On Assimilation, A Ranger’s Return From War

Since Jason was a Ranger and a young man that I admired with much pride, I am drawn to other Rangers and what they have to say and the stories they tell. Ranger TV was my absolute favorite time. Fetching beers for the guys as they laughed and told stories, often berating each other in the process.

Jason had the loudest, most infectious laugh I’ve ever heard and I heard it a lot. He is not here to tell those stories any longer, but I have read two books by a Ranger Medic that truly keep my attention.

Leo Jenkins was a Medic with 3/75 with multiple deployments. His first book, Lest We Forget; An Army Ranger Medic’s Story was my introduction to Leo and was very eager to get his second offering, On Assimilation, A Ranger’s Return From War.

On Assimilation Cover

Jason and I frequently had long talks regarding the plight of returning Veterans and I grew to understand the situation over time just as I learned about PTS(d) and TBI issues.

As I read On Assimilation, I heard the words in Jason’s voice. Although Jason was still just weeks from transitioning out he would have been spared the job hunting stigma that most Veterans endure. That’s because he had already joined up with a Ranger Buddy with whom he had shared ‘Got Your Six’ duties with during both their service times. An excellent job was waiting for him.

It is critical to have that network, that Brotherhood in effect at all times, whether deployed, Stateside, or as a Veteran. I have rambled long enough. Let Leo’s words sink in.

From the Preface and Forward of On Assimilation, A Ranger’s Return From War: (Reprinted here by permission)

In a coffee shop in north Denver, as the snow flurries swirl and dance and hang in the air, I reflect on my military service and the seven years since that has brought me to this place. Not just my physical residence but my mental state and the way in which I see the world and the people in it. I look to the happy couple that just walked in with a degree of antipathy. Why is that? They seem like nice people, but a part of me holds them in disdain. Maybe it isn’t antipathy at all, perhaps it is jealousy or envy that is coursing through my veins. I allow my mind to wonder what it would be like to be rid of the ghosts and guilt of two wars. A weight that neither in this pair could ever understand.

I find myself clinging to a world that I have long since left. October 20th, 2006, a date that will forever be ingrained in my memory. 20OCT2006 was the day that I went from being an Army Ranger, to being a veteran. Over 2,500 sunrises have come and gone since that day, nearly twice the number that came and went during my time as a soldier. Yet somehow there is still a feeling residing in me that identifies more with the clean-shaven, beret-wearing version of me. I can’t let him go. He is the best version of me that I have ever known.

Every one of those 2,500+ days I have attempted to reintegrate into our social fabric so that I may be accepted back into a society that does not understand my disposition. This is not solely my struggle; this is the plight of millions of veterans today who find themselves adrift to some degree. (emphasis mine)

It is important not to confuse struggle with ineffectiveness, for these are the most capable individuals of our generation. Their struggle lay not in inability, but rather in being a minority who has supported a majority. Their struggle is the perceived under-appreciation for a donation of their most fruitful years. A struggle for which the most well-adjusted veteran is underprepared. It is the greatest battle that most will never face, an ongoing endeavor to achieve an internal expectation, one put in place by an experience that few will ever know. Our process of rejoining the masses is currently our burden to bear. It is our greatest mission. It is our albatross. The last long walk of our enlistment is our assimilation and an arduous one it is.

Long hours, bad food, and inadequate pay are staples of military service. Being shot at and placed in situations where you are required to take the life of another human being are merely a part of the job description. Watching your nieces, nephews, sons, and daughters grow up in pictures from half a world away, no doubt pulls on the heart strings of the most battle hardened soldier. I can say now with utmost confidence, however, that the most difficult part of wearing that uniform is hanging it up. The process of assimilation is long and convoluted. The physical, mental, and emotional demands placed on most members of the military far exceed their civilian counterparts, yet for some reason the same professional courtesies do not typically extend to those who have donned camouflage. College level courses, as well as professional certifications achieved in the military, seldom transfer to a civilian equivalent.

