Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 31 Update

What have we been up to?! Well Chaz has been going to all of his therapies and the girls and I have been moving and cleaning! For the record I do not recommend moving twice in one week. But it's over and we have a place of our own.

This week Chaz had his blood drawn for the third week in a row and for the third week in a row, there was no sign of infection. So Thursday the Picc line came out. He also got to finally get on a bike. He had been working the hand bike machine, but nothing is better than the real thing. Other than those big things he's just been going to PT and OT everyday.

Last Sunday with the help of our friend Laura who just showed up, we moved from Fisher House 2 to Fisher House 3. You may be asking why? Well WRAMC is closing and since Fisher House 2 and 3 are on campus they have to be shut down too. The WTB had told us last week that our apartment wouldn't be ready until weeks later or possibly after August 15. We were one of two families left at Fisher House 2. The other family was done with treatment and we're leaving Monday so the house manager wanted to go ahead and close our house. I totally don't blame him. Might as well get it done when you can. So we helped him out and moved Sunday. He gave us keys Friday and told us to take our time, which I had planned on doing, but then Laura showed up and she, Chaz and I rocked it out and poof it was done.

Tuesday morning I was sending Chaz off to his appointments and then I joked, "I bet you the moment I get everything organized the way I want it, they'll call to say the apartment is ready." He told me I was probably right. Sure enough Tuesday afternoon, I got it done and had just sat down and was watching TV when the phone rang. Sure enough it was Chaz's first Sargent telling me he'd have keys for us on Thursday morning and I needed to meet them at the apartment building at 8am. I immediately burst into laughter. Chaz looked at me like I was crazy and the first Sargent asked me what was so funny. So I told him what I had said that morning. He apologized and I told him that was unnecessary that's just the way it goes sometimes. So Wednesday I began repacking and I got all the details into place for Thursday morning.

Thursday I woke everyone up, sent Chaz off to his appointments and then the girls and I went to go sign for the apartment. We met our new squad leader (yes we got another squad leader, this is number 5 I think, but we really like this one) and the staff Sargent in charge of the housing. Both were super cool. We had to go through all the inventory. The Army provided us with furniture, dishes and the basics to get started with. Being OCD as I am we went through everything before I signed.

The girls and I went back to Fisher House to find Chaz was working away trying to get a jump on everything. That's when he showed off his lack of a picc line. We both thought, "Oh yeah, one less thing!" I then told him his squad leader was coming at 12 to help get our move on! I made a pot of chili that morning. Once SSG Sage got there we sat down to lunch to get fueled for everything. Then we started loading. Luckily I packed up 5 boxes of stuff to go to TN so we were able to get everything moved in two trips!

Deryn and I took the cart we had borrowed back to Fisher House and to let the house manager know what was going on. Then we were off to Target to get our new bedding and a few other essentials. We got back to the apartment and unloaded and then I found out I forgot sheets for mine and Chaz's bed. The girls' sets came with them, so I had to run back to Target and get sheets. I came back and crashed!

Friday we got up and went back to WRAMC so Chaz could go to his appointments and I went to clean the Fisher House. They don't have housekeepers for the rooms only the common areas of the house. So I went and scrubbed the rooms from top to bottom for the next guests. Then we came back to the apartment and finished unpacking. MSGT Barnes, one of our LNOs, and his crew came by and were our official first guests.

Saturday we went back to Fisher House because the people from the foundation were in and wanted to meet some of the families. The house manager asked us to be there and we were happy to do it. Then I took Chaz and the kids back to the apartment and I ran back to target for the other things we needed.

We are loving our own space. It is so nice! I do not know who pays for the apartments. I know that they do not take our housing allowance because I asked. We have a mortgage to pay and can't afford to lose that money. If we had to rent a place, we would have just stayed at Fisher House until Chaz was well. But WTB has these awesome apartments and you just have to wait your turn to get one. Currently there are 20 families in these apartments. I plan to find out where the funding for these apartments come from, because I would like to know who to thank. It is awesome to have our own place. Fisher House is great, but it was time for us to move on. We will always be thankful for Fisher House giving our family a place to live. The Army would have just kept us in a hotel until the apartment was ready. those who know me, know I have to have a kitchen. I relieve stress by cooking! So God Bless the Fisher Foundation for recognizing the need and fulfilling it.

