This Battle I Fight...We Fight Against PTSD and TBI

There are days when it feels like the battle never ends, never lets up, it is just a constant steady intense firefight……and it feels often like I am losing.

I did not really even realize I was in a fight until long after it started, I wonder had I known from day one, would I be better equipped to fight it?

 As best I know it began several years ago, during our first deployment to Iraq. Although I never set foot in Iraq myself, I have been there, fought there.

 I fought there on my knees, praying for my son, praying for his brothers, praying for those deployed there.

 I fought there as I struggled to live this “normal” life here, to work, to socialize, to attend church, to be part of the community, all while feeling out of place, how can anything be normal when there is war and my son is fighting in it? How could I have lived so normal while other sons were fighting it before him?

 Sleep is difficult. How can you sleep when it is day there, and they are out behind the wire? So you sleep like they sleep. A little sleeping, a little fighting, a little sleeping, a little fighting, and it goes on and on….until he calls. And for a while you rest.  The fight is not physical, it is mental and spiritual, and yet it takes a toil upon you.

 Now I had no physical weapon to speak of, and I dodged no real bullets. My fights were struggles in prayer, against enemies of fear and worry, doubt and despair, grief and sorrow. My weapons were prayers of protection and safety, pleas for mercy and grace to be poured out, upon them, in that faraway place.

 Foolishly, I thought the fight was over, as he stepped off that plane and onto American soil. The signs were minor, a little aversion to open places, rocks piled on the side of the road, boxes out for yards sales, white Toyota pick-ups, but for the most part they were minor and they seemed to pass quickly and all was well. I quickly forgot them.

 I continued to pray for others deployed, I prayed strong, without fear or doubt, I prayed protection and grace and mercy. I wept at each name of the ones who fell.

 And then our number came up again. So I prepared for round two…..Afghanistan. Another country that I have never set foot in, and yet I have fought there, struggled there, on behalf of my son, and those beside him, and on the behalf of adopted sons.

 This battle was fought in a bad place, a very bad place, it filled me with fear and dread to even think of being there. I prayed hard. I asked God to wake me up anytime they needed prayer.

He was faithful, and I woke up most nights.

 The battle was fierce, a battle between faith and hope, and darkness and despair. Men died. Good men, men for which I had prayed, men whose mothers were just like me, on their knees crying out for protection, for mercy. Bullets of doubt pierced my soul on many occasions, bullets of weakness stuck the legs from under me and left me helpless on the ground, unable to continue.

 And yet strength would come, in time, and I would continue the battle, this never ending battle that drug on day after day, after day.

 Being normal was even more difficult in this round, I simply could not fathom how everyone went about their day to day mundane lives without seeming to care at all of the battle that raged in a country far away. Was it possible that only those who knew and loved others who were there, were truly engaged in this fight?  What would the battle look like if every soul in the country were engaged in it, as we who loved were engaged in it?

 I weathered the storm, bedraggled and torn, but still standing. Some were wounded, some were killed, I had dreams in first person of war, with screams and gunfire, explosions and helicopters flying overhead, in grape fields, I put my dream hand on a wall, and my dream eyes looked down and inches from my hand was an IED. I felt my dream heart pounding in my chest as I ran across the grape field, gunfire all around, screams of commands from others all around, the helicopters loud above our heads.

 I received a call, that the one I loved had been injured in an explosion. It was like being punched in the stomach, my legs began to fold under me, as I whispered into the phone…”how bad?’……as it turns out we were lucky, a concussion, nothing serious, although unknown to us at the time, TBI had just landed on our battlefield.

And finally the day approaches, we can see victory ahead, he is on home soil again, he is safe. We breathe out the breath we have held for this long nine months. All is well. The fight is over. Once again we foolishly believed that all was well, that we had won.

Or so we thought.

 Oh how weak and stupid we were, how gullible and foolish. We let down our guard, we ceased our struggle thinking all was well. In truth the enemy now goes on full offense, and we are not prepared for the onslaught.

 His eyes are different now, there is a pain within them, perhaps not visible to all, but clear to one who has known and loved him all his life. Something is amiss. He forgets things, does not always speak clearly, struggles at times to do simple tasks, has a deep love affair with his Glock and carries it everywhere. Perhaps time will make it right.

 But time is not working, and we begin to see the true enemy that opposes the one we love. The enemy is well equipped. Darkness, all-encompassing darkness, overwhelming guilt, heavy sorrow, great loss, all are in his arsenal and he uses them well. This is a new enemy, we had not seen his face before, in the midst of all the battles, all the fears, who had until now remained silent and on the sidelines.

  I leapt into the fight, doing all that I could to know my enemy, who is this that brings such devastation to my home, this place of light, this place of hope, this place of love, who is it that brings this wasteland to all that I hold dear…………his name is PTSD, and his fellow terrorist TBI.

 They are a formidable pair.

 They have unleashed a plethora of violence against us, flashbacks, the bottle, the pills disguised as help, broken relationships, broken hearts, despair, gut wrenching fear, the pain of loss….the doubt….will we be one of the 22? Can we win this fight? Is there truly any hope or is it just a matter of time?

  Against this arsenal we have stood, sometimes defeated, sometimes victorious, sometimes in despair, sometimes in victory, the fight rages on. When victory seems certain they unleash their weapon of setbacks, this one almost always knocks us off our feet, but we continue to fight, wielding hope, and faith and peace and love, we fight on our knees, we call out to God, we fight with a love that is fierce and will not back down, will never stop, we fight with everything we have and anything we can find that might be helpful.


We will not stop fighting. We will keep our eyes on the Light, our eyes upon our Hope and we will go down fighting if need be, knowing that even in what seems to be defeat, we are victorious, for love conquers all.


 To all the Moms and Dads, the Wives and Husbands, the Children and Friends of those who suffer from PTSD and TBI,

 May your sword arm stay strong, and your shield stay high, and may your faith hold fast, may you be strengthened in this fight with all hope, all goodness, all mercy and grace and most of all,may your hearts be filled with a powerful love that is beyond all understanding, which flows from the fountain of grace.


