Overcoming Illness and Injury – A Soldier and his Mom Say Thanks
I have mentioned on occasion that I have PTSD. Since I am a USMC Vietnam Era Veteran, I make a diligent effort to make sure readers know that “I am not a combat Veteran.” I don’t want to deceive anyone. I don’t want to infringe on the hallowed ground of those brave souls who fought and risk or gave their lives in combat for our nation. I have not earned that accolade!
Though my PTSD was not “caused” as such by events in the military, my service did exasperate it. I was unaware of events in my life as a child that would later resurface and have such a devastating effect on my ability to function. The uncertainties of the events of the sixties and the war effort had their effect. I think what had the most effect was a feeling of helplessness. I often felt overwhelmed by events I had no control over. I worried about the safety of the guys I knew who went to Vietnam. I hated the way people treated the soldiers.
That and other, personal events, caused me to have several episodes during my service time that I feel took away from my ability to say my service met the standards I set for myself. I served my four years; but, I only made it to Cpl. something told me I would never have the career I wanted. So, I accepted my limitations and did my best to be the best I could be. All the while I lived with the daily fear that whatever was wrong with me would be detected and keep me from finishing. I lived for the day I would get my Good Conduct Medal and later my Honorable Discharge.
Besides my disappointment that i could not for some reason be the Marine I had wanted to be my whole life, I also had to deal with a chronic depression that clouded everything I did. At times I often felt I couldn’t even get out of bed. But I determined that I finish my four years. I determined myself I would have that Good Conduct Medal. And, I determined myself that I would settle for nothing less than an Honorable Discharge. All the while, and in the years that ensued, I felt and still feel like a fraud!
I suppose many might say, so what? Why are you even bringing this up now. Who cares? My answer to you would be I do! You see it is a matter of personal self respect. A matter of Honor to the Corps I loved so much! So, though I didn’t get to meet the goals I initially set for myself, I did manage to meet my altered goals. The only thing I didn’t manage to do is buy or wear just once a set of Dress Blues. For personal reasons, I just never could afford them. But, I have an alternate plan hear too. I figure that though I didn’t meet the normal standards to earn that honor it will be OK for me to be buried in Dress Blues. he only thing is I will not have that moment of pride one gets putting on that uniform for the first time and gazing into a mirror to see how I look1 Much as it pains me, I can live with that!
At this point I am sure that some are asking themselves, what is the point she is trying to make/ Who cares about all this tripe? There are far more important things at hand! Well, you are right. But, I care. You see there is something about the Corps that becomes ingrained in all of us who serve the Corps. There is a pride in service that never leaves us. There is a pride of always doing your best. There is a pride in being the best. I don’t know if anyone who has never been in the Corps can even understand this drive and sense of purpose.
But all these ideals don’t stop the day you reach your EOL. They follow a Marine into the rest of his or her life. There is never a time I don’t strive to always be the best I can be at any given time. That is why I hate having PTSD. I hate the resulting depression that is always with me. I hate the periods of deep depression like the one I have been experiencing since Mike died. But, those very standards and the inherent drive I feel as a result of my Corps training make me push on. Giving up is not an option. Sometimes even that doesn’t feel like enough to go on! This is one of those times.
But God often finds a way to intervene when we need him the most. In my case I got a letter today. The letter made me feel ashamed of my self pity and wallowing in it. It reminded me of all I can do! of how lucky I am! of how blessed I am! It reminded me of the courage and standards that are a part of every Marine!
I got a thank you letter from Eddie Ryan’s mom and even more important and a source of great pride and inspiration, I got a letter from Eddie Ryan himself! I was very surprised and very humbled by those letters. I was also ashamed of my lapse into the self pity that PTSD and depression causes. That I had let it get to me. That I had allowed my courage to falter.
A couple posts back I have a post, “Tale of two Soldiers.” Eddie was one of those soldiers.