We finally have a place to call our own and we are "moving on up". Sorry Chaz and I were singing that song because we are in a high rise! We can really get moving on with our new normal. Chaz and I feel like it's a type of graduation day. It's exciting to move on, but we're going to miss our fisher families and miss being on campus and in the middle of everything. But we're growing up and now we'll be checking out the Silver Spring MD area to see what all we can get into around here.

You can check out our apartment at at any time. You can see that the Army is taking very good care of our family.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Our last night at Fisher House-WRAMC

Chaz and I were in disbelief that our last night at Fisher House-WRAMC was finally here. So last night we took the girls on a walk around the campus as kind of a last thing to do before we go. I wanted to make sure and take pics before the campus was altered.

As a history major, it breaks my heart to see all of this history be taken away. I know there's a good reason for it, but it still makes it hard for me. So much has happened at this hospital. So many veterans have come here and have been healed which is what Walter Reed himself wanted. I know they had a hugs scandal here years ago and I am pleased to report I see what good came out of that. This hospital and it's staff are amazing. I am just so happy they are all going to Bethesda with us!

Now on to Fisher House, gees where to I begin. The Fisher Foundation is simply incredible. It started because a man saw a need to help veterans. Now they do so much more. The original idea of just giving them a home away from home is now so much more than that. They have Hero Miles, which flies military families to be together in a time of need. (Which happens to be my favorite part of the program). Yes I am biased but they did enable me to fly back and forth every week to be with Chaz and the girls. Thanks to Hero Miles our emergency didn't have to suffer thanks to all of this craziness.

Fisher House gives away money to other non-profits, hosts teams for the Army Ten Miler and Marine Corps Marathon. I am just skimming the surface on this great organization. Please go read more about them at when you can.

Now back to the houses. Our first house held 8 families and the second one we stayed in I think holds 10 or 12. That may sound like a lot, but because Fisher has this formula down it works. These houses are phenomenal. They are beautiful and spacious and organized. We really have a home away from home. And then they provide all our needs, toliet paper, paper towels, trash bags, etc. And then they provide our wants computers in every room, cable, water cooler, food and they allow other non-profits to come in and fed us all the time.

We are so thankful to the Fisher Foundation that thank you will never seem like enough. This is why we have agree to speak on their behalf whenever needed. We have already done a magazine article for them. You can see this at on page 18-19. We attended the Congressional Cupcake Wars and got to be present to see them receive at $10,000 check. Tomorrow we met the Foundation chair for breakfast at the house I am currently cleaning so we can check out.

We moved in March of 2011 and we leave today. It is bittersweet. To me it is like graduation day. You are so excited for the future, but don't want to leave your friends. There are so many that I know I will stay in touch with. We have touched each other lives and we are on this journey to healing together.

Now we have moved on to the apartments at 1200 EastWest Highway in Silver Springs, MD. Currently there are 20 wounded warriors and their NMAs and/or families there. Chaz is kicking a lot of ass, but he still has a very long road to be finished with his recovery. Since we don't know how long we will be in MD we took the apartment. We loved staying at Fisher House, but we need a place of our own. We are grown-ups after all. I guess you could say we graduated to the college level now. And yes for those who are curious, the Army is paying for these apartments, somehow, not sure how, but I know they don't take our housing allowance, which is super important because we still have to pay the mortgage for our home in TN. One day we will return to our home in TN and really be grown ups again.

