(177) Taps: Saying Goodbye to Miss Molly

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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)

Our last two blogs addressed military bugle calls of Reveille and Sunset. Taps sounds the final bugle call of the day. The terminology “taps” comes from the Dutch term taptoe, which means “close the beer taps and send the troops back to camp.” The well-known tune goes by the name of “Butterfield’s Lullaby” or “Day is Done.”

Letting Go of Precious Miss Molly

Molly snuggles with WilliamOur family weeps for the need to move Miss Molly to a new home due to my severe breathing problems. After three months of fighting for every breath, we made the decision to “re-home” her.

Molly’s groomer picked her up one evening and called to tell us about the possibilities of new homes for her. Until a new home is found, Miss Molly stays with the groomer and her two large male dogs. As it turns out, Miss Molly dominates the boys, who willingly submit to her alpha-mom status. She also reported that Molly, a 135 pound St. Bernard/Great Pyrenees, sleeps in bed between her and her husband. With a huge backyard and two playmates, Molly runs and plays all day—something she did not get to do living with us. The groomer reports that she sometimes sits in a corner and whimpers, breaking our hearts even more.

The Dilemma 

Molly giving William loveMolly served many roles in our home: protector, friend, PTSD coach, brace and balance expert, service dog, and our canine love. Her role intervening in PTSD attacks for my Veteran made her indispensable for his disability. She even helped me with brace and balance while undergoing chemotherapy. So, to be faced with a decision about accommodating my severe asthma or William’s need for his service animal, I would have preferred to live with my condition. Unfortunately, my doctor made it clear that living with my condition would not last long, as the damage to my lungs threatens my life.

Molly licking her lipsFor days after giving her up, we see Molly running up the stairs, we hear her dewclaws clicking on the floor, and hear her snoring in the closet—only she isn’t here. We grieve with tears large enough to fill dry lakes. While in the kitchen, I hear sobbing from the den where my husband grips the arms on his chair. The microwave drowns out my sobs but moisture on my apron betrays my sorrow. When I serve dinner and Miss Molly no longer surfaces from naptime to sniff the menu, my Veteran and I hold hands and pray that Miss Molly finds a good home and is doing well. Before falling asleep at night after Taps, we long to hear her snoring just one more time.

The Finality of Taps 

Miss Molly in patriot dressWhen I started the three-part series on bugle calls, I planned to talk about the relief it brings one. It tells us the day is in the past. Whatever we left behind stays behind. Taps tells us turning back events cannot happen and the time has come to let go of the day, looking forward to tomorrow.

With the loss of Miss Molly in our lives, the final bugle call becomes more final for us. Prospects of tomorrow without our lovable fur ball pains us like daggers in the heart. Taps reminds us we cannot get in the car and retrieve Molly to tell her we love her and it was all a mistake. Taps tells us that we must truly let her go.

Molly sits on William's lapSaying Goodbye to the Molly Blog 

Because this blog is Molly’s blog, it cannot continue without her. While this blogger remains committed to encouraging Veterans and their family caregivers, without the heart and stories of Miss Molly, I must also let go of the blog. This is the last blog.

Taps to Miss Molly 

Although I wrote a poem when my cat died, I do not have the words to express the loss of our Miss Molly. I will end by saying:

Miss Molly with CadburyMiss Molly we love you so much. Thank you for loving us unconditionally. Thank you for your loyalty to my Veteran. For your slobbering, messes, and snoring, I’m sorry I complained. You were a blessing to our household. We will never forget how you changed our lives for the better. May God grant you a new loving home with vast fields to run and play. May he grant you a family, who needs you as much as we do. May you continue to inspire great stories and touch others as deeply as you touched us.

For Miss Molly, Taps plays.

May you rest in the Butterfield’s Lullaby.

(175) Reveille Roust: Our Wake-up Call

Molly's new profile picture

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

I admit that I am an insomniac. The rhythm of my internal clock works contrary to the bugle calls we hear from our local military base. I rise long before reveille and listen to taps hours before retiring. While productive for completing a caregiver’s task list, agitation accompanies my condition, sending my household into a tailspin. Even Miss Molly sleeps with her head buried under clothes in the closet to avoid my early-morning rousting and late-night vigils.

