. After the all day trip of flying and the issues US Airways gave us, it was just too much. I realized I felt so good in Florida although he had some spells, that I really didn't want to be back home. I wanted to run away and not get in the car or go home. I know that sounds horrible, but as soon as we pulled on our road my stomach began tightening up, the butterflies turned into a swarm of angry hornets and my heart was racing. It's not that I didn't want to see my children or be home again...I just didn't want to come back to a home that's filled with stress, paperwork or phone calls.

I know taking care of my husband is hard.  It's even harder when you have to navigate, fight tooth and claw with the government getting earned benefits, but it hard when you don't know what you are doing. Maybe I am too controlling but I have learned from past experiences in my life to have back up plans and never count on that first plan to work out. It's not me being negative, or Miss Debbie's just what life has taught me and working with such entities as Social Security, the VA, and the just learn to guard any hopes you have because they can become so easily crashed. After so many downed planes of hope, you begin to not show any emotions, have any type of hope and always expect the worst when it comes to them. Many of us spouses always wonder why our Veterans are like this with PTSD and/or TBI. I think personally we are becoming more and more like them, we just don't realize it.

I am struggling to keep up with the jargon of all this paperwork and much of it not making sense. The military has placed many demands on me that my health right now and my sanity just can't keep up with. I work all day and the mountain of paperwork just seems to keep growing. There is so much paperwork on our end that it is indeed very overwhelming because you can't just pick a spot on a fast moving train and proceed to jump on. On advice from a dear friend, I made a list yesterday to start marking things off and only do so many things a day....but that list is two pages long! In the past, almost four years this October, all I have done is fight, fight and fight some more. Now that I am not having to fight as much, I am having to wait, watch and pay attention to every little move they make on this chessboard of our lives. Adding to that, I am having to depend on complete strangers to have our "best interests at heart" and from past helpers, that has proved to burn us quite badly. Some of it is now out of my hands, some of it is solely in my hands and other parts are just "wait and see". I have no back up plans, no safety nets and have used all my aces that I held up my sleeve to get to this point.

We have more advisers than most I know, which should be a good thing and am appreciative. I find though that sometimes I often leave off the conference calls with more questions than answers, being rushed, and under so many deadlines. If they only knew how much stress I was under and panicking......wonder if that would make a difference? I really don't like the terms "this is a risk we will have to take" because this isn't their lives we are screwing's ours. Risks are just something we can't afford to take because if that risk coin lands on the wrong side....we will lose everything from home, to cars, to just our entire lives. Sometimes I wish that some of them would just have a little sympathy and just a little understanding that the demands they are placing on me and all the confusion is literally eating me from the inside out.

The past weekend at the retreat, which I will write about later when I come up for air, was wonderful. I had the honor of meeting 48 other women who had more strength, courage and determination it radiated off of them. I felt weird being there because we are a Reserve family and our challenges are different, but they didn't seem to mind that. I really felt with many of them, I had no right to complain because their husband's injuries far surpassed my husband's but it didn't feel like anyone played the wounded rank card and for that, it was a beautiful experience to have. It was a busy five days filled with excitement, joy, fun and surprises. Saturday night though proved to be a sign that my husband was overwhelmed, exhausted and "The Beast" came out once more. I have to admit to you all that this strong Mistress fell apart and no matter what I did to calm myself and him knees were knocking so hard you could hear it. You would think after this long, I would be used to these outbursts, the temper, the "shadow warrior" coming out but I just am not. Do you ever really get used to it?

My husband didn't throw anything, didn't scream or yell....but had this eerie, calm, threatening, and totally scary tone of voice. His pupils were dilated so much that it was like looking at solid black eyes, he was smiling and crying at the same time and my God the words that came out of his mouth were so hurtful. We had such a good time that day that I don't know what set him off. Nothing happened during that day, nothing was said to make him upset, we were just having fun. Just something as soon as we walked in back at our beach house, changed within him. We let his service animal to run outside and play a little to get the energy off and to use the bathroom. Somewhere between locking up for the night and heading upstairs, he flipped. His emotions were all over the place, everything was my fault, everything that I did was wrong and the look on his face was of pure hate. I can handle his manic moods, his ups and his downs, but when his face changes like that, it doesn't look anything like him and quite frankly....that scares me more. 

