Road Trip

I’m on a road trip. When I post this, I’ll be somewhere on I-20, probably in Louisiana. While I have covered several topics on my blog during its existence, I usually focus on PTSD, serving in the Army at war, and surviving suicide. And occasionally I bash the VA because they suck. For example, Friday morning I waited an hour at the VA to be told they couldn’t give me a print out of a recent evaluation I had. Today’s post will be a little different from the more recent ones.

There are certain things about my home life that I have tried to keep off the blog. In a few posts I have mentioned some of the marital problems at home. There are no more problems. I have moved out. And now I’m on a road trip, heading to my sister’s house in Louisiana. I will most likely stay there until the new year sorting through my thoughts, decompressing, writing, and relaxing. I don’t get back to my old stomping grounds very often, so this will be nice.

I moved out because she wouldn’t. I had hoped she would move out and I could stay with the kids, but that’s not a fight I want to take on and make things worse than they should be for the kids. In retrospect, I should have filed for divorce when she moved out in March instead of waiting. Then there wouldn’t be anything to argue about. But I chose to pay the bills instead of hiring an attorney. That’s life. And I expect some negative feedback from our mutual friends. Be careful if you don’t know the whole story.

I left the house around 6 p.m. local time. I made it Jackson, Mississippi, before I needed to stop and get a hotel room, where I am composing this. I’ll get up in the morning and finish my trip to northwest Louisiana. I have no set plans and am not on any schedule. I hope to find the motivation to diligently work on my book. I have neglected it for too long now. I’m sure I’ll see some old friends and catch up on all the years gone by. I’ll spend some time with my dad. I’ll get some rest. I’ll miss my kids.

I talked with them earlier in the week and explained that I would be moving out this weekend. They knew it was coming since last month they were told that I had in fact filed for divorce. But that conversation was still hard. Thankfully, they are all very well-grounded and are old enough to have some understanding of what is going on. I feel like a complete schmuck that I didn’t call my two grown children that are out in the world making great lives for themselves. This whole thing happened a little quicker than originally planned and I was focused on getting my stuff together and making sure the school aged children were okay and getting a grasp of all that was going on. My children know that I love them with all my heart.

There’s a lot in my life that I’m not happy about currently. However, in my life as a whole, I am happy. I believe things are going in the right direction for me. I am not happy that I won’t see my kids for a few weeks. I am not happy that I will be going through a divorce. But I am happy to be starting the next chapter in my life. There was a time not long ago that my mind would have put me through some horrible, dark thoughts concerning the prospect of being away from children under these circumstances. Not now. Yes, my kids are my life. But if I can’t be in good mental health for them, things will get bad, like they were before. So, I guess it’s better to be away and in good mental health than to be in a bad marriage and lose my mind.

I have no idea what all this road trip entails, but I am looking forward to it. I’m in a good place in my mind. I am looking forward to the future. I don’t have all the answers and I have no idea where I’ll end up after this little sabbatical. But I am confident in myself, in ways I haven’t been for at least a couple years. The past is the past. And my future looks good from where I’m sitting. Thanks for reading my dribble drabble this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

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The Holidays at War

As the holidays approach, we look forward to Thanksgiving turkey, football, parades on TV and family time. Eventually Christmas will be here with presents, more food, more family, and Santa. Right after that, the new year, but without Dick Clark like we had when I was growing up. I’m pretty sure 2017 will be better than the last few years.

Occasionally, I’m asked to write a short article for a non-profit organization called Project Sanctuary. You can find them at www.projectsanctuary.us. You can also find them on Facebook. This month I was asked to write about war veterans and the holidays. Not to give away what I’ll write for them, it did inspire me to do a piece this week on being deployed during this time of year.

I know I’ve missed every holiday and birthday at home at one time or another. I don’t think I’ve ever missed them all in the same calendar year, though. But we do miss a lot. And while we are away from home, we become family with our fellow Service Members. We celebrate the holidays together. But one thing to keep in mind is that War doesn’t look at the calendar. When we come home from war, we might look at the holidays differently depending on what was going at the time. For more on that, you’ll have to find my article later this month I’m writing for Project Sanctuary.

In this week’s post, I thought I’d show how even at war, we can make the best of it. How we pick each other up. How we get through the tough times and a manage to smile. How we become a family in the absence of our families back home. So much of the support during the holiday season came from back home, from our families and organizations dedicated to taking care of the troops while deployed. Enjoy the pictures, they tell the story. And if you want to support an organization that’s dedicated to helping war veterans, I would suggest you look at Project Sanctuary. Tell ‘em Dave sent ya. Lol. Good day, God bless.

In each of these pictures, a One Star General is serving Thanksgiving dinner to the troops.