Honoring the American Flag and Our Warriors

soldier saluting flag

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Airman 1st Class Hrair H. Palyan explained that reveille, retreat, and taps all serve to show respect for the flag and honor Airman, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines from past to present.  Ellsworth Air Force Base website

I asked my Veteran the role reveille played in his military service. His response surprised me.

“Always too early. Get up or get hit upside the head. Another day. Same routine.”

As a young man fighting in the bush of Vietnam, I expected the sound of reveille twisted in his belly and sent shivers along his spine, knowing what dreaded tasks awaited his unit. Instead, he viewed it as routine. I suppose when living in a heightened state of awareness every minute of every day on the battlefield, the early-morning rousting presented nothing more than a marker that another day begins.

Caregiver’s Opportunity

magnified to do list

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Making to-do lists keeps me going forward as a caregiver. No matter the daily challenges, those lists keep me focused and productive. For a caregiver, reveille comes too early but it gives her (or him) a chance to have quiet and peace before the household rises. It offers an opportunity to pray, meditate, and prepare for what lies ahead. In these early hours, we gain the strength to serve our Veteran and other family members. It offers time to enjoy a cup of tea and scratch out the to-do list.

Perhaps, with reveille, whether by bugle call from a nearby base or an alarm clock, an exciting new task might be added to our to-do lists—a task that holds fun or excitement for us and/or our Veteran. This might include a walk in a park, going to a movie, putting together a puzzle, having lunch with a friend, or taking our Veteran and service dog to the local library or hospital to cheer others in need. While several of these ideas require advance planning, adding that planning to our to-do list today allows us to enjoy that exciting venture on another day after reveille calls.

Veterans’ Opportunity

My Veteran hates to-do lists but always manages to finishes those I make for him. While I do not envision him making them for himself, his contentment with his routine brings peace to my hectic days.

For Veterans viewing reveille as routine, perhaps shaking up the day with a new challenge could chase away the doldrums. Check out the VA website for a free class such as PTSD 101 or download the TBI or PTSD coach apps. The VA offers whiteboard discussions about benefits and medical conditions and video testimonials about coping with PTSD and TBI. If none of those options sound appealing, how about a trip to Petsmart with your service dog to find a treat for your loyal canine?

Miss Molly’s Reveille Reaction

While researching reveille, I found the music and played a few bars on my piano for Miss Molly. Even though I waited until noon to play for her, she whined, paced, and howled. I wasn’t sure if she was singing along until she bolted from the room. We found her in the closet with her paws over her ears. How unfortunate, indeed.

Post your Comments: 

How do you respond to reveille? Please reply 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.

(171) Even a Bird: Ultimate Hope for Veterans and Their Families

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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)


Spring Cleaning

My broom whisked into corners of the garage, kicking up dust and last year’s insects. With a broad sweep, the beak of a hummingbird peered out of the collected rubble. Apparently, this tiny creature flew into the garage, losing it way back to freedom. My heart broke twice during my spring cleaning, as I found a second bird beneath a garage vac. The thought of losing even one of these precious creatures leaves me weepy.

hummingbird in flightI am not alone in my love for hummingbirds. My Veteran scoops the sweet creatures into his hands when they fly into our home. He speaks gently to calm them and releases them outside.

If we love hummingbirds and weep when they are lost, imagine how much more the Creator of all life feels about us, His creation in His image. Whether one believes in His existence or accepts His gift of eternal life, He still cares for us. He offers hope.

“Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?” Luke 12:24

Embattled Families

Returning home from battle, the warrior carries the burdens and grief of the battlefield. Reintegration into family life presses the warrior with hopelessness. Despair erupts, swallowing the family. Soon, family members feel lost or trapped.

There is nothing too great for our Father to handle. He asks us to give Him our burdens. What a great comfort to heap our problems on the God of the universe. When inviting Him into our life, He does not promise our life will be easy but He does promise He will walk with us through our problems—and we will get through them. With Him, PTSD, TBI, or other losses from war become manageable and we become victorious just as our warriors were victorious in battle.

