We have worked with the BVA this past year with Tom Zampieri and testimony on Capitol Hill in January, and by keeping in touch throughout the year. There is a lot of work that comes out of that small office! We are grateful for the work they do and the support they provide blinded veterans.
Sean and I had been looking forward to this trip since we left the convention in Portland last August. We made great friends last summer and still keep in touch with many of them. This year was similar as we had the opportunity to meet new people and make connections. Although many of our friends were not able to come to DC, we had a fabulous time with some new friends.
In my opinion, the greatest benefit of attending the convention comes from the connections we make. For a few days we are surrounded by people with similar stories and situations. While each veteran's story is unique, there is a commonality in these stories, a reminder that we are not alone, and often inspirational stories of hope and healing. It's comforting to talk to the caregivers, share our experiences and emotions, and offer each other support. No one understands like someone who has been there.
This year I worked with Christina Hitchcock to develop an OPS Caregiver group. The role of caregiver is challenging and frightening for all of us. The shift at home can be daunting and exhausting, and without a support network we feel lost and alone. We had a short meeting and were able to share our stories and discuss how we are dealing with the changes in our lives. A profound discovery is that no matter the situation, injury, illness, age, we are all the same. Everyone is struggling. Everyone is putting on a brave face and going about daily responsibilities, but dying inside. We have started a group online to share resources and facilitate communication throughtout the year. It is a project I hope to expand and improve by the next convention.
Day 1: We arrived in DC and scouted out the Crystal Gateway Marriot and the underground shopping mall. We went to supper at King Street Blues where we met up with our dear friends Lou and Ben, Christina, and AJ. After a couple hours in the restaurant, it was back to the hotel where we spent the next couple hours at the bar (sober--I think I had about 12 cokes!!). It was a great night of catching up!!
|Crystal Gateway Marriott|
|Ben and Lou, our friends from Scotland|
|Sean visits with General Amos|
|Jesse, Michael, and Sean outside the International Spy Museum|
|International Spy Museum|
on our last night in DC
All in all it was a fabulous trip filled with lots of emotions and laughter. We are planning trips to see each other around the country and in Scotland. We've been home almost two weeks, and I'm still lonely for my friends.