 

Service with a smile from our 1SG and our favorite Colonel.  Troops enjoying the meal.

 

I will be as silly as I’m allowed to be.  And, yes, I wore that tie in uniform when at my desk everyday.

 

Troops receiving stockings and cookies from family and organizations back home.

 

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One organization sent over 200 boxes of stuff for the troops.  Captain Rachel’s family was to thank.

 

We found a tree that needed decorating.  And the food was always better during the holidays. Yummy.

 

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This is what family looks like while at war.

Rest In Peace, Laptop

Well, I went a couple weeks again without posting. I’ve received a few messages asking about it, checking on me. Thank you to those that noticed and reached out. I’m doing well for the most part. Much of life is falling into place, or at least I feel good about life lately. It’s been a while since I could say that. It’s all a process, and I’m accepting that it all takes time. I have made progress in some areas and still have a ways to go in other areas. But I’m getting there.

 

I have no excuse for two weeks ago, but the reason I didn’t post last week was because my laptop died. Not just died, but DIED, all caps died. Services to be held at a later date, I’ll keep you posted. I took it to a local computer shop and the look on the guy’s face told me that my laptop had already crossed over to the hard drive in the sky and there was nothing to do to save it. He couldn’t promise that the data could be retrieved and saved, but that he would try. It took a while, but he saved most of my data. Thank you to The Tech Center on Eglin Parkway in Fort Walton Beach, you did a great job.

 

About a dozen pictures from the laptop were not salvageable, but here’s some of what I could have lost. The first five chapters of the book I’m writing. 4,000 or so pictures I took in Afghanistan. My writing, my poetry, everything I’ve ever written for my blog. Years and years worth documents I’ve been collecting from my army reserve career. All my medical stuff I had on the laptop for the VA. The only things completely irreplaceable, were the pictures. I have all the paper documents somewhere. I can rewrite the book, though I think it would be lacking since it was written with such passion when I started. I think I’ll start backing everything up on my next laptop. Currently, I have hijacked my kid’s desktop to get this done.

 

My laptop served me well. It was a gift sent to me while at Fort Hood by my parents after my laptop I had at the time died, very similar to the way the current one went, quietly, in it’s sleep. And where I was, on North Fort Hood in the summer of 2013, I was not able to just go shopping for a new one. For those of you who might have been to North Fort Hood, you know it’s a wasteland of Hell with very little in amenities. And it’s possibly home to the worst chow hall in the army.

 

My laptop was a low-end Toshiba that didn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but was perfect for taking to Afghanistan. It did everything I needed and allowed me to stay in touch with the outside world. Every time I escorted the chaplain on a multi-day mission, I took it with me. I kept a journal of our trips on that laptop. I would log were we went, with whom, what we did, where we ate, how many times we heard the thunderous booms of the incoming enemy rockets. The most booms we heard were at Bagram, but the ones that got closest to us were in Kandahar. I logged every helicopter, plane, and convoy ride. I even noted the one or two times we walked from our base to another.

 

For being a low-end laptop, I would say it held up very well considering it went to war, traveled to and was used in six different countries, was dropped more than once, and exposed to extreme weather conditions. The casing is broken, some of the plastic is cracked. The actual laptop will never be what it once was, but it didn’t lose the important information I had on it. It needed some help from a computer expert, but the data was still retrievable. I have access to it again and can continue with the things I was working on. This ordeal was actually a wake up call for me to get my butt in gear to work more on my book and other writings.

 

In the last couple months, despite some things just not going well, I think I’m doing pretty good, or at least better than I have in a long while. I came to the conclusion recently that I should not be content to be miserable in life. If given the choice between happy or not, choose happy. I choose Happy. I can see a huge difference in my relationship with my children. I can see some improvement in my attitude and reactions while driving. I have become more patient in general with most things. I still have many PTSD issues, but I’m making progress. My sleep doesn’t always go as planned, my dreams are actually getting worse and more vivid. I still have too many days where I am unmotivated and lack energy and don’t do anything. I’m still very hyper vigilant to my surroundings. But overall, I see progress.

 

I think in some ways I’m similar to my laptop. There’s nothing hugely special about me, I’m kind of low-end, but I did the job required of me and then some. I served my purpose, I served my country. I’m broken and falling apart and I will never be what I was before, but I still have most of the information in my head. I can still access so many things I have learned in my life. The data in my brain doesn’t flow like it used to and often times gets out of order. I get confused sometimes and frustrated with how my brain works. But I have my weekly visit to my psychologist at the Vet Center, I have my medications, and I have a friend that keeps me smiling everyday and helped me realize that I do not have to be miserable in life. I’ll be ok, sooner rather than later, I think.  I know.