When despair threatens you or your family, envision yourself as the hummingbird cupped in caring hands. Open your heart and invite Jesus in today. He will help you find your way to freedom from despair and hopelessness.

Post your Comments: 

What do you do to bring relief when despair and hopelessness seeps into your life? Please reply 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.

(156) Discover Something Wonderful in 2016

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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)

Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19

Celebrating yet another year, I want to go forward but often get caught in the past. Memories of past wrongs, an ill-spoken word, or a fractured relationship haunt me, sending me into a frenzy of turmoil. The new year represents putting those things away—out of mind.

Many people I know suffered losses in 2015 deep enough to shake their foundation of life. Even as a society, we witnessed hurricanes, floods, fires, and mass murders. For many, life became forever changed with circumstances too brutal, too harsh to just get over.

The song, which begins, “Should old acquaintance be forgot,” should be our battle cry, as we head into a new year. The new year is much like spring. It is a time of new beginnings, unbridled possibilities, and the ultimate time of the ‘do-over.’

When I am tempted to wander into the past, I remember Isaiah 43:18-19. Even our Creator desires us to put the old self and the past behind us. He cleanses us from our sins and washes us clean to start a new slate through His Son, Jesus Christ.

While we may never let go of or forget what we lost, there is comfort for us. Life brings us a new day and fresh hope.

God can make rivers in the desert. Can He not also give us a new beginning?

Molly Begins Anew

Molly spent the past two weeks at doggie camp while William and I traveled across country to visit family for Christmas. Although she did fine on her first stay a couple of months ago, she appeared traumatized when William picked her up this time.

“She walked right past me. She visited with everyone in the lobby except me!” William arrived home heartbroken, tugging a reluctant Molly on her leash.

Molly giving William loveJust a couple of hours after returning home, Molly rushed to William’s side. She offered him her usual sliming and kisses. Clearly, she forgot all about being left behind at doggie camp.

I suppose there are advantages to having a small brain and a big heart. Every day, every hour her slate is clean and she begins anew with a love that only a 120-pound Saint Bernard can offer.

Molly, William, and I wish you a Happy New Year filled with good memories, new hope, and lots of blessings.

Just a reminder that Miss Molly now blogs on Fridays only.

Post your Comments:

If you could have one great thing happen in 2016, what would it be? Please reply 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 granddaughter.

(154) Merry Christmas to Miss Molly’s Readers

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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)

The Miss Molly Team wishes you a Merry Christmas! May your day overflowMolly and her human mom with blessings. From our house to yours, have a joyous holiday.

Please remember that if you need a listening ear and are a Veteran, friend of a Veteran, or a family member of a Veteran, the VA crisis hotline is available to help. 

The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available. https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ 

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Luke 2:9-11

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 granddaughter.

(153) Sweet and Sour Candy Canes: The Happy and Sad Sides of Christmas

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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)


Molly Scarfs the Ham in Record Time

We stayed outside less than five minutes, saying goodbye to my son and his family after an early Christmas visit. Returning inside, Molly skulked away with her plumed tail dragging along the floor—a sure sign that she got into something. In less than five minutes, Molly managed to eat over one-half of the remaining ham that I left on the counter only long enough to say goodbye. She showed no interest in the ham earlier and had few food indiscretions in the past few months, ignoring even the candy canes that dangle from the tree. Consequently, it never crossed my mind that she would snatch the ham while we visited briefly outside.

Guess who is in the doghouse this Christmas? It is back to the doggie treadmill in January for Miss Molly.

The Candy Cane

Ham is a holiday staple for Americans, just as the candy cane fills every Christmas stocking. Candy canes come in every flavor from peppermint to chocolate. Stores even carry sour and gummy candy canes.

For Christians, the candy cane represents the stripes Christ bore on the cross from being whipped and tortured in the crucifixion. The red represents the blood He shed for our sins. The sweetness of the candy cane reminds us of the marvelous gift of salvation that is free to anyone who seeks forgiveness and asks Jesus into his/her life. Although that sweetness permeates our lives, it comes with the sour side, which is rejection by the human race of the most precious gift anyone could ever receive—eternal life.

