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.   

Friday, September 23, 2011

Family of a Vet

I have joined the Grassroots Team of Family of a Vet!  This incredible group was started four years ago by the wife of a wounded veteran who was frustrated by the lack of practical information on  TBI, PTSD, and other issues affecting military and veteran families.  The website now has 100s of pages of information and the team is working to distribute information around the nation. 

Since I am new to the organization, I can by no means do it justice by my description.  Please check out the links below and take some time to explore all the information. 

Earlier this summer I worked on the PTSD and TBI Education packet linked below.  I had the opportunity participate in a mock-up of the new VA Caregiver app being developed for the iPhone and iPad.  I am currently researching topics to write new articles. 

The support and friendship at Family of a Vet is amazing!  I feel I have a whole new circle of friends who really "get it" and understand where we are in our lives because they have been there.

Awesome handout explaining TBI and PTSD and background on FOV

Free Packets available from Family of a Vet:

Ready-to-use PTSD and TBI information for FRGs

Ready-to-use packet: Combat PTSD and the Legal System

Ready-to-use PTSD and TBI Education Packet for Parents and Teachers

★★★Help a HERO while you SHOP!★★★
To shop on AMAZON.COM, start with this link, spend the same amount
of money, but help us raise money for
(money which helps us reach out and support Veterans and
families who are struggling with life after combat!)

Bombs' Hidden Impact: The Brain War

Bombs' hidden impact: The brain war from Nature News

Wartime explosions may be creating an epidemic of brain damage — and a major challenge for scientists.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Only Thing Worth Dying For

Watch the incredible story about ODA 574's mission in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban in late 2001. 

The Special Forces of ODA 574 Episode 1: "The Calling"

The Special Forces of ODA 574 Episode 2: "The Courageous"

The Special Forces of ODA 574 Episode 3: "The Sacrifice"

On November 14, 2001 a U.S. Special Forces team of Green Berets known as ODA 574 infiltrated the mountains of southern Afghanistan to carry out a tribal revolt against the Taliban. Learn more about ODA 574 in The Only Thing Worth Dying For: How Eleven Green Berets Forged a New Afghanistan by Eric Blehm.

Sean met Gil Magallanes and his wife Sherry in Sun Valley, Idaho during his fly-fishing trip in September 2009. 
You Tube Book Trailer

Friday, September 2, 2011

Rocky Mountain State Games

Sean spent the last week of July in Colorado Springs for USABA's Operation Mission Vision.  The athletes were men and women with varying degress of vision loss.  They spent the week training in a variety of sports and concluded the week by competing in the Rocky Mountain State Games.

The discus group
Electric Air Rifle

Olympic Training Center


Olympic Training Center

Sean participated in discus, swimming, judo, cycling, archery, air rifle, and shot put.  He won a bronze medal in shot put during the Rocky Mountain State Games.  He had a fantastic week!

Caring for Adults with Cognitive and Memory Impairments

Caring for Adults with Cognitive and Memory Impairments
Excellent article on caregiving from  Especially good for new caregivers, but a good refresher for the rest of us.

PTSD Fact Sheet: Frequently Asked Questions

PTSD Fact Sheet: Frequently Asked Questions from

Knocked Out: Bell Ringing

Knocked Out: Bell Ringing from the Houston Press

Toxic Trash: The Burn Pits of Iraq and Afghanistan

Toxic Trash: The Burn Pits of Iraq and Afghanistan from Oxford American
Billy McKenna and Kevin Wilkins survived Iraq—and died at home.

FREE Parent/Teacher Packet from Family of a Vet

Living with TBI/PTSD?  Here is an informational packet to help you share with your child's teacher and tips to help you at home.

Teaching students whose parents have TBI/PTSD?  Not sure?  The information in this packet can help you with all children and parents.

Request Free Parent/Teacher Packet

  • Tips for Parents: Navigating the School Year in a PTSD/TBI Household
  • About Our Family: Help discussing your family with a new teacher
  • What Does PTSD Look Like?
  • How Does PTSD Change the Brain?
  • PTSD Symptoms: Clinical vs. Real World Terms
  • Traumatic Brain Injury: Symptoms & Tips for Working with Parents who Have TBI
  • Secondary PTSD in Children
  • How PTSD Impacts Children
  • Communicating with a Parent who has PTSD or TBI
  • Effective Conferences with PTSD or TBI Parents
  • Helping Students Through Difficult Days
  • Understanding PTSD & How to Make a Difference