It's hard to believe it's been ten years since I crossed the border into Iraq. Harder still to fathom why it is still as clear in my mind as if it happened yesterday. I was initially concerned about how this anniversary would affect me, but I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't really do much to affect my mood. Well, I guess it did. I spent the day with my daughter, Caley. We had a daddy and daughter day. We went to Applebee's and had lunch and spent the afternoon enjoying play time. I was on and off the computer checking on my fundraising campaign. The whole time, I reflected on how I have spent the past ten years - my victories and, especially, my stumbles.
Needless to say, I have a lot to be grateful for. My wife, my daughter, my family. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them and I know now, more than ever, that I am one of the lucky ones. Suicide rates are embarrassingly high, disability claim wait times are so long that some have been waiting for compensation longer than the length of their deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. PTSD is still a scary four letter 'word'.
Should I continue? We all know the score. Our struggles are the legacy cost of a decade of war. A decade that saw the burden of waging war fall on the shoulders of 1% of our population. The military community has become more and more isolated from the general public in spite of the best efforts of advocates everywhere. It makes me wonder: With all of the high-profile advocacy going on out there, why aren't there more 'boots on the ground'? What I see is tons of advocacy groups spending a lot of money and time marketing themselves and their image. I don't see advocates in the crowd wearing t-shirts, bracelets. I don't see fundraising efforts on TV like they used to have for Jerry's Kids. I see the same partisan gridlock in DC fouling up everything they touch (sequestration caused suspension of tuition assistance for our active duty service members).
Most importantly, I have seen too many veterans that are tired of the frustration of the VA, politics, PTSD stigma, and unemployment just give up and let themselves fall through the cracks.
You all know what I'm talking about. It hurts my heart to see it happen, day in and day out.
It just feeds my fire. I will not submit. I will not give in. Instead, I will give back.
All I need to make my dream of helping veterans a reality is $3165. That means I need less than 3% of my followers and supporters to make that commitment.
I have asked myself a thousand times why I made it back and others didn't. We all know that surviving war is like playing Russian Roulette. What they don't tell you is the guilt you will have to live with if you survive. It took me a long time to work up the courage to do this. It was in large part because of the guilt. I felt like I would be 'taking advantage' of those in need. Stupid Survivor's Guilt. I know now that my cause is just and noble. The only way I can do more is by having the resources to make an impact. Help me start small. On this day, of all days, help arm me to fight for those that suffer in silence. Let me advocate for those too hurt to fight for themselves.
Yours in Health,
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.