This is not an attempt at glorifying military service or an effort to create an atmosphere of pity; neither would be helpful to veterans. The military is a voluntary path and although most people don’t have a comprehensive understanding of what they will inevitably experience upon enlisting, it is a path that is chosen with free will. That does not, however, mean that the burdens of this profession should be shouldered solely by those in uniform. We all have a social responsibility to understand those who have sacrificed so much for our way of life. Your ideological ethos does not have to be in line with those who serve, but you absolutely have a social obligation to understand the trials and tribulations that they endured for your benefit. The days of, “I don’t want to know what happens over there,” and, “hearing about it makes me feel uncomfortable,” are over. (emphasis mine)

The difficulty transitioning from the military world into civilian life is multifaceted. There is a very structured, systematic progression in taking a civilian and turning them into a soldier. Step by step, day after day, through the course of basic training soldiers are taught how to conduct tasks in a very specific manner. They are not only taught the proper way of making their bed and shining their boots, they are held accountable by their peers and superiors alike if these tasks are not completed to standard. There is no equivalent to this upon discharge. Anyone that has ever attempted to quit anything cold turkey understands that it can often be an ineffective technique. A few hours of briefings and resume classes do not make up for months and years of institutionalized indoctrination. It isn’t that a veteran doesn’t know how to think for himself; the problem is that they have been a critical member of a team for years. They had a specific role to play and when that role is so drastically altered, finding yourself can be difficult.

Following release from the military, new veterans lose the most significant support group that they have ever known. The simple truth is that the only people who will ever understand the demons experienced in battle are the ones standing by your side when those demons made their grand entrance. (emphasis mine) There is no need to express to those men how you are feeling regarding those events because they feel the same way. There is more comfort in that than you can possibly imagine. To go from being surrounded by a group of people who relate on the most intimate level to being isolated from every one of them overnight is a highly traumatic event that often isn’t even recognized. This particular moment is disguised by the jubilee of being free from the perceived oppression of the military itself. That oppression, in hindsight, is actually the extension of the most caring extended family a person can know.

As a soldier, in order to accomplish the required tasks of your profession you must possess the highest degree of confidence. When returning to civilian life, the same confidence that has served to keep you alive in an austere environment is looked upon as an unnecessary arrogance. It is the service member who is forced to adapt to the outlook of the popular majority in this situation. This becomes an initial source of animosity; why should the veteran be made to conform to the parts of society that sat back when there was work to do? One of the most fundamental and problematic aspects of assimilation for military veterans is quite simply a misunderstanding on the part of civilians perpetrated by movies and television. Films featuring veterans seem to go one of two ways. They are either an emotionless, unfeeling death machine or so completely broken by their experience that they are a danger to society. It is a sad, simple truth that the way the media depicts military life is largely inaccurate. Yet this, not reality, is how most civilians form their opinions of members of the armed services. (mine)

We leave a world of black and white, wrongs and rights, to join a world of endless shades of gray, one where standing orders no longer dictate daily activities and people do not live by a creed. Morals are contorted to serve the individual rather than the greater good of the group. Many veterans step off a train upon leaving the military and set out on a journey with no designated path. That train that they grew accustomed to was perpetually on a very calculated route. Something as simple as, “should I get a haircut today?” is a choice that was predetermined by a mandate.

(On Assimilation, A Ranger’s Return From War) attempts to portray those tribulations through my own personal experiences. This story depicts the journey of leaving the safe comforts of war and returning to the harsh realities of civilian society. From the conversations I have had with hundreds of other veterans I have discovered that I was not the only one to experience these issues, deal with these fears and dance with these demons. I learned that I am not alone. I had for years, however, been under the impression that such things should not impact a strong man. I watched men that I admire carry on with what seemed like indifference to the same events that at times crippled my mind, never knowing that they too were being strangled by the same monster.

In my search for insight on this subject, I discovered that the overwhelming majority of books written on related topics have been composed by people with a PhD in psychology, who have never been in the military, let alone deployed to combat. While I appreciate the effort they have dedicated to bringing these issues to the forefront, I believe that they are lacking a certain amount of grit necessary to effectively tell the story.

It would be difficult to argue that our government is doing everything possible to assist our combat veterans in their assimilation. With over twenty veterans a day deciding to take their own life, a life that they once used to protect our nation, much more can be done. It has become apparent to me at this point that many of those tasked with easing this transition just do not understand it. However, the onus is not on the government alone. It is up to each and every one of us, veteran and civilian alike, to shoulder our share of the task.

