Nothing more than a dream right now... Only a vision of what has developed in my head.. I'd like to share that vision with you and the World..
Veterans Dignity Project is just that. A Project. The end goal is to improve the lives of Veterans.. Our mission statement is the same as the Veterans Administration.
The VA system has been flooded with Veterans seeking services. America has been at War for over 20yrs. Through Veterans Dignity Project, it is my hope to help improve Veterans lives..
Veterans Dignity Project.. (VDP) is forming as a Non-Profit 501-c3 Veterans service organization. (the first step).
There are two distinct programs that I have visioned.. "Come See".. and "Go Tell".
VDP will secure and develop a 40 acre, rural property in the area south of Smoky Mountain National Park. I have chosen this area for many reasons. Natural beauty, proximity to outdoor activities, including The Appalachian Trail, white water rafting, horse back riding and the National Park. I have also chosen this area because of the million plus people who visit annually as "motor tourist". "Tail of The Dragon", Cherohala Skyway, Fontana Lake Loop and many other roads that have become destinations. Motorcycles and clubs, car clubs such as the Corvette club and many others choose this area for "Motor tourism".
VDP will be open to the public for use as a resort and base camp for individuals and clubs spending time in the area. Given the opportunity, people will support VDP through their patronage and charitable giving. Hikers and bikers, car clubs and families on vacation will all be welcome. Public awareness of the struggles Veterans encounter is part of the solution.
Named "Landing Zone Transition", we are planning a "Primitive working farm" resort. Several family size cabins and multiple 4 person cabins will be dispersed though-out the property. Short term housing for 30 people is the goal. A lodge type structure for operations and guest check in will be the central feature. A community pavilion equipped with food preparation area and comfy chairs. Group meetings and meals will be held next to a fireplace to rival any Bass Pro shop.. Also in the pavilion area will be a "Modern, Upscale" bath house and restrooms.
A circa 1900 Belt driven sawmill and woodworking shop will be in business on site, Producing top quality tables and chairs for sale as a fundraising effort. Everybody likes a working museum..
Providing work opportunities for Veterans who might be in need, our goal is not mass production but rather, producing the best quality out of simpleness..
I choose tables and chairs because of the symbolic .. They bring people together..
We will be scheduling groups of Veterans and active duty to join us for week long therapeutic retreats. Visiting Therapists and Veteran mentors will be available for one on one discussions.
Serving Our Veterans and active duty by helping them find the answers they seek.. Some might need connections with others services. that's what We will do.. Some might need help with dealing with the VA. That's what We will do. Some might have physical or mental issues that need to be addressed. That's what We will do. Around a quarter of a million people transition from active duty to civilian life every year. That transition effects every member of that family. From a wife needing a new doctor to a child moving from a military base school into public education. That transition can be made easier through some friendly and caring advice. That's what We will do.
Horses, cows, chickens and rabbits. Puppies, cats and goats. A community garden and maybe even a "swimmin hole".. All these things have a therapeutic value. For the active duty soldier who is waiting in a hospital Battalion for a long scheduled surgery to the homeless Vet who needs a safe place and some work to get back on their feet. That's what We will do.
Go Tell... The second part of our strategy is public outreach. Advertising and educating the general public. Reaching out to those who might need help..
"Veterans Dignity Project Hospitality lounge. Public welcome.."
Each year, 10s of millions of people attend organized motorcycle rallies. The 75th annual Sturgis Rally drew over a million people for its 10 day event..Rolling Thunder in Washington DC draws over a million people during the Memorial day weekend every year. VDP plans to put together a mobile Hospitality lounge to travel the Country educating the public about Veterans issues and what we have to offer to improve the lives of Veterans.
An Oasis in the middle of everything.. Come in and have a seat in a well built, comfortable chair. Enjoy a cool refreshment and some conditioned air. Look over the memorabilia and make contact with others. Televisions showing informative videos about VDP and information pertaining to Veterans. A place to Honor our Veterans and educate the general public on Veterans issues.. Custom items for sale such as tables and chairs, paintings and other fine art work.. Fundraising at its finest.. Who knows, we might even have 5 motorcycles on display Honoring the 5 branches of Service.
In july, 2013 I was a "Battle Buddy" for 12 wounded soldiers from Ft. Campbell, Ky. Hosted by my friends at Veterans Support Fund.. a non-profit organization.. I can tell you from experience, Lives were changed for the better, including mine. It is my intention to continue this great work.
