Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

January--boring. . . . .
February--perpetual snow, one of the snowiest
winters on record in SD
Keeley's 17th
March--24 hours in Seattle and dinner at
the top of the Space Needle

April--Junior Prom

May--Speaking at the Canadian Embassy in DC

There goes Prince Charles!

June--US Cycling Nationals in Augusta, GA
July--Dinner with family

USABA Rocky Mountain State Games

August--LAS VEGAS with Christina
Fremont Street
September--Touring the Black Hills with Lou
October--Erin's graduation from Aveda Institute
Pumpkin carving

Veterans Day Program

December--Meeting Kateri at the Whistle Stop Diner

Decorating cookies

Friday, November 18, 2011

Make The Connection

Make The Connection

Connecting Veterans and their friends and family members with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their health, well-being, and everyday lives. Hear inspiring stories of strength. Learn what has worked for other Veterans. Discover positive steps you can take—all in the words of Veterans just like you.

Learn more about

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Update time!

While reading my notes I realized it has been a loooooooong time since I gave any real updates, so here goes!

Sean's application to the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) that we worked so hard to submit this spring was rejected in July because he is not an active duty soldier and does not intend to return to active duty status.  Sean was understandably disappointed, but by the time we found out he was not accepted I already had a new seed planted in my brain.

We applied with the Palo Alto VA in California for their Comprehensive Neurological Vision Rehabilitation program for TBI/vision rehab.  In September Sean had the last of the preliminary exams done and his referral was complete.  The facility is undergoing a move, so his intake will likely take place in January.  This program will provide Sean with a thorough two-week evaluation for all health issues, including vision, and up to eight weeks inpatient TBI rehab.

We are incredibly anxious to get this placement under way.  Seven + months have passed since we began the application process with the NICoE.  I realize it is a slow process, but this is getting ridiculous.

As part of his evaluation we are hoping to get an accurate diagnosis to *finally* determine if his vision loss is due to his TBI.  As I've mentioned before, it has been mentioned in his record that his vision loss might be due to conversion disorder.  His primary care doctor and polytrauma doctors do not agree.  The civilian neuro-opthalmologist we saw last spring does not agree.  The VA psychiatrist who completed his neuro psychological evaluation in 2010 does not agree.  However, it seems every doctor who has evaluated Sean for the purposes of his Army MEB/PEB has jumped on the conversion disorder diagnosis.  Several of them believe so strongly after reading his records that they don't take time to do any evaluations or examinations in the office until AFTER they have defined conversion disorder and tried to get us to say we agree. It is still my belief that they are trying to save themselves money by not addressing the vision loss as physical.

Now, if it turns out that he really is suffering from a conversion disorder, then so be it.  We will continue to attend his therapy sessions and address it.  There is no real treatment or cure.  It might get better with therapy and time, it might not. 

The DSM-IV-TR states that conversion symptoms will disappear in most cases within two weeks in those hospitalized.  Follow this link to read more about conversion disorder.  According to Med Line Plus, conversion disorder symptoms usually last for days to weeks and may go away suddenly.  In December, it will have been 3 years since Sean lost his vision.

So. . . we have some fears about how this will affect us.

Since conversion disorder is not a permanent disability, Sean would not be able to get his permanent and total rating from the VA.  He would not qualify for the adaptive housing grant, vehicle grant, or DEA money for the kids for college.  We don't know if it would affect his affiliation with the BVA, but hopefully not unless his vision comes back.  He would not qualify to participate in activities with USABA.  It could affect my status as a caregiver since the primary reason he needs care is for blindness.  It will affect his MEB.  He will not qualify for a guide dog.  

All of these issues are workable and I try not to think about them much. 

Sean already has a list of "failures" he works from.  He can't get his purple heart and has to prove he was injured (again).  He has worked for four years to get his MEB/PEB completed--he can't serve, but he can't get out, and the doctors don't belive him.  He was denied TSGLI because he did not lose his vision within two years of his injury (TSGLI is irrelevant if he has conversion disorder).  Without his permanent and total rating from the VA he cannot use the housing grant to make improvements to the house and he does not qualify for a grant to replace his vehicle.  He had to fight over and over to get his tandem bike approved from the VA.  He has had issues using his GI Bill for his children.  He  had to give up his job.  I gave up mine. 