“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests”

“Come to Me (Jesus), all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

“It hasn't always been this way
I remember brighter days
Before the dark ones came
Stole my mind
Wrapped my soul in chains

Now I live among the dead
Fighting voices in my head
Hoping someone hears me crying in the night
And carries me away

Set me free of the chains holding me
Is anybody out there hearing me?
Set me free

Morning breaks another day
Finds me crying in the rain
All alone with my demons I am
Who is this man that comes my way?
The dark ones shriek
They scream His name
Is this the One they say will set the captives free?
Jesus, rescue me

As the God man passes by
He looks straight through my eyes
And darkness cannot hide

Do you want to be free?
Lift your chains
I hold the key
All power on Heaven and Earth belong to me

You are free
You are free
You are free

On a Journey of Hope, to Bring Back Beautiful

   This weekend we will pile into the car and hit the road on a journey to Beautiful.  Beautiful resides in Fort Worth, Texas, and we will be bringing Beautiful back to New Mexico.

   A journey that begins in hope, not that most thought of hope, as in “I hope I win the lottery”, but that sure hope that comes when you know that God is doing something. 

   When I was first asked, to find the beloved veteran a dog, to be a companion and friend, to be trained as a service dog,  I asked God to lead us to the right one,  to help us find the right dog, not just any dog, but the dog He made for this purpose. And I have asked Him to have His hand in all that follows and I trust that He will do all that I have asked……..and more……..He always throws in the more.

 He led us to this  dog.

     To a dog named Jewels, in Fort Worth, Texas. A dog who is as tough as nails, with a heart that far outweighs her 55lb body, a dog who loves big, and who holds no grudges though she has every right to hold some.

 The veteran wants to rename her, which is okay, for they are embarking on a new journey, and what is behind them has past, and that which is front of them is a new name, for a new life.

  While thinking of what the one she was made for might decide to name her........ a still small voice whispered in my heart……..”She is Bella”.

  And then the one she was made for confirmed it……..”She is Bella”.

 Bella means beautiful.

 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

   So the dog named Jewels, who was tossed from a balcony and suffered great injury, and endured great pain, who was rescued and recovered will become Bella, the service dog, the friend and companion of the combat veteran who has also seen horror and endured much pain.........and she who was rescued will rescue, and she who was healed will heal.

Please pray for them both as they start their journey together.

Update: 10/6/14,  The journey down was long,  we stopped only for gas and bathroom breaks, all the way to Fort Worth. We stopped to eat an hour out from Beautiful. 

  Upon arriving,  we saw several people gathered in the yard with a white dog. We parked and got out and they released her. She ran straight to him,  greeting him as if to say " I been waiting for you, so happy to see you!".

  We went inside,  and at some point went out to get something from the car. He opened the door and she jumped right in, ready to go. We had to remove her from the car for a few photos. 

  She was a trooper on the way home, leaning hard into him when he sat with her, and leaning hard into me while watching him, when he drove.

  When last I saw her, around 3pm yesterday, she was snuggled on the couch, his arm around her.

  They fit well together. 

It is good.

Beautiful has arrived in Albuquerque. 



10/7/14 Update: They did their first service dog training session today, both did well. The lesson was held at a local Lowe's store. Bella was introduced to the halter, and she did not really like it, but she was trusting and accepted it. He was introduced to the leash and how to handle it, how to communicate gently. He did well. It was a delight to watch them take their first service walk together.

10/14/14 Update: They had their second service dog training session today. About an hour before the lesson they were in a very close call on the freeway. Someone hit the median and spun out, and he had to evade the accident, another car was hit but they escaped. Bella was thrown to the floor, both were shook up. Yet they proceeded to their lesson, and today they went inside the Lowe's store with their two trainers, and their two trainers service dogs. So it was a lot to take in, a lot of new sights and sounds and Bella was stressed. But again she trusted, she listened and she followed him about the store. I was very proud of them both.

6/17/15 Update : Miss Bella is doing great, she has lived up to her name for she is beautiful. She is doing great as a service dog and as Adam's friend and companion. She goes pretty much everywhere with him. Today she attended college classes for the first time and she did great. We are so proud of her, and so grateful to God, and to Sharina the CEO of Astasia's Animal Rescue  (they do great work, please check them out and assist if you are able), and Aggie Wasson for saving Bella and for letting our veteran adopt her. She who was rescued has rescued. 

We Will Not Go Quietly Into the Night

"The night is the worst time for the warrior,
Unlike most, he dreads the night, yet he will never tell you,
When he lays down his head at night, it is not a reward for his hard worked day,
He lays his head down knowing the war may revisit him,
He steels his nerves and kisses his woman good night,
Or if he is alone, he prepares for the coming storm,
When he finally falls asleep he hears the guns blazing,
He hears the screams of his brothers,
He feels the fear in his heart,
His heart pounds, his body shakes, his skin sweats,
He awakes terrified, desperately trying to find some sort of comfort,
The soldier wishes he could tell his family,
Wishes he could tell his wife,
Wishes he could tell his girlfriend,
Wishes he could tell his mother, his father, his brother, his sister,
Yet the warrior cannot,
For they will not understand his pain, they will not understand his everyday war,
The warrior brushes off his latest encounter with the war,
His prepares for his day, trying to forget,
His daily commute to work is different than your average man,
The average everyday road to him looks significantly different,
The warrior feels his tension, always assessing danger,
In crowds the warrior feels discomfort, his weapon is the only thing that brings peace to his nerves,
This feeling always brings stress to his mind, yet you may never know what the warrior feels,
You may never know what this man has done, for most warriors will never share it,
The soldier seeks his comfort with his brothers,
Those that do not have their brothers with them only pray that they could be with each other again,
The warrior almost wishes he could return to that dreadful place that made sense,
The place where everyone around him felt the same,
Yet he knows that is not possible,
The warrior knows he must continue on,
Yet the fight can seem so overwhelming,
How I can ever achieve peace, the warrior asks himself,
How can he ever let those he loves know the pain he struggles with every day,
This question eludes the warrior constantly,
He asks himself, “How much more can I endure?”
Some days the fight seems lost, some days the warrior gives in to his grief,
But in the end, the warrior always finds comfort with his brothers,
He knows he must fight on, to the objective to triumph over all,
His sense of pride bolsters his heart,
He braces himself for another day, ready to take the fight to his true enemy, his mind,
Some days the warrior finds himself at peace,
Some days he may not think of the war,
Yet the warrior always knows,
It will come back again,
During the night,
Or when he is alone,
The Invisible War drags on, unsung, unrecognized, and unappreciated by the country for which he fights, and dies for."