Leo’s book, On assimilation, A Ranger’s Return From War, is required reading for anyone that will serve on staff at Granger Outpost, our Equine Assisted Therapy outreach at Wagon Wheel Ranch in Hesperia, Ca.

I HIGHLY recommend everyone read this  book. Follow the links . Buy and read these two books.

 

Progress At Granger Outpost at Wagon Wheel Ranch

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http://igg.me/at/Granger-Legacy

Just a quick update on the progress on our campaign. The monetary donations have been coming a little at a time and we appreciate every dollar that has been donated.

We have several confirmed labor and equipment donations and several more offers that we will sit down and discuss with those offering and hope to confirm those soon.

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rec hall plans2

Those are the plans showing the Rec Hall and its placement on the property. So far, we have a local business that has confirmed their offer to trench the footings and plumbing runs. That is a substantial savings.

Work days are being scheduled officially as we have had many requests from volunteers. I love you people that live outside of yourselves. That is America. That is love. I will do better on the updates I promise. This is moving along and I want you to be as excited as I am.

http://igg.me/at/Granger-Legacy

Don’t forget R.E.D Friday today!

wear red

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Granger Outpost- Why Here, Why Now

Why Here?

According to the latest V.A. stats, the biggest concentration of Veterans in America outside of Texas is right here in California. Their figures show that 1,851,470 Veterans live in California with a majority of those live in San Bernardino and surrounding Counties. View the pdf file of the demographics below

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Why Now?

Don’t you think at a rate of twenty two Veteran suicides a day that now is the perfect time? Be a part http://igg.me/at/Granger-Legacy