I know my "WHY". To help others is right..
I know my "WHAT".. And now, You do as well..
I hope that you will stand with me and help make a difference in the lives of those who have given to US.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
This morning I woke at 0500hrs. See, the walk in clinic for trauma recovery is Tuesday and Wednesday, 0830hrs. Plan for at least three hours. I learned about this program on friday from a VA social worker.(she has worked well with me thus far). I wanted to be there Tuesday but that wasn't possible. Monday was one of those all-nighters where me and my demons wrestle around all night. Around midnight I had went to the Hub desk seeking some help and found that there was no Veteran counselors on staff. (the hub desk is where a contract staff member rules over 4 cellblocks in this jail.). Yes, I am currently housed in a contract bed in the old Atlanta jail with, I'd say around 250 other Veterans and civilians. My only option was one of the dogtags I wear around my neck. "Veterans crisis hotline". They have a live chat available 24/7. To start that process was a 12 step questionnaire. About 5 minutes after submitting my answers Erin replied.. I don't know Erin. I knew nothing about Erin. After two hours of "Chatting", I still know nothing about Erin. What I do know is that she has more questions than answers.. She apologized to me for what I was going through with the VA and thanked me for my service then put me on the spot pressing me with the question, "what are you going to do, Donald?" I said goodnight. Needless to say, I was not in any shape to deal with a walk in appointment.
Luckily, the jail is only two blocks from the MARTA station (and greyhound). This morning after two trains, a bus and a mini van, I arrived at another VA satellite location for Trauma recovery evaluation. Now understand, my definition of "Trauma" includes putting a guy like me on a public train in Atlanta at 0600hrs. Before last week, my total experience with public transportation has been riding a bus in Daytona one time because I was too drunk to drive. Being the only option I had, I made it work.
I isolate. I don't go around large groups of people. When I have to,, I use crutches. Like booze. or drugs. It numbs me enough to cope. It's not that I am scared of people. I fear what I am capable of doing.. A trigger fuse with no time delay that can be activated by things most people think nothing about. Standing behind a horse is a sure way to get kicked. Getting in my personal space will get a stranger the same result. Today, a young man dressed as a thug, with his sagging pants, cocked Mercedes Benz ball cap and gold grill running to catch the train, ran into my shoulder. Luckily his response was diffusing.. As he was getting up from the ground he apologized. That situation could have gone sideways in a moment.. that is why I avoid public when I can..
There is a moment, it happens in an instant. It has the potential to change a life forever.. It happens just before the "Fight or Flight" response... It's called "Threat Assessment".
How long does it take to make that assessment.? In some situations it is quicker than the blink of an eye. A barking dog. A quick movement. Aggression. A surprise touch. Hell, my ponytail startles me at least once a day... It can be anything.. In the Army Infantry we called it "The Razors Edge".
I'd like to point something out here.. I tell people that I was in the Army Infantry.. I wasn't in the Army, I was in The Army INFANTRY. You might wonder, Whats the difference.? From where a Infantryman stands the difference is as big as night and day. I'll try to brake it down for you..
A person could serve in any of the five branches of service and be a Veteran. With an Honorable discharge, They have my appreciation and a measure of respect. But that doesn't include them into the ranks of the Men who I call "Brother". There are many jobs in the military. From clerks to cooks. From supply and logistics to transportation. Each preforms a needed function. Their function is to support the men of Combat Arms. I mean no disrespect to the men and women who deserve the respect of a grateful Nation.. Some of these people find themselves in harms way. There have been many who have proven themselves courageous. But the fact is, they trained for combat for 8 weeks in basic training. An Infantryman trained for combat, daily for the length of his enlistment. The culture of the Infantry is also different.. A blue cord on my class As signified that I was an Infantryman. It was earned, not given. That blue cord joined me in the ranks of every fighting man in our Countries history. A proud tradition that continues today.. The Elite of our military train for combat. Not with typewriters or spatulas but with their body, mind and weapons. We are Grunts. We do the work of combat. Some consider the term POG as a derogatory term.. meaning "Persons other than Grunts". I don't see it that way. To be a Grunt, you have more than a basic understanding of combat.