So the past few days have been busy and crazy. Lots of work and lots of emotions. It was a lot easier moving from Fisher House to Fisher House. The move yesterday kicked my butt. I died into the bed last night! Yes I will post pictures later (once I get it all cleaned up). But just know we are fine, just crazy busy!!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

American Girl Call

Our girls have been through a lot, I know this is not a news flash. Chaz gave them their first American Girl dolls when he came home on R&R back in October as their Daddy will be missing every holiday and birthday, love you so much gift. We like to surprise them and reward them with things for their good behavior. just like every other good parent out there.

I placed an order with on July 20. Well the other day, I went to check on it's progress and notice the line on the shipping address was missing Fisher House Rm 9 on it. I only have things shipped here that come via Fedex or UPS. USPS is a mess here. You can send things out but good luck trying to get them into us that way! So since AG ships via FedEx I ordered the girls some new goodies. When I noticed they didn't have the Fisher House line on there I immediately called them and brought it to their attention. The lady who answered didn't really seem to care that the line was missing. So then I said look without that Fisher House line you are sending our daughters' goodies to the black hole. It will sit here and then get mailed back to you. Would you want that for your daughters?! She said that it would get to me and that I was worried over nothing. I asked her if she even knew what Walter Reed was and she said no. I said well it's a pretty freaking big hospital and you can't just send something to Jessica Allen at Walter Reed. That's like sending something to someone in a city you have to be more specific. So after arguing back and forth finally she said she would call it to someone's attention and it should be resolved. I said should be isn't good enough. I am sorry we need it resolved. She very flippantly said, "All I can do is pass it along and hope it works." I said wow, you pride your self on customer service huh? I thanked her for her time and got off the phone with her.

Chaz asked what was going on and I told him and then I told him that I would just call back and try again. So I called the next day and got someone else who was a lot nicer and I guess actually liked her job, because she was very helpful and said she would pass the message along. Then a few hours the phone rings and it's someone from American Girl. She said someone had notified her of issue. The lady I had previously spoke to had told this lady to look closely at the address. The lady said she was calling because it dawned on them that we were at Walter Reed and what that meant. She called to see if their hutches were correct. I told her they were. She was so nice and told me that the people at American Girl wanted to let us know that they were resolving the address issue. She also was calling to let me know they were all praying for our family and she wanted to know if there was anything American Girl could do for us. How freaking nice is that?! I told her their prayers were enough and told her how they can keep track of us. I am so glad I called back and got someone else!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Little Truth....

We are all human and most of us talk before we think. I know that sometimes my filter between my mouth and brain has big holes in it. But I have also found that most of those times it's because I am telling someone something they don't want to hear. It's this magical little thing called the truth. Usually when I don't want to smack them upside the head with the truth I just avoid them. Some people are like Tom Cruise in a A Few Good Men, remember, "You can't handle the truth." Let's face it sometimes the truth is hard to swallow. I am thankful for growing up in a very honest and direct family. We are fully aware we can hurt your feelings, but we are being honest with you because we love you. Lies hurt so much more than the truth. I tell our girls that once you tell one lie, then you have to pile it up with lies and before you know it the truth doesn't exist anymore. I have also told them lies hurt twelve times more than the truth. If you lie to me then our trust is broken and how can I ever trust you again. In our house you are punished double if you are caught in a lie. I would rather you rip my band-aid and let's deal with the issue then cover it up and hope it works out. In the past, I was a little bit more cautious. Since January 22, my patience have become non-existent unless you are Chaz or one of our girls and sometimes I don't have patience for them.

Caring for a wounded warrior is beyond a full time job. In so many ways it parallels back to having a baby. I joke around that I traded the stroller in for a wheelchair. And that I now carry a medical bag instead of a diaper bag. But seriously this is not a joke, this is my life now. When I first got to Chaz he was dependent on me for everything. He used to run nurses off, because they didn't do anything right. Yes that was the meds talking (sometimes). I joked with him that I felt like he was a brand new baby. He just slept, ate and pooped. Then we got to the coo and goo stage and I got to talk and be silly with him for a bit more each day. Then when he started walking again he made me then of the girls when they started to walk. Now he's to a place that he still needs me for all of his daily living activities, but he gains more independence everyday. Unfortunately he will always need me for the rest of our lives. It's a great thing that I like him so much, because otherwise this could be a problem. ;)