For those with a secure salvation, Christmas comes with joy. For those without, the holidays may be a source of agitation and anguish. Even believers may find the holidays difficult—especially living with PTSD.

VA Offers Help and Hope 

The VA offers a list of warning signs that may tell us our Veteran is suffering in silence and may need help. The website suggests that it starts with signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and/or hopelessness. Twelve specific signs are mentioned to watch for. The VA also shortlists seven behaviors that red flag the contemplation of suicide.

The VA offers the Veteran a self-check quiz to help the Veteran learn whether stress and depression might be affecting them. Available on-line, the quiz takes about ten minutes and is voluntary, confidential, and free. The VA offers the quiz on the link near the bottom of the Crisis Hotline page.

The VA Crisis Hotline is available to help Veterans, friends of Veterans, and family members of Veterans.

The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.

The Crisis Line has answered nearly 2 million calls and provided emergency services to over 53,000 Veterans since launched in 2007. It can help you, too, if you are depressed or suffering at the holidays and need help.

We love our Veterans and their families and want them safe.

Please join the Miss Molly Team in bringing Christmas joy to our Veterans by caring enough to get them help when needed.

Post your Comments: 

What is the worst thing your pet has done during the Christmas holiday? Please reply 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 granddaughter.

(149) When Terror Reigns

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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)

Within the past two months, two mass shootings rocked our community. Each episode left three dead and more than a dozen injured. Only days following the shooting at Planned Parenthood, the City of San Bernardino, California experienced a mass shooting that left another 14 dead in the reign of terror.

On the National Day of Prayer following 9-11, I was asked to offer a prayer for my community at a city-wide gathering in San Diego. I spent many hours in private prayer seeking wisdom, asking God for the words to say. Here is the passage He gave me to share:

“Keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your shoulder and grace to your neck. Then you will walk safely in your way and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked with it comes. For the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.” Proverbs 3:21b-26

Be Not Afraid

Theodore RooseveltTerrorism wins when we fear living for fear of dying. President Theodore Roosevelt understood this well and faced his fears head on.

“There were all kinds of things of which I was afraid at first, ranging from grizzly bears to “mean” horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid.” (Strock, 45) As Christians, God tells us that the only fear we need have is fear of God. Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” We need not be afraid.

Having conquered his fears, President Roosevelt continued on into the Presidency, serving the American people. In addition to approaching foreign policy under the Monroe Doctrine with “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far,” he is known for amassing national parkland—places of sanctuary for our country even to the present day.

As we honored the life of Police Officer, Garrett Swasey, who died in the line of duty in the attack on Friday, November 27, I am comforted by Roosevelt’s perspective on death.

“…inasmuch as we must die, and it is a mere matter of a very few years whether we die early or late, the vital thing is that our deaths should be such as to help others to live.” Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership (Strock, 50)

When Fear Overwhelms

There is no shortage of fearful things in our lives, which we must overcome. To survive in war, a warrior must overcome his/her fear of death. A family caregiver must overcome fear of the changes to their Veteran after returning from war or of how those changes might impact their children. Health care workers must overcome fear of losing a patient. A child must overcome fear of a bully. For some, they must overcome fear of going outside of their home.

When we become paralyzed by fear, we lose the battle and terror reigns. As individuals, we cannot allow this paralysis; we must be strong to protect our families. Our cities and counties must not give in to fear, lest we become prisoners within their walls. As a country, we must overcome fear of our enemies—both foreign and domestic. To do this, we must stand strong and united with boldness and courage. For just as Theodore Roosevelt overcame his fears, we, too, as the American people shall overcome our fears.

“But he who listens to me shall live securely, and shall be at ease from the dread of evil.” Proverbs 1:33

Miss Molly’s Greatest Fears

I can only hypothesize about Miss Molly’s greatest fears. From watching her behavior, here is her top fiveMolly licking her lips list of fears:

  1. Missing dinner
  2. Missing breakfast
  3. Magpies that taunt her
  4. Being left home alone without a rawhide bone
  5. Missing treat time

Post your Comments:

What did you do to overcome a fearful situation in your life? Please reply below.

