(176) Sunset: Call to Retreat

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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)

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:

1-888-823-7458

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.

(175) Reveille Roust: Our Wake-up Call

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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)

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.

(174) Old Friends: A VA Meet Up

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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)


Reunited One-Half Century Later 

Colorado Springs VA FacilityAnxiety filters throughout the waiting rooms, spanning three floors. Discomfort with another visit to the VA Clinic ripples across a sea of faces. Not an easy task, Veterans fought the stress of dealing with their war-related issues and showed up for another day of doctor appointments. Today, however, my Veteran and I witnessed a reunion, which caught the attention of every Veteran within earshot. Slumping shoulders ceased and every set of eyes focused in glee, as two Veterans embraced after 46 years.

While William waited for his doctor, he spoke with a Vietnam Veteran a few years his senior. Finding out they served near one another in Vietnam one year apart, they spoke of difficulties encountered when returning from war and the ensuing years. As they talked, a man approached softly, interrupting the hushed tones of William and the man he just met.

We marveled at what the two friends revealed over the next 30 minutes in their 46-year reunion. After having last seen each other when serving in Vietnam and then assigned to Germany in 1970, they lost touch. In the intervening years, man-come-softly reached out to the men he served with, finding several other Veterans in his city. In his investigation, he found one comrade-in-arms who lived just blocks from him for 18 years and never realized it until four years after the man died. That set him on an urgent mission to connect with other comrades in his town.

The reunion we witnessed began with an embrace and continued after each man’s doctor visit. The entire episode transformed a waiting room from anxiety to excited anticipated as the story of two men’s lives unraveled. Their initial eye contact flashed recognition from a faded memory. Then, a spark lit. No doubt existed in either man’s face that they had served together in a wicked war nearly one-half century earlier. They spoke without hesitation, sharing as though they woke this morning in the barracks together. Filled with smiles and a knowing nod, two long-lost buddies emerged from war nearly 50 years later in a seamless friendship and a shared purpose in life.

A Mother and Her Veteran Daughter

For me, the day’s highlights included meeting the mother of a female Veteran with her service dog. We talked about the therapeutic value of service animals and how it changed the Veteran’s life. An encouraging story, her daughter displays strength by reaching out for help. She added her voice and value to a unique dynamic that could only unveil itself in the waiting room of a VA Clinic—the place to go for a meet up.

Post your Comments: 

Have you experienced a meet-up at a VA clinic or facility that brightened your day? 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.

(169) Behind the Walls: The Corrosive Nature of PTSD

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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)


Home Flipping 

William loves watching home building shows—flipping, flopping, rehabbing, and fixing. Admittedly, there is something about watching homeowners demolish the ugly with sledgehammers and crowbars that is therapeutic. Of course, in the end, a butterfly emerges from the rubble and homeowners swoon with delight.

During the course of every renovation, the experts find problems—problems that elude visual inspection. Some problems undermine the foundation, others display rot and vermin, and occasionally some require spacesuits and decontamination. While homeowners know the risks of buying a fixer-upper, they express alarm when observing the flaws inside walls and beneath concrete foundations.

PTSD Lurks Behind Walls 

My Veterans stands tall at 6’4”. His once athletic life left a legacy of strength in his shoulders and gait. Discovering he is disabled, people comment, “He looks so normal.” In fact, a family member recently commented, “I never knew he suffered any effects of war. He looked so normal when he returned home.” PTSD is like that. Especially for warriors, who are taught to continue on regardless of personal injury. Don’t show weakness. Be strong. Exude confidence and strength. Put your trauma behind you.

For our warriors returning to civilian life, the military mantra reverberates throughout life even when torn apart inside. As their lives slowly unravel from their war experiences, they deny the symptoms of PTSD. Their hurt seeps deeper out of sight, boring into their core. Without treatment, the pain festers until rupture, as an aged water pipe that bursts without provocation. In a matter of time, the foundation crumbles with damaged relationships, dysfunctional habits, uncontrolled rage, and suicidal thoughts.

Demolishing Walls 

Just as experts help homeowners with their rehab projects, the VA employs experts to work with Veterans on managing PTSD. Effective treatments help Veterans reconstruct their lives after war trauma. In fact, the sooner the expert is invited in to help the Veteran after returning from war, the sooner reconstruction begins. With early help, the less damage PTSD wreaks on Veterans and their families.

I hear from many service members being discharged from duty that the military works proactively in assessing PTSD prior to release. This change in policy speaks boldly for a military that once denied the existence of PTSD and preached “put it behind you.” It gives the Veteran a chance at a normal life after war.