 The above poem was posted on the page of someone I care very much about. It is attributed to "a brother".

 The poem speaks of what is now called PTSD, or "Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder". The name is relativly new, the disorder as old as time. Over a decade of war has caused a rise in this condition. PTSD is defined as "a psychological reaction that occurs after experiencing a highly stressing event (as wartime combat, physical violence, or a natural disaster) outside the range of normal human experience and that is usually characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event."

 It is common now to have warriors who have deployed multiple times to war.  A small percentage of Americans bear the brunt of the consequences of over a decade of fighting. According to the VA, more than 30% of the veterans treated are being treated for PTSD.

 The above poem speaks from the heart. There are truths within its words, but in my opinion there are also falsehoods, not intentional ones, the writer is not trying to lie to you, the writer believes all the words of this poem. He speaks his heart.

 From the perspective of someone who loves someone, who currently battles PTSD, I will attempt to speak my heart in answer to this poem.

 The warrior dreads the night, he steels himself to face it, not realizing that those he loves are in their own way doing the same. The family of the warrior have a dread of the night also. Their prayers become more fervent as the light begins to fade from the sky. They may occupy themselves like other families, in watching a television show, or reading a book, but each one is thinking of their loved one, thinking of the coming night, praying for some measure of peace, praying the nightmares will not come, praying if they do come that they can be dealt with, praying that no harm will come to the one they love as he (or she) battles the demons of the night.

 The warrior wishes he could share the things that torment him, with those that he loves, but he feels he cannot, he feels they cannot bear them, or that they will not understand him. Perhaps they will recoil from him, and from the horrors he has seen. Yet his loved ones are praying and hoping and living for the day when he will allow them to assist in carrying these things, when he will bare his soul to them and allow them to stand with him in this fight. They care not how black and ugly these demons are, they love their warrior, and they want only to see him(or her) come home.

 For some reason, the warrior believes that it is not possible to understand, nor sympathize nor empathize with him, because those who love him were not there. The family does not understand this. A neighbors home burns to the ground, killing his children, we have never experienced this, yet we understand, we sympathize, we empathize. A terrible typhoon takes out a thousand lives, we were not there, yet we feel their pain, we imagine how horrible the suffering is, we care, we want to help. Why must war be any different? Why is there this belief that it cannot be understood at all unless one has participated in it?

There is truth that in experiencing something, you know more fully the suffering it brings, but others can know a measure of this suffering simply by doing all they can to understand it.......yet often the warrior will not allow the family to do so. Were the tables turned, were it the wife, the mother, the father, the siblings that were under full assault from an unknown enemy, the warrior would insist upon knowing this enemy, he would insist on being allowed to fight it, in fact he would most likely push aside the loved one and face it himself.....and yet he will not allow them this same comfort in fighting for that which they love.

The warrior believes it is not possible to ever return to the normal, yet this thought alone aids his enemy in defeating him, for without hope how is a battle won? If you are defeated before you arrive to the battlefield, if in your heart you know it is all over and there is no hope of victory, all you can do is go out in a blaze of "glory" and yet ultimately defeated. There is hope, there is always hope, and there are others who have achieved victory. The warrior may never be the person he was before, but he can be a fully functioning person. No one is what they once were, each day we change, sometimes drastically, sometimes bit by bit, but in the end, noone is the same at 30 as they were at 19. The warriors circumstances are much harder than normal people face, the road much steeper, but the concept is the same.

 And last the warrior believes that his battle is unseen, that it is invisible, that he is alone in it and no one sees nor cares about his sacrifice and his suffering. That is not true. People do care. People do appreciate all that was done in their name, all that was lost in their name. People do want to help. If they did not how would all the hundreds upon hundreds of non-profits receive the funds they need? Where does the money come from to build a new home for a Wounded Warrior? It is not from the government, it is from the people. Wounded Warrior Project receives its funds from citizens, as does the hundreds of other non-profits that cater only to our veterans.

 People do care, and together we can defeat PTSD, we can get through this, we can come out the other side whole and functioning. You were not meant to fight this fight alone, and yet you will not allow us to help you. You are a warrior, you know how to fight, you know how to win battles, you would never consider turning away help in a firefight. If under attack you would never tell all the people around you to go back to the FOB, you got this, you will fight it alone.....and yet that is how you fight this PTSD. Please let us help. Give us ways to help. If the things we are doing are not helping please tell us what we can do.Please don't shut us out.

 When you shut us out, in reality you are handing us over to the enemy you fight against, it is kicking our ass, it is causing us pain, it is causing us sorrow. You would not leave a brother in this position. You would hand him a weapon and fight beside him. Allow us that same chance. We do care, we want to help, we will never stop trying to help, in the end it would be a lot easier for all of us if you would just tell us how we can help, and accept our assistance. For we too, just like you, will go down fighting. Together we can win, standing each alone we all risk defeat.

 In the end, this family will fight against PTSD until either it is defeated and crushed into the ground or we are all dead. If we cannot bring our forces together, then we will fight alone as single units, not as effective, and the risk of casualties is greater, but if that be the way it must be, we stand willing to go down in a blaze of glory, hearts shattered, tears flowing, spitting in the face of this PTSD until it sucks the last of our life and breathe from us. It doesn't have to be this way, but we are committed and we are all in this fight come what may.

