For the last two years I have observed first hand the current process and system that has been designed to help transition our nations combat veterans back to their civilian communities and lives. I am deeply thankful for my care team and family for walking with me through this process for the last 24 months. Only with their un-ending support and love have I successfully journeyed back home both mentally, and physically.
The process for a veteran to receive a proper and fair disability ratting is one that can be intimidating to some, and daunting for most. I don’t know of anyone that I served with who was expecting to be labeled by the Department of the Army or the Veterans Administration as “Disabled”. (By the way, that word makes my skin crawl…and when I’m asked if I’m a disabled veteran it feels like some kind of bad joke).
A few weeks ago this complete stranger said something to me that I needed to walk away from. “Be careful out here in the woods…they might think you’re better, and you will loose all your benefits.” Through this short conversation it was communicated that multi-tour combat veterans, like myself, will not be able to truly find our way back into society. I tried my best to keep the rest of the conversation away from anything to do with the military, politics, world affairs, and the like. I expressed to her that I’m a real believer in nature therapy, and tried to keep the conversation light and positive for the next few painfully awkward moments.
(*Disclaimer-This individual also claimed to be a Doctor of some sort, and openly asked me “how much it cost to get my daughter “, with Zoey standing right next to me during our brief interaction- I took none of what she said to be sane or lucid)
…Please take a few moments to process what this short exchange was really about.
No, I didn’t make this up… and yes, this was a real conversation… just thinking about it makes my head hurt. The person who delivered this enablement filled, entitlement based line of thinking was simply stating her point of view, and she has the freedom to do exactly that. As crazy as this all sounds, many current veterans of our generation’s war are wallowing through this situation. This is such a difficult topic for me to adequately explain…this effects my family and I directly.
For those of us who have been told that we are no longer able to continue our service in uniform…we are deemed disabled. We are then put through a process of being rated on the disability. If the condition improves after our service is done we will go through re-evaluation, and our ratings for the disability will obviously be lowered. But, if we stay where we are or worsen, we will be re-evaluated, and the ratings go up. (I assume and hope that the person mentioned above had some knowledge of this information to base her statements to me that day).
I have spent many hours for the last few weeks (while living and walking in the woods) examining my heart and mind in all of this. I have searched myself high and low and have decidedly come to a conclusion in this issue in a very personal way…Nobody can define my “disability” except for almighty God and myself. I will probably struggle in certain situations for the rest of my days…and I have listened and learned from qualified professionals for how to properly deal with these struggles the right way.
It is time to draw from my traumatic and stressful experiences for growth. The physically strong only arrive at strength after submitting themselves to much pain under heavy loads that are voluntarily moved up and down…over and over again. My family and I are making that same choice, both spirituality and physically on this long extended walk. We are choosing to heal and grow stronger than we had ever thought possible, and that’s exactly what’s happening.
I’ll close this with one of my all time favorite Soldiers, who once said “Ever since I served as an infantryman in the first world war I have had a great dislike of people who, themselves in ease and safety, issue exhortations to men in the front line.” C.S. Lewis