 

I do plan on going back to posting weekly, every Saturday. But if I miss a week here or there, I’m ok, I promise. As important to me as my writing is, I think I’ve moved past it being a necessity for my own personal therapy. I think I’m working through life’s situations better than when I started writing here again back in February. I’m certainly doing better than I was a couple months ago. I will keep doing what I’m doing, keep moving towards that light at the end of the tunnel, keep hoping for the best and believing it will happen.

 

Thanks for reading. Choose Happy! Good day, God bless.

 

Dave

 

The VA is Killing Me

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything here. I just haven’t felt like writing. It’s also been a while since I’ve read any of the blogs I follow. It’s been a rough few weeks. I have been busy. My busy doesn’t equate to productive by any sense of the definition. But the thoughts in my mind keep me busy, yet also inhibit motivation and desire to do the things that I need to get done or even doing the things that I enjoy doing. I’m stuck in a cycle of doing the bare minimum to survive. But there is a light at the end of this tunnel. I can see it. It shines bright enough to lead me to the end of all this. I just don’t know how long before I get there. But I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and move forward.

There are two main issues lately that have my mind in the darkness that I fight on a daily basis. One is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA). The other isn’t worth talking about and has no bearing on my future anyway. Some fights just aren’t worth fighting. The VA, however, is a fight that I have to keep fighting. And despite being set up for failure in that corrupt system, I must win. In reality though, who am I fooling? They would rather me die and save money for bonuses and art than to help me get well again. But I will go down fighting and swinging no matter what it takes. And before anyone reads anything idiotic into that, “going down swinging” is simply a figure of speech, not a threat. That disclaimer is for the one person that doesn’t know the difference, she knows who she is.

Concerning the VA. I had some appointments recently. Four out of five of them were with a medical group contracted by the VA to determine compensation and pension. My eyes were opened to how things really work, how things should work, and how veterans are just plain screwed in the system. First, every time I’ve seen my primary care physician at the VA, he tells me my breathing is fine. However, he’s the only one. I went to sick call at Ft. Jackson a couple months ago and the doctor that listened to my lungs wanted to order x-rays immediately because of how my lungs sounded. A follow up with a civilian doctor after returning home from that trip had similar results. The doctor I saw most recently for the compensation appointment asked me why the VA hadn’t already diagnosed me. She said there was already overwhelming evidence that the VA sent to her that I should have already have been diagnosed.

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The breathing test is a scam. I didn’t realize the first couple times I took it that I was taking it multiple times each visit until I passed. That’s how the VA works. Make the patient test until they can say there’s nothing wrong. But the doctor is sent only the results of the passing test. They don’t realize that it took me four times testing to get the minimum score. All total that day I took two different breathing tests seven times and passed one time on each test. Basically, I can breathe well enough 29% of the time. That’s good to know. That must mean I don’t need any breathing treatments or meds to help. They can now spend that money on other things that don’t benefit the veterans.

I saw something a while back where a person made a statement that veterans shouldn’t complain about free health care. I wanted to reach through the internet and choke that guy out. (again, just a figure of speech that isn’t possible anyway). I paid for this so called care. I paid for it with my health and my sanity. I paid a dear price for it. In addition, it’s not free anyway. Everyone in the VA gets paid. And they get paid pretty well, some more than others. It’s not a charity. It’s not a non-profit clinic that treats the poor. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that has no accountability to the ones it is supposed to be serving. I don’t want free health care. I want the health care I already paid for. I want the health care that our taxes pay for with the VA.

In August of last year after my failed suicide attempt I went to the VA with the false hope of getting help. I spoke with the patient advocate at my local VA. I didn’t know where to start so I started with her. She assured me that I would get the help I needed and started making phone calls. When she finally got through to a live person the conversation switched from getting me help to her and the person on the other end of the phone bitching about not receiving their bonuses. And I quote the patient advocate, “Yeah, I haven’t got my bonus either. I’m about to drive over to Biloxi and ask her to her face where my money is.” I looked for her business card so I could call her out by name, but I don’t know where it is. Nice to see how much they really care, or what it is they really care about. She was going to drive 400 miles round trip to get in someone’s face about a bonus. Not sure why that needed to be discussed while I was sitting there.

My primary care doctor at my local VA has told me he didn’t want to diagnose me because it would have consequences on my career in the army reserves. Don’t treat me because I’m still in the reserves? In other words, “maybe you’ll die before the VA has to take full responsibility of you.” And at my most recent appointment he commented on my lungs, “We aren’t going to do anything yet. Let’s bring you back in in six months and see how they’re doing.” This is not what my body and mind paid for in Iraq and Afghanistan. I demand better service and better care. And I’m going to be as loud as I can to show everyone what veterans go through in dealing with the VA.