 We will never forsake you, we will never stand down, we will never stop trying, we will never stop praying, we will fight this all the way, if you shove us aside, we will pick ourselves up off the ground and push forward. If you push aside one weapon and break it into pieces, we will pick up another. We will never stop.

 You may consider walking away, as a means to protect us from all that you fight against. Should you choose that path, do so knowing full well that not a day, not a waking minute will pass that we do not agonize over you, think not for a moment that the constant prayers lifted to the heavens will cease, that we will somehow be sucked back into life and forget that you are a part of ours. That will not happen. This is perhaps the fight we fear the most, the one unseen, unknown, where we battle against something and are unable to see the results and unaware of how you fare in the fight. But whatever route you choose....we will not fade.

We will not accept defeat.
We will never stop trying.
We will never leave you.
No matter what you do.
or how you treat us.
We stand with you.
No matter what you do.
No matter how you treat us.
We spit in the face of this PTSD
We will either beat it or die in the attempt.
We are your family members.
and we will not go quietly into the night.

 Written this day, with all our love, to all those family members who seek with all your hearts to bring your warriors all the way home. Take courage my friends, never give up, never surrender.

 And to our warriors, we love all of you more than you know, we understand things better than you think, and we have your back, even when you think you walk alone.


The Great and Heavy Weight of the Poppy


This morning as I walked into my local Walmart a woman handed me a tiny red poppy on a little metal stem.

I stopped, and took it from her hand, and just looked at it. I had to reach down deep, real deep, to find the strength not to simply burst into tears. This little tiny flower, made of cheap fabric and wire, yet it weighs like a stone in my hand, like a thousand pound rock pressing into my very soul. The weight of it threatens to push me to my knees……

  I have always honored our veterans and the poppy has always been meaningful to me. It represented my dad and his service during WWII, it represented my own service during peace time, and it represented the countless ones who fought and died for my freedom. It represented all the patriotic flag waving parades attended across the years.............each year it has come to mean a little more to me as my own son deployed with the Army Infantry, first to Iraq, then to Afghanistan.

But today, I think I finally understand, I think I get it, this little red poppy means so very much more than all I had previously thought. I am unable to express in full detail what it means…but in the words that follow I will attempt as best I can.

 The poppy stands for Kalin Johnson,  Rudy Acosta, Michael Anaya, Kris Lorenzo, Vincent Ashlock, Frank World, David Todd, Patrick Carroll, Stephen Koch, Adam McSween, Seth Blevins, Andy Krippner, Kevin Balduf, Jamie Jarboe, Dustin Lee, Derek McConnell, Juan Navarro, Michael Demarsico…….and ………so very many more, all lives, all leaving behind lives forever scarred by their absence.

The poppy stands for Leah and her beautiful boys and the birthday they just celebrated, he would have been 36 years old this year. Deployed to heaven, gone too soon, killed in action in Afghanistan.

It stands for Cheryl, Chipster,Florence,Walline and Mary…………godly loving people, who show love and mercy to all they see, who pray so for my son, theirs gone too soon, theirs deployed to heaven.

It stands for Lisa, we agreed together on so many prayer posts, lifted up our sons and all those with them....mine came home, hers deployed to heaven.

It stands for the little blond boy, sitting in a heart shaped wave on a beach, who will never feel the arms of his father about him as he grows.

 It stands for  a young man named Michael as he lay burned and wounded in that hospital bed in Germany, his beautiful young wife beside him bending low to hear his whisper…”you have to let me go”…..and she did, with tears and sorrow.

 It stand for a leader named John, who promised families he would bring their men home, and who now sits in prison till the end of his days for doing so.

 It stands for Siobhan who laid everything down and rushed to the side of her wounded son, she and he fought like lions, through the constant threat of death, each time pushed back, each time defeated, and then one night he simply went to sleep and never woke up…deployed to heaven, we know not why.

 It stands for Jamie Jarboe, as we watched from afar, the desperate fight to live, he fought long, he fought hard, but in the end, he went home, leaving behind a young wife who tries her best to honor his wishes and his memory by assisting veterans and their families.

 It stands for Chaz, as he picks himself up off the ground at an airport, and his beautiful wife  who feels the eyes of condemnation upon her by some stranger who knows nothing at all of the story she is witnessing.

 It stands for young Mark, who graced our home with his presence, as he slyly twists his foot in a full circle and shows us his prosthetic leg.

 It stands for Harry. It stands for Anthony. It stands for all our wounded and all those who love them.

  The poppy stands for Trevor, Jon, Joe, Allen, Artie …and all of of those who fell to suicide. Behind them stand more wives, husbands, mothers, fathers and children all asking why.

  It stands for Tammy, who buried her son Jon too soon, one who lost his fight against PTSD. She often sings various lyrics from numerous old songs, and she reaches out to veterans and survivors of suicide to lend a helping hand.

 The poppy stands for a host of young men and women still out there fighting, still paying the price, still bleeding blood wounds and soul wounds the likes of which you cannot comprehend. For Francis, for Stuart and a host of others.

 The poppy stands for all those who wait, for all those who struggle, for all those lives affected by all these wars, from the one that first began this country to the one we fight right now, to the ones we will most likely fight again in the future. The fallen, the wounded, the maimed…..and every single soul that loves them.

 The poppy stands for those who have come home, and yet remain there, who battle against PTSD, the ones enduring the nightmares, the anxiety, the anger, the depression, the hopelessness. For Andrew who once sat in a closet, gun to his head and who now writes books and poetry and strengthens his brothers and sisters. For Boone who uses the demon of PTSD against itself and directs his rage towards helping his brothers and sisters come together and stand together and fight PTSD. All the way Boone! It stands for Joe Dyer whose photo carrying an Iraqi boy to safety touched the heart of America but who died battling the demons of PTSD.

It stands for Bill, still battling the memories of Vietnam.