Suddenly my smiling laughing and in good mood husband turned into this dark, malicious thing that I didn't recognize. The fear that settles over you is as heavy as a wet wool blanket you just can't shake off. Before I knew it, he was yelling at me about my having power of attorney papers and that I was going to commit him again. He demanded that I present them right there and then, even knowing we weren't home. The food that we had eaten over the weekend which I had nothing to do with, was poisoned by me and I was trying to kill him. I wanted him dead because I would get all this money supposedly. I was going to leave him and he would kill me before I ever got the chance to get out the door. I was shocked and not really sure what to do at that point. All I could do was let him rant and rave, hoping like hell he would get it all out and be done.

So many hurtful things and then the laughter at me when I started to sob. I was shaking so bad, I could barely stand up without my knees wanting to buckle beneath me. I tried to keep him calm and trying to get him to understand that he was having a bad spell and no one was hurting him. My husband's service animal who was downstairs eating his supper finally decided to come up and immediately jumped up on him barking which was surprising as he hasn't done that before. My husband stopped for a minute, looked at Gunny, then walked to the bed and was out like a light. My husband's dog and I kind of stood there like "What the hell just happened" and because I was still worked up...went out and sat outside for a long time with his head in my lap and me crying. All I could think to myself, is how much longer can I keep going? I was so scared I didn't sleep a wink that night. Even when I layed down, our dog tried to snuggle as close as he could get without getting right on top of me. I guess he knew how terrified I was and I was grateful for the attention he gave me.

My husband didn't really remember much the next morning but saw my fear and hurt. I explained what happened and he didn't say anything. However, in "share time" that morning on the last day of the retreat, he stood up in front of fifty other people and apologized although he doesn't remember most of it. He just remembers coming in, brushing his teeth and his head hitting the pillow. I knew his apology was sincere, and he has never ever done that before so I knew it took a lot of guts to stand up in front of his new friends to admit his PTSD got the best of him and that his shame was great...but damn those words. They just keep echoing in my head. How do you keep helping someone and stick with it when the PTSD Beast hates you so much? When do we as family members ever really stop becoming the enemy?

Name calling I can deal with. Other things hurt to the quick and still stings long after they are said and done. I didn't realize until January happened this year how many scars I had and how they open and bleed so badly each times these spells hit. I am trying to be strong, keep my chin above water and as someone once told me....keep swimming. It's just times like this where I feel like the lifelines I am grasping a hold of, is slipping. If I go down....he goes with me. It's a heavy heavy burden we are all carrying.

Seeing the letter from Social Security absolutely ripped my heart out and stomped it into pieces. I expected the disappointment, I really did. It was the frustration of what the letter said that upset me so. The letter read that "according to VA medical records, your PTSD has gotten better with medications, therapy and inpatient treatment", "TBI was not treated by the VA so therefore it must not be as bad as you claim it to be", "You walked into the doctor's appointment so therefore your legs must not be hurting that bad nor your back." "Total decision of denial was based on all medical records and we find that you can find a job that is less demanding and work with your disabilities." I don't know whose medical records they were reading, but it wasn't my husband's.  I wondered if they missed the letters from his doctors stating they will NOT release him to work or drill and that in their professional opinion he is permanently and totally disabled as well as unemployable.

I really wanted Social Security to have stayed the night with me on Saturday and feel that same fear, that absolute hate that my husband's beast spewed from his mouth, to see the huge waves of emotions he showed in less than a minute. I want them to see the crying and the laughter because it truly is like watching a horror film unfold in front of you. I want them to hear those words and then be in my position as being the only person that is keeping him from drowning in these churning waters. I wonder if their decision would have changed? I really would love to call them and say "Guess what Dumbass....our VA doesn't have a TBI clinic which is why he hasn't been treated!" All that work, all that time, all that stress and trying to do it on my own.....failed. So then my heart started panicking, racing ninety miles an hour and pounding out my chest. I was so afraid this would set him off, or that January would happen all over again. I gave my son the look of " be prepared to run with the little ones" but my husband instead, just sat down with his head in his hands and said "what more do they want?".I myself have struggled trying to figure out what I did wrong, although I know in this old head of mine that its just standard procedure.

Yesterday was a better day for my husband. It wasn't for me. I am still struggling with sleep, nightmares and the past spells replaying in my mind over and over again. I try to shake them but they just keep coming back. Add all this other stuff rolled up in one big giant ball and I feel myself cracking a little too. I am writing all this out because several emails spoke about being alone when these "episodes" happen. You aren't alone, I promise. I have been there and done that many times. This post may not make sense to anyone, but wanted to write it out....let it go and try to be rid of it. This is part of the war that Uncle Sam doesn't want you talking about but it happens to all of us every single day of our lives. I am going to fight the Social Security with an appeal although unsure how to do it. I will knock the dirt off my pants and try once more to stand my ground....but my heart is breaking into pieces because I am hurting this much and Uncle Sam just doesn't care. Somehow....someway, he is going to have to.

