Monday, May 30, 2011

American Flag

As a military family, we've made a few moves over the course of our marriage. My first order of business when setting up a new house for us is to put up a flag. Since we've opted to rent for each move, putting a flag pole into the ground hasn't really been an option so we usually attach a smaller pole and bracket to the side of our house. To me, a house isn't a home until you get the flag put up. I don't just fly it on Memorial Day, July 4th, or Veteran's Day either. I always had a flag long before 9/11 when suddenly there was a huge rush for everyone to show their patriotism. I was raised in a home where I understood the significance of sacrifice and what the flag stood for so even before marrying a guy in the military, I made sure each place I lived in had a flag outside.

All that being said and today being Memorial Day, all day long I felt like something was missing. That's mainly because something was missing. The house we've been renting for the past couple of months feels naked and that's because we don't have a flag hanging up. I assure you this is not by choice. When I signed the lease I told the landlord/homeowner how important it was to me to be able to put up a flag, especially being married to a wounded veteran. Unfortunately my landlord doesn't want us to do that. As soon as the lease was signed he informed me that he had decided to leave the house on the real estate market. He felt that mounting a flag pole and bracket would possibly damage the outside of the house and in turn hurt the chances of selling it. Not just that but a flagpole in the ground would damage the landscaping and have to be mowed around.

One of the first things that I noticed about our neighborhood is that almost every house has a flag on display. I live in a very patriotic part of the country and I loved seeing that. I'm just disappointed that we can't put ours up. We have several flags, one that was flown over my husband's base in Iraq, and one that was flown on his behalf over their base in Afghanistan. He also received a new flag upon retirement and has one that was given to him during Freedom Salute. I think he also got one when he received his Purple Heart. We also just bought a brand new one to replace the last one we flew in Texas. No matter what there is no shortage of flags around this house but unfortunately they remain folded instead of flown.

If I haven't made it obvious, this is something that definitely bothers me. All week long we were searching for a medium sized flag pole that we could possibly put in a heavy duty bucket and fill with cement and hide it in the front bushes. We get some strong winds here so it would have to be something that could withstand the weather. We haven't had much luck finding the right sized pole yet but at least we have an option.

Part of me wants to just say screw it and mount the flagpole and bracket to one of the poles on my front porch. For as picky as my landlord is being, it's ironic because we had a hail storm go through here the other day. They said on the news that some of the hail was baseball sized and that wouldn't surprise me because it did a bunch of damage to our siding. It basically dented it and tore off tiny pieces all over the entire side of our house. We notified the landlord and haven't heard a word back. I'm not terribly surprised since it took him 5 weeks just to fix the locks on our front and back doors and we've been without A/C for over a week now. I realize that things come up but if he's serious about selling this house, it's kind of important to keep it maintained. Granted, I'm not too eager for him to sell the house or even to have to keep showing it to potential buyers but that's a whole other blog.

Hopefully soon we can have our flag up one way or another and feel a little more complete. In the meantime, I'm doing the next best thing and have it decorated in my usual Americana. It's not nearly the same especially because I want this house to feel like a home.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Red Tape

It's extremely frustrating that my husband just drove nearly 2 hours away to the VA hospital only to be treated like a benefits seeker. I guess he's not in their system so they show no injury or rating. Had he not thought to bring some of his paperwork with him, including his Purple Heart, they probably would've sent him a bill. This happened before in TX and it was supposed to be fixed months ago. Now I can't help but wonder if his first disability check will hit our account on time. We've already gone almost a month and a half without any income so we're draining through our savings at a rapid pace.

Since his initial appointment at our local VA, he's been scheduled for stuff left and right to keep him busy all summer long. I went with him and the doctor asked me to "fill in the holes" and give my perspective of things. Because I've always felt that both the military and the VA in TX glazed over anything to do with TBI and his documented concussion, that was the first thing that I mentioned. He's done plenty of their stupid questionnaires where his answers should've raised enough red flags but still to this day no one has ever bothered to order an MRI. This doctor was surprised to hear that so he put in a referral for an MRI with the TBI clinic at the VA up north. He also was ready to diagnose him with sleep apnea on the spot, even though his sleep tests in TX came back inconclusive. He ordered a new sleep test that's scheduled for next month.

