(147) When Danger Nears: VA’s Unique Role in National Tragedy

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Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

On Friday, our community and our nation reeled from the horror of mass shootings by one crazed man at a Planned Parenthood facility. Checking my email minutes before we left for a doctor’s appointment at the Colorado Springs VA clinic, I read that an active shooter struck down police officers with patient evacuations in progress at the controversial facility that shared parking with my own doctor’s office. William and I loaded into his car just his doctor called. She cancelled his appointment, telling us the VA clinic was in lockdown and would be closed until the active shooter situation just a block away was resolved.

As so many in our city and around the country prayed for a peaceful resolution, our police officers fell under heavy gunfire, maneuvering through manmade obstacles and a relentless snowstorm. A police officer from our local university, an Iraq War Veteran, and one other civilian died in the attack with nine more wounded in the tragedy.

Our recently opened VA clinic sits atop a magnificent rolling hill with views spanning the 14,110-foot Pikes Peak Mountain and accompanying range. Idyllic in setting and architecture, the VA facility that works to heal our Veterans became refuge for emergency workers and victims of this tragedy. Just one block away and across an intersection from the assailed site, the VA closed its doors in a lockdown to protect employees and Veterans but opened them in sanctuary to those who fled from the gunman. The facility became a staging site for police officers and emergency workers to interview witnesses and defrost on one of our coldest days in an incident that reached into the night.

In a previous blog, I spoke of our police officers and firefighters as our last line of defense on the home front. With our military defending our country overseas in a battle against terrorism, our local government, state, and federal law enforcement officials protect our country within its borders. Our police officers defend us in our homes and communities.

We mourn the loss of University of Colorado Colorado Springs Police Officer, Garrett Swasey, a 44-year old father of two children and co-Pastor of Hope Chapel, who gave his life freely to save others—just as so many other law enforcement and military personnel have done before him to ensure our safety. We also mourn the lives of the civilians, who died that day for every life lost is a tragedy.

We are grateful for the role the VA played in harboring those in need during this tragedy and for being a place of healing for those who defend our country.

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.