But back to this story..
so Yeah. 00800hrs I arrive at my destination... I'm asked to fill out an 8 page questionnaire. AGAIN. for the 20th time... and I'm Amped up from the morning already.. Sit and wait.. 8 others in the waiting room with me. We are escorted to another waiting room and told that we would be briefed as a group and then seen individually.. 10 minutes later and the door opens.. Mr. Wood, please follow me.. and I'm escorted back to the first waiting room. Now I'm alone. Apmed status...Higher. The door opens and a well dressed man in his early forties introduces himself as Dr. So &So , "Please follow me. Into his office and he explains what the evaluation will cover and asks if I have any questions. "Yes. Why was I singled out of the herd"?? His reply surprised me.. "Your file has been red flagged for behavior problems". OK... What else does it say... he says, "Nothing more, it was entered in Dublin".. Soooo... Thats when I had the obligation to ease his mind and explain what happened in Dublin Ga. VA.. The short of it,, because I pointed out the failings of my care, because I advocated for myself and others,,, I was a "behavior problem"..
We moved on.. over a three hour period, that Dr. asked me every imaginable question and a few I hadn't been asked before. It was an information gathering session for him.. It was the 13th time sense 21 dec. 2015 that I had been threw this process. This one being the longest and most in depth.. To the Dr's credit.. He treated me right. With respect and honor. As if he actually wanted to help.. As we finished the evaluation he stated that he wanted to work with me personally. He was interested in my story and he felt that he could help me with some if not all of my issues. We closed out the meeting with contact information and instructions for when I should call regarding a schedule. As we shook hands at the door, his grasp lingered, "Mr. Wood, after three hours in your head, I don't believe you are a behavior problem".. The right words at the right time..
Once again, I have started down this path. He will be the 7th therapist that I will have met with more than once. I'm hopeful that we can make progress. I'm open minded but still concerned about the quality of care.. BUT, I can say that the difference between my care at Dublin Ga. VA and Atlanta Ga. Va have been vastly different...
I just thought you might want to know....
Posted by I AM DON WOOD at 6:51 PM
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Yesterday afternoon I was looking at google maps.. Looking for a church to attend this morning.. I was raised in the church and at times I have lived in obedience. No churches within walking distance caught my attention. As I zoomed out on the map, First Baptist Atlanta appeared. I have heard of the Pastor of this Mega Church. I've watched several of his sermons on youtube. The map showed me that I could get there on public trans. So I went to their website to see the times of services. I searched around a bit. Looking at pictures, bus schedules and the like. I was thinking that I'd like to see this 3000 seat church. I knew the music would be of a professional level. ( I was not wrong). And a brake from my jail cell was what I was thinking about.. By evening I was convinced that this was where I needed to be.I had been thinking about writing down my situation on a piece of paper as a prayer request and placing it into the offering plate. I went back to their website and ended up on the "Ministries" page. This church is big enough that they have a "Military ministry". At the bottom of that page was a contact link.. The lyrics to this song from deep in my past came to my mind.earlier in the day.
Comfort hasn't been important to me for a number of years. I just try to be thankful for what I have at the moment. In the last 5 years I've slept on the ground more times than not. I haven't owned a bed in over three. For the last few days I've been a "Client" of the VA. They have housed me in the old Atlanta Jail which has been repurposed as a shelter. My complaint is not about my comfort. My complaint is that jail is not a therapeutic environment for anyone, least of all me. So with the lyrics of that song in my head, I decided to obey His desire for me to trust in Him.. I wrote this email.
Greetings. My name is Don Wood. I am a Veteran.Service connected, Army Infantry, 1985-1988. Diagnosis. Chronic PTSD and Depression. With three active congressional inquiries with Sen. Isakson's office, I was called to the Atlanta VA for Compensation evaluation. Long story short, they can't tell me how long until this is over. might be next week, might be two months. They have housed me at the Gateway Center, (old Atlanta jail) while I am in town.(arrived 22Jun,16) This environment is not good for me but I have no options. I have tried diligently my entire life to avoid incarceration but yet, here I sit on a jailhouse bunk next to a stainless steal toilet. (thankful for wifi)..
Monday I meet with a VA Doctor to discuss more treatment options for what ails me.. I have meetings scheduled at both Ft. Mac and Atlanta VAMC. (using public transportation to get around). My situation is not dire but yet, my housing lacks anything that could be considered a therapeutic environment.A cool, dry, safe place to call base camp while I deal with the VA is what I hope to gain.