All of these issues come together in Sean's head to say, "Your injury is not important to us."  He says, "I was promised these benefits in return for my service, but it's their job to review and deny me unless I can prove I deserve it, so what's the point?"

Well, not a bright and sunny post, but this is what is on our minds.  This fall has been very busy, so we are working hard to get back on a schedule and have some down time.  The good news is the bike was finally approved and after some prodding, it was paid for and ordered.  It will be ready for him this spring!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Love Letter Campaign

Please share and help us tell the Love Stories of heroes and families (like us!) who are building lives together with the visible and invisible injuries of war in their midst!

Today, on Veteran's Day (and ending on Valentine's Day), Family of a Vet is launching The Love Letter Campaign... a campaign to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat.

Here's the main page for the campaign: where you can read more about the project and submit your own letter.  Please share your story with Family of a Vet and share this post to help us spread the word

My letter to Sean is here Being Loved By You.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veterans Day 2011

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive how the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation." General and President George Washington, 1789.

Sean was the Master of Ceremonies at this year's Veterans Day Program in Aberdeen.  He did a fantastic job and I am so proud of him for putting aside his fears and speaking in front of a gymnasium full of people.

Colonel Herman, Sean Johnson, Colonel Holzhauser

 My Favorite Veteran
At the airport the morning Sean left for Iraq August 2005

Receiving Meritorious Service Medal from Captain Vetter

SSG Sean Johnson

Welcome Home May 2007

Veterans in Our Family

Melissa's Family:
Grandfather Harold Anderson US Army WWII
Uncle Brian Anderson US Air Force
Cousin Jason Anderson USMC Iraq
Grandpa Duane Shoemaker's cousin George Shoemaker WWII
Step-Grandfather Paul Cameron US Army WWII
Step-Father James Cameron S.D. National Guard
Uncle Truman Henry USMC
Cousin Jason Engel S.D. National Guard Panama
David Small US Navy
Cousin Michael Small USMC Iraq

Sean's Family:
Grandfather Herbert Ring US Army WWII
Father David Johnson US Air Force
Sean Johnson US Army Reserves Persian Gulf, Hungary, Iraq
Brother Jason Johnson US Army Reserves Iraq

My Grandpa Harold was Eisenhower's flight
mechanic and traveled with him during WWII

I hope I didn't miss anyone.  If I did, please send me a message or leave a note in the comments.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In Honor of National Family Caregivers Month

Caregiver stress fact sheet from Womens Health
Caregiver stress is the emotional and physical strain of caregiving. It can take many forms. For     instance, you may feel:
  • Frustrated and angry taking care of someone with dementia who often wanders away or becomes easily upset
  • Guilty because you think that you should be able to provide better care, despite all the other things that you have to do
  • Lonely because all the time you spend caregiving has hurt your social life
  • Exhausted when you go to bed at night  
5 Ways to Bring Yourself Back from Burnout by Martha Beck from O, The Oprah Magazine

I believe my stage is "Hitting the Wall."  I did learn that needing less activity and more sleep is normal in this stage--no more guilt!

Relationships and PTSD from the Department of Veterans Affairs

Post-Traumatic Stress and a Traumatic Brain Injury strain a marriage from Veterans Voices

So sad and so true.

DAV Veterans Day 2011 Poster

Click here to download a larger version of the poster below.  DAV Veterans Day 2011 Poster

Check out the DAV poster and look for the pictures below.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Who Says There's Nothing Good on TV?

Extreme Makeover Home Edition--The Hill FamilyActress Glenn Close and the team help build a home for the Hill family.  Allen Hill is a soldier dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.  Watch the episode online.

Oprah's Lifeclass: Puppies Behind Bars (as seen in EMHE)

Our America: Invisible Wounds of War with Lisa Ling
premieres Sunday, November 6th at 9 PM central

Our America: Invisible Wounds of War with Lisa Ling sneak preview

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition “Rise and Honor” A Veterans Day Special
Airs 11-11-11 at 7 PM central

Where Soldiers Come From: It Takes a Village to Fight a War

Heather Courtney's heartfelt documentary about a group of friends in rural America who sign up to go to war is revelatory in its access, insights, and emotional honesty.