Behind the Walls of the VA 

Even the VA suffers with vermin and rotting foundations, as news stories reveal. Although, from the outside things appeared normal, the past three years of events suggest differently. The agency is riddled with allegations of corruption, wrong doing, incompetence, apathy, mismanagement, and inefficiency. Despite decades of self-promotion as a bulwark of excellence, the image crumbles with reality. Full-scale demolition of the VA began two years ago. With such a large bureaucracy, how long demolition and reconstruction will take remains guesswork.

It took a long time for the VA façade to crumble and for the agency to admit its failings publicly. With that admission, we can only hope that reconstruction will be sound and effective. The lives of our warriors and their families depend on it.

What’s Behind the Walls of Miss Molly’s Façade? 

DSCN2403Inside, outside, upside, and downside, this 125-pound buttercup is nothing but a fluffy fur ball.

Post your Comments: 

What three words would you use to describe your service animal or pet? 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.

(162) Running Backwards: Part V of “Gimme Me Back My Land”

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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) 

A Quick Re-Run 

Miss Molly promised an update on the land grab talked about in Blogs 135, 136, 137, and 138. The land grab referred to stolen portions of 600 acres in Los Angeles, California, donated as early as 1881 for the sole use of homeless Veterans and those with serious disabilities from war. Some of the land was grabbed for the 405 Freeway and the Los Angeles Federal Building. In the past 40 years, the remaining property left for Veterans was whittled down with leases entered into by the VA that excluded Veterans, leaving only the property used for Veterans with the Greater Los Angeles VA Medical Center (GLA). Given the location of the land in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the US (Bel-Air to the north, UCLA and Westwood to the east, and Brentwood to the west), others snatched entitlements to the Veteran’s property through long-term leases that not only failed to serve Veterans but barred their entry.

Over 11 percent of the total homeless Veteran population in the US purportedly lives on the streets of Los Angeles, which accounts for approximately 20,000 homeless Veterans. The donated property with over 100 outbuildings once housed “old soldiers” and those Veterans with special medical needs. Today, most of those buildings litter the remaining acreage since falling into disrepair and abandoned.

In a lawsuit brought against the VA on behalf of Veterans needing housing, a four-year battle resulted in void of nine leases and direction to the VA to return uses to the Veterans. The process began with a new Master Plan for 388 acres, which is all that remains of the 600.

These leases were voided by the US District Court for being illegal under the conditions for donation to Veterans:

  • Brentwood School
  • Sodexho Marriott Laundry Services
  • UCLA Regents (Baseball Stadium)
  • 20th Century Fox TV
  • Veterans Park Conservancy
  • Westside Breakers Soccer Club
  • Westside Services Parking
  • TCM Farmer’s Market
  • Filming Agreement

Running in Place 

As a caregiver for my Veteran husband, I found that running in place is the best way to get exercise. I do this while I cook, clean, read, and spend time with him. He laughs because “It’s a lot of running without going anywhere.” Miss Molly is okay with it because I can scratch her ears while running in place and making dinner.

For those of us outside the land grab issue, preparing an 888-page Preliminary Draft of the Final Master Plan for use of land dedicated for Veterans since 1881 might seem a lot like running in place and going nowhere. The VA even hastened their pace by expediting the deadline for public comment on the document to 60 days.

Apparently, others run in place just as fast, as the VA received 1,732 comments to the draft Final Master Plan and now work on responding to every comment on the plan. It should be noted that 730 comments had nothing to do with the plan but must still be responded to by the VA. The VA categorized the comments with 397 comments made on the Land Use Agreements and 341 comments made on Veteran Access, as the two most popular categories. Other categories receiving more than 100 comments each covered Clinical, Connectivity, Housing/Campus Restoration, Parking, Transparency and Accountability, and General Support.

No timeline was offered about how long the response phase of the Draft Master Plan will take. Legislation is pending to help fund projects within the Final Master Plan and to permanently secure title to the land for Veterans.

Running While Facing Backwards 

Positive outcomes from the Master Plan process are bound to occur. The VA promises the following:

  • “The update plan now includes a proposal for the Transit Authority to have a station stop on the campus that will have passenger portals with access to the medical section of the campus . . . .”
  • “The services must be strength-based, holistic, and aimed at helping the Veteran and the Veteran’s family beyond the traditional medical models.”
  • “The Draft Master Plan focuses on making the campus a destination for all Veterans.”
  • “The area that is currently designated as the Veteran’s parking lot servicing Brentwood Village, can be utilized by Veteran-owned businesses and still provide parking to the neighboring community. Central to this concept of public access is that it is Veteran-owned and Veteran controlled and the public is welcome to share it by invitation.”
  • “While working to achieve this vision for the campus, VA will evaluate existing and future land use agreements to ensure they are ‘Veteran focused’. . . .Going forward, VA’s efforts to revitalize the campus will only include ‘Veteran focused’ agreements, or agreements that result in additional healthcare, benefits, services, or resources being provided directly to Veterans and/or their families on the GLA campus.”