The Demons Of War, A Wife’s Perspective

(This is just one of thousands of similar stories all happening right here, right now.–poppy)
“My husband said that he would have rather had lost his limbs than to have lost his mind.”
I write to you to today to tell a story, our story, that I hope the world to hear. It is a story that is all to common with our beloved troops returning home.
My name is Stephanie Jones, I am the wife of an injured Marine, Justin D. Jones. We have been blessed with four beautiful children, two of which are battling disabilities themselves, which makes this story all the more difficult to tell.
My husband served in the Marine Corps 1-6 Bravo Company from January 16, 2007 to January 15, 2011. During his career in the Marine Corps he learned many survival techniques that helped him survive some of the most tragic and terrifying situations. He was trained to dispatch any threat, foreign or domestic.
Justin was the designated Marksman for his Platoon in 1-6 Bravo Company during his two tours in Afghanistan. His first deployment was to Garmzar, the second to Marjah. With the deployment to Marjah, 1-6 Marines were the first boots on ground for that territory and were sent to clear and secure the posts and outposts. In April of 2010, his life would change forever, our lives would change forever.
My husband and his squad were on foot patrol about 200 meters from returning to post. They were coming up onto a bridge for the main road when Willes and Sanders triggered an IED that was in the canal beside the bridge. My husband fell to the ground and lost consciousness for an unknown amount of time.
When he woke up, he was disoriented, unsure of what had happened. He looked around to see that his squad leader and the other guys were in the ditch taking cover and dressing the physical wounds that Willes and Sanders suffered from the direct impact of the explosion. My husband was approximately 10-15 meters from them when this tragedy struck.
When Justin was finally able to assess the situation, he ran over to the ditch to help the rest of his squad dress the wounds of his brothers. Medevac was sent in to transport Willes and Sanders. Upon returning to the compound, there was a lot of confusion.
He suffered a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and also a L-5 S1 torn and protruding disc. Justin sustained injuries that he never knew the true detriment of until three years later. His combat related injuries have and will forever change his life. The injuries he sustained while in combat include the TBI, lower back injury, hearing loss, migraines, depression, and severe PTSD.
Along with these injuries he suffers from intermittent paralysis in his lower extremities as well as total urinary incontinence. On Jan 15, 2011 he was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, and refused the medical discharge in hopes that he would someday recover, unfortunately that was not the case.
Upon coming home from the Marine Corps, I knew that something was terribly wrong. He just wasn’t the man that I had known when he left. It was as if he was fighting demons daily, that I simply could not see myself.
He slowly began meeting with a counselor and started to work through treatment for the mental aspect of his injuries, which are often more of a hardship to face than the physical ailments that plague him. He did the best he could to work a full time job for almost two years until it simply became unbearable.
We were on the brink of a divorce, the man he once was had been destroyed. On April 8, 2014 he came to me in confidence and told me that the thought of committing suicide had overcame him. He wanted to end his life. He said he couldn’t explain the way he was or why he did the things that he did. A few short hours later, we were in route to the Dayton, OH VAMC to have him evaluated.
That night he was admitted and transferred to Chillicothe, OH VAMC due to bed availability. Over the next week I traveled to and from our home in Beaverdam, OH to be with him during treatment. That next week he was transferred back to Dayton for the remainder of his inpatient stay. While there he was in a locked ward and under suicide watch until the day he came home. They started a regimen of medications that helped to calm his nerves and try to rehabilitate him.
On April 22, 2014 he was discharged and sent home to wait for the Residential Treatment program at Martinsburg, WV VAMC. On May 5, 2014 we got a call from Sutton Ullman, the director at the Martinsburg, WV VA. He did the admittance process and gave my husband the admittance date of May 8, 2014. I was to have him there by 11am for admission.
On May 7, 2014 we took the kids to my sister-in-laws and started the 8 hour trip to WV. We arrived that night and stayed one last night together in a hotel. On May 8, 2014 he was officially admitted to the VA. He was under restriction for the first two weeks of treatment during the 90 day minimum program.
On Memorial Day, the kids and I got to go visit with daddy for a four day weekend. He was allowed out on pass for the first time. Thanks to Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund (Becky Campbell) we were able to stay at the Holiday Inn there in Martinsburg. It was a very sad day that Monday when we had to take daddy back to the VA and not know if we would be able to come and see him again.
Two weeks later, we had the ability to come back and stay at a place called the Patriot House. It was amazing! Again we owe that thanks to Becky Campbell & Lilly Briggs. They allowed us to stay at the Patriot House as long as we wanted. It made treatment for my husband just that much brighter.
Throughout the summer I traveled to and from our home in Beaverdam, OH to the Patriot House in WV. During the week we could see daddy after 4 pm until 9pm. On the weekends we got to see daddy from 9am until 9pm. It was manageable. The thing that hurt the most was to see bits and pieces of my husband come and go. His memory was gone. The good and the bad were all the same. His only emotions that were shown was anger and fear. He was scared of life. He was scared for us, for him. He tried his hardest to make it all better.
This treatment was for his PTSD, and completed the first DBT (dialectical brain therapy) program at the Martinsburg, WV VAMC. During those months of inpatient, the struggles were real. We were on the verge of homelessness. He was unable to work, the kids and I were part of his treatment. If it were not for Non Profit Organizations, we would have came home to nothing. No place to live or to even call home.
In late June of 2014, my husband had lost control of his bladder. The VA never addressed this issue and it makes it difficult for him to leave the home. His memory began to get worse and he began forgot the simplest of things that should be easily remembered. He continued to push through and try to carry on with life as if nobody was watching. Yet the demons were always there. He made a little progress in the program.
On August 13, 2014 he graduated the PRRP program and got to come home! Upon coming home we knew we needed better VA care. We had helped a couple friends of ours move to Reynoldsburg, OH that very weekend he came home. While down in Reynoldsburg, we began looking at places for rent. We found a home that was in a great school district and a nice subdivision.
On August 20th, 2014 we signed the lease to the home we currently live in and moved a week later to the new house. I got him enrolled into the VA at Chalmers P Wylie in Columbus, OH. Upon his first visit with his primary care doctor, all problems were addressed. He got the referrals to more than 7 different clinics in the VA and received his diagnosis for all of his injuries and began treatment right away.
For the next few months we were at the VA 3-4 times a week for countless hours on end. We still travel weekly to the VA. He has undergone extensive neurological testing for his TBI and paralysis. The paralysis is still being evaluated by specialists and still has much more testing to undergo. The clinics that he goes to are Neurology, Sleep Clinic, Physical Medicine, Pain Clinic, Hearing Clinic, Vision Clinic, Urology, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy.