Trying to Find My Way,

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What I Learned On The Cracked Streets of New York

This past June, I was invited to attend a trip to the Big Apple (That's New York for you non-city slickers) for a Writer's Guild sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Project. I haven't had a chance to blog about that just yet because I am still trying to figure out how I want to write that up. Yesterday was a bad day for me. Not sure why.....wasn't anything horrible, nothing particularly devastating, anything possibly catastrophic, life changing or alien invasion...but just a rotten day followed with tears which I hate. Some days just get to be so much that I get frustrated and angry, which in turn leads this Mistress to turn on the water works to get it all out.

So last night after another evening of silent conversation on my husband's part, and only TV for company...I decided to go soak in a hot tub and turn some music on. I am pretty eclectic in my music choices so last night just seemed like an evening for sappy, slide guitar, down and out, classic country music. While sitting in the tub thinking about my day and how things just weren't getting easier, the song Hello Vietnam by Johnny Wright came on. For those that have never heard this song, I put it here for you.

While soaking in my scented, and only private get away... the sound of the music and lyrics made my thoughts linger back to New York City. Now this small, moo-cow town, semi-misplaced, semi-country girl indeed experienced one hell of a culture shock heading into the city that never sleeps. Between the airport, driving into downtown Manhattan in a cab (which by the way could give you PTSD just from the traffic and the way folks drive out there) and just the jittery nerves of meeting other women like me, had me wound tighter than Dick's hat band! It was go go go from the start, and with the constant traffic and sounds of the city....I found myself missing those early hours with quiet, my moo cows and roosters crowing in the distance. My hotel was very nice, sitting right across from Madison Square Gardens which is something I had only seen on TV and movies.

Since I take my coffee intravenously in the mornings, the one tiny, tea bag coffee filter in a one cup maker just wasn't going to do it for me. I rose way too early on Saturday morning and went in search for the elusive large suicide cup of coffee. As if God was on my side, it led me around the corner where angels started singing and bright lights illuminated in the form of a Dunkin Doughnuts sign. So in the early hours of the morning, I sat outside and watched the food vendors set up for the day, businesses washing off the sidewalks in front, the trash being set out and just listened to the bit of silence that New York City could offer me.

I must have one of those faces that always attract people to come and talk with me. My husband says it is clearly stamped on my forehead and as of late, I am starting to believe that. I met several interesting characters from dancers that hurried by for early practice on Broadway, several prostitutes who discussed their evenings with me and how much they made, and the transvestite who spent much of the morning with me talking about style, the night life and how I was missing out on many things by being in the center of moo-cow town. Man, did he love New York. No one interested me more though than an older man in a wheelchair sitting in front of the NY Fire Department, which was across from a soup kitchen where many, early in the mornings, lined up.

It started out as him staring at me, me staring back and me thinking to myself  "Great, he is going to ask me for a dollar and I don't have a bit of cash on me". I don't know why I do it...I guess its in my nature, but some people just give off a different vibe to me and if a homeless person asks for money, I give them a dollar or two if that vibe is good, sometimes more. Some people have a wrong vibe and I don't. It's very hard these days not to turn a blind eye for those that don't help themselves and in today's society, we have become hard, selfish and cynical. This homeless man sitting in a wheelchair was indeed dirty, scruffy, and probably someone my friends, family and most definitely husband would have jumped on me for even thinking of giving money to, all while yelling at me about how my heart is too good or how I am I tried to keep my line of vision on "Monique", my new found transvestite, coffee drinking, buddy. At one point in our conversation, "Monique" looked at me, noticing that I was looking in this guy's direction and said "That's Mike. Nice fellow he is. Lost his legs in service. He isn't scary or going to rob you, sometimes we have coffee in the mornings or I will get off work and bring him by a bagel with lox and cheese which is his favorite." So then he whistles to get Mike's attention and slowly but surely, Mike rolls down those bumpy sidewalks to where we were standing.

