Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Photo Courtesy America's Vet Dogs

He called me at 8:00 pm last night.  A stranger.  A soldier from Ft. Bliss.  A soldier with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  He called to tell me me about his three month old puppy, and how he was seeking help on how to get this pup trained to be of additional help to him emotionally and mentally. But perhaps what he found is that he was seeking comfort.

C. shared how his pup is simply there for him when no one else is, when no one else understands and when no one else listens - when the rest of the world seems to be spinning out of control. "His ears perk up and he cocks his head and he understands, as I tell him my fears. And he doesn't judge me." You see this puppy is everything a friend should be, someone who is simply there for you when you need them the most.  Words don't need to be exchanged.  It is a love and a place where words aren't necessary.

As I listened, my heart became involved.  I thanked him for his sacrifices.  We talked about the crippling effects of the invisible wounds from PTSD, the ravages of war and how I do understand he is living through hell, every second, every moment of the day. "Saying thank you isn't sufficient, but being here for you is what I can give back to you for your service and sacrifices." 

It was then that I was blessed with a most precious gift by a young man I have never met, but knew all too well, for he is but one of tens of thousands of young men and women returning from Iraq/Afghanistan with PTSD orTBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).  As C. told me of his anger management and trust issues, he said, "I can tell from your voice that you care and that you understand."  I heard tears in his words and a break in his voice and wanted to hold him and simply say "I understand and I am here for you. I won't leave you.  I promise."

Suddenly this soldier who had called to ask a simple question about training his dog, progressed to a young man sharing, with a total stranger, the terror of flashbacks, his fear of windows without drapes or blinds, and how he held his best friend's head in his lap, as he took his last breath from an IED blast. 

His life is full of pain, confusion, anger, fear, and mental torture.  Many of his friends don't understand, yet suffer from the same thing.  Some choose not to tell anyone they have PTSD, for fear they will be treated as badly, as is he.

What prompted this young man to call me?  Well I know the answer and you most likely do as well. Sometimes we are taken by the hand when we least expect it and find grace at the end of the road.  C. was sent to me.  It is as uncomplicated as that.  And me, well I am honored and blessed.

I led him to VetDogs in NY.  I will be sending him an application to fill out for a potential service dog that can be there for him and assist in a myraid of ways.  This dog 'will have his back', will wake him from flashbacks, block him from sleepwalking into danger, be his anchor, his rock, be his lifeline to a future where fear isn't as readily available and where C. can recover a sense of control and strength.  PTSD will always be with him and may rear its terrifying head when he least expects it, but he will not be alone.  

"VetDogs, Veteran's K-9 Corps," will be there answering the call as soldiers like C. 'return wounded but unbowed.'  They have served our country with honor and integrity, and now it is VetDog's turn to serve them."  www.vetdogs.org

Fyodor Dostoyevski said, "Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most."  But when you have a friend by your side, someone who loves you unconditionally,  that step is a step forward, a step toward a future that just possibly won't be so tormented. 

C. will recover a sense of possibility with a new best friend by his side, as he learns to not despair or drown in sorrow.  And as promised, I will be there for him.  Because sometimes knowing that you are not alone and that someone, somewhere, understands is a happy ending. 

For C. hope just might be found at the end of a leash, for  the difference between winning and losing is who has the will. C. has the will.

For me, well once again life steps in and as I have learned there are no guarantees and that sometimes the best we can do is to start to repair the brokenness, one person at a time. 

So this morning I send out a prayer that C. won't have to do it alone.  People decide to be courageous.  C. decided that last night when he picked up the phone and called me. 


  1. As I gather my courage to sit down and write this I am thankful for the sweet face of my Saint Bernard Maggie, who is resting her head in my lap. You see, she knows, and I know she knows, and that is enough for me to have a little peace in my life. She never judges me, or tells me what I should feel, she is just there, and she knows, that I know, that she will do everything possible to keep the memories at bay, if only for awhile...

    I woke up this morning after a night of hiding in the shadows of my mind and believed that I was OK. I was able to joke about waking up buried in the the back of my closet with a 6 inch knife in my hand. I said to myself, today I am going to be ok. It didn't last for long...

    By lunch I had already hit the floor at the sound of a car backfiring as I was screaming "incoming". The neighbors used to check on me. I think they're used to it by now. Maggie came to sit by me, no ON me, and I grabbed two handfuls of hair and half screamed and have cried until I could pull myself together. She always knows. But today, I was going to be ok.

    Around dinnertime I ran across a picture of myself and my 1SG taken minutes before one of the worst firefights I can remember. In a moment I could smell the M16's, and hear the screams of my friends trying to get out of a building surrounded by locals anxious to give their lives for their religious beliefs. sic. Once again, by some power I will never know or question, Maggie comes running into the kitchen and continually paws at my leg until the dazed and beaten look in my eyes majically clears. But today, i'm going to be ok.

    later on I check my email. I seldom check it anymore as I tremble in fear of news that may be waiting for me, or memories that will come back and reduce me to a wailing shadow person hiding in my closet hearing the tracer rounds explode overhead. I check it anyway and find an email from my 1SG. We never talk about it but he knows, and I know, and a simple I miss you and love you drops me to my knees as it all comes back again. Around the corner comes Maggie, my fuzzy angel, and just stands there looking at me as if to say, mommy i'm here. Hold and and we'll get through this together. But today i'm gonna be ok.

    Part 1

  2. Somehow, with Maggies assistance, I pull myself together and sign back on my computer to read the pockets of peace blog. I read about a Soldier, no a BROTHER that i've yet to meet, and it feels as if a cold steel knife is piercing my soul. You see, I KNOW what it's like to have someone die in your arms when you can do nothing but hold them, and lie to them, and tell them that they're finally going home. I KNOW the pain it causes and the times i've yelled at a God that could let this happen. Everytime I look at the name tattoo'd on my arm I remember and wish I didn't know, or I could forget if only for a second. Here comes Maggie and she is content to just lie by my side until the xanax kicks in, and my brain quits misfiring, and I quit yelling at a God who won't take the memories away. Then I cry...no I SOB, one of those deep sobs that rack your whole being. In cry because I lived, I cry because some of me died, but I cry mostly because the world does not understand, and i've lost faith that they ever will. I cried for innocence lost, and peace I will never know again. I cry for my brothers and sisters who hurt deep in a part of their soul reserved for the things that they have seen, and those they have lost. I cry because I never will REALLY come home. I cry because there comes a time when there is nothing left to do but cry that gut wrenching cry that comes from the bottom of your belly and threatens to take you away to a place you can't find your way back from. When I finally quit crying my tears are licked away by a big ole Saint Bernard that never questions my love, and I never question hers.

    Those who don't believe in the suffering endured by those of us with PTSD I invite you to spend the day with me, and those who don't believe in the magical power of a dog to really KNOW, again I invite you to spend the day with me.

    Tommorow i'm going to be ok.

    Part 2