Today was the appointment at the TBI clinic. Around the VA, TBI seems to be the new scarlet letter. It's like they hear that and get suspicious that you're trying to get money from the VA that you don't deserve. At this point, I don't even care if my husband were to be compensated for it. I just want him to have his quality of life back and if there's stuff that can be treated then let's get it taken care of.

So whoever he saw at the TBI clinic decided that since he's not in the system and they don't show any injuries or ratings, they can't prove that he was wounded overseas. Yet somehow they found some of his records from TX and based on that they decided that he doesn't need an MRI and that he's fine. I guess I just figured that since he just saw his doctor here in TN that his doctor would have put his recommendations and referrals into the computer (since we watched him taking notes and then putting them into the computer), that those records would show up at the TBI clinic. Common sense is apparently not something the VA is familiar with.

We live almost an hour from both VA clinics where he has appointments, and almost two hours from the VA hospital, yet because he's not in their system, he can't even submit a claim for travel pay. It's not much but we've also recently discovered that either the VA rep or his PEBLO completely miscalculated his VA rating. It's such a mess that we can't even make heads or tails of it. In all honestly, it looks like someone added a zero to the end of an amount that he was owed and calculated everything off of that incorrect amount. He was promoted right at the end of his career so it's definitely based off of the wrong rank, but either way it's almost half of what it should be. It's enough to make me feel uneasy and wonder how we're going to get by. I'm praying that the interview that I went on last week went well enough that they offer me a job. In the meantime, he's in the process of getting his pay issues fixed but here we sit wondering what's going to happen.

Monday, May 16, 2011


My husband was at a store the other day and a guy in the same aisle started staring wide eyed at the jagged unforgiving red and purple lines that encompass his entire arm. The scars that leave a mystery to the unassuming yet tell a story of life changing in an instant.

It was obvious that he was trying to figure out what he had to have done to end up with an arm that disfigured and fingers slightly curved and paralyzed in place. It wasn't long before his curiousity finally got the best of him.

"What happened to your arm?" he blurted out, as though it were any of his business.

This is usually the part where I would've explained what happened, which is usually followed by apologetic looks of sympathy and a mumbled thank you for your service.

My husband simply said, "I got hurt." He left it at that and walked away because he's not about to be into all of that hero stuff.

At one time, his body had over a thousand stitches. In the first few months after he was released from the hospital, people would stare when we went out somewhere. Eating was awkward for him because he couldn't hold any utensils and it took some practice learning to use his non-dominate hand. Sometimes I had to cut up his food for him because he couldn't do it. Even now he'll randomly drop things or spill something because there's no strength in his arm or his hand just won't work.

We take so much stuff for granted. Sometimes the smallest things are the biggest challenges for someone else. He works hard at just being normal and making the most out of the hand that he's been dealt, that sometimes I forget he's wounded. I don't really notice the scars and to our kids they are just a part of who he is. We spent so much time at the hospital and in lodging around other wounded warriors that the kids learned to just be accepting of everyone else. I never had to tell them not to point and stare or not to ask questions. If you ask my oldest what she remembers most about her daddy being in the hospital, she'll probably tell you that her little Lightning McQueen car fell down into the elevator shaft. Or maybe she'll recall blowing out four birthday candles while sitting on the hospital bed.

Sometimes I miss being at that hospital and being around other wounded warriors and their families. As stressful as it was at times, there's comfort in being surrounded people people who just simply get it and understand the same sudden detour that our lives took. We never had to worry about people staring or asking questions. Everyone had some sort of battle scars, telling their own stories without words, yet connecting them all from where they'd been.


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