Those letters will always be with me. I feel so honored that bot Eddie and his mom wrote them. I am humbled that they both thank me for my support. I haven’t written to Eddie. I have written frequent posts and updates here. There reason I do that is because I am determined to support our troops anyway I can in my limited way. But there is another reason. I know what it is like to be in the hospital for months and never see another person. No loved ones visits, no letters, no cards, nothing! I felt like I had been abandoned.
I was trying to hang onto my mind, my sense of self, my sense reality. I felt that no matter how hard I fought , everything was slipping away from me. My brain simply would not work. I was disappearing into oblivion and nothing I did seemed to work to stop that spiral. During my worst time, after being locked away with noting but the clothes on my body, minus belts and shoestrings, anything that might allow me to harm myself, in a room with a small mat on the floor and bars on the window, a tiny window in the door, I found a penny in my pocket that the staff had missed. I laughed to myself. I had found my reality check and “they” didn’t know I had it. I held that penny in my hand, inside my pants pocket, and I told myself over and over through the drug induced haze caused by what the staff given me and my mind’s refusal to hold on to reality, that as long as I knew I had that damn penny, I would get through “this,” whatever this was!
That penny and counting the tiles on the floor over and over got me through that time in that room! But, what I didn’t know was the real battle started when I got out of that room! The staff finally accepted that the drugs they gave me only made me worse. They took me off everything! On bad days I was given a tennis racket and a container of tennis balls and told by a very wise staff member to go outside and beat those balls against the back wall. God help me, it helped. But the lack of outside contact kept dragging me back down. I needed that contact. I needed to know I still mattered to someone. I needed to hear at my worst times I would get better! I could do this!
Finally a goos friend remembered I had gone into the hospital. It had been months since she saw me. She couldn’t believe I was still there. She challenged the staff about my condition. She remembered what I was like before they got hold of me. She came every day at first. Called me. Encouraged me. It was the tiny bit of push I needed. It was the tiny bit of encouragement I needed to dig deeper inside myself and find a courage and determination I didn’t know I had left. I left that place several months later. I only went back to other facilities again for short stays to adjust or change medications. I do not respond as most people do and need that safety net.
When I read Eddie’s letter, I remembered that time in my life again. I was reminded of the importance of letters, cards, visits when one is recovering from severe injury or illness. Sure we all have to do our part to get through tough times. But we all need to know that we aren’t forgotten. We need to know we matter to someone. We need to be encouraged when we feel afraid we will give up. When we feel like we can’t go another step further, we need someone to say, “You can do it! I am so proud of you! I am praying for you! I care!”
It has been very hard for me to write this post. It brings back a lot zI would loike to forget. But, I also know that remembering is my gauge of how far I have come along side how far I have to go. I need that yard stick. Our injured Veterans need that yard stick.
Please write letters, send cards, visit local hospitals, do whatever you can to let our injured and ill troops know they are not forgotten. They matter. You care. You bare behind them. You pray for them. Some need little things like sweats, T-shirts, socks, other basic essentials that our VA hospitals find it hard to provide due to past budget cuts and a growing number of severely injured men and women that previously would not have survived. As our Veteran’s Medical facilities struggle to improve the quality of care and facilities for these heroes; please do what you can to fill in the gap with those little every day things that make such a difference in moral.
They need us. But, we also need them. We need to help them. It gives us a sense of purpose in times like those we now find ourselves experiencing. I don’t know about anyone else, but at times I feel guilty for my life of relative safety and comfort while our troops are in harms way or recovering from their war injuries or other injuries or illnesses that arose as they safe guarded our freedom.
Now, I feel I must share the letters from Angie Ryan and Eddie. Their letters of thanks belong to all who have helped to give support to them and all the other soldiers in need of our help right now.
Here’s a few pictures I found doing a Google search on Eddie. These pictures are from when he was in the hospital and of course the top one, when he went out onto his back deck to see his yard at his home. His home was newly refinished by some very kind benefactors!
home at last!