Finding Hope in a Darker World

This is a story from American Veteran written by our friend Liesel Mirelli about our friend Dorian Gardner.  We had the pleasure to meet them both at the Blinded Veterans Association Convention in Las Vegas this summer.

Finding Hope in a Darker World Story begins on page 34.

Caregiving and TBI

Caregiving for Someone with a TBI: A Unique Experience
Carolyn Rocchio, a mother and longtime caregiver as well as a nationally recognized advocate, author, and speaker in the field of brain injury, talks with BrainLine about learning to be a caregiver for her son with TBI.

Sarah Wade: A Military Wife and Caregiver's Story
Military wife, caregiver, and brain injury advocate Sarah Wade talks with BrainLine Military about her husband's injuries sustained while combat in Iraq.

Excerpts from BrainLine's webcast Caregiving and TBI: What You Need to Know. You can find other segments from the webcast here.

Burn Pits = Lingering Health Problems for Vets

Congressman: The Military’s Burn Pits Screwed Our Soldiers from Wired

'Burn pits' registry demanded by vets who claim disease links  from St. Louis Beacon

Lawmakers move to create burn pit register from Military Times

Silent Siren

Check out Silent Siren and the fantastic new program to help veterans with PTSD in times of crisis.

November 21, 2007 began the Hill Family’s journey of learning to survive both the visible and invisible wounds of war. On this day, during his second tour in Iraq, SSGT Allen Hill’s vehicle was hit by an IED. The severely wounded soldier returned home to begin his physical recovery, but soon discovered that the invisible wounds of war would further complicate recovery; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) became Allen’s most debilitating injury.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness, and like all mental illnesses, it does not affect only the person suffering; it affects the entire family. Allen and his wife, Gina, are now using their experience to help others who face similar challenges. Their dream to help other families find help and comfort in their local emergency response teams becomes a reality with Silent Siren.

Gina Hill

Friday, November 4, 2011

November is Military Family Appreciation Month

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary




With every step we take on American soil, we tread on ground made safer for us through the invaluable sacrifices of our service members and their families. During Military Family Month, we celebrate the exceptional service, strength, and sacrifice of our military families, whose commitment to our Nation goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Just as our troops embody the courage and character that make America's military the finest in the world, their family members embody the resilience and generosity that make our communities strong. They serve with heroism in their homes and neighborhoods while they are without the comfort of having loved ones nearby. Day after day, week after week, spouses resolutely accomplish the work of two parents, sons and daughters diligently keep up with homework and activities, and parents and grandparents patiently wait for news of their child and grandchild's safe return. To these families, and to those whose service members never come home, we bear a debt that can never be fully repaid.

As Americans, we are at our best when we honor and uphold our obligations to one another and to those who have given so much to our country. Earlier this year, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden challenged all Americans to serve those who sacrifice in our name with the Joining Forces initiative. Joining Forces strives to enlist support for our men and women in uniform and our veterans not only when they are away at war, but at every stage of their lives. My Administration is dedicated to doing more for our military families by enhancing learning opportunities for our military children, championing our military spouses as they advance their careers and education, and providing better mental health counseling to heal the wounds left in war's wake.

Our service members swore an oath to protect and defend, and with each step we take on this land we cherish, we remember our steadfast promise to protect the well-being of the family members they hold dear. Every act of kindness we can offer helps cultivate a culture of support for our military families, and I encourage each American to make a difference in the lives of these patriots.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2011 as Military Family Month. I call on all Americans to honor military families through private actions and public service for the tremendous contributions they make in the support of our service members and our Nation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.


Why YOU Matter!

In honor of National Family Caregivers Month I want to share an inspriational article from Voice of Warriors
Why YOU Matter!

Here is some sage advice from Maxine Thompson and eHow.

How to Be a Caregiver for a Spouse

Take some time this month to appreciate yourself.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for ALL you do!