"Monique" introduced us and Mike wasn't scary at all. After hearing many horror stories about holding on to my purse, keeping my eyes straight ahead walking through the city, I was a bit nervous hanging out with such characters on a street corner. Rough around the edges, needing a shave, I guessed his age to be about 60 or a little older. His face was etched with lines that I think only the horrors of war could cause, life on the streets could only add to, and the greenest eyes that held many untold stories. I excused myself to get another cup of coffee and decided we all needed a round at 5:15 in the morning. So with our Dunkin Doughnuts coffee, we all talked about the weather, the city's trash, the fact that not ALL people with Southern accents are from Texas, we somehow got into the discussion of war. You see, that scruffy man was a Vietnam Veteran who served between 1968 around the time of the Tet Offensive and extended his tour of duty to take advantage of the 30 day leave time the Army offered in between tours. Mike told me during that 30 days, he married his high school sweetheart, buried his mother and watched his father drink himself into an oblivion before he went back to Vietnam. During the war, Mike said he lost a brother, two cousins, and somewhere between South Vietnam and the green green jungles...he lost himself.

So in between sips of our fresh hot coffee, we talked about war and the after effects. The hour I spent with him, he seemed very open and wanting to talk as I was willing to listen. The time flew by and I explained I had to hurry up and shower before I had to report in for our bus picking us up. He said "You better run doll and I will be here same time same place if you would like to have coffee with me again". I said "It's a date!". The whole day went by in a blur but my mind kept lingering back to what Mike said. Perhaps it wasn't the words so much as the emotions behind them, the loss and the far away look I so recognized in my husband's eyes. I often comment that we as spouses truly lose our husbands overseas but have we ever stopped to think about how much they lost in themselves? I guess it was a good wake up call for me, reminding me that I wasn't the only person who lost in my marriage.

So the next morning with three much needed alarms and a wake up call to meet my coffee date, I threw on my clothes, grabbed my room key and went to have coffee at 4:30 in the morning with Mike and "Monique" on the corner of 7th Avenue. When I came out the side door, there they both stood, which I have to tell you is a very very odd site to see that early! Here was this man in a hot pink, tube topped, sequined dress and stiletto heels along with a Vietnam Vet in an old Army jacket and pins, armed with smiles to see me. So after our "good mornings", and the same chit chat on weather; the discussion led back to the Iraq war and problems once more. So after my story, Mike told me his.

After he returned home wounded from an ambush and surviving an explosion causing him to lose both legs, he lost his father shortly after. He went on to tell me "but in the loss of life there was another brought into the world with the birth of my daughter Alison; with only one L mind you". He spoke about his wife who was the love of his life and how having a daughter changed it all. However, he was still young, just came back from war and was wounded on top of everything else. He felt he wasn't good enough anymore having lost both legs. His wife was working two jobs trying to pay the bills and keep them above water, and the VA just kept pushing him out on pain meds to the point he was addicted. Months went by he said, and he felt he had disappointed her, let her down and failed her and their child. He pushed her away by staying out and drinking himself to sleep. After a year rocked by with many nightmares and problems being home, his wife left one day with their daughter and he never saw or heard from them again. After several years fighting with the VA, he just gave up trying to get his full disability and trying to fight the system.

He eyed me closely and asked me "So you are probably thinking, this poor man. You probably want to know why I am homeless waiting on the soup kitchen aren't you? Thinking I ain't got nobody to blame but myself don't ya." I said "No sir...I understand, I really do". He looked at me up and down and said "I gave up because I didn't have the courage to fight anymore. The fight was over and I spent every day fighting over there. I didn't try hard enough when I came home and I didn't try with my wife. Don't blame her, she had every right to go. God, did I love that woman. After that though, there wasn't anything left for me to fight for at all. I lost my home and I chose to stay out here on the streets. Aft'all, a home isn't a home without love, a family and a woman who will stand beside you through the hard times. I don't want no one to feel sorry for me, because I made my choices. I got myself cleaned up from the meds, I got some treatment and then I found God somewhere between Broadway and Lincoln Square." He chuckled over that as did I. "I am happy out here and I am a reminder for those who forgot us. I don't want anyone to thank me, but I want everyone to remember that there are many who lost, for them to have it all. Some losses are our own damn fault, but some Uncle Sam just handed to us and said here you go. You younger folks have much more than we ever did, don't squander it away. Learn a lesson or two from this old man and make it worth while. Fight like you ain't ever fought before and when you get done, put the boxing gloves down and love like hell."