You may be thinking aww poor Jessica this has to be so hard. You know what, it is. My hubby is 31 and is currently learning how to make the world adjust to his needs. But you know what I am so lucky I have it so easy. Chaz is doing remarkably well and he has me and I have him. We make one heck of a team. We could also have so many more disability and health issues. Then to make it even better, our girls are 8 and 6 and thank goodness I can sit and talk with them and they can understand. There are wives here with brand new babies and little toddlers. I admire them for what they are doing. The road we are all on is so unpredictable and crazy. These ladies are raising babies too. Wow! I am just homeschooling our kids, I have it easy! Plus I have enough optimism, strength and faith for all four of us and that also makes everything easier. We are in really good shape.

Here at WRAMC we are in this little wounded warrior bubble. We are dealing with war everyday here. But civilians, God love you, some of you are freaking clueless and you need to wake up. Please for the love of all things holy, stop listening to everything the media says. We are still at war. We have soldiers getting killed and wounded everyday. The media doesn't tell you this because America got bored with the story. The media only talks about what sells. (I know there are some really awesome news persons (I am related to one) out there, but I am examining the majority not the minority). Unfortunately what sells is what is going on with celebrities or what disaster is going on now. I personally don't care about the celebrities, but I do care about what is going on in the world and these wars are part of that and need to have more attention.

This morning I recalled this great book I read in college called Tell-Tale Hearts. No not Edgar Allan Poe's poem, although I'll explain that parallel in a minute. In this book the author talks about Vietnam. He talks about how Vietnam was like a good beer. We found it and really liked it and wanted more of it. But we didn't pop the top off of it. Then unfortunately we shook it up a little too much and then we sat it down. Since I highly enjoy beer I can understand that this is not how we treat our beer and once we finally popped the top of that bottle that beer is going to be pretty freaking gross. Then he also said Vietnam was like Poe's poem. We did something wrong and tried to stuff it under the floor boards but that heart beat just kept banging in our ears and finally we ripped up those floor boards and took a look at what we did.

This morning I realized that Iraq and Afghanistan are so similar to Vietnam. The only difference is we understand and respect our soldiers a hell of a lot more then we did then. Thank you to the Veterans before us who taught us this very important lesson. I am proud to be an American, but I am getting pretty darn tired of meeting new wounded warriors. I am tired of helping people go through this process and I am tiring of finding out that someone else was killed over there. I am happy to do it, because I can make someone's life easier by sharing our experiences. God blessed me with people who helped us and I am grateful to pay it forward, but I wish I didn't have to.

Our girls have known nothing but war and deployments. I don't know about you but that's not the environment I wanted to raise them in. After 9/11 I rallied around the flag like every other patriot (only difference is I never threw out my Dixie Chicks CDs). I supported our government and all of it's decisions. I knew that meant I would have to give Chaz up to fight and I knew the possible consequences. When I met Chaz he wanted to spend 20 years in the Army and still does today. I will always support him and all of our Armed Services, but I guess know I want an explanation for why we are at war still.  I want justification for all of these guys. I am ready for our leaders to rip those floor boards up and tell us why and I want them to drink that beer.

Is this going to happen today, probably not. I am just another ticked off wounded warrior wife who wants answers. I do know that this is God's plan. I have made my peace with that. God has put our family on this path for a reason and He will reveal all of it in his time. I walk in faith everyday and know He is watching over us. I know that our family will live happily ever after. We started that February 23, 2001 when we said "I do." That happily ever after still continues, it's just our lives have just been altered a little. I am just so thankful that my Mom gave me the knowledge of faith and hope. Without that knowledge there's no way we could win the wars we face everyday. Please keep us in your prayers and pray the other families find their paths as well.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Few Numbers

People who know me, know I am a numbers person. The 10th mountain division is really getting beat down in Afghanistan right now. It breaks my heart to see the Walter Reed bus go to pick up more soldiers. I have watched the bus leave everyday now for several days. But here are a few numbers I am thinking of.

