(176) Sunset: Call to Retreat

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)

For our troops no rest approaches at sunset when fighting the war against terrorism. For our Veterans, a state of hypervigilance remains with most with a readiness to take up arms to protect our nation at any call, declaring restsunset over the beach elusive. For the caregivers of our Veterans and family members left behind during military deployments, the full burden falls upon their shoulders to provide care on the home front, leaving no time for rest when the Sunset bugle calls.

Last week, the Molly Blog spoke of the Reveille bugle call, waking troops in a call to action. Today, the blog focuses on Sunset, the call to retreat for the day. The Sunset bugle call, or Retreat, serves as a call to rest and remember those who fought the battle before.

We think of loved ones near and far

And those who’ve fought the fight before

Keep safe your people, Lord

This night and for evermore.

Knowing When to Retreat: A Caregiver’s Perspective 

While this blogger knows nothing of battle and retreat, the importance of retreat as a strategy for survival remains clear. As a caregiver of a Veteran, we battle through the emotions boiling in our Veteran; we fight for our family; tackle mounds of laundry, dishes, and bills; and, fiercely defend our Veteran to ensure proper health care treatment.

Often the easiest path pushes us to do everything ourselves without regard for our own needs. Even the VA (Veterans Administration) understands the need for Retreat, offering a strong caregiver support program and network.

The VA launched the PTSD Family Coach app to help the family caregiver know when to retreat with advice on how to cope when living with or caring for a military member or Veteran with PTSD and/or TBI. It offers a knowledge base on PTSD; stress assessment; safety plan; links for resources; and, help when feeling isolated, angry, or experiencing insomnia. When loading the app, it invites the user to personalize stress intervention by loading favorite pictures and music. A long list of tools numbered 25 when loaded this morning. Topics range from mindful eating to soothing beach scenes with audio. Although the app only serves iOS users today, the VA works to bring it to the Android platform soon.

Veteran’s families can call Coaching Into Care:


Don’t forget that the VA offers a similar app for our service members and Veterans, referred to as the PTSD Coach. The VA reports that the app resides on over 100,000 mobile devices in 74 countries. The National Center for PTSD developed this popular app and it is available for free by downloading to an iOS or Android device (the above web link includes a desktop version, as well).

Retreat is Not Weakness

While it may feel otherwise, no shame exists in retreat. As my Veteran said, “It’s better to retreat today and fight tomorrow.” This applies to our caregivers, as well as our military. Without retreating and refreshing, we as parents and spouses risk our families. Our warriors go to war to protect our country and our families, so why would one ignore the need to retreat when life overwhelms us? 

Molly’s Response to the Sunset Bugle Call 

Even Miss Molly and her Veteran know when to retreat and rest. Do they enjoy it?

Molly Enjoys Retreat

Oh, yeah!

Post your Comments: 

What do you do to help yourself and your family when you need to retreat? 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.

(69) Smile and Say Chea-dtz: Joining a program for Veterans

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)

 You Shy Dog, You

During my commute to Denver twice a week, I listen to Chinese language CDs. On Friday, I learned to say, “Smile for the camera and say cheese.” In Chinese, when you smile for the camera, you say “chea-dtz” rather than cheese. That gave me an idea. I came home that evening with plans for a photo shoot with Miss Molly.

This morning, Molly climbed on William’s lap while he and I talked. Her lumbering body stretched along the entire length of the sofa. She rested her paw on his shoulder and sat nose-to-nose with him. If ever a moment to capture on film, this would have been the time. I Molly shys away from cameraran for my camera and began clicking away. Molly buried her head under his arm, then stuck her paws over her face, then turned her back to the camera and whined. She retreated as quickly as a rocket shoots from the launch pad.

I do not know when she acquired her shyness, as I figured her for an extrovert. I suppose the flash and the attention are uncomfortable for a dog in service to her master. She wants only to please him—not the camera. Nonetheless, I stole a few golden pictures of Molly, standing guard over William and in sweet devotion. In the weeks ahead, I plan to share them with the Molly blog audience.

Another Program Serving Veterans 

Since writing the Molly blog, many programs serving veterans pop up on my internet searches. Most of them offer free services and programs for veterans. A couple of weeks ago, the Molly blog covered a national fly-fishing program. This week, I received an email from the daughter of a Vietnam War Marine veteran. She works as the Executive Director of The Warrior Connection (TWC) program. She shared her program link with me at www.warriorconnection.org.

My husband retreats from social events about as fast as Molly retreats from the camera. He tells me, “Vietnam veterans don’t join things—we don’t do groups.” What I found, however, suggests his feelings on groups may be unique to him. The Warrior Connection shares testimonials from many Vietnam combat veterans, citing a life-changing and positive experience attending the TWC retreat. These veterans are joined by Iraq, Afghanistan, and veterans of other wars, who cite the same success. The Warrior Connection also offers a retreat for spouses and former spouses of combat veterans.

The program delivers separate retreats for both male and female combat veterans. The facilitators, Board of Directors, and founders read like a list of Oscar nominees—well known, accomplished, and perfect for the role of serving veterans.

Don’t Be Shy 

I have no direct experience with this program, however, I am impressed with what I read on the website. If my veteran spouse was more social or open to interaction with others, I would encourage him to participate. I might even consider the spouse’s retreat.

While I am not endorsing this program in particular, my hope is that you or your family caregiver will consider reaching out and participating in some of these great programs that are free to the veteran.

I think the saying from a freeway sign for a banking institution is appropriate here:

You served us. Now let us serve you.

When you pose for that farewell picture with your fellow veterans after attending one of the veteran-support programs, don’t forget to smile and say chea-dtz. 

Post your Comments: 

Have you or your spouse/veteran participated in a program to help heal from PTSD? 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.