I chewed on that for a minute or two, and in silence we sipped our coffees and watched the city start to gear up. I asked him "Do you have any advice for me about my husband?" He sat a minute and said "yeah 'a do. Have patience. It's hard, but he's in there somewhere. It's murky, its dark and there are demons riding his back all day...but he is still there. Love him no matter how much he pushes you away because he is only trying to punish himself. He depends on you cause you are all he has left. You got the only light on to show him the way and a part of him knows that. Fight for him, because he doesn't have the strength to keep going some days. When he gets stubborn or won't help himself? Stick a boot up his ass and let him know you aren't going to give up on him but you're not gonna tolerate his giving up either. If he is going to the VA and taking his meds? It means he is trying and probably just for you and your kids. Remember that. Lot you don't know, doll, about what goes on in war.... but a lot he doesn't know what you go through either. Both of you are just two lost people trying to hang on tight and not lose your way. One day, he will find his way as you will too. Have faith in God, cause he may take you for a ride but there's a reason. It's not your plan, it's his and he will let you know as you go along. Sometimes you just miss the message".

So after some tears from me, and a little "something in his eye" he said...he shooed me off for my day with the girls in the big city. I told him I wasn't leaving til the next morning but he said he had elsewhere to be. He would be around today but it was time for him to move on as he was tired of the same city blocks and the sites to see. Late Sunday evening I stepped out to get some shirts and saw him across the street. I had purchased a couple of the typical cliche t-shirts at a nearby store with I <3 NY on them for my kids, and rather than spend the rest of my money on stupid souvenirs, bought him a 25.00 gift card to use at Dunkin Doughnuts and a bagel with lox and cheese.

I ran across the street to give it to him and to say thank you for the advice. I wanted to let him know that I haven't forgotten.  He looked inside the bag and said "My favorite!" and got all teary eyed. I told him to have coffee on me wherever he was in the city and don't give up. I appreciated everything he lost and did for us, so it wasn't for nothing. He said "You don't owe me a thing. I should be thanking you for putting up with my grouchy old ass. It was nice meeting someone from Texas (said with a wink). Now get on out of here and go do something fun woman! Remember to keep your chin up, spine straight and can do it." He smiled with a crooked grin and said "Go on now and leave this old man alone!"

I walked away then and joined the rest of the girl's in the adjoining restaurant next to the hotel that night. I learned a lot from my experience in NYC from the writer's guild, especially since I discovered I can write more than just about PTSD and TBI which is something I wanted to do way before this adventure and life ever started. However, I learned a lot more from a homeless man living on the streets than I ever did from a book, or an online forum, or from the VA. It reminded me of what I was fighting for and for what purpose. It reaffirmed my small hope I hang on to that my husband is still in there somewhere and finally, gave me a newer strength.

When I got back home, I told my family of my coffee drinking buddies on the corner of 7th avenue, but didn't go into details. The buildings, traffic and sites through my adventure along with my teaching a Nigerian Cab driver how to properly say "Ya'll " was enough to be told. The next morning bright and early, I had my coffee with my moo-cows and it seemed strange. I missed my New York buddies. As I sat last night in the tub thinking about the day, the water works finally starting to ease off, and fighting off that nagging feeling of "maybe I should just leave and never come back" that song came on and it just reminded me of Mike somewhere in NY. I had to smile because it played right at the moment I was thinking that one little nagging option. Probably just by chance it came on, but I like to think that maybe it was for a reason it came on just at the right time and at the right place.

I am going back in November to NYC to rejoin the girls at the Writer's Guild one more time, and I sincerely hope that I can find my coffee drinking buddy. I wanted to share, as what Mike said, weighed heavily on my mind since last night and carried through this morning's coffee ritual with my cows. I am not sure if you will see the point in my story or not, but maybe someone will. I guess I am trying to say that sometimes it's easy for all of us to lose sight on what we really have, good or bad, and get caught up in the world of our wounded military, the VA and the government. Sometimes, we all just need to stop....and simply smell the coffee. I didn't find God on the corner of 7th Avenue, but I did find a message.............

Chin's Up, Spine is Straight, and Boxing Gloves are on Mike, 

Monday, September 5, 2011

State Assistance and A Wounded Warrior Family

On Facebook and other social feed sites, you will always see from time to time, a question posted about different things like "What have you learned through all this?" when it comes to living with Wounded Warriors. Being the long winded person I am, I always struggle with just one answer, trying to find the right one that sums it all up. I think out of all of this? My answer is simple. You can't depend on outside help and you have to do it all yourself. The hardest thing of all is not just having to deal with a husband who now has become a second child, but also dealing with all who are involved such as the Army and the VA. Let's face it, living on disability alone is hard. When you go from two incomes down to disability, its to say the least, difficult. This year has brought on some serious financial difficulties starting with my husband's "bottom falling out". With that, he lost his job, is not allowed to return to drill which in turn has turned into a falling domino effect with our checkbooks and our lives. We wiped out our savings last year to keep our home and make up for lost time that my husband wasn't able to work or get paid for.