  Behind each warrior who battles PTSD stand more mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives, husbands and children, watching their loved ones struggle against darkness, doing all that they can to help, fearing the dark, raging at the dark, and lighting candles against it.

 And now the poppy begins to become very personal to me……the poppy stands for Allen, and for Mandy, and Luke and Reddik, for Steve and Judy, for all the blood, the tears the sacrifice, the loss and the sorrow.

 It stands for the flag passed to two little boys, and the looks on their faces as they accepted it. It stands for the young woman who is burying the love of her life.

 The poppy stands for my son Joshua, who never served a day and yet has served every day for many years. He bore the burden of an older brother fighting, he bore the fear of loss, he bore the worry and the stress and now he bears his brothers wounds, now home, the physical war behind him, but the mental one rages on.

 The poppy stands for my family, for the nights on our knees, on our faces, for the fear, for the worry, for the pride, for the sacrifice, for the nights without sleep, for all the cries sent up to heaven, for all the pleas for prayers, for the days spend hovering by the phone, for the sorrow and pain felt at each loss, each wound. For the loss, for Mel who could not endure it all……

 The poppy stands for Adam, my oldest son, for his service and sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan, for his actions, for the good and the bad, for his fighting with all of his heart and soul, for his wounds received, the physical and the mental, for the innocence lost, for his guts and his bravery and his willingness to do whatever it takes to bring his guys home, for the price he has paid for that, for the lives he saved and the lives he took. For the fight he is engaged in now, a fight for life and soul. For the great love we his family have for him, for the pride we have in him. He is a man. He has stared into the face of fear and hate, death and evil. He bears the scars of those encounters, and fights still to overcome wounds received to his soul.

 This then is why, when that woman passed me that poppy this morning, it near took me to my knees, right there at Walmart, it stole the breathe from my lungs, brought the tears to my eyes, and I took it from her, and I nodded, for I could not speak, and I looked at it, and I pinned it to my chest.

  So I ask you, regardless of what the poppy might mean to you………pin it to your chest, it is heavy this tiny flower, this lite as air piece of fabric and wire, it weighs the soul, weighs down deep……..weighed down with the terrible cost of war, the blood, the wounds, the death, the destruction, the hate, the pain, the loss, the fear….it is heavy but nonetheless, carry it and remember.

 There is one more thing……..the poppy in all its heaviness, all that it represents of pain and loss and sorrow and sacrifice, also reminds me of my Lord. He too understood death and blood and pain and sorrow. He was whipped near to death, a crown of thorns pressed into his brow, he carried a heavy wooden instrument of torture to a high hill, whereby he was nailed to it, and lifted up, naked and laid bare to the world, to be mocked and scorned, his side pierced with a spear…..the sinless Lamb of God willingly took all this upon him, all the sin and death and horror and ugliness of this world, that we might be set free from the price of all our sins.

The blood that ran down was red like a poppy, and it has the power to wash away all sin. And upon remembering this, the back became stronger, the weight of the tiny flower eased, and once again it was a flower of remembrance for all that has been sacrificed.

I am so very honored to wear it.

 If you are willing, and if there is someone for you, that gives that poppy weight, please leave their name in the comments so we can honor their memory. God bless you all, and God keep our veterans.

On War

  I am not fully qualified to speak to the topic of war. I have never been to war, never held another persons life in my hands, never labored over a mortally wounded friend, never taken the life of my enemy, so I can understand how most folks might question my credentials on this subject and others might say "you know nothing at all of war". I would not argue with either.

 I speak tonight of my experiences and my experiences alone. In my opinion that should be sufficient to scare most folks, and if others who have been closer to the subject, or paid a higher price than I were to speak it should bring tears to any normal person's eyes.

 We hear the term "the cost of war" tossed around often. Most people when they use this term are referring to one of two things. They refer either to the cost in monetary terms, or the cost in human lives, and sometimes both. But there is a deeper cost to war, one which I hope to at least make you familiar with and perhaps cause you to pause and consider.

 Across the years it has been my honor to support many of the troops fighting in this war, and to become friends through social media with a plethora of different folks, all tied to the wars and to our troops. I count amongst those friends, to name a few types, Gold Star mothers and fathers, those who have lost a child in war, Gold Star wives, Gold Star children, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. I count amongst them also mothers who have a child incarcerated in prison, and wives whose husbands are incarcerated. Standing along side those are the Wounded, and their families, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. And last but by no means least are those who lost a loved one to tragedy, be it suicide, drug overdoes, and or alcohol related deaths, among that circle I also know, wives, and mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. All of these people are part of the cost of war.

 Along side the fallen, the wounded, the lost ones are several more persons. The ruined marriages, relationships that just could not stand the test of multiple deployments. There are the hurt and shattered lives that are a result of these ruined marriages. Also there are the many children trying to do well in school while a parent stands in harms way, and beside them, the single parent, trying to hold it all together while their mate is deployed and at war.

 And there are the regular people, those waiting on someone they love, those trying to live a normal life and take care of normal business all the while worrying and praying for a loved one in harms way. In light of previous examples this seems rather easy, but even this takes a toil.

 All these things are part of the cost of war. The price we have paid, the price we are paying, and the price we will pay.

 I can speak personally regarding the toil taken upon a person when a child is deployed in harms way. I sent a son to war twice. Neither time was easy. While the child is deployed you become attached to your phone, it never leaves your side, you obsess over charging it and always ensuring it is ready, should you receive a call. You answer it no matter where you are, or what you are doing. You grab it and say HELLO in the middle of a church service, while headed for the door, you leave the shower covered in soap and shampoo in order to grab the ringing phone. You take it to the toilet with you. You run out of important meetings at work, meetings that you are order to answer that phone.

 You breathe a little when it's your kid on the other side, hearing his voice brings such relief. You want to cry, you want to grill him over things, to know if he is really okay, but you swallow all that, and try and stay calm and you just listen and support him. Your heart breaks into pieces when he informs you that he lost a brother, or that someone was wounded, but you stay strong for him, because you do not want to make this any harder for him. You want to keep him on that phone forever...but time is short and he is always so very tired.

