on 21 December, 2015, I checked myself in to the Carl Vinson VA med center in Dublin, Ga. Not knowing at the time that this specific hospital was ranked in the bottom 20% of all the VA facilities.. I was at the end of my rope. I had been talking with my closest people for about a year in regards to seeking help with my issues. It was often the case that a Veteran would warn me away from the VA based on their own experiences. My friends in the Infantry and Special Forces communities advised against the VA and suggested that I seek help from the non- profits and civilian markets. The only knowledge I had of the VA was what I had seen in media and information from these confidants. The only knowledge I had of this facility was that my grandfather had passed away here from old age, many years ago..
I needed help.. My life had been a continual exercise of bad decisions with a few moments of easy sailing.. Unsteady work history, broken relationships, drinking in excess and too many episodes of using drugs to cope with life. Trust issues, abandonment issues, major depression, insomnia and its opposite. Nightmares and visions in horrifying details. Sleeping like a guard dog when I could sleep. I distanced myself from everyone who actually cared. It was easier to isolate than to explain what I was going through. Suicidal thinking would turn into planning. The depression and inability to deal with society would drive me to extremes. My temper, my training and my lack of anger management was driving me to a very dangerous place.The highs of my public life looked good on paper but the reality was that I was nothing more than a shell of a man. Near death experiences multiple times, was not enough to turn my mind around. I knew from online testing that I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. so I sought help.
Nobody knew. I had not told one person. Not family. Not friend. There was no one who knew what I was going through. Some knew that I had problems because of what they saw in me but they didn't know why. I don't blame them.. It took me almost 3 decades to get even a little understanding.. Those relationships are now a salvage operation that I hope and pray to be successful with. Let me get back to my WHY.
I found my WHY. Here at the VA. No, I'm not fixed by any stretch of the imagination. Medication has helped with the depression and cleared my mind enough to focus on a purpose.. A mission in Life, you might say. Through all the disfunction of the system, I became able to focus on a goal. Imagine for a moment that you walk through a door. on the other side of that door is a new world of all things are possible. The only thing that can limit you is yourself. You have no pressure from anyone to do or be anything. All the choices are before you. For me, I had to make a choice because turning back was not an option. I needed to find my purpose. My first step was finding out who I AM.
I call myself a Christian. I'm not a religious man but I do know that I have a God. I have Hope and Faith because of my beliefs. My relationship with my Creator has never been what it should be and there have been many times that I have acted as if we had no relationship at all. Because of the many death and near death experiences I've had, I know my God has a plan for me. He could have "called me home" many times but He chose not to. That tells me that I am here for a reason. My Bible says that mans purpose is to glorify God. I've known that for 40yrs but have not devoted my life to it. Yeah, I've helped a few people but glorifying my Creator was like a side note.. Beyond all that is wrong with me, I know, I have good in my heart. I've been a Sheepdog most of my life. Watching out for the flock and addressing the wolf every time.. I will continue because that is part of who I am. But there is more to me than just that. I have a vision of the time I meet my Creator. I will kneel before His thrown and present to Him my crown. In that crown will be all the good that I have done. I think of feathers in my cap. "Well done my good and faithful servant". is what I hope to hear.. As of today, I'm afraid He would say, "You've done some good but you were far below your potential".
That is My WHY. It wasn't a burning bush moment. It wasn't a great voice from the sky. It was something completely normal.. for the first time in over thirty years, no drugs. no alcohol. no plan. no expectations. no court order. no self imposed pressures. no standards to meet. no timeline to beat. I got to know me to the core. and there was more of me that i didn't like than I had ever known. I question my motivation. Why am I making this choice in life.? I've been learning a lot about myself by questioning my motivation.. by asking Why. The question I asked myself was this... Am i motivated by my fear of hell or the rewards of Heaven??. yeah.. tough question.. Here is what I came up with.. neither.. I don't fear hell. Doesn't matter how horrible you paint that picture, I'm not motivated by fear... Nor am I motivated by the rewards of Heaven. If the rewards of Heaven motivate you to do right then you miss the point that salvation is a gift and it can't be earned. I asked myself, If Heaven were full, would I still strive to glorify God.? My answer is yes.
"The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear.? -Proverbs 18:14
Now that I have found my WHY... It's time to move on to the WHAT..
Sense my time here I have witnessed a shit ton of problems with the VA system and this location specifically. First off, day one. I was placed in the 90 day Homeless Program after telling them that I was there for PTSD. A 42 day program. It took me 5 weeks of knocking on doors to get set up for a PTSD evaluation and assessment. Each week I was threatened with expulsion from The Homeless Program because I was not concentrating on housing and employment. The laundry list is long but I won't bore you with all the specifics here and now.. You can trust that in the near future all that information will be compiled for dissemination.. Failures in medical care, mental care, program policies and changes.. From a "report card" standard... The care and services I have received in the last two months have been less than failing and border on criminal.
At the nurses station. To see a dr. or nurse or dietitian you are directed to take a seat. No one to check in with as to why you are there. No next in line numbers . Just sit and wait . . Can you imagine a civilian medical practice operating this way..?
Bitching never improved anything... Well, except I did get three tattered flags retired here just by bitching... so let me restate that... "Bitching only improves the little stuff"..
There is a whole lot of big stuff that needs to be fixed.. and we don't have time to doddle. Lives are at stake..
22.5 million Veterans in America
on any given night, 300,000 Veterans are homeless living on the streets or in shelters
250,000 Veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD
Substance abuse among Veterans is beyond measuring...
Stay tuned.. The next article will be "My WHAT plan"