Cost of War

I saw my dad as ten foot tall and bullet proof as a child. Heck, even as an adult!

The truth? He was 6 foot 2, and experiencing crippling flashbacks of horrific wartime moments that included having a pallet of live ammunition dropped on his hand and then being Life-flown to army hospital only be to returned to the front line a few days later, being in the vehicle of a car that was being shot at while it reversed and drove over the little boy shooting at them, and watching the man next to him be killed.

Vietnam killed my dad; he died in 2015.

It wasn’t the Agent Orange (although I’m sure we will later find some connection to that and the significant physical and cognitive disabilities in my sister).

It was PTSD. I don’t think I need to spell it out, you’ve heard of that monster. It’s been all over the media. Its gaining support and momentum from everyone! Except the government. He didn’t sign up for the war. His soul wasn’t built to kill. But the one place these men and women were told to turn to, were told that they would take care of them, turned their back on our heroes.

That too is all over the media. You’ve heard of that monster as well. The failing VA. But let me tell you what happened to my dad after his diagnosis.

He had to surrender his guns. His 2nd amendment was ripped away.

He had to “secure a fiduciary”. It was me, his child. He was told his child was of more sound mind to handle his finances than he was.

He was denied disability for two years after taking an early retirement. He had to retire early because his VA therapy meetings and doctor appointments consumed his time. He had very little to no money for those two years being a divorced man.

And on top of it all. He never slept.

He always saw that little boy in his dreams nightmares.

Disease processes secondary to Agent Orange that my dad was diagnosed with:

-Diabetes mellitus, type II

-Ischemic Heart Disease

-Peripheral neuropathy, early onset

No, my dad didn’t die from suicide. Although he was being treated for severe depression, anxiety, and insomnia in addition to the PTSD and above mentioned diagnosis. But those diseases had consumed his life. And not at all by his choice. The appointments and meetings and medicines. As so often done in the medical field, a list of meds and diagnosis replaced a person. Became the person.

But he seemed so peaceful and happy the year before he died. So involved with the family and relaxed and social. So at peace. We just didn’t know that he was finally at peace because he’d made a decision to take back control of his life and…quit.

The day my husband and I found my dad on his floor was the day before we found out that he had quit taking all of his medications. Quit going to all his appointments. Quit begging the government for help. Quit.

The official cause of death was natural causes, likely cardiac.

But Vietnam killed my dad.

This is the cost of war.

written by my dad after being diagnosed and subsequently declared “incompetent” related to his PTSD

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HeartbrokenĀ 

I write about grief so much it annoys me….but here we go again!

I hit a milestone yesterday. It was the first time since the passing of my father, that my heart broke for someone else. You know, there is something about the bond between a daddy and a daughter and I was devastated when I lost my dad in my 30’s. But yesterday, a longtime friend of Sissey et al. lost her father and she’s 10. 

I cannot fathom not having him there at my graduations, my wedding, the births of my children (in the waiting room). But this larger than life father now has the best seat in the house, but it’s not the same. 

This isn’t the way it should be. There are two young, school aged children who have to begin a long, complicated, and confusing grieving process that no child should ever have to endure. And so my heart breaks for them.

Live in Your Moment

Today I was shopping on the left. But two years ago I was shopping on the right. 

I used our wedding china for the first time that Father’s Day. I don’t know what prompted me to do that but for some oddball reason I’m so glad I did. As if that Father’s Day meal served on wedding china was my closure I didn’t get.

I only had a month left with him that Father’s Day and no one knew. Not even him. I was so in consolable during his services that I think all people knew what to say to me was, “I guess you really just never know.” God I got sick of hearing it. Because, I lived my moment with that damn china. 

Anger Grief

 You did this to her. This innocent (now) 10 year old who saw you as 9 foot tall and bullet proof sat out in the car while her mommy found your body.

The darkness that follows grief is scary and vast….so very vast. The very first thing that hit me was, “I can’t fix him. I’m a nurse and I’ve saved so many. But I can’t now.”

It is final. That’s what hurts. It can’t be changed no matter how bad I want to change it, no matter how hard I work, or beg, or cry, or pay. I can’t change it. 