November is National Family Caregivers Month

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Across our country, millions of family members, neighbors, and friends provide care and support for their loved ones during times of need. With profound compassion and selflessness, these caregivers sustain American men, women, and children at their most vulnerable moments, and through their devoted acts, they exemplify the best of the American spirit. During National Family Caregivers Month, we pay tribute to the individuals throughout America who ensure the health and well-being of their relatives and loved ones.
Many of our Nation's family caregivers assist seniors and people with disabilities to help improve their quality of life. Their efforts help deliver short term comfort and security, facilitate social engagement, and help individuals stay in their homes and communities as long as possible. This heroic work is often done while caregivers balance other commitments to their families, jobs, and communities. As these remarkable individuals put their own lives on hold to tend to their family members, it is our responsibility to ensure they do not have to do it alone.
To ease the emotional and financial burdens that can accompany caregiving, my Administration has striven to support family caregivers for the crucial role they perform. Vice President Joe Biden's Middle Class Task Force has focused on the importance or investing in respite care, counseling, and training for individuals who serve aging Americans. These initiatives would give family caregivers a leg up as they continue to support their aging loved ones.
One of our Nation's greatest responsibilities is to ensure our veterans, their families, and their caregivers receive lasting and comprehensive support. Last year, I signed the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act, which helps fulfill this obligation by extending additional assistance to family members who care for severely wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Our military caregivers exemplify the heroism found not only on the fields of battle, but also in the hearts of those who tend to our wounded warriors when they come home.
As we observe National Family Caregivers Month, we honor the tireless compassion of Americans who heal, comfort, and support our injured, our elders, and people with disabilities. This month and throughout the year, let the quiet perseverance of our family caregivers remind us of the decency and kindness to which we can all aspire.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2011 as National Family Caregivers Month. I encourage all Americans to pay tribute to those who provide for the health and well-being of their family members, friends, and neighbors.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.

Additional information is available here:

Caregiver Appreciation Month
Great resources from Army One Source

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Family of a Vet - PTSD, TBI, & Life After Combat 

Promotional Video for FOV. 

**CAUTION: This video contains graphic combat-related images. While it is intended to give people some small understanding of what a year in combat is like, the images may be difficult for some Veterans, etc., to view. If you would like to skip the combat images, go to 3:39 ** (Family Of a Vet, Inc.) is a national non-profit organization dedicated to helping heroes and those who love them learn more about coping with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), TBI (traumatic brain injury) and life after combat.

Family Of a Vet was created by veterans and families FOR veterans and families!

To learn more about, visit us at:

Our Main Website -

On Facebook -

On Twitter -

At our Blog -

On BlogTalk Radio -

Exodus 14:14

Friday, October 28, 2011

So Lonely

I'm sure most of you have experienced loneliness at some time in your life. 
Sometimes I sit here longing for a human connection.  My friends have their own lives, families, and activities.  My kids are gone.  I no longer have my students and co-workers to interact with throughout the day.  In the past I would have had papers to correct or lesson plans to write.  Children to drop off or pick up.  Someone wanting to watch a movie and share popcorn. 

I go on-line hoping to make a connection with someone, waiting to see who will comment or post.  It feels desperate and pathetic. 

Sean and I are in the same house but don't connect the way we used to.  Even when we are in the same room, many times he is somewhere else.

At times, he is getting better, trying more, and I'm the one pulling away.  Not because I don't want the attention, affection, or interaction, but because I'm so scared of the rejection that will come.   I don't want to let the feelings in because when this phase passes, and it always does, I will be devastated and feel even more alone.

Tonight he is in the basement again.  It is his refuge and safe place.  He has been working extremely hard on projects for the VFW and it is amazing to see him working on something he is passionate about again.  It exhausts him.  It takes all his time and energy to focus on the task in front of him.  He has put off training on his bike this week.  In fact, he hasn't really ridden in the last two or three weeks due to schedule changes and another sinus infection.  It illustrates for me what happens when we do not keep to his schedule, and how he is not able to divide his time effectively--it's all or nothing toward one goal.  Whatever he is focused on consumes him. 

He will be on a hunting trip next week and while I'm looking forward to the break and possibly sleeping through the night, I know I will be anxious while he is away.  I also know how much more I will feel alone. 