 If you are like me, you stay as informed as you can on how things are going over there. On the days when you see that someone died the night before, there was a bombing, or there was a firefight that made the news, its in the area where he is...your heart stops, you fight against the fear, the fear that wants to paralyze you. You pray, sometimes on your face on the floor....but how does one pray in such a time? You pray Lord please keep him safe! Knowing that even as you say those words...someone is not safe...someone is dead. Is it your son or anothers?

 A day or so later the name is released, you breathe a sigh of relief, your heart rejoices, no one knocked on your door, no one called you, he is okay! And then the shattering takes place as you realize that somewhere, someplace, there is someone just like you, someone who prayed, someone who was so afraid........and someone knocked on her door.

 The entire deployment goes round and round, you replay these scenes over and over again. One day you receive a call.......he has been is like a punch in the stomach, your legs shake and will not support your weight, the time between that first sentence and the next which describes his forever. For me, I was one of the lucky ones, the wounds were a concussion and a jacked up back and hip, nothing major and my son was back in action within a week or so of the call.....but a lot of folks do not get a call like that....they get the call of lost limbs, of a loved one hanging to life by a thread. Oh Lord I know not how they endured these things for I never want to get any closer to that than I did.

 I have followed the accounts of friends who rushed to their son's sides. Who gave up everything to sit by their bed, to wrestle with Doctors and Nurses and to fight for them while they were unable to. I have followed their sons  as they climb from the very edge of death to recovery, and followed others who climbed and then died for no good reason. Followed others who fought with every bit of their will only to succumb to their wounds.

 I have followed parents, shared prayers with them, prayed for their sons, and those sons fell. I have followed these parents as they walk this life without their child.

 I know mothers who found their children dead, dead by their own hand, haunted by the demons of PTSD. Can you imagine anything more horrible? I have known about PTSD for some time and have always supported those who battle it, but in truth, in retrospect, I find that all that I thought that I knew about it was really only the tip of the iceberg.

 Our family has moved on from war, and from the military, we now join the ranks of the veterans and the veteran families. We battle the VA now, we battle PTSD and TBI and do our best to rescue our loved ones from the darkness that ever threatens to consume them. I thought I had seen the worst of things, experienced the worst of things, I thought there was nothing worse than sitting here, protected, surrounded by all the luxuries this American life has to offer, while my beloved child fought in a far away I am not so sure.

 Now that I have come face to face with PTSD and all it's demons, I realize that I am in the battle of my life right now, a battle that I have personally seen good people, people who loved with all their hearts and souls, people who prayed, people who did all that they could humanly do.....lose. They buried their loved one. It is a frightening truth that I struggle with each and every day.

 I will end this short introduction into the cost of war with good news. The fight is winnable. Never give up on them, keep pushing forward, keep loving them, keep praying for them, keep doing all that you can to get them into the various programs out there that can assist them in the fight. We can win this fight. And should, God forbid, we be one of those who fail, let it be said that we gave it everything we had, that we put every ounce of our being into the fight.

 To all of you who have paid your part of the cost of war, be you the warrior who went, the loved one who waited, be you one who lost someone special, or walked with them through the Wounded Warrior journey, be you one who suffers from PTSD or TBI, or someone fighting along side...whatever part of the price you have paid, we thank you, and we pray for you each and every day. You are a special bunch of people, more resilient than most will ever know, and you, more than anyone else, make me proud. May God ever bless and keep you.

 To all of you who have not had to pay, I ask you to think upon the things I have written and to do all that you can to assist this wonderful group of people who have paid their share and yours also. Stand along side of them. Try to understand them. We need you in this fight, we need you to care, we need you to help. We have a generation who has fought for over ten years, and all those connected to them, they all bear scars, they all have wounds. Stand with us, and may God ever keep you from the sorrows felt in paying the cost of war.

 Last but not least, I pray, with all my heart and soul, that our nation will learn, and understand the true price being paid for the wars we are fighting. I pray that our elected officials and our citizens will consider the cost carefully before sending our sons and daughters to war. There are things worth fighting for, there are things worth dieing for, there are situations where the cost, in lives, in wounds, in shattered hearts and souls is worth paying. Should our nation be in danger, should there be risk of our citizens here being harmed or killed, or our freedoms be at risk, then fight we must, but I hope and I pray we will always weigh the choice carefully. The cost is so very much higher than most people ever know.




Heartbreaking Suicide Note From 30-Year-Old Iraq Veteran to His Family: ‘I Am Free’

I am glad to see that The Blaze has picked this story up....hopefully other news networks will follow. Daniel took his life on June 10th, the same day that my niece's husband Allen took his. This is happening far too often. Our active duty troops and our veterans are not getting the help they need, the help they earned, the help they deserve, but are instead being discarded, and most Americans do not even know that we have a near epidemic of military suicides going on.
Daniel Somers served his time in hell, right here on earth, he did so on our behalf, and since his family has saw fit to release his last is good and right that everyone take a moment and read them. A man's last words ought to be heard. It is too late for Daniel, it is too late for Allen, it is too late for Trevor and for the countless others who take their own lives...but if we listen, if we pay attention, perhaps we it will not be too late for someone.

These are his words:

I am sorry that it has come to this.

The fact is, for as long as I can remember my motivation for getting up every day has been so that you would not have to bury me. As things have continued to get worse, it has become clear that this alone is not a sufficient reason to carry on. The fact is, I am not getting better, I am not going to get better, and I will most certainly deteriorate further as time goes on. From a logical standpoint, it is better to simply end things quickly and let any repercussions from that play out in the short term than to drag things out into the long term.

You will perhaps be sad for a time, but over time you will forget and begin to carry on. Far better that than to inflict my growing misery upon you for years and decades to come, dragging you down with me. It is because I love you that I can not do this to you. You will come to see that it is a far better thing as one day after another passes during which you do not have to worry about me or even give me a second thought. You will find that your world is better without me in it.

