Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Another day at the VA..

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.

Image result for veterans crisis line dog tag

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....

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Getting back to where I should have been

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.

Image result for trust and obey lyrics

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.

Don Wood

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.

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.

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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,