All along this is what was required by the original land donations so you can understand why the title of this section is, “Running While Facing Backwards.”

Not Running at All Molly licking her chops by the treadmill

I am not fast enough to run with Molly and William struggles with balance issues. Where does that leave Molly’s exercise program? –Not running at all. We tried the treadmill but had to tease her with treats. She has since learned to keep pace with the treadmill by standing on the side and snagging treats as they wiz by. 

Post your Comments: 

If you could design the perfect campus for homeless Veterans, what would it include and where would it be located? Please reply below.

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

Source cited:

  • VA (Department of Veteran Affairs). “West Los Angeles VA Medical Center; Draft Master Plan; FR Doc No: 2016-01940 posted February 2, 2016.

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.

(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.

(146) Bedraggled: Care for the Family Caregiver

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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)

Melting snow puddles beneath our pine-laden front yard. Molly does not like being dirty but her magnetic white fur and plumed tail drag in a trail of mud and pine needles. I am teaching her to render each paw so I can dab up the mud before coming inside. No matter how much I clean her, she remains bedraggled.

I use the word bedraggled too much lately. It is not just Molly’s condition that I refer to—it is mine, as well. Feeling dragged through the mud, I plop on the couch believing I cannot do one more thing. It strikes me that doing one more thing describes family caregivers every day. Our duties never end–meal preparations, laundry, doctor appointments for your spouse or child, making beds, cleaning, bills, and the list goes on. Add to that the holiday season tasks and you have one very bedraggled caregiver.

This holiday season, take time for yourself and maybe take a day or two off to do something fun or relaxing for just you. There are plenty of resources available to the family caregiver of a Veteran that you can take advantage of.

Start by visiting http://www.caregiver.va.gov/, the Department of Veterans Affairs website for family caregiver support. The VA offers a free six-week on-line course for family caregivers. Telephone support is available to the caregiver for a Veteran by calling 1 (855) 260-3274. Other services include access to a caregiver coordinator, toolkit of ideas and forms to care for your Veteran, networking, seminars, and special caregiver events. The VA offers special assistance for family caregivers of Post-911 disabled Veterans.

Callout_Caregiver-Support-Line

VA sponsored respite care gives you up to 30 days a year of in-home care for your Veteran spouse or child, who requires full-time care, giving you time away to rest. Also available are Adult Day Health Care, Home-Based Primary Care, Skilled Home Care, Homemaker and Home Health Aide, and Home Tele-Health Care.

You are not Alone

The Family Caregiver Alliance estimated that there are over 52 million family caregivers in America with one out of five caring for a family member 40 hours a week or more. Forty-eight percent of caregivers report receiving supplemental care for their spouse or child, including transportation, home-delivered meals, and respite care. This means we are not alone in our caring for a disabled Veteran.

Reach out to one of the many resources available to family caregivers today. Consider getting help such as:

  • On-line grocery shopping and home delivery often available from Walmart or your local grocery store
  • Pre-cooked meals for delivery
  • Respite care for a few days off
  • Tele-health to reduce trips to the VA Hospital
  • Special tools to manage your Veteran’s medication, doctor’s appointments, and overall health information
  • Caregiver seminar or retreat
  • A listening ear by calling the VA Caregiver support line at 1 (855) 260-3274.

Just like a major fast-food chain states, “You deserve a break today.”

Dump the bedraggled and become the bedazzled

by getting help and rest this holiday season with family caregiver resources!

Post your Comments:

How do you find time to take care of yourself while caring for your Veteran? Please reply below.

Source cited:

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.

(137) Going, Going, Gone . . . (Part III of “Gimme Back my Land” Saga)

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A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

This is the third of four parts of the sage of how 600 acres of prized land in Los Angeles donated to homeless Veterans in 1888 eroded into entrepreneurial uses for everyone except Veterans in need.

Those who have served this nation as Veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope.

