I Beg to Differ

I Beg to Differ

October 7, 2010

Dear Victor,

When you commented on my blog post a month ago, Silence Among the Generals, I couldn’t decide if I should delete it or leave it there.  I can handle a negative comment, but I’ve got to admit – It’s hard to leave a comment sitting on my own personal blog page that attacks me personally as a mother and an advocate.  There is nothing I am more serious about than dedicating my life to raising my children and supporting our troops and veterans through the nonprofit I started a few years ago. I’ve never been paid a dime for either of these jobs which happen to consume me 24/7; it’s not about the money.  Loving my kids and honoring our troops and veterans is like oxygen for me.

After a lot of consideration, I’ve finally decided to leave your comment on my page because, based on your comments, you seem to personify the picture I have in my mind of someone who has suffered far too long with PTSD. I know you are angry and believe it or not, I do understand why.  If I were wearing your shoes, I’d likely feel the same way.

You are likely right when you state that my letter to the general was too long, however, if you knew the entire story, and all the background that goes along with it, you would understand that the letter just barely opens the window to the enormous problem facing our nation.

You are mistaken when you think I have not been able to get attention to this issue.  I have gotten the attention of quite a few people in high places.  I haven’t gotten national media attention up to this point, and that has been deliberate.  If I wanted it, I would have sought it out a long time ago.  I want the kind of attention that actually makes a difference.  If the media covers it at some point, it is my hope that it will be because positive changes have been brought about for the care of our wounded warriors suffering with invisible wounds.

After trying to get my son the help he deserved and needed for almost a year, I went on to spend an additional year fighting the system with the aid of Congressman Walter Jones.  I started at the source of the problem and moved up the chain of command. When those efforts failed, I exercised my right to contact lawmakers. It is because of those efforts that I ended up at the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office.  I had to wait patiently for six more months while the DoD IG reviewed my information, for they had to decide if it was indeed valuable enough to pursue.

As it turns out, it was valuable to them.  Not only did the DoD IG’s office take a look at it, but they also decided that my documentation had enough merit to cause them to consider assessing more than just one wounded warrior unit.  Though you feel that I have “added to the harm in the case of my son” and that my actions “just serve to bring back what needs to stay buried”, I beg to differ.  As I write this, numerous units have undergone assessment, including an assessment of the Wounded Warrior Battalion East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I might also mention that some of the assessment team members came to my hometown, 600 miles away from Camp Lejeune, to interview me for several days.

The DoD IG’s assessment teams will make recommendations based on their findings.  These recommendations will likely have a positive effect on wounded warrior care across the entire nation.  Frankly, I don’t see the harm in this outcome.

Did I mention that I was asked, by a high ranking official at the DAV, to write up a brief on my concerns about the health care?  I had to wait three months for a response, but I’m happy to report that they are pursuing a solution to these problems.

You have stated that if your mother were still alive, she would take a cane to me because of my actions.  I won’t deny that your harsh statement hurt me at first, but then I remembered that you are a veteran suffering with PTSD. You’ve got a lifetime of emotion tied up in that comment.  I realize that no one stood up for you when you came back from Vietnam and I am sorry about that.  I didn’t know your mother any better than you know my son, but I’m sure she loved you.  I’m sure she would have fought just as hard as I have fought for my own son, if the world had been a different place back in the days that you returned home from war.

I took some time to read and reread your advice for me, as well as your statements about how well you are handling your own PTSD.  I truly desire to help our wounded and I am very willing to make a realistic assessment of my actions.  If they are not helpful I need to make changes immediately!

I believe I need to set the record straight since you don’t know the entire situation.  One thing I’d like for you to know is simply the fact that I don’t force my son to talk about anything.  I know better than anyone that I am not qualified to help him through this battle.  That is part of the reason I am working hard to start a VET2VET program here in my town.  Maybe you should visit my website and get more familiar with some of the things I’m trying to do to help those in my community, like yourself, who deal with the demons of war.

The other thing I’d like to point out is that, while I don’t know all of the facts, I’m not totally comfortable with the fact that you are “functioning just fine.”  You admitted to having an extremely short fuse which causes you to go into self-defense mode if provoked.  You used the analogy of a “wild creature striking out if cornered or attacked.”  You said you had a “bucket list” that you keep in your head and that “it is out of respect for our laws that some people are still breathing.”

These statements suggest that you are not fine, but that you are, in fact, filled with rage.  Frankly, I don’t blame you one bit for being angry.  You gave this country your life from the time you were eighteen until you were twenty-one.  Though you were not called to physically pay the ultimate price, I would dare to say that your life has never been the same.  In my book, you did, in fact, make the ultimate sacrifice.  After serving your country, and seeing atrocities that most of us will never understand, you’ve been living in your own private hell for years, and no one has done anything of any real significance to help you move forward.

I know you think I just wasted the past two years of my life and caused my son undue stress, but I prefer to think of it as spending the past two years of my life working hard to make a difference in the life of my son and the lives of our troops.  I know that my own son’s circumstances were the initial motivating factor behind my involvement, but in the end, it’s about so much more.  The more I tried to help my son, the more I realized that it wasn’t just him that needed help.  This is a problem of national proportion and it has been going on for decades!

It would be really easy for me to just shut the door on this issue and go back to my regular life, for my son has finally been released from that nightmare.  For the first time, as a veteran, rather than a piece of property owned by the Marine Corps, he has a chance to get some real help. Unfortunately, I just can’t walk away because I don’t want one more individual to return home to poor care, dishonor, and destruction.  I don’t want one more individual like yourself, to suffer in silence for the next thirty to forty years.

I’m far too old to enlist and go to combat.  I’m also too scared.  I don’t have what it takes to be on the front lines of war.  I am in awe of people like you, who do have the guts to serve in our military.  I am so grateful that others will stand up and serve on my behalf.  So, since I am unable to serve our nation in the same way that you have, I figure the best I can do is to serve right here at home.  I’ll never stop fighting for our troops and our veterans.  I will do whatever it takes to make sure that health care for our warriors suffering with the invisible wounds is the best available.  You, sir, deserve to have the best possible care and treatment because you have given your all for our nation.  I am forever grateful for your sacrifice.

Originally posted on open.salon.com

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