It's not that I don't have projects to work on, things to do.  It's more that empty space inside of me feels amplified when he is not here.  Partly residual from the numerous separations we have endured, and partly from being a caregiver and Sean being my "purpose."  When he isn't here, I don't quite know what to do with myself.

I know all about finding time for myself, and doing things I enjoy.  I'm not trying to feel sorry for myself.  I just needed to get it out tonight.

Sleep Disorders Associated with TBI and PTSD

No wonder we're not getting any sleep!

Sleep disorders plague vets with head trauma or PTSD

Sleep and Traumatic Brain Injury

Sean has sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.  When he is not medicated, he suffers from insomnia and has night terrors and night sweats.  His symptoms are somewhat reduced by medication.  His body twitches uncontrollably in his sleep. 

Brain Basics 3-D Model of Brain Injury

Brain Basics 3-D Model of Brain Injury

Cool interactive description of the brain and how it is affected by injury from

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When It Rains

This week has been a let down. 
Sean has to notify the VA of any drill days he serves during the year so the VA can recoup pay as he can't be paid for both at the same time.  The form was turned in this spring and in May we received a letter from the VA explaining how the deductions would be made, and when his full disability pay would be reinstated.

I made two phone calls to the VA to make sure I understood the amounts, dates, and how they figured his pay rate.  Both times I was assured the amounts and dates were correct.  His pay was to be reinstated at a normal rate in September, however, he only received 1/4 of his pay that month.  We worked with our FRC to investigate the discrepancy.  Turns out, the letter we received and BOTH VA employees I spoke to earlier this summer were incorrect.  The math was not calculated correctly in the letter.  We are having it investigated one more time, but the reality is, we probably won't ever see that pay.

We have been waiting and waiting for a response on the GI Bill and the remainder of Erin's tuition.  Finally, a response came, and would you believe it?  They gave us the wrong information!!  Every time we talked to them.  We were assured no less than four times that her program was covered, she would receive her tuition payments.  The school was told in April that she qualified and would be paid for her course starting in June.  The kicker is, you never get to talk to the same person when calling, so that means everyone I spoke with gave me the wrong information!  Yes, I'll work it back up the chain and see if they will pay, but not going to hold my breath.

That leaves me with a hefty bill to pay this week.  If it's not paid, Erin can't get her certificate/license.  She was offered a job, so it's critical to get this done ASAP. 

This is why life sometimes scares the shit out of me.  Last year we had a pay issue that took five months to fix.  When you have an employer you are paid on time and know what to expect.  It's easy to see how families end up losing everything when you can't rely on the entity that controls your income to A. do things right B. fix errors quickly and C. be consistent (unless you count making errors and giving incorrect information repeatedly as consistent).

Beyond the Battlefield--You MUST Read This

"Beyond the Battlefield" is a 10-part series by David Wood of the Huffington Post exploring the challenges that severely wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan face after they return home, as well as what those struggles mean for those close to them.

If you read *one* post on this blog, make it this post.

An average of 18 suicides a day. . . 18 a day. . .

Think the war doesn't affect you? Look around. Do you know anyone who serves in the military? Anyone whose son, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister serves? Is there a military base or Army Reserve or National Guard Armory in your community? Do they go your church? Do your children sit next to theirs in the classroom? Maybe you shop at the same store or eat in the same restaurant. You could be on the same plane home. Look around.

An average of 18 suicides a day. . . it affects all of us.

Sitting in the doctor's office listening to my husband tell the doctor he is feeling down lately and having suicidal thoughts again brings that number quickly to my head. 18 a day. . . How far is he from being another number in that statistic?

If you've never had to contemplate that and the news is the closest you've been to the war, count your blessings! Hopefully, after reading you will be moved to do a little more to help spread the word and save lives.

One mother says, "I gave him to the Army in the best physical condition of his life, and they gave him back to me in pieces." Oh, how true! My husband doesn't have a mark on him, but he is immesurably broken and struggling to hold it together.

Please, read on.