Defendant Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 2009 (p18 of lawsuit)

One out of 168 Veterans experiences homelessness over the course of a year, according to the class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of homeless Veterans against the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). The DVA estimated that 107,000 Veterans were homeless on any given night in 2009. “Veterans are overrepresented in the homeless population and are about 50 percent more likely to become homeless compared to all Americans.” (Valentini, 19) Veterans of OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom)/OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) are especially at risk of homelessness when returning from military service with over 9,000 of these Veterans currently homeless. Despite these statistics, precious land designated for homeless Veterans in Los Angeles, the homeless capital of the US, is not being used for the long-term care or residency for the very group of Veterans whom the benefactor deeded the land.

In its Wonder Days

The gracious gift of Arcadia de Baker led the way for a remarkable campus designated for old soldiers disabled by the ravages of war. In its day, the campus offered respite, care, and gratitude for those who fought to defend our country.

Consistent with the goal of providing a home for soldiers, the grounds at the Pacific Branch Home were transformed into a beautiful, park-like setting. A hospital and other buildings were erected on the campus throughout the 1890s. The Pacific Branch Home also built a trolley line and erected a streetcar depot, which transported freight and mail to and from the campus. Residents could easily travel to the nearby Santa Monica beaches from the campus for rest and recreation. A chapel was built in 1900 to hold daily services and burial services for deceased veterans. In the early 1900s, the Pacific Branch Home built dormitories with wide porches to replace the original barracks and opened a dining hall that could seat 760 members at one time. A post office with more than 600 private letter boxes operated on the campus, as well as a store where residents could eat lunch and purchase cigars, fruits, candy and other articles. (Valentini, 34-35)

How Veteran Land Slipped Away

As mentioned in Molly Blog 136, the DVA stopped accepting Veterans in the early 1960s, as facility maintenance ceased and buildings were abandoned. Only the West Los Angeles Health Facility remained intact.

In 1986, the neighboring Brentwood Homeowners Association (HOA) protested a proposal by the VA to declare surplus and sell between 80 and 109 acres of the donated property. Concerned about the development impact from the proposal, the HOA defeated the sale of the land. The HOA pushed for leasing of the land for passive uses and succeeded in passing a law to keep the land as property of the VA permanently. As time passed, homeless Veterans and their families took up residence on the land, causing a backlash from the HOA. As well, HUD (Housing and Urban Development) launched a proposal for a homeless trailer park on the property, which fell to defeat at the hands of the HOA. The HOA also defeated a proposal for a National Football Stadium on the property, which was initiated by the DVA. (Twair)

Given its location, the property is touted at a value of $60 million per acre today—except it cannot be sold. Instead, because of the HOA influence, the VA leased portions of the property over the years for more park-like uses demanded by the HOA. Although originally intended to benefit Veterans, the leases ultimately offered no benefit to Veterans.

Who Leases the Land Today?

According to court documents (Valentini, 11-12), there are a number of leases in effect today. They are listed as follows:

  • Enterprise Rent-a-Car leases ten acres for its business, including a charter bus operation and vehicle storage and sales
  • Sodexho Marriott leases land for laundry facilities to process linens for surroundings hotels
  • An energy company operates active oil wells on 2.5 acres for 23 years and 1.5 acres for a shared farmer’s market
  • Richmark Entertainment operates the Wadsworth Theatre for commercial productions; once the facility was an entertainment center for Veterans but now Veterans must pay full price to attend events
  • Westside Services leases land for parking to serve the campus and other businesses in the surrounding community
  • UCLA operates the Jackie Robinson Baseball Stadium
  • Brentwood Private School leases 12 acres for its athletic fields, a track, tennis courts, and a swimming pool
  • City of Los Angeles uses 12 acres as a public park with a fenced dog run, athletic fields, and a parking lot
  • Two soccer clubs use MacArthur Field where Veterans once played softball; their site includes a parking lot
  • Moving and television production companies rent portions of the campus for short-term, non-recurring filming; other parties rent portions of the land for one-time events, such as fundraisers, wine tastings, and weddings.

As for an accounting of the funds received and/or spent as a result of these ventures—no one knows, according to documents filed with the Federal court on behalf of Valentini, et. al.

Miss Molly commented on the current uses of Veterans’ land. She said, “I have a bone to pick with the VA!”

Where Does that Leave our Veterans?

On Friday, Miss Molly completes the saga of “Gimme Back my Land.” Join us as we bring you up-to-date on the land grab and its hopeful resolution to once again benefit our homeless Veterans.

Post your Comments:

What advice would you offer to the VA on serving the needs of our homeless Veterans? Please reply below.

