(145) There Goes the ‘Hood: Aliens for Thanksgiving

Miss Molly profile

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

Wild turkey in Molly's yardFifty turkey girls pecked their way across Molly’s turf. Even the summer-born hens waddle with the weight they put on feasting on whatever it is that turkeys eat in front yards. Tasty in appearance, they run and fly awkwardly from rock to rock, avoiding Molly’s menacing lunge.

The fox disappeared last year, surfacing only occasionally to snag a dead mouse. Squirrels raided our wildsquirrel eating bird food bird feeder with Molly being the only watchdog to chase them from the feeder perched on a balcony pillar. Although out-of-her reach, her size intimidates the squirrels but not the magpies, which land on her back or head. The squirrel gains courage and bombards Molly with sunflower seeds.

Her pleasant spring-time paradise turns wild, as creatures prepare frantically for winter. Worst of all, alien critters invade Molly’s domain—the dreaded coyotes. These miserable, mangy creatures taunt her, hiding in the piles of scrub oak and pine needles. They run circles around her, measuring precisely how far she can go on her leash. It’s her neighborhood, after all. How fair is it that this wild life invasion unfolds just outside of her reach? 

Returning from Overseas 

I remember my shock in returning to my family home after months overseas in Southeast Asia. Even though I returned to a place I spent 20 years of my life, everything seemed foreign. Although not much had changed except that my mother exchanged my beloved piano for an organ, everything felt unfamiliar. Simple pleasures as the blooming peach trees appeared dull and lifeless. The roadway noise bothered me even though it had not before. My mattress swallowed me and my pillow left me gasping for air. I sought escape from this alien place with nowhere to flee.

Returning from War

“Not knowing when a sniper would strike, or where underfoot a booby trap or land mine was, made a continuous hypervigilant state necessary for survival. Hypervigilance. . .has proved destructive to relationships out of the war zone. It plagues the family relationship with suspicion, blame and anger.”

Brende and Parson, 134.

Reading about PTSD and what warriors face in war, I understand that what I experienced returning from life overseas is amplified for the warrior returning from battle—especially for those who had a high frequency of engaging the enemy or saw human carnage. For our returning warriors, they must not only deal with the strangeness of their once familiar surroundings but must also deal with battle wounds and the nightmares of what was experienced in the war zone. Everything must appear alien and even hostile. 

Thanksgiving as Family Time 

The love of a spouse, parent, or even children may seem fulfilling enough to those of us never having fought or served in the military. While the Veteran may be certain of our love, the Veteran’s life is forever changed from military service. The familiar becomes the unknown. Certainty is replaced with change. The comfort of home is plagued by nightmares and panic attacks.

As we gather together for this special day of Thanksgiving, we as caregivers and family members must remain thankful that our warrior is home with us. We must lean on the hope of better days for our Veteran because of the treatments available for PTSD, TBI, and other war-related disabilities. We can also claim hope in the love of our God under whom our nation was founded.

Offering open hearts with wide-open eyes, we must welcome our Veteran home. Setting aside our pain and fears, this Thanksgiving Day can be the day that we tell our Veteran, “Welcome home, my beloved.”

Post your Comments: 

Do you have a special Thanksgiving tradition to bring your family closer together? Please reply below. 

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

Source cited:

  • Brende, Joel Osler and Erwin Randolph Parson. Vietnam Veterans: The Road to Recovery. New York: Signet, 1985.

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 granddaughter.