Part 1
Beyond The Battlefield: From A Decade Of War, An Endless Struggle For The Severely Wounded

Part 2
Beyond The Battlefield: With Better Technology And Training, Medics Saving More Lives

Part 3
Beyond The Battlefield: Lack Of Long-Term Care Can Lead To Tragic Ends For Wounded Veterans

Part 4
Beyond The Battlefield: Military Turning To Wounded Vets' Families As Key Part Of Healing Process

Part 5
Beyond the Battlefield: As Wounded Veterans Struggle To Recover, Caregivers Share The Pain

Part 6
Beyond The Battlefield: New Hope, But A Long And Painful Road, For Veterans Pulled From Death's Grasp

Part 7
Beyond The Battlefield: Back Home, Severely Wounded Veterans Wish More Would Ask, Not Just Stare

Part 8
Beyond The Battlefield: Unprepared For Wave Of Severely Wounded, Bureaucracy Still Catching Up

Part 9
Beyond The Battlefield: As Veterans Fight For Needed Care, Long-Term Funding Remains A Question Mark

Part 10
Beyond The Battlefield: Saved From The Brink Of Death, Veteran Keeps Chasing His Dreams

Rebuilding Soldiers Transformed by War Injuries
NPR interview with David Wood
"When you think about it, one of the things that we as a country are learning is that people who are wounded in war are wounded forever,"

You can access more articles and features here Beyond the Battlefield.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Worth Repeating

I received this from a friend and it touches my heart so deeply that I feel I must share it again.

Our troops were sent to war in Iraq and Afghanistan to counter a global threat of extremist Islam by Congress and two Presidential administrations. War bonds were not sold. Gas was not regulated. In fact, the average citizen was asked to sacrifice nothing, and has sacrificed nothing unless they have chosen to out of the goodness of their hearts. The only people who have sacrificed are the veterans and their families. The volunteers. The people who swore an oath, with their right hand held high, to defend this nation.

They stood there, deployment after deployment and fought on. They've lost relationships, spent years of their lives in extreme conditions, years apart from kids they'll never get back, and beaten their bodies in a way that even professional athletes don’t understand, whom America seems to idolize as "heroes". Through the media and popular culture, sports figures and celebrities have become larger than life figures, people who are paid millions of dollars to provide entertainment . The military is paid a very modest salary, and they only complain when congress says they are being paid too much.

These veterans come home to a nation that doesn't understand. They don’t understand that bad people exist out there that want to destroy this country. They look at military and veterans like they're a machine, like they're nothing – like something is wrong with them for wanting to hunt down and kill the enemy, an enemy that has seen fit to use suicide bombing and flying airplanes into buildings full of civilians as a way of "holy" war. Society will tell you that America hasn't suffered like the rest of the world has suffered. Society will tell you that because America hasn't suffered like Afghanistan, Palestine, and other places that have been war torn for years, that we have no right to act the way we are because we are a "young" country. Society will also tell you that America is the terrorist.

When they get out of the military, people who have never served sit in college classrooms with political science teachers that discount vet's opinions on Iraq and Afghanistan because THEY seem to know more about the “macro” issues they've gathered from books and their own dream world opinion. You watch TV shows where every vet has PTSD, and in reality some of these vets have it, and have it bad. Chances are one of the combat seasoned vets you know has it, and yet the majority of this country has the gall to look down on them when it's because of their sense of duty to protect this country is the reason why some of these men and women come home mentally and physically scarred.

Your Congress is debating their benefits, their retirement, and their pay (incredibly ironic when you look at the benefits package for anyone serving in the congress or senate) while they ask U.S. service members to do more. Do you want to know what the amazing thing is? Military members know ALL of this. They know their country will never pay them back for what they've given up. They know that the populace at large will never truly understand or appreciate what they have done for them. Hell, they know that in some circles, they will be thought as less than normal for having worn the uniform, in fact, demonized by some sects of American culture for ever taking a stand to terrorism and extremist Islam with a gun in their hand.

Guess what? These brave men and women do it anyway. They did what the greatest men and women of this country have done since this country was born in 1775 – THEY SERVED. Just that decision alone makes them part of an elite group. People who realize our freedom is at stake and took a stand, sacrificing in some cases, their lives, limbs, and eye sight for a country that will fully never understand their position, and they do it with a smile on their face. I am WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT, AND I AM THE 0.45%!!!!!

(Written by and shared from a friend)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hazardous Exposures

Veterans can find information from the VA on Hazardous Exposures here.

