(60) Are You A Character? Trials for a purpose

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)

Special Notice

The VA offers a special FREE, on-line webinar tomorrow for veterans and their caregivers. See the details to register in the highlighted box at the end of this blog post.

 Whimpering Molly 

Moping MollyNow in his second week of shingles, my veteran confesses the pain rises above his usual trauma levels. During our hospital visit last week, we made a decision to leave Molly at home. Trained for brace and balance, she leans against him. Any touch sends shocks of pain through his body. She whimpers away with the command, leave it, or find your place. Rejected, Molly mopes in a corner of the room where she eyes William, seeming to feel his pain.

Whimpering Wife 

After seeing the doctor, my husband conducted unpleasant business with VA staff. Although the staff member displayed sympathy and kindness, the information upset William, triggering a panic attack. He struggled to gain control and not offend the clerk. I placed my hand on his shoulder—a gesture that usually helps.

“Don’t touch me,” erupted from his mouth.

I jumped back. My spouse never tells me not to touch him. Shocked, I reeled from his rebuke. Embarrassed and hurt, I whimpered to my corner of the small room. No action I could take would help so I prayed and kept my distance.

PTSD Strikes Again 

Everything piles up on my veteran. His path to restore health traps him with obstacle after obstacle. Sometimes I am that obstacle but mostly the barriers appear from nowhere. As a warrior, he fights his way through each one. This time, shingles stands out as the culprit compounded by PTSD and his overall health. Even without PTSD, I believe my touch might ignite a reaction, as shingles makes life miserable.

What is Your Character? 

We remind one another that trials produce perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. PTSD leaves one feeling alone in the world. It creates isolation and tells our veteran he/she is alone in the world. The truth is that hundreds of thousands of veterans and warriors suffer from PTSD and the trials the disease presents. As well, spouses, family caregivers, and their children suffer, too, from the impact of PTSD.

Each episode of a PTSD attack or any illness is a trial in life. As families, we can survive this. Each episode survived becomes a rock on which we build the perseverance to survive another day and be stronger.

When I see how difficult my husband’s life is with PTSD and by talking with so many veterans, who face overwhelming trials in life, I think that our veteran population must be amazing characters.

Mary—Quite the Character

At a previous visit to the VA Hospital, waiting for my husband at the travel kiosk, a woman sat next to me. She asked me how I am doing through chemo.

“How did you know?”

She pointed to my chemo hat and pinched back a small corner of her hairline, revealing her wig. She shared with me that she is on her fifth round of chemotherapy. She goes to the oncologist three days a week for treatments and has been doing that for seven years. She pointed to her husband, standing in line behind mine. Her husband appeared feeble and lost. My husband started a conversation with him and helped steady him. Mary told me she is the caregiver for her husband and shared with me remarkable stories of his challenges. I choked watching her husband, thinking his lifespan is short. Despite trials far beyond mine, she spoke positively.

“I have today with him. I’ll be with him every day we’re alive.”

Pikes Peak Mountain topTwo years later, her story still inspires me. If you measure character in altitude, Mary is taller than the 14,000-foot Pikes Peak Mountain that rises from the floor of Colorado. She left me with hope.

 Dog Character 

Molly’s character developed as a puppy when her family could no longer afford to feed her. Turned over to a rescue pound, I can only imagine feelings of abandonment and fear of the future. As a Disney character, she most closely resembles Winnie the Pooh—calm, helpful, innocent, and sweet. Molly helps William. Anything that helps make the burden for my veteran easier is hope.

Post your Comments: 

Is there a cartoon character that you can identify with? Please comment below.

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

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.


#Explore VA Google Hangout: Veterans’ Stories of Successful Transition

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear from Veterans like you as they discuss their transition experiences during the #ExploreVA Google Hangout at 7 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, Jan. 28.

What: #ExploreVA Google Hangout: Veterans’ Stories of Successful TransitionWho: #ExploreVA campaign Veterans, VA representatives, and the Veteran communityWhere: VetNet HQ Google+ pageWhen: Wednesday, Jan. 28, 7–8 p.m. Eastern time

Hear from Veterans Chris, Natasha, and Jason, who used VA benefits to get healthy, earn degrees, and jump-start their careers.

Learn about the physical and emotional challenges they faced separating from service.

Ask these Veterans about their experiences, and submit your own benefits questions for VA experts.

Register Now

This event is the third in the #ExploreVA From Service to Success online event series showcasing how Veterans and their families are using VA benefits to earn degrees, start careers, buy homes, stay healthy, and do so much more in life after the military.We look forward to your participation on Wednesday, Jan. 28. Encourage the Veterans you know to join this Google Hangout by sharing this email.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs | 810 Vermont Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20420