Being the biggest penny pincher ever, I find creative ways to waste not, want not. My children joke about mom's "surprise soup" which usually consists of misc vegetables left for the week and misc pieces of meat in the freezer. Turns out, that is one of my family's favorite meals to look forward to. We don't eat out and if we do, its at a very cheap place because well hell, its just expensive to eat out! So this year, with a financial planner assigned to us, we have tried to change many things like car insurance, home mortgage, car payment interest rates etc just trying to stay afloat. My biggest fear and our concern is that my husband's disability is only temporary. From learning by others, we can't count on that because it could very well be lowered in January of 2012. One of those changes made, was the decision to bite the bullet and apply for state assistance by means of food stamps.

Being the family we are, we have always taken care of our own and then given to others. I don't think I would ever just stop and say "we need help" from someone unless it was an absolute dire need. Swallowing the biggest pill of pride, we filled out the application. Now, DHS said they would send us a letter that would tell us whether we were over the income level and can't apply so it saves people time and gas money. Makes sense to me as our county covers many areas and for us, it was a 45 minute drive to go there. We applied, filling out every nook and cranny on the application honestly, and mailed it off. It was a week later, we got a letter back stating that we would need to come in "due to the nature of our request" and meet with a caseworker as they take these very issues "case by case". I saw this as good news because hey, it wasn't the denial letter.

Over preparing was probably an understatement but only because we have been turned away so many times from others, that I have learned. They wanted everything but first born and blood type. So the day comes to go down there and my husband of course, has to be in one of his moods. It's been a rough couple of weeks from social security appointments, conference calls, the schools of our children sending us letters, and I knew from pride and self-disappointment that he didn't want to go. We recently received a letter from our kid's schools stating that our children were flagged for being under our state's income as "below poverty level", therefore, they would be adding an additional fruit or vegetable on their lunch trays. For some reason, this set my husband off. He looked at me and said "Is this what I *****ng  served for? Is this what happens to families like ours. We get dropped to poverty level?". I couldn't respond to him because I knew no matter what I said, what could be the right answer to that? I was appreciative of the extra items on my child's trays. It had been stewing for a while to begin with, and he had been holding much in while working with his service dog for three weeks in TX. This particular letter smacking us quickly into reality, seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back so to speak and he has let things rip the last couple of weeks.

The DHS here isn't a pretty site and has the look and feel of a detention center or jail. The people that were there, were rude and looked at us like we were gum underneath their shoe. It was as if we were bothering them by being there. Much to my dismay, I found that almost all (and by that meaning our car and one other) the vehicles belonging to applicants in the parking lot were newer, more expensive, and really much nicer than our own used 2003 Tahoe. So with my youngest man, Gunny, and my husband....we all went in. The place was pretty full and naturally being in small tight places, most of the women were talking. One of the conversations while we waited and tried our hardest NOT to listen to, was that of a young woman who joked to another young lady with children and was applying for the first time; about NOT having to work as long as she stayed pregnant. She was probably 22 or maybe pushing 25, but young with six kids in tow. That conversation really caused my anger to stew because she was so nonchalant about it all and to me it felt like a huge slap in the face. She could have probably walked up to me and spit in my face and I wouldn't have been nearly as mad as I was then. She talked about having free health insurance, free housing, food stamps and a cash allowance through Families First. Her nails had been professionally done, her hair had been professionally highlighted (we girls know and tend to notice these things) and she was relatively dressed nice although my husband said she looked like a tramp. In my eyes, a Hollister t-shirt and expensive brand jeans means she has got money coming in from somewhere no matter how she wore it. Tattoos and gold rings means that she is spending more on herself than she is on groceries or items for her children.

Another conversation included a young man with three children in tow driving a brand spanking new Cadillac Escalade who pulled up along side of us and wearing enough "bling" that I was surprised he could walk with that much weight. He was complaining because after two years in the system, he was going to have to take a class on how to apply for a job in order to keep "his stamps". His whole conversation with his wife or girlfriend was how to get around that by telling them he has been looking for a while now and they needed to get their story straight. I kept thinking to myself, "ya know buddy, Welfare wasn't meant to be a career opportunity". My husband who now has a scowl on his face which in turn caused many to stare at him more than they already due to the service dog, was holding my hand as if we were sitting in the bowels of Hell itself.