VA Hazardous Exposures List

Military Research Money for Eye Trauma Caught in Cuts

Military research money for eye trauma caught in cuts
From USA Today

From our good friend Tom Zampieri at the BVA:

Some members of congress and a few committee staff on appropriations have decided to lump defense eye trauma research into general catagory of "other cuts!" Despite a hundred visits to various members of congress over the past five months, they went along with the cut, only one congressman, Jim Moran, (D Virginia) stood up and objected and said this is wrong!

Each of you please pick up the phone or send an email to your members of congress, both your senators, and the congressperson that represents you and demand they "increase eye trauma research within defense to not less than $5 million."  BVA had been asking for $10 million for six months, and was promised that, "Why of course, this is for our front line troops, anything at all we can do to help."

Everyone reading this I would point out that the military medical evacuation system is based on urgent to "Save Life, Limb, and Eye Sight!" Guess congress needs a reminder of that priority list.

It's Not Just Us, and It's Serious


Invisible injuries of war to be felt for decades
From Stars and Stripes
TBI Is Not Just Concussion
US Naval Institute

2010 Revised Handbook for Injured Service Members and Their Families

2010 Revised Handbook for Injured Service Members and Their Families

May have posted before, but worth repeating.

Videos You Need to See

Ally's Story - A Baby Girl, Her Hero Father, and a Life Cut Too Short by PTSD

Ally's mom is a friend of mine who lost her love too early in life due to PTSD.

Combat PTSD - What Loved Ones Should Know About Its Physical & Mental Impact

Video from Family of a Vet

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Caregiver Village

Caregiver Village
Caregiver Village is designed for families who care for loved ones with ADD/ADHD, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, autism, cancer, depression, diabetes, general aging, general caregiving needs, heart disease, mental and developmental delays, mental/emotional illness, Parkinson’s, physical disabilities, stroke, surgery, injury or wounds, and war-related injuries. Caregiver Village is designed for you. (taken from

Please give Family of a Vet credit and help them earn a  $1.00 donation as one of their partner 501(c)3 non-profit organizations!

My Holiday Wish

My Holiday Wish

My Holiday Wish is in honor of my husband and hero!     

Hello, and thanks for checking out my Holiday Wish!

During this holiday season, I'm hoping my friends and family will join me to raise $500 for Help Heroes & Families Struggling with PTSD, TBI, & Life After Combat!.

I chose Help Heroes & Families Struggling with PTSD, TBI, & Life After Combat! because Family of a Vet is dedicated to helping heroes and their families learn how to cope with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), TBI (traumatic brain injury), and life after combat!.

Please consider giving to my Holiday Wish, and together we can help our nation's heroes and their families. If you can't afford to donate, I'd really appreciate if you'd share this page with your friends.

Thanks so much,


I'm asking for $10, or as much as you can afford.

Ally's Story - A Baby Girl, Her Hero Father, and a Life Cut Too Short by PTSD

Ally's Story - A Baby Girl, Her Hero Father, and a Life Cut Too Short by PTSD

There aren't words for this video... the story of a hero lost... of his 4-1/2 month old daughter, Ally... and of the dream he had (helping heroes like him) that now Ally and her mommy are carrying on. Please watch this, share this, and help Ally and her mommy see this hero's dream through.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

White Cane Safety Day is October 15th

White Cane Safety Day is a national observance in the United States celebrated on October 15th of each year since 1964. The date is set aside to celebrate the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired and the important symbol of blindness and tool of independence, the white cane.

Here are some tips as published by the BVA:

What to do When You See a Blind Person

When you address a blind person, identify yourself immediately so there is no mystery as to who you are.

Speak directly to a blind person so the individual can follow your voice.

Don’t assume that a blind person is unable to participate in certain activities. Let that person make the decision.

When guiding a blind person, offer your arm for assistance. A blind person can anticipate your movements by walking slightly behind you.

When you’re leaving … say so.

It’s okay to use words like “look,” “see,” and “blind.” Avoiding them may make a blind person self-conscious.

Offer understanding, consideration, and friendship to a blind person – not pity!

Caution a blind person about ascending or descending stairs, curbs, or obstacles.

