(57) It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)

 Miss Molly’s Escapades

Molly ran out through the garage door as it closed, hitting her back on the door. She wanted to play with two neighbor dogs. She ignored repeated calls to come in and disappeared for an hour. Earlier that morning, she left a pile of poop on the carpeted floor, something she just started doing with the snow and single-digit temperatures.

“It’s not supposed to be this way.” Cleaning up dog poop is not my preferred early morning activity. “She’s a service dog,” I tell my husband. “She’s trained not to take off and, certainly, she’s supposed to be house trained.”

The Elusive Dream Life

My husband and I find ourselves often using the phrase, “It’s not supposed to be this way.” We expected health in retirement, freedom to get away, and spending hours watching sunsets while sipping Martinelli’s apple cider. Instead, doctors’ appointments keep us tethered to home never having the time to travel. Apple cider boasts of a sugar content unhealthy for a diabetic. We live on a mountain where the sun melts away at 3 pm, leaving no fanciful hues of color to watch. We sigh and wonder what happened.

In the Battlefield

In the Cost of War project, covering the Iraq and Afghanistan battlefields, a website of Brown University Watson International Institute stated that 6,809 US warriors were killed in the war zone. The Department of Defense reported that 52,010 were wounded in action and over 970,000 claims were filed for disabilities, stemming from combat, as of early 2014.

Sitting in VA Hospital waiting rooms, our hearts weep with the young men we’ve met who returned from war with Traumatic Brain Injury, lost a limb, or suffer from another war-related injury. Several tell us their wives left because they could not handle the stress. Most tell us about the migraines that plague their days and haunt their nights. Walking often requires the assistance of a cane or walker. Some tell us they will never drive or be able to earn a living.

While my husband and I truly live a blessed life even though it is not the life we dreamed of, we are drawn to the young men we’ve talked with, who have lost mobility, independence, their families, and the promise of a productive future. These twenty-something men (and women) will never know the good life we enjoy because of their losses from service.

Our lamenting for the ones we talk with does little to help them other than offer a sympathetic ear. We go home from each visit shaking our heads, saying, “It’s not supposed to be this way.”

What Can Be Done To Help A Veteran? 

War is ugly business but allowing terrorism to reign over us is uglier. For the US, a country that enjoys our freedom, we must believe the benefit is worth the cost or we would never send our young people into battle. I only wish it did not take everything for these young men and women to serve.

I have never once heard one of our warriors returning from Afghanistan or Iraq say, “I never should have served.” Instead, they remain confident that what they gave was what their country asked. Their losses are something that just happens and they accept it with grace and dignity.

Instead of focusing on “it shouldn’t be this way,” I long to find a way to complete the sentence: “It shouldn’t be this way but here is what I’m prepared to do to make it better for those who never complained when war took it all away .  .  .”


Post your Comments:

What might you do to help a young veteran, who suffers from war-related trauma? Please comment below. 

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.