Photo credits: 123rf.com (except for Molly pics); photo of President Roosevelt courtesy of Wikipedia

Source cited:

  • Strock, James M. Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership: Executive Lessons from the Bully Pulpit. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001

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.

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

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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)

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.

(142) The American Veteran—A Gift that Keeps Giving

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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)

Once a Marine, always a Marine. Once a soldier, always a soldier. Once a warrior, always a warrior. While these may be battle cries, they remain true for our Veterans. Our military men and women train relentlessly to defend the honor and safety of our nation. That inculcated sense of duty remains with the individual for the rest of life.

I imagine that every Veteran experiences negative impact from military service. Just the training alone changes one forever. Compounded with injury, the violence they are exposed to and the personal sacrifices they make to serve, the Veteran forever remains tied to a sense of duty bearing its heavy toll.

When serving in my last city, an Air Force Colonel came to my rescue to help me navigate the military community so prolific in my city. She extended her military service by accepting an assignment in Guantanamo Bay. After her retirement, she spent several years volunteering in various community organizations. Then, one day, she gave her kidney to someone she never met before. Now, she struggles with regaining her health and strength from the strenuous operation. Never once has she expressed regret about her decisions to serve others. Even now, as she returns to the emergency room for complications from the surgery, she maintains a positive attitude, expressing joy that her kidney benefactor is doing well.

In learning about Team Rubicon, which Miss Molly featured in Blog 134, over 8,000 US Veteran volunteers stepped up to help others in our country and around the world in disasters. They continue placing themselves in dangerous situations to help others—others they do not know. Their service gives them purpose and gives others life.

In my Chinese language class, a Veteran and his Veteran cohorts travel to China and other parts of the world to help where needed. My classmate is 70 years old, planning yet another volunteer trip to Mongolia. Other Veterans choose helpful occupations, including nurse practitioners, doctors, police officers, firefighters, teachers, and even city managers.

Those Veterans who cannot travel contribute to non-profit organizations. Many engage locally with programs such as Wounded Warriors and the Special Olympics. The Veterans’ survival and fight for life make them excellent role models to those striving to overcome obstacles. Often the Veteran knows what it takes to survive remarkable barriers and willingly seeks out others needing help.

Too many generations of Americans have viewed the Veteran as a drain on society when in reality the Veteran is the gift that keeps giving. We must learn as a nation to be grateful for those who served and keep giving. We must become a nation of gratitude to those whom we owe so much.

Post your Comments: 

Do you have a story about a Veteran who keeps giving to your community? Please reply 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 granddaughter.

(141) A Veterans Day Special

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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)

Thank you to all who serve or served our great Nation, giving us freedom, liberty, and joy. The price you paid to bring us these privileges will not be forgotten nor unappreciated. As citizens of the United States of America, we honor you! 

Today’s Golly, Miss Molly Blog is a piece I wrote to my Veteran on Veterans Day ten years ago. It has never been shared with anyone other than William. He granted permission for me to share it with you today.

My Combat Veteran Hung on a Cross 

He was innocent, barefaced—like other boys. Saying goodbye to what was safe, he left for boot camp. Weeks later, he parachuted over Vietnam into the heart of war. While his life was spared, his guts were torn apart. He saw things no man should have seen. He committed authorized atrocities that would scar his life forever.

All that I know of war, I know from the nightmarish screams of my husband. Shattering the night, he yells, “send the tanks to the rear; we’ll move to the flank.” He shivers at my touch, as I whisper, “Honey, you’re safe. It’s okay now.”

My husband, William, is an ordinary war hero. He insists he is no hero at all. “I only did what was necessary to save my skin and my buddies. You just survive.” Like so many others, he fought for our freedom. Some came home from war and still live with the memories of the pain. Some did not come home at all.

Thirty years later, this war hero exploded my textbook understanding of Christ’s death and resurrection into a living masterpiece of meaning.