I really have been trying to hang on, for more than a decade now. Each day has been a testament to the extent to which I cared, suffering unspeakable horror as quietly as possible so that you could feel as though I was still here for you. In truth, I was nothing more than a prop, filling space so that my absence would not be noted. In truth, I have already been absent for a long, long time.

My body has become nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems. The illness I have has caused me pain that not even the strongest medicines could dull, and there is no cure. All day, every day a screaming agony in every nerve ending in my body. It is nothing short of torture. My mind is a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety, even with all of the medications the doctors dare give. Simple things that everyone else takes for granted are nearly impossible for me. I can not laugh or cry. I can barely leave the house. I derive no pleasure from any activity. Everything simply comes down to passing time until I can sleep again. Now, to sleep forever seems to be the most merciful thing.

You must not blame yourself. The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of.

To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me. They offer no help, and actively block the pursuit of gaining outside help via their corrupt agents at the DEA. Any blame rests with them.

Beyond that, there are the host of physical illnesses that have struck me down again and again, for which they also offer no help. There might be some progress by now if they had not spent nearly twenty years denying the illness that I and so many others were exposed to. Further complicating matters is the repeated and severe brain injuries to which I was subjected, which they also seem to be expending no effort into understanding. What is known is that each of these should have been cause enough for immediate medical attention, which was not rendered.

Lastly, the DEA enters the picture again as they have now managed to create such a culture of fear in the medical community that doctors are too scared to even take the necessary steps to control the symptoms. All under the guise of a completely manufactured “overprescribing epidemic,” which stands in stark relief to all of the legitimate research, which shows the opposite to be true. Perhaps, with the right medication at the right doses, I could have bought a couple of decent years, but even that is too much to ask from a regime built upon the idea that suffering is noble and relief is just for the weak.

However, when the challenges facing a person are already so great that all but the weakest would give up, these extra factors are enough to push a person over the edge.

Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook, every single day. Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference.

It leaves us to where all we have to look forward to is constant pain, misery, poverty, and dishonor. I assure you that, when the numbers do finally drop, it will merely be because those who were pushed the farthest are all already dead.

And for what? Bush’s religious lunacy? Cheney’s ever growing fortune and that of his corporate friends? Is this what we destroy lives for

Since then, I have tried everything to fill the void. I tried to move into a position of greater power and influence to try and right some of the wrongs. I deployed again, where I put a huge emphasis on saving lives. The fact of the matter, though, is that any new lives saved do not replace those who were murdered. It is an exercise in futility.

Then, I pursued replacing destruction with creation. For a time this provided a distraction, but it could not last. The fact is that any kind of ordinary life is an insult to those who died at my hand. How can I possibly go around like everyone else while the widows and orphans I created continue to struggle? If they could see me sitting here in suburbia, in my comfortable home working on some music project they would be outraged, and rightfully so.

I thought perhaps I could make some headway with this film project, maybe even directly appealing to those I had wronged and exposing a greater truth, but that is also now being taken away from me. I fear that, just as with everything else that requires the involvement of people who can not understand by virtue of never having been there, it is going to fall apart as careers get in the way.

The last thought that has occurred to me is one of some kind of final mission. It is true that I have found that I am capable of finding some kind of reprieve by doing things that are worthwhile on the scale of life and death. While it is a nice thought to consider doing some good with my skills, experience, and killer instinct, the truth is that it isn’t realistic. First, there are the logistics of financing and equipping my own operation, then there is the near certainty of a grisly death, international incidents, and being branded a terrorist in the media that would follow. What is really stopping me, though, is that I simply am too sick to be effective in the field anymore. That, too, has been taken from me.

Thus, I am left with basically nothing. Too trapped in a war to be at peace, too damaged to be at war. Abandoned by those who would take the easy route, and a liability to those who stick it out—and thus deserve better. So you see, not only am I better off dead, but the world is better without me in it

This is what brought me to my actual final mission. Not suicide, but a mercy killing. I know how to kill, and I know how to do it so that there is no pain whatsoever. It was quick, and I did not suffer. And above all, now I am free. I feel no more pain. I have no more nightmares or flashbacks or hallucinations. I am no longer constantly depressed or afraid or worried

I am free.

I ask that you be happy for me for that. It is perhaps the best break I could have hoped for. Please accept this and be glad for me.

Daniel Somers

Rest in peace Daniel in peace Allen Young.....

Daniel Somers

Charles Allen Young

My Guys (The Musings of an Army Infantry Mom)

A conversation with my Army son last night brought forth so many memories. I remember the little boy who was obsessed with all things military from the time he was about 5 years old.

 He and I were leaving a grocery store one day, and he noticed a martial arts school had opened in that plaza, and began to beg me to go over and “sign him up”, laughing I asked did he want to be like the Power Rangers….and he looked at me, disappointed…and said “no mom, when I grow up I am going to be a soldier, and I will need to know how to defend myself”….needless to say we signed him up and he spent most of his young years enrolled in some martial arts program or another.

At nine, he found out from the neighbor kid about a Naval program for kids, and asked me to look and see if there was anything like that for the Marines or the Army…..and we ended up in the Young Marines.

 Halloween was easy for us, for every year he was some sort of military persona, a Marine, a Soldier, a SEAL. I was looking through photos and could only find one, in all his childhood where he was something other than military…….a SWAT team member…

Back to the conversation last night, and the memory it invoked in me.

You see, while growing up his most favorite toys and prized possessions were "his guys" a large collection of GI Joes, he knew each one by name; he carefully protected them, maintained their weapons and vehicles and played with them almost always over all other toys.

I recall many occasions where he would frantically enlist the assistance of his father or myself in a frantic search for a lost guy. He knew exactly which one was missing, and could describe him in detail, and would not rest until the missing guy was back with all the others.

 We bought him other toys, power rangers, spider man, ninja turtles, but all would be left in various places about the house, in disarray, or at the very least used as a special "enemy" for his guys to take out.