My God has led me to you. I do not ask you to fly on blind faith. I only ask to to investigate who I am and let the answers to your prayers guide you. I have written publicly for a number of years so this will be easier than you might think. I can also forward to you the emails from the VA to validate my story. I will provide more details if this becomes a conversation. Below are a few links to help you in your understanding of my situation.
On a side note...
My Faith teaches me that God works in mysterious ways. I understand that this might be where my God wants me to be right now. I will minister wherever I can. Tomorrow morning I will ride the bus to FBA and seek the Wisdom of my God.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
I turned it over to The Lord...and prayed that He would give me the fortitude to rise in the morning... Peaceful sleep and wide awake in time.. I got up at 530 this morning. Walked a couple of blocks. Rode a train for 30minutes. Waited for a bus for 30minutes. Rode that bus for 30minutes. Waited an hour and a half for 9am worship service to start. The building and grounds were beautiful. the people i encountered seemed genuine and friendly. The music was uplifting and the sermon hit the mark... I left there with a smile on my face.. Busses and trains, I returned to my jailhouse bunk and found a reply to my email....
"Don. call me, ASAP". and a phone number. I called.
after more than a few questions and answers, a process has been set in motion.. A man, sent by God, is currently working on my situation (his last email was after 11pm). That might (Might) include an equine based PTSD therapy program operated by a non profit outside of the Veterans Admin. I have no idea where this road will take me but I do have Faith in My Creator. I have turned it over to Him.
thought you might want to know.
Posted by I AM DON WOOD at 9:03 PM
Saturday, June 25, 2016
Could it be that we were designed to help others.?
I can't begin to list the people who have helped me over the years.. From my elementary music teacher who gave me an appreciation of music to the Drill Sargent who cracked the whip to straighten me out. There have been "Helpers" through my entire life. Sometimes, I didn't recognize them until years later.. Sometimes their help was unsolicited. Sometimes it was their job. There have been times when my helpers did nothing more than give me a smile or an encouraging word. Gifts of things I needed. Directions that were sound. An ear to lean on. A dry and warm rest from the cold. A meal. A ride. A shop to work in. A genuine concern for my well being.. I Am Thankful. I can see the Hand of God active in my life. Even at my lowest, He has been there for me by sending me Helpers.
I have my problems.. I think we all do. Each are unique to the individual. We go about our days thinking about our own situation. The depression sometimes gives me guilt that I spend so much time consumed by my own problems.. I suffer from Selfishness. And a heavy load of guilt for thinking only of myself.
In hindsight, I can see that my life has been Blessed.. I've learned from each situation. Those who have helped me have actually been my role models. Many times I took of their generosity without knowing the full impact of their actions until much later in life. When I look at the last 48 years, I can see that None of my needs were unmet.. Lots of wants but NONE of my needs. I have survived.
My problems have been small in comparison. Many of my friends have endured situations that could have put me under. There is a common thread. Its HELP. Needing it and not being able to give it.. You know the pain of wanting to help someone you love and not being able to. A sibling or spouse who is struggling. A person who can't find peace. Medical issues. Financial issues. Matters of the heart. Loss of a loved one and the damaged souls they leave behind. There are as many problems as there are solutions.. All we need is help.
I believe that selfishness is the hurdle we all struggle with.. I'm more guilty than most. We all know the feeling of helping someone without expecting a return. Let me share a scenario with you.
With a sign, a man announces his need. I see him. I have the ability to help. But then I wonder... Is this a scam.? Does he really need gas money to get Home.? or is he just gathering his drinking money for the night.? I've heard of people making a good living doing as he is. I want to help him. Something tells me its the right thing to do. I call it a seed of hope. He might do wrong and lie to me. He might actually need the help.. Who am I to deny Him.? Could it be that my $20 is what turns this mans life around.? We all know how kindness has effected the lives of people.. I tell people that there are three tanks on my motorcycle and I try to keep them as close to full as possible. One is for gas. One is for oil. My third tank is for karma.. and I've never been able to overfill my karma tank..
I have defined my goal. I know WHY I'm doing it. Veterans Dignity Project is about helping others. Once I went public with my plan, things have been happening. Making progress and moving forward.. By helping others I am getting more than I am putting in. The bible tells me that this well will not go dry. By defining my goal, two things have happened.. Some people have been supportive of my efforts. Some people have asked for guidance. I value them both.