He has developed seizure activity, sleep walking disorder, and total urinary incontinence. With the sleep walking disorder he uses a bed monitor to alert me when he is awake. As a secondary form of protection we must use a monitoring system for the doors. The only thing the VA pays for is a battery operated door buzzer. Most of the time it can’t even be heard if I am asleep.
My husband walks with a walker at all times. He has a cane that he tries to use on good days, but those good days are few and far between. It’s as though we have taken 10 steps back in treatment. He has to use a bath seat in the shower to help me transition him to and from the shower as well as specially adapted raised and handled toilet seats for personal use. He wears a back brace to help support his lower back and it is molded to give him extra support. This brace helps separate the discs in his back to try and relive some of the pressure.
The migraines that he has are very severe. They usually have him in bed for 1-3 days. There is nothing that he has taken that has worked. The neurologist decided to increase his dosing on his Depokote in Nov 2014 to help combat the seizure activity and see if it would help. So far we are making a little bit of progress.
Every day is a struggle for my husband. He is unable to get upstairs to our bedroom to sleep, so he sleeps in his recliner in our living room. There is a half a bathroom on the main floor so bathing is mostly by sponge bath. The full bathrooms are on the upper and lower levels of the house we rent.
When he is sleep walking, having night terrors, or flashbacks I am unable to wake him up. He hasn’t developed the ability to decipher the now from the war. He is always in war mode. He lost his best friend in 2011 and carries a lot of survivor guilt. He thinks that Terry would have lived if he would have just stayed in the Marine Corps. He says that it should have been him and not Terry and this burden that my husband carries…only God can take away.
Recovery is going to be a lifetime commitment for my husband. He has sustained both visible and nonvisible injuries. He can’t even get into our home safely due to not having a wheel chair ramp. The VA has a program for specially adapted necessities, but in order to qualify for this program you must be deemed permanently and totally disabled.
To get to that point, my husband has to wait another 4.5 years. It takes 5 years to receive P&T status. He is 80% disabled with reconsiderations and unemployability underway. We are just waiting for the VA to do their part.
As for home life, we have suffered greatly. Numerous times has divorce been thought of as times just weigh so heavy on our family. My husband’s quality of life is nowhere near what it needs to be. I have spent countless sleepless nights fighting for him, pushing him through when he felt he couldn’t go on. I give him around the clock care that nobody else could endure to give.
I have fought for him thus far and I will fight until every last breath in my body is gone. He has become emotionally detached to the children and I, and secludes himself to a world of the unknown.
The children often ask where “daddy” really is. Why can’t daddy remember my birthday, why can’t daddy take me to the store, why does daddy say mean things. My only explanation to them is that daddy is sick and when we are sick, we all need a little extra love and attention.
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Logan is our 10 year old son. He wants to join the military when he grows up just like my husband. He loves anything that has to do with the military. He really enjoys video games, history, building guns, and riding his bike. He is disabled. He was born with physical deformities with a diagnosis of Hemifacial Microsomia. Over the years he has been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder) and IED (Intermittent Explosive Disorder).
All 3 of these are mental health diagnosis. He is borderline Aspbergers Autism. He is currently undergoing testing for Autism Spectrum Disorders by the school to get a short detail of his mental health and how it affects his schooling. Dylan is our 8 year old son. He is a red head and full of spitfire. He is going to be our architect. He loves Legos and building. He loves being the middle brother because he can boss his sister around.
Raelynn is our 5 year old daughter and is the spitting image of me. She loves playing with her American Girl doll and pretending to be a mommy. She sure tries to boss her big brothers around as if she is the mommy! Our last child is Zayvier… he will be a year old on 12/19/14. He is daddy’s little man.
I refuse to let my husband fall another statistic to any combat related injury. A book is never about what the cover looks like. You can paint a pretty picture and be the most beautiful cover yet the story can be as dark as night with a fatal ending. 22+1 is that statistic to suicide not only for PTSD but for our men and women who suffer physical combat injuries.
I have taken hour after hour of classes, online training seminars, and anything that I can virtually learn about combat injuries. I have explored numerous other treatment options that are on the market for TBI/PTSD combination. I am not going to give up! I am my husband’s ONLY support person.
With that being said I will be his last support person. I will not let these “demons” take the joy of life out of my husband. I know that deep inside this man is the loving, gentle, and big hearted man I married. He will return to us one day soon. Until the day we are able to meet his quality of life and maintain a good atmosphere and met his needs, I will keep on pushing through!
We have applied to multiple organizations that offer mortgage free homes but have not been awarded a home. His injuries are not bad enough. How bad is not bad enough? Does losing control of your life, your bladder, your brain, and physical injury not constitute for bad? Believe me I absolutely understand that there are men and women who served our country that are worse off than my husband, but also believe when I say these injuries are just as real. My husband said that he would have rather had lost his limbs than to have lost his mind. He feels as though he isn’t a man anymore. He has lost all sense of dignity and strength.
I keep pushing him through. The struggles run deep on the inside and out, yet the blood still runs red. I make an oath from this day forward to always be the last one standing in the battle against injury! He will push through, he will recover the rest of his life, he will not let these injuries become his life. He is a strong willed man, a great father and husband, and sacrificed a great deal for our nation. The family and I have worked so hard to try to provide him with the best life possible, however the only thing I have not been able to do for him is to make a home that is adapted to his needs. I just know that if he felt more comfortable at home, had access to a full restroom with a shower, could get to the bedroom to sleep with the family, and wasn’t stuck in one section of the house due to stairs that can’t be climbed, his quality of life would drastically increase.
I just want to give him the ability to live in a home that he can actually live in, this would give him the sense of freedom at home that could make huge strides in his mental and physical well-being….this would improve the quality of life that he so desperately needs.
If this reaches you, and all you do is read it, share it, then my purpose has been served as a wife, as a caregiver, and as an advocate for my husband. God has brought him so far and his faith has remained strong. I push, he pushes, we grow and begin recovery.
There are things that are life altering, physical and mental injuries of war are 2 of those life altering changes. When there is a combination we see a more severe outcome of the invisible injuries. All I ask is that you read his story! If you want, share his story! You dont have to share the gofund me account, you don’t have to donate if you choose not to. I just want my husbands story shared!