 Hours spent putting together various Lego sets only to enter the room to find he had disassembled it, and reassembled it as some sort of bunker or fortification, for his guys.

 Last night in conversation with him, now 23 years old and a man, I asked him why? Why another round with the Army, why this need and desire to go back again into harm's way....why can you not just stay home now, you have done your part? Why son?...........and he guys mom.....I cannot let them go without me.......I cannot stay while they go fight.....I cannot get out of the guys mom......and the memories came flooding in.

 Years ago his most precious possession was his guys, made of plastic, so many battles were fought with them, each one who fell to hard use, or a dog's teeth, were wept over.... and yet today he has something so much more precious to him, his brothers, flesh and blood, each one known by name and personality, some closer than a brother, some not gotten along with as well as the others, some irritating,but all loved,  all precious.... all brothers...his guys.

  So soon, I will watch him leave again, into harm's way. My mother's heart once again afraid for him, my days spent in prayer for him....and for all his precious guys.

 Funny how such things turn out……


Update: He brought his guys home...some have wounds..but they all come home.

PTSD Awareness, in memory of PFC Joe Dwyer

Most Americans know who Joe Dwyer is, although many may not know his name or his story. The now famous photo shown in this note brought Joe into each of our homes. Our hearts hurt for him and for the little boy that he carried in his arms. He was a hero, risking his life to save an Iraqi boy.

 On June 28th, 2008 Joe Dwyer passed from this world due to an accidental overdose. He had battled PTSD every day since returning from deployment. His marriage failed and he struggled with drug addiction, substance abuse and depression.

 For the last five years of his life this soldier, writhed in a private hell, shooting at imaginary enemies and dodging nonexistent roadside bombs, sleeping in a closet bunker and trying desperately to huff away the "demons" in his head. When his personal problems became public, efforts were made to help him, but nothing seemed to work.

 Joe served with the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment as a medic. According to his accounts of that deployment he only recalled four days that lacked gunfire. The day prior to the now famous picture, Dwyer’s HumVee was hit be a rocket.

 On the day of the photo, Joe watched as little Ali’s family was caught in crossfire; he grabbed the little boy and carried him to safety. We all saw Joe as a hero, but he did not see it that way. He said this about it. “Really, I was just one of a group of guys, I wasn’t standing out more than anyone else.”

 Joe joined the military after watching the twin towers fall. He felt that he had to do something. He married the love of his life just prior to deploying to Iraq.  They looked forward to building a life together but something went terribly wrong. Upon his return, like so many combat veterans, Joe just tried to keep it together on his own. He sat with his back to the wall in restaurants; he avoided crowds, he stayed distant from his friends and loved ones. He began to abuse inhalants.

 In October of 2005 he had his first run in with the police. Convinced that there were Iraqi’s outside his window he opened fire. Three hours later police convinced him to surrender and come out. He was taken to the hospital. He tried counseling and was in and out of the hospital many times.

  On the day he died he and his wife had been apart for a year. She told the Pinehurst Pilot, “He was a very good and caring person. He was just never the same when he came back, because of all the things he saw. He tried to seek treatment, but it didn’t work.”

 Joe left behind his wife Matina and his then two-year-old daughter Meagan.

 What many may not know about Joe is that he went to Iraq, taking the place of a friend, a mother of two who was terrified about leaving her children. He convinced superiors to allow him to go in her stead. He told his family and his young wife that he would be in Kuwait and likely to stay in the rear, but unbeknownst to them he was attached to the 3rd Infantry's 7th Cavalry Regiment. He was at "the tip of the tip of the spear," in one officer's phrase.

 The man who took this famous photo said this after Joe’s death:” I don't know that the photograph of Joseph was the best one I ever took, or my favorite, but I think it represented something important. At the time, it represented hope. Hope that what we were doing as a nation in Iraq was the right thing. Hope that our soldiers were helping people. Hope that soldiers such as Joseph cared more about human life than anything else. But now when I look at the picture, it doesn't feel hopeful. It makes me realize that so many soldiers are physically torn and in such mental anguish that for some of them, hope has turned to hopelessness. That, I have to believe, is what happened to Joseph Dwyer, who was haunted by the ghosts of what he'd seen in Iraq, by fears he had lived with for too long. He could never leave the battlefield behind.”

 This beautiful and brave but broken man had once been the embodiment of American might and compassion. And yet we lost him…….I ask why….and I ask each of you to read and study the very real and hostile illness called PTSD. Be aware of the signs, be aware and watch your sons, your husbands, your brothers, your daughters and your wives and your sisters as they return from combat.

 Be aware of the symptoms, be understanding, for there is so much that they see and experience that haunts them. It really is not that hard to understand. I do not believe that it requires us to experience what they experience in order to understand. We need to equip ourselves with knowledge and we need to seek any and all help available if our loved ones are struggling from this horrible condition.

 We do not have to lose others, like we lost Joe, thanks to him and others like him there is now awareness and a multitude of programs to assist. There is also less stigma associated with PTSD and our combat veterans are now able to step out and say they need help, that they suffer from it, where in the past this was not so, many were ridiculed, or their careers were jeopardized by any such admission.

 Joe, thank you so very much for all that you gave up for us, for volunteering after 9/11, for being the kind of man willing to take the place of a friend, so that she could stay with her children, for all the aid and comfort you brought to your comrades, who fought in the bloodiest time period in Iraq. I am so very sorry that your desire and willingness to help others cost you your life, and I am so very sorry that we let you down. Rest in peace Joe Dwyer, for you are a hero, not because of a photo that brought you into our homes, but because of the man that you were, a man willing to sacrifice himself in our place, and a man willing to take aid and comfort to our wounded, even if it brought you into great danger. Rest Joe, we remember and we will do all that we can to make sure your brothers receive the help and support that they need.


Must read follow up from the reporter who took the famous photo :


Service dogs:


Training your own service dog:


If you need to talk to someone about PTSD


PTSD Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1 for Veterans.


National Institute of Mental Health's Anxiety Hotline-1-888-826-9438