He’s gone. Almost 3 years now and it does get better. Believe me, this IS better.

Bang, Bang

Some people killed some people. 

Some people who shared similarities with the people who were killed got mad that those people were killed because it really seemed senseless. 

And then it happened again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

And you see where this is going. Well each time this happened, the people who shared those similarities got mad.

Duh. Of course. Their similarities made then different from the people who shot the gun who killed the people, but it didn’t make them ‘bad’. 

DIFFERENT DOESN’T = BAD

And they got scared. Because if they shared those similarities….could they be next? Is it just a case of wrong place, wrong time? It needs to stop. How do we stop it? We ALL know it needs to stop!

But when it comes to these police officer shootings, perhaps the media shouldn’t be looking to black community to see how they are going to fix this problem. This is a primarily white person problem. (I know the office in Minnesota was of Asian descent, but that is an outlier.) 

WE need to fix this. It’s not up to the black community to educate us. To stop us. 

Just like it isn’t up to the LGBT community to educate us.

Just like it wasn’t up to children of Sandy Hook to educate us.

Media-focus your camera here, to see what we are going to do, what I am going to do. And not on the grieving black community.

My Dad Smoked Weed and That Makes Me Happy

My dad recently passed away unexpectedly. While going through his belongings, we found a pipe. It was made of wood and had been sanded and polished…it was SO him! So I smiled. At the thought of my dad high, with the giggles or devouring a pizza because of munchies.

Let me be clear, we do not live in a state where marijuana is legal. Nor do I or my husband smoke weed. However, being in healthcare I cannot deny the medical benefits of weed. One of those being treatment for PTSD. While it is sometimes consider an antidotal symptom relief, I’m ok with that. Because my dad suffered from PTSD related to the Vietnam war and he felt relief from weed….at least I assume that’s why he was a pothead. 

He suffered. From the day he stepped on American soil again, my dad suffered daily. He remembered being in a vehicle that backed over a little boy who was shooting at them. He remembered the man next to him loosing both legs (and likely his life) to an attack. He remembered a pallet of live ammunition being dropped on his hand and everyone thinking it would explode before they could get it off of him…with a crane. He remembered being flown to a hospital after that and staying there for a week and then being sent…..right back to war. For 3 days shy of one year, my dad spent every day and night of his life, under fire. He once told my brother, “they were shooting at us as we were landing and getting off the plane.” 

And it never stopped.

My dad didn’t leave Vietnam the same. None of them did. It should be assumed they all have PTSD. People coming home from war should just be seperated into two groups: those with PTSD and those who are “in denial about having PTSD and will be diagnosed at a later date.”

So light one up for me, up there daddy! I’m so glad your pain is gone!

Memorial Day

First, let me start off by saying that I am so very thankful that men and women fought so hard for our freedom. To know so many soldiers died while fighting that battle, is devastating. I wish I could personally thank each person for being braver, stronger, smarter than myself.

Then I think about my dad. About my cousins. My grandpas. All who fought in war and survived war and I can’t help but be a little pissed. A cousin and my dad have been formally diagnosed with PTSD. One of my grandfathers left war as an alcoholic that plagued him until his death. 

The most bravest people in my world left war with invisible wounds. Wounds that our VA hospitals are ill equipped to deal with. My dads PTSD was so severe at one point that we started consulting inpatient treatment centers. Guess how difficult it is to find a VA hospital for inpatient PTSD. Why isn’t millions of dollars are not invested into soldier PTSD? 

It should be assume that everyone coming out of war has PTSD and should be treated accordingly. It has to become so routine in the healthcare system to treat wartime soldiers for PTSD that all stigmas attached to mental health, are gone. 

My dad’s symptoms have improved so much. He was never able to go to inpatient treatment. He was placed on a waiting list and the director of the program told me something that will always haunt my dreams.

“We prioritize Gulf War/War on Terror survivors. Because suicide rates amoung this population is insurmountable”

Because men and women who come home from war now, come home with PTSD so severe that they choose to end their lives. They fight and make it home only to die at their own hand. And here I sit. In my safe, comfy bed. My heart hurts for them, for my loved ones, for those suffering.