I know experiences vary. I know of a couple friends that got great service and care from their VA where they live. But they are few and far between. From what I can tell, most of us go through the same thing I’m going through with the VA. I can’t fix it. But I can make some noise. Maybe it won’t do any good, but I will be heard. The system will continue to remain broken. There’s nothing I can do about it. But I will keep moving towards my light at the end of the tunnel. And I will survive.

Thanks for reading this week. Sorry it was somewhat scatterbrained and all over the place. I only wrote it as it came to me. There’s no real flow in my writing lately, too much going on in my head. But I will make it to where I’m supposed to be. I am confident in that. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Other posts from me related to this:

https://davidegeorge.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/breathe-in-breath-out-if-you-can/

https://davidegeorge.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/crossroads/

 

2nd Excerpt From My Book

I got nothing this week. Except anger, pain, and horribly dark thoughts. However, I will not have a meltdown in the blogosphere that I did a month or so ago. I thought about skipping this week and not making a post. Instead I will share a second excerpt of the book I am writing. For the other update I posted from Chapter 3, you can find it here: https://davidegeorge.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/448/.

In this part from Chapter 5, the main character, James, is in the middle of telling one of the stories of his war experiences to the psychologist during his stay in the psych ward at the hospital. I am slowly, but surely working on my book. I have added some content since the last excerpt, but mostly have cleaned up and re-written much of the first five chapters. I would like to finish by the end of October. We’ll see if that happens. I hope you enjoy the small part of the book here. All feedback welcome. Thank you for reading. Good day, God bless.

Dave


One day when James was by himself in the office the warning sirens sounded as the first explosion shook the small building. James calmly, but with purpose, grabbed his gear. James could tell from experience that this blast wasn’t dangerously close, but close enough to get his attention. This was nothing new to him. He had been there for four months at the time and had probably heard over 200 explosions that originated from somewhere in the mountains. James and the others had become pretty good at approximating how far away the blasts were by the sound it produced and the shaking of the building. Most of the time the enemy was aiming for the airstrip, which was fairly close to their office, but far enough away that if the first blast didn’t get the small building, anything that followed would generally be getting farther away.

Before James could exit the building to take refuge in a nearby concrete bunker, the second explosion hit surprisingly close. This one shook the building with more force, causing books and DVDs on shelves to fall to the floor. James ran out the door with his weapon and protective gear and got in the bunker. He sat in the dirt and leaned up against the wall listening to the sirens and voices over the broadcast system. Looking back and forth out both sides of the bunker James noticed there was no one else around him. He was alone in the bunker. He wondered where his two office mates were and where on the base the last rocket fell. James knew it had definitely landed somewhere close, closer to him than any previous blast had landed.

The third explosion felt like it was right on top of him. It crossed his mind that he might become a statistic, a number on the list of those that never made it home. But then it occurred to him, he would still go home, just zipped up in a bag instead, that is, if they could find all the pieces. James knew the enemy was ‘walking them in.’ They would fire a rocket, mark where it lands, make adjustments, and fire again getting closer to the intended target. Based on the sounds of the first three explosions, James believed in his mind that if they got off a fourth rocket, it would land right on top of him. James waited alone in the bunker with only his thoughts. The noise from the broadcast system, still blaring the warnings as loud as it could, faded in his mind. He could only hear his heart beating and a couple voices in his head. He thought about his brother Bobby grilling him a few years ago about why anyone would want to join the military knowing they would go to war and possible get killed. This thought presented quite a quandary to him. James thought that maybe Bobby was right, but if James died Bobby wouldn’t be able to tell him, “Told you so,” like he always did when they were kids. James smiled a little at this catch-22 of a situation he found himself in. Then he thought of Donna and the possibility of never seeing her again. His smile quickly faded.

There was not to be a fourth explosion on that day. The sirens eventually stopped and were immediately replaced with a loud voice telling the base personnel what areas were now safe to resume movement. Sectors two and three were to stay put, but the area James was in was cleared by the big voice and those in that area could return to normal duty. He wondered where his co-workers were and hoped they were safe. James walked out of the bunker and headed back to the small building he had evacuated a short time ago. Though it felt like hours stuck in the bunker, in reality it was only about twenty-five minutes. He didn’t notice any damage to the outside of the building as he surveyed the area before entering, but saw the mess of books and DVDs that littered the floor inside from the shaking of the building. James sat back down at the main desk, picked up the phone to see if it worked, and logged on to the computer. He would give the other guys a few minutes to get back before he checked in for accountability with the unit. It was Sergeant Jacobs’ job anyway, but if he didn’t come back it would become James’ responsibility. James did not that responsibility, not this way. Miller came bursting through the door after a moment, startling James.

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