Out of those younger people in the room, there was an elderly lady who had health issues and only received ten dollars a month for food stamps. Worked all her life until she couldn't anymore, drew social security at very little and a widow. I thought wow, out of all the people in this room...she probably sincerely and desperately depends on that precious 10.00 a month. The remaining people in the room were immigrant farmers and not meaning that in any prejudiced way, we knew because the clerks behind their little window were discussing loudly who to call in to translate because they were illegal migrant farmers and couldn't speak English.

So our name gets called, and we get up. The first thing the caseworker does is say to my husband is "Why do you have that dog with you? Why did you bring THAT in here? What do you need the dog for?" My husband who has already gone past his thresh hold of anger, bristled and replied curtly that it was a service dog for medical purposes. So she said "Oh..well...I don't understand why you have IT here". So I replied nicely that this was a service dog and where my husband goes, the dog goes. Well we knew then, that this day was not going to go well at all. So after sitting down, we go through our story which is a nightmare in itself and present all the required documentation. Shame filled me because the whole time she just looked at us funny. It wasn't like oh wow, what a sad story or perhaps a little sympathy. It was a bored, "would rather be anywhere but in here" look on her face. She wasn't even paying attention half the time because she kept cutting us off asking questions about the dog.

I showed her loss of income, our mortgage, our car payments, utilities and most importantly....our health insurance which we pay for monthly and medical bills which has been a reoccurring expense even before my youngest son was born. ALL of which was required documentation according to the check list I "had to present to caseworker". I showed medications for all family members, breakdown from the insurance company about our $300.00 family deductible which must be met before it even kicks in, and the $1000.00 a year out of pocket and the 15% we must pay on each bill. I brought all the medical bills we owe for this year which is now up to 1700.00 that we haven't been able to pay, so make monthly payments on. We showed her the cost breakdown of food for our youngest son, documentation from the military etc and a breakdown done by the Veteran's Affairs office showing that we only allowed $200.00 a month in gas and $400.00 a month for groceries leaving us with a whopping $42.00 a month out of my husband's disability check a month. Just this month alone, we spent $150.00 round trip/same day to Lexington, KY VAMC so my husband could see a TBI Optimetrist because our area doesn't have one. Due to "clerical errors", which is just a nice way to state that a small box of "Is this a referral?" didn't get checked, we didn't get travel pay the last few times we have made the round trip of five hours. With the cost of groceries and gas these days, this doesn't go very far.

So naturally and probably due to human nature, she inquires about my husband's disability which I felt was rather rude but maybe necessary. As soon as she found out that my husband had PTSD and TBI (which was like explaining how mankind started to her) her whole demeanor changed. She kept looking at my husband as if he was suddenly going to jump up and start shooting up the place! She had huge eyes, and her smile that was fake and plastered on her face turned to a scowl.  She replied "I'm sorry but maybe it will get better". Uhhh ok? After much typing and no responses, she looks at us and says she can't take our mortgage, our health insurance, our car payment, and that we were over the income guideline because the calculations showed that they can't deduct anything as outgoing on VA disability. I didn't understand that because we have one car that is considered for medical usage in which we travel to all of his appointments, we showed every dime, every payment and insurance. She explained that we were short $200.00 from being accepted and that she was sure that "the Army takes good care of their wounded warrior families and you could go back to work". What part of "Caregiver" for my husband" did she not understand? I can't even get my littlest son into childcare because he is classified as special needs and a hazard/liability. I just sat there and explained that last week, we got news that my child will NOT be able to attend public schools for pre-K and the possibility of homeschooling for a few years might be necessary. We didn't qualify for Families First because "Illness or injury does not keep you from supporting or caring for your child for at least 30 days". What part of TBI and PTSD did she not get? Maybe she just didn't understand that I don't leave my children in my husband's care because he just isn't able to care for them.

So wonder what Miss Tatooey's injury is for her to qualify for Families First? The only thing I could figure out was "Injury by tight jeans and glittery thong" allows her to suck the life line out of our state's programs.

Then the Caseworker explains that we can't get help because she can't deduct our insurance, medical payments, prescriptions etc because it's not Medicare. If we were paying into Social Security, then we would be eligible and therefore be able to claim subtractions from our income. Because it was military insurance, which she is sure that they are providing for us, (head banging inserted here) it doesn't count and because VA disability is unearned. WHAT? So then I got upset, my husband is red faced and here I was sitting in that chair bracing for a blow up from him. I told her that if we HAD social security, we wouldn't be applying for Food stamps or any state assistance. I became so upset and just started gathering up our papers so we could leave. By this time, I am choking back the tears. I knew it had been a mistake and how stupid of me to make my husband come down there with me. How dumb was I to think that they would help us? I knew too, that as soon as we got out of the building my husband would go on this tirade and after January? It scarred me for life, and you never know what will make him explode so I was worried. It was a kick to an already downed dog.