http://www.gofundme.com/in6icc

Stephanie Jones

Click here to support Home Adaptation for Injured Marine! by Bolt-Action Betty

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The Muddled, The Misguided, and The Future: A Ranger’s Perspective on a Happy Life (The Havok Journal)

The Havok Journal (if you don’t already know) has some of the best articles on the ‘net and does it again with Mat Best’s latest article. Here’s an excerpt with a link to the full article at the end.

I’m not really sure with whom this article will resonate, but I can only hope it finds someone that could use some real words from someone with shared experiences. Please do not expect some scholarly profound article that will influence your outlook on the social standing of veterans. Rather, these are merely genuine words from someone who is sharing his personal experiences.

Mat Best bottle
Mistakes live in the past; if you chose to relive those outcomes then you are only the creator of your own calamity, not the decider of your destiny.

There are a lot of reasons why I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve been through hardship in life. The main one being, I often feel that people who are too afraid to admit that they’ve made mistakes and been wrong are the ones who are unable to grow in character. No matter what moral pedestal one might stand on, everyone makes mistakes. I am a firm believer in the stance that mistakes are the foundation for a proactive approach to growth.

Mistakes live in the past; if you chose to relive those outcomes then you are only the creator of your own calamity, not the decider of your destiny. Challenge, hardship, and fault only live on through your future endeavors if you allow it. Many of life’s greatest moments of bliss and happiness exist because of a history of hardship. So be thankful for your experiences and transition into the person you want to be.

Read the entire article here and sign up to have The Havok Journal delivered to your inbox. Great stuff…always

A Historic Mystical Bond

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 From the farthest reaches of recorded history the horse and Warrior have been synonymous with each other.

 Together, an icon of victory. The almost mystical relationship; wordless communication, a seemingly single entity victorious against evil. The stuff that legends are made of.

Now we are learning just how important that bond is. At Wagon Wheel Ranch, Granger Legacy will reunite the Warrior and Steed and will once again see Warriors victorious in the battle at home.

Let’s join together and renew our battle weary Veterans.
Click the link and make a donation. Small or large, every one takes us closer to making it happen.
http://igg.me/at/Granger-Legacy