My father was a Sergeant in the army. I’d heard him talk about being in WWII many times as I was growing up, but he never talked about the horrible parts…at least, not to me or my sisters. He told my brother about it though, who said the stories were terrible.
Dad was born in Kentucky, one of eight children. His great-grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee. His great-grandfather was one of the first 6 families to settle Boonsboro, Kentucky with Daniel Boone. Several years after he was born, the family moved to Indiana.
Having grown up in the backwoods, my father was an experienced tracker and hunter. I remember walking through the woods with him and trying to be as quiet as he was. It just wasn’t possible. The skills Dad had were not ones that would be looked upon favorably by modern society, so he always felt out of place.
Dad managed to stay in school until the 8th grade, but he had severe learning disabilities that prevented him from learning to read until he was in his late 50s. He was good with machinery, but without being able to read, directional manuals didn’t help at all. Fortunately, he could look at a machine and pretty much understand how it worked just by seeing it.
He was often ridiculed for being an uneducated hillbilly. None-the-less, when he joined the army, they had a place for him. I think that’s why his years in the service made such a strong impression on him. He was in reconnaissance. He could creep around without making a sound and he was a dead shot with any gun you put into his hands. He’d finally found a place where his skills were looked upon favorably, a place where he felt he belonged.
I’m proud of his service to this country. I’m glad for his sake that he found a place where he felt useful, because I don’t know that he ever felt that way again.
It’s a given that freedom isn’t free. I see it every day in the veterans I work with. There are bullet wounds, traumatic head injuries, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, back injuries, effects of chemical exposure, and the list goes on and on. I’ve been thinking about that all week, since Veterans Day was last Sunday, and I’ve come to the conclusion that although the cost of freedom is horrendous, it’s worth it.
Now, I know you may say, “Well, have you served? Did you pay the price?” The answer is no, I did not. But that doesn’t mean I don’t understand what the value of freedom is, to me and to others in this country. Earlier this month, I voted. No one told me whom I had to vote for or that I couldn’t vote at all. I can speak out against the political figures I don’t think are doing a good job without fear of being arrested and thrown into prison. I don’t have to worry that my children or those of my family and friends will be kidnapped and forced to carry a gun before they even see their 16th birthday. I can carry and shoot a gun, and if I wanted to, I could buy a license and kill a deer or turkey. I can go to sleep at night and not worry that no one is standing guard over me and mine. Yes, the cost of freedom isn’t free, but it’s worth it to me.
If I had to face possible death for my country, I don’t know how difficult that would be. But I think I’d find it in me, as much as my physical limitations would allow, to stand firm to protect this country too. I am so grateful to the wonderful men and women who have found it in themselves to draw the line and defend it. Without them, this country would not be what it is, and I would not be who I am. Thank you.
Along with the winter holidays comes colder weather. As a child I loved the songs, smells, sights and, yes, even the cold weather that came with the first whisperings of winter. Now I don’t care so much for it. Instead of thinking about the glistening glitter of freshly fallen snow on the pines, I think about power lines falling or branches breaking and landing on the roof!
As usual, I’ve learned that being prepared is the best thing I can do to protect myself. Ready.gov offers the following steps to prepare for winter storms:
- Ø Have salt or salt-substitute on hand to melt the ice on your walkways. You can also use sand for improved traction.
- Ø Get those snow shovels out and in a place where they’re easy to find when you need them.
- Ø If you use a fireplace or wood-burning stove for heat, make sure you have sufficient fuel on hand.
- Ø Dress in layers when going outside and keep extra blankets on hand in case the power goes off.
- Ø Don’t travel in nasty weather if you can avoid it. If you must, listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news channel before you leave. Be alert to changing weather conditions. And keep a disaster supply kit in your vehicle.
- Ø Don’t leave your pets outside for long in bad weather.
- Ø Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow. Before you go outside to shovel, do some stretching exercises to limber up.
- Ø Watch for signs of frostbite or hypothermia. If you do get too cold, remove your wet clothing, warm the center of the body first and drink warm, non-alcoholic beverages.
- Ø If your pipes are at risk of freezing, open your faucets and let the water drip. Standing water freezes much faster.
- Ø If your water is already frozen, remove any insulation and wrap pipes in rags. Completely open all faucets and pour hot water over the pipes, starting where they were most exposed to the cold. (While living in the Upper Peninsula, I learned to sit on the floor by the opening where the pipes came into the house and use a hair dryer to warm them up).
- Ø Maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters to avoid a build-up of toxic fumes.
I love the holidays…but I love my comfort even more! With a little extra planning and care, I can sit safe and snug in my home and let the winter winds blow.
With so many service men and women returning from the front lines with PTSD and depression, you’d think we’d lose some of the stigma that’s associated with going for treatment of mental health issues. It’s still a big taboo though.
Why is it that if we develop pneumonia, we won’t hesitate to go in to see our primary care physician, yet we’ll suffer with depression so bad it makes it unbearable to even get out of bed, yet we won’t ask for help? I guess it’s the fear that we’re “nuts” or “crazy.” We aren’t, but we fear other people will perceive us in that light.
Don’t you think it makes more sense to ask for help rather than hurting ourselves or someone else? Makes sense to me. You should go to the nearest emergency room or call 911 just as though it were any other medical emergency. There is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which you can reach by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Just press 1 for the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline. Or, you can go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ and click on Veterans Chat Live with a Counselor. The hotline is staffed 24/7.
If you’re looking for a VA hospital or clinic near where you live, you can call 1-800-827-1000 or go to www.va.gov and you’ll find the address and phone number of a VA clinic near you. If you are already using VA medical services, you can have your physician refer you to a VA mental health provider.
Some of the signs to look for to tell you if you have a mental health problem include:
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness
- Misuse of drugs, alcohol, food, sex, gambling or overspending money to cope with stress
- Problems functioning at home, work or school
- Depression that lasts longer than 2 weeks
Whatever you do, don’t continue to suffer in silence. You’re not crazy, you just need some mental first aid.