My husband started immediately asking her "Ma'am, I may not be understanding but I don't know the answer to this; perhaps you can help me to understand. What did I go overseas and serve my country for? What did I risk my life every single day for? The man out there driving the brand new Cadillac? The young lady who is bragging on how she is taking advantage of the system? Or maybe I should have been an illegal immigrant so I can get all sorts of help. Maybe you think the military takes care of their wounded warriors, but they don't. There are many many of us families losing our homes, not able to make it from month to month yet my wife can go to the store and stand behind someone who is buying steaks with food stamps and junk food. Things that I would love to give my family. I didn't want to be here because both of us come from a long line of family that takes care of our own and to help others. I came because I am not able to help my wife and if this relieves just a little stress on her? I will do whatever she needs and for our children. So explain to me what is it that I worked for, paid taxes into, went to war for and was injured for because I am confused."

I waited for her response, in which she promptly inserted foot into mouth before speaking. "Sir, I am going to stop you there and correct you. I know that there are many many organizations who help wounded warrior families pay their monthly bills and help with groceries. Second Harvest Food bank will give you a bag a week. Wounded Warrior Project I donate every time I visit Cracker Barrel and they help families just like yours by paying mortgages for months and provide resources. I would like to correct you on the illegal immigrants because if they do not have a social security card, they can't collect benefits. However, because they come into the country and have their children born here, yes they can receive a substantial housing allowance or free one, they can collect a higher amount of food stamps and receive dental and medical insurance because their parents are migrant farmers. If have a complaint about Department of Human Services, maybe you should write to your Governor."

By that time, I was infuriated and felt the need to "correct" her as well. "Ma'am now its my time to clear up some confusion. If there was ALL this help, why do we have so many military families falling through the cracks? I just showed you ALL the help we are getting and because we are Reserves, there isn't ALL these programs that will help. Even the ones that do for Active Duty only help ONCE and that's it. There isn't ANY programs that will help monthly at all. Second Harvest Food Bank can help us monthly with one sack of groceries containing what is available at the time. Much of that is whole grain wheat cereals/bread which my children can't have. There are usually eggs, whole or powdered milk if possible, peanut butter or other cookie/bread type items that have byproducts of peanuts in them which we can't have at all in our home. Any one of these could potentially kill my youngest child. Wounded Warrior Project I am a huge fan of and I am sure they have helped many families, but so far, the ONLY thing I have gotten through that program is a trip for caregivers and  resources anywhere near us. They don't pay for monthly bills like you are misunderstanding and they don't pay for monthly housing etc. Now is a time for you to look up some of these programs and see just what the qualifications are, what they do and how they serve. While I appreciate your time, and correction about illegal immigrants...the best thing you could have done was NOT explain to us in length why "Anchor" babies to illegal immigrants get all the benefits when you are turning a Wounded Warrior away. Seems like the ones who really need the help, can't get it and yet the losers out there in society are living high on the hog. And by the way, I will be writing a letter to the Governor." I will copy this blog and send to every state representative, congressman and anyone else who wants to read it.

By this time, my husband was gathering Gunny up and looking like he couldn't get out fast enough. Myself? I stuck my chin out, straightened my spine and with tears running down my face I walked out of there. The ride home was long. Very very very long filled with shouting, crying and disappointment mixed with wounded pride and humiliation on his part. As I listened to his ranting while driving home, I did wonder myself....what do our military serve for? Did they know when they joined that they would come home and just be pushed to the side because they can't do their jobs anymore and not by their fault? Other than the obvious freedom, protecting our country etc...what did they get in return? I had to inwardly laugh to myself because I thought...I was just as naive as that caseworker was before my husband came home broken. I really did think that things would be taken care of. Instead....seems like the leeches of society instead are the primary reason people and families like ours can't get any help and the military and VA systems just don't care. We have to fight constantly to get anywhere, then once there....we must fight once more to stay and not get knocked back down again. I wonder sometimes if my husband knew then what he knows now, if he would have been so eager to sign up for dear Uncle Sam? Pride for our country and the call of duty would probably make him say he has no regrets and I would probably state the same. I have to wonder sometimes though....was it really worth something to many or just some?

Still Dreaming About Welfare Paid Lobster and Jeweled Thongs In My Size,