The canvas is painted with observations from eleven years of marriage. William was an innocent boy of eighteen (as innocent as a teenager can be) when he enlisted. He battled political demons on foreign soil for a cause he did not create. Wounded in war, he carries the scars today—thirty years after Vietnam. His sacrifices remain ignored, having been shunned by war protestors in the sixties and seventies. My husband cherishes me, loves me, and protects me. He would do anything for me. His love is as close to unconditional as I could ever feel from another human being.

The masterpiece takes shape as the observations spring into life, revealing the face of Jesus.

Christ was truly innocent. I Peter 2:22 NIV says, “He committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth.” It is tough enough to imagine innocent boys going into battle for their nation but imagine Christ being willing to go into battle for all of mankind, knowing that He would suffer and die. It wasn’t fair what He endured. He did no wrong. But, He did go and He went willingly.

Jesus suffered. Jesus knew that He had to endure the pain and suffering to save us. After 2,000 years, His scars are still fresh in the record and are ever present in our hearts. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed,” states I Peter 2:24 NIV.

My husband often talks about the humiliation he suffered when he returned from Vietnam, being jeered by war protestors. Although William fights back with a rebel’s attitude, Christ accepted His fate—even though fighting back would have been a natural reaction. “When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to Him who judges justly.” I Peter 2:23 NIV confirms that Christ knew His Father’s will. He did not protest nor did he have an attitude. In fact, His dying words were, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34 KJV).”

My earthly husband lavishes his love upon me. He accepts me as I am. If this earthly man loves me so deeply, how much more does my Savior love me? To experience the deepest of human love is but a greeting card of joy compared to what the future will hold when we are reunited with the Lord God. Christ’s sacrifice allowed it all. I Peter 2:25 NIV concludes the passage, “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Christ Jesus will protect us forever.

Today, on Veteran’s Day, I am watching my husband at this celebration of war veterans. His thinning gray hair blows in the ocean breeze. He taps his foot anxiously even though there is no music. He doesn’t notice the magnificent beauty of the Pacific, framing Catalina Island beyond the surf. Instead, he stares across the horizon into the distant memory of another country thirty years earlier. The twenty-one gun salute shatters the pensive moment. Remembering mortar fire, misery, and death, he weeps inside. His palms and face sweat in the cool air. The bagpipes play. We stand for taps. He weeps for those who died in battle. I weep for my husband.

As we walked home, he shook from the panic attack. Yet he held my arm, insisting that I walk on the inside of the curb. His watchful eye kept vigilance over me as a group of rowdy teenagers pushed by on the sidewalk. Always ready to defend and protect me.

While to the world this man may not be a hero, he is my hero. His love surpasses my understanding. His faithfulness to our marriage is beyond my comprehension. The pain he carries from his service in Vietnam is but a curiosity to me. Yet, I know that I am his bride. I am free because of his sacrifice. And, I know that I am loved.

What we know of Christ’s sacrifice, we are told in I Peter 2:22-25. We know that we are His bride. We are free because of His death on the cross. We know we are loved by God because He gave us His only begotten Son.

My war hero is alive today and I am blessed. I cherish every moment with him.

As Christians, our war hero is also alive today and we are blessed. He endured battles we will never experience because He shields us from them. Our war hero gave His life for all. Jesus Christ is the ultimate combat veteran. 

Veterans’ Day Prayer 

Thank you, God, for your Son

Who died on the cross

And made the ultimate sacrifice

So we might die to sin

And live to righteousness. 

As a nation, we weep today

For those who also sacrificed their lives for us.

We weep for those who do not know You

For those who do not yet know of the cross.

We stand before You as Your people.

 

We pray for the families of those lost in war

For those missing in action—not yet reunited with us.

We pray for those veterans whose scars are buried deep

May they know that their sacrifice

Has given us the freedom to worship You.

 

Thank you, Lord, for this Country and your blessings.

Today as we celebrate our Veterans

May we honor them with Your love

May we cherish our precious gift of freedom.

May we rejoice in this day of liberty and remember

Jesus Christ is our ultimate combat veteran.

Post your Comments: 

Please share your tribute with a Veteran today. Please reply below, if you wish to share your tribute to Veterans. 

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.