Sources cited:

  • McKay, Hollie. “No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use,” in Fox News, retrieved on September 22, 2015 at www.foxnews.com/us/2015/09/22/
  • Twair, Pat McDonnell. “This Space for Rent: Leasing Veterans’ Land in West L.A.,” in the VVA Veteran, January/February 2015.
  • Valentini v Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Amended Complaint and Injunctive, Declaratory, Mandamus, and Accounting Relief, Case No.: CV-11-04846 SJO (MRWx) filed on August 12, 2011; case filed with the United States District Court Central District of California, as retrieved on October 19, 2015, at http://www.publiccounsel.org/tools/assets/files/0577.pdf

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.

(136) The Big Land Grab: How Veterans Lost Their Land (Part II of “Gimme Back my Land” Saga)

Miss Molly profile

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

In Molly Blog 135, Molly began her storytelling of a donation to “old soldiers” by a mining magnate and his socialite wife in 1881. While the donated site today offers limited use to Veterans through the West Los Angeles Medical Center, 100 buildings on the property have fallen into disrepair and are unusable. Over the years, the VA leased portions of the land for special events such as wine tasting and filming and for uses as a college baseball stadium, commercial laundry, and a golf course.

Today’s blog continues the story with the tale of how the Veterans lost use of land gifted to them for housing in their old age. So, grab a bowl of doggy treats and join us as the saga continues.

One horrific consequence of war is that it exacts heavy and lifelong consequences on the young men and women who made lofty commitments on our behalf: many return with physically invisible wounds of mental illness, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or brain traumas. For countless veterans, military service has rendered them unable to resume their civilian lives, sustain their family relationships, hold down jobs or continue their educations, or even to maintain a permanent residence.

Excerpt from Valentini vs. MacDonald class action lawsuit filed in the US District Court of Central California on August 12, 2011

 Years of Land Use

The de Baker land deed called for use of the land specifically for providing housing for Veterans with disabilities, including establishing and permanently maintaining a soldier’s home for Veterans disabled by war. For 80 years, the predecessor group to the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) operated the Pacific Branch Soldier’s Home, which offered a permanent home for tens of thousands of disabled veterans. Through the non-profit’s efforts, disabled Veterans accessed medical and therapeutic services at the Home. The campus offered postal services, a 10,000-book library, Veteran vegetable gardens, recreation facilities, and other services for the disabled and severely disabled Veterans as well as permanent housing. (Valentini)

In the height of the era that wounded warriors started returning from Vietnam, the organization operating the Home stopped accepting new residents and ceased maintenance of the facilities. Structures dedicated to permanent housing were either used for other purposes or abandoned. All construction dollars went into expanding medical and short-term treatment facilities. This left severely disabled Veterans with brain injuries or mental disabilities with no place in the Los Angeles region to receive treatment, care, or long-term housing.

According to Fox News, “the VA emptied out the sprawling grounds known as the West Los Angeles Campus and began renting property out for all sorts of uses that had nothing to do with veteran care.” David Sapp of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California told Fox News, “Not only were the local VA officials not using the land to house homeless vets, but they were actually affirmatively misusing the property by entering into these private-use agreements that had nothing to do with healthcare, housing or otherwise serving veterans.” (McKay)

The 1960s and 1970s were not the first abuses of the donated property. Following the donation of the original acreage by Arcadia de Baker, other donations of land surrounding the original property swelled the total number of donated acres to 600 for the sole use of disabled Veterans. When development of Wilshire Boulevard and planning for the 405 Freeway and the Los Angeles Federal Building began, the property was divided and portions of the dedicated land were taken away for development, bringing the total acreage down to 388 acres.

Molly napping

Paw-sing for more of the Story

At this point, Molly paws her storytelling and tempts you to return for more of her tail.  On Tuesday, she shares other accounts of Veteran takeaways in Part III of the “Gimme Back my Land” Saga.

Post your Comments:

Does your community host facilities for Veterans on land donated by a private citizen or corporation? Please reply below.

Sources cited:

  • McKay, Hollie. “No more golf, wine-tasting: Prime LA land deeded for soldiers’ care to return to intended use,” in Fox News, retrieved on September 22, 2015.
  • Twair, Pat McDonnell. “This Space for Rent: Leasing Veterans’ Land in West L.A.,” in the VVA Veteran, January/February 2015.
  • Valentini v Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Amended Complaint and Injunctive, Declaratory, Mandamus, and Accounting Relief, Case No.: CV-11-04846 SJO (MRWx) filed on August 12, 2011; case filed with the United States District Court Central District of California, as retrieved on October 19, 2015, at http://www.publiccounsel.org/tools/assets/files/0577.pdf.

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.