"Help" is a powerful thing. Both the giving and the receiving of it.
A man once told me that a true friend will anticipate your needs. He will give of his time, energy and knowledge. He will be close enough to you to know of your struggles. He will do what is in his power to lighten your load. We all need help.. We all have the power to give help.
until next time,
Posted by I AM DON WOOD at 6:57 AM
Friday, April 8, 2016
Greetings from a comfy couch... I have the house of a friend to myself and I thought I should write a bit about what's going on.. Someday, I might want to revisit these times in my life...
I started out on the Appalachian Trail at Amicalola Falls, Ga. a few weeks ago.. Why.? you might ask.. Why not fix your motorcycle and get back into the wind.? I love motorcycles... they, and the people who ride them have been apart of the majority of my life.. I could, with a small amount of effort, rebuild Ole Glory and be back to twisting the throttle and Seeing the world at 80mph. And someday, I will again.. When I ride, I am consumed. There is no white noise in my head. I'm focused on the task of staying alive.. Very little else enters my mind. The sound of my machine. The whistle of the wind as a blast of hot air hits me broadside and I lean the machine to maintain a straight line.. The condition of the road. The weather. The gas gauge. At around 90mph my vision becomes tunneled. There are no more fence posts or highline poles. It is magical and I do love the feeling... But......
When I'm on the road, thats ALL I think about. It is The Great Escape.. and right now in my life I really need to concentrate. Thats why I decided to go for a walk about... Things look different at foot speed and you have time to explore. Yes. the scenery in the wilderness is amazing but that is not the only exploration I'm doing...
Some know that I checked in to the Dublin Ga. VA on 12/21/15. Sense that time I have been concentrating on learning everything I can about PTSD, Its effects and the way the Veterans Administration is operating.. Prior to Dec. 2015, I had had Zero dealings with the VA. I did not know anything more than what the general public knew... I have learned a lot so far, but I have only scratched the surface. I am currently going through Congressional investigations on three separate issues regarding the VA. As I've said before, I found my Why.. that is to Glorify my God.. I have found my What... To Honor our Veterans with Dignity by effecting change in the Veterans Administration through educating the public.... That is why I am founding "The Veterans Dignity Project". Soon to be a 501c3 recognized non profit...
Our Mission Statement.....
.....To fulfill President Lincoln's promise “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans.. Our Mission statement is the same as The Veterans Administration...
So now,, I have my Why... I have my What... Now I spend my time considering the possibilities... What can I do to effect change..? Thats the question that I keep chewing on.. And I'm confident that by the end of hiking the Appalachian Trail, I will have formed a clear picture of my vision.. I have been mulling over different possibilities and have had some "light bulb moments".
I saw a video the other day.. It was of a Vermont State Police Troop doing 22 push-ups in recognition of the 22 Veterans who take their own lives, each day in America.. Think about that for a second... Could 22 push-ups help a Veteran.? Yes. Because it sheds light on the issue.. Do you know why 22 Veterans a day commit suicide in the USA.?? Would you do 22 push ups to save a Veteran.? It's not about the push-ups.. Its about addressing an issue. The issue is this... President Lincoln's promise is not being fulfilled...
It takes people to effect change...
Our Government still answers to The People.. The problem as I see it, is that the general public has no idea what is going on... Nor their responsibility to honor a commitment that was given to every American Service Member. As Americans, We owe a debt to the men and woman who have served Our Country. I don't think many would deny that truth.. The solution is simple.... START THE CONVERSATION. Be the nucleus of change. Write an e-mail to your Congressman. Become INVOLVED.
I still battle my demons Daily. I'm convinced that until some of these demons are tamed, my integration back into society is not an option.. Yes, I could do it, but it would again be but a short time until that would crumble.. I've lived that cycle too many times.. I will continue on my journey. Seeking the healing of my mind and body.. Planning for a future. Dealing with the past.. And educating myself and others .
Motorcycles are still in my heart and blood.. I will get back to that as soon as I can. When I do, I will be riding for a better reason. I think it will be more enjoyable to ride in a direction instead of away from something.
Thanks for your time.
Posted by I AM DON WOOD at 11:54 AM