Offer assistance when you see a blind person trying to cross a busy intersection, but don’t be discouraged by a “No, thank you.”

Offer to read newspapers, magazines, and other printed material for a blind person.

Let blind people speak for themselves – they don’t need interpreters.

When speaking to a blind person, don’t raise your voice. Remember, that person is blind, not deaf.

Don’t distract a guide dog from his main purpose of safely leading his master. Ask for permission before petting.

Guide Dog Etiquette from Guide Dogs for the Blind

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Viva Las Vegas!

August 2011 took us to Las Vegas, NV for the 66th annual Blinded Veterans Association Convention.A highly anticipated trip for us.  Sadly, several of our close friends weren't able to attend this year, but we met many new wonderful friends!

We stayed at the fabulous Golden Nugget on historic Fremont Street.  We had excellent accomodations and were within walking distance of anything we wanted or needed.  The hotel had several wonderful restaurants and bars, two pools (where they sell the worst $9 margarita EVER), a peaceful spa, and plenty of slots!

We spent one evening on The Strip where we watched the Sirens of TI perform their nightly pirate show at Treasure Island.  Our good friend, Tom Z. and his wife Ginger, and their daughter Jazmin spent the evening with us walking along the strip (avoiding the prostitute flyers) and wandering through the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace.  We found a spot for supper at the Cheesecake factory where Sean got to sit right behind his very own (and very large) drag queen!

The next day we went with Tom and his family to MGM Grand and participated in CSI:  The Experince.  That by far was my favorite activity of the trip!  I watched CSI religiously from the beginning of the series, until Gil Grissom left.  We had to study a crime scene, mark the evidence we found, and travel to different stations in the lab to analyze the evidence and identify the killer.  From the MGM we made our way to M&M's World for four floors of M&M products!  We also took a walk through The World of Coca Cola before heading back to Fremont Street.  It was 107 degrees and sunny.  It felt like the soles of my shoes were melting to the sidewalk as we trekked along.

I met Spiderman on the Strip
The convention started with a meet and greet for Operation Peer Support members and BVA board members.  We caught up with friends from past conventions, and met newcomers.  OPS members shared their experiences that have brought them to where they are now in their lives.  It is so encouraging to hear Sean talk about where he is now compared to our first convention two years ago.  It is hard for me to see progress day by day, but he has grown greatly and accomplished much from where he was in 2009. 

We ventured out to Fremont Street to take in Absolutely 80s summer.  The lights from the casinos that line the street are so cool!!  There were three bands playing 80s music and on the hour the lights from the casinos would shut down for a video show on the gigantic overhead screen that must stretch four or five blocks!  It was like one enormous party up and down the street complete with freak shows on the side. 

Spongbob and Sean

On Fremont Street

E.T. phone home

Fremont Street Canopy

The canopy over Fremont Street
 Secretary Shinseki spoke at the BVA Opening Business Session.

I participated in a caregiver panel with the Auxillary.  We shared our experiences as caregivers and tried to address common questions of those caring for a loved one. I also met with our OPS caregivers and discussed the new caregiver program at the VA and brainstormed what we can do to keep this group together during the year since we live all around the country.

Once again, the convention offered a wealth of information and allowed us to make excellent contacts.  We were able to spend a lot of time with our dear friends Christina and Tom.  Most nights we went down to Fremont Street or checked out the hospitality room.  On the final night of the convention, we were chased out of the hospitality room by hotel security around midnight.  After returning to our rooms, many of us texted for a while, not wanting to tell our friends goodnight and goodbye.

J.C., George, Sean, Travis, and Christina in the hotel casino. 
Sean's big win was $8.

Melissa, Cate, and Steven at the Grotto where we ate most
of our meals--ravioli to *die* for!
Melissa and Christina (and random man)
Sunday was a relaxing day spend at the Spa Tower with Christina.  We sat in the jacuzzi and sauna, then lounged around reading and rehydrating.  We walked around just off Fremont Street to see the vintage neon signs now part of the Fremont Street Gallery of the Neon Museum.

It was a fantastic trip!  My only regret is we did not see Elvis.  However, there was a young couple in the group who got married by Elvis, so that will have to count.

We are already looking forward to Galveston, TX in 2012.