Troops Killed in Iraq: 4464
Troops Killed in Afghanistan: 1668
Wounded in Action: 44923
As of Jan 22, 2011
Out of the 44,923 over 900 of those are amputees. Chaz is only one. One of out of over 900, yikes!! Then that's only 900 out of over 44,000, holy moley!! There are so many out there that have moved on and there are some that are just getting started. It breaks my heart every time I learn of a new wounded warrior.

We may judge the people of Afghanistan and Iraq and look down upon them, but they have the advantage over us. The use of the IED is a brilliant war technique. (Please note I am not saying it is right, I am just saying that in the art of war it is quite intelligent). Our soldiers are just walking or driving along and poof it strikes without warning. Instantly the ripple begins. It starts with the soldier, then hits his team, then the squad, the platoon, the company, the battalion and then the division. At the same time, the report goes to the next of kin and the next ripple begins. Let's face it, these people know what they are doing. You may not want to admit it, but it's true. Their IEDs are not designed to kill because that one takes out one player of the game. They are designed to injure. Our soldiers are brothers and sisters at war. If one of them is injured, they will pull guard and get them aide. It takes at least a four man team to help one solider. Two to move the guy to safety and two to pull guard. So they took at least five not one out of the game. They know our weakness. Unfortunately to them our loyalty to each other is a weakness and they capitalize on it.

What upsets me the most is that the news reports the fatalities, but what about our injured. Did you know prior to this blog the numbers I posted? I didn't. I feel that the dialog needs to be stepped up a lot. I was happy to take my family to Capitol Hill multiple times because our elected officials need the reminder of the consequences of their actions. I'll do it again and again if given the chance. Our elected officials need to get their butts over to Walter Reed and Bethesda and every other military hospital and thank these guys. I have cards from the ones who have. We are on a first name basis with the ones who come frequently. When we met Senator Corker and Alexander (both from TN) I told them that I was sad we had to come to the Hill to see them. Oh yes, folks I am not afraid to give them a nice reminder. And yes I threw in the I voted for you guilt trip too. I know they are busy, but it needs to be a part of their job. I told Bernie Sanders (Vermont) he needs to go and not just send his aides. The aides are nice too, but the elected official needs to make the time to go. Senator Jack Reed (RI) has totally impressed me. He truly cares for our guys. I can sniff out fake quick and trust me Senator Reed is anything but. He is a truly great man!

Take a moment today and see what makes the news. I am pleased to report that when we went home to TN Chaz made the lead story on 3 out of 4 channels. Trace Adkins' home burning beat him out of one top spot. But ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox showed Chaz's homecoming on each broadcast (the 5, 6 and 10). The stories were all great and it made me proud to be from TN. Our news stations could pick a different soldier and their family every night and could bless our country with incredible stories of faith, perseverance and courage. I get to witness these stories everyday thanks to all the great people we have met. Chaz and I get giddy when another soldier and family make the news. That's why you'll see me post them.

Our military hospitals are filled with tremendous stories. But it seems that some of us are too celebrity focused and are too busy worrying about little things that are really so small. This morning Carrie Underwood's song So Small popped into my head. I thought you know my family is on a really hard road right now, but I am thankful that Chaz and I can see that this is just what we have been given and we are going to make the best out of it. If we can take this mountain and make it small others can do the same. You just need the will and faith to make it happen. Remember if you cannot fix it with your hands it is not your problem to fix and you need to give it to God. He will sort it out with faith and patience.

No matter what please make sure you pray for these guys and gals everyday. They need it. Some don't even know you are doing it. But God is listening so keep your dialog going with Him. I shall step off of my soapbox now! Have a great day! :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Our First Long Distance Adventure

Yesterday we ventured out to the Team Allen BBQ Bash in Chesapeake City MD. It was a two hour car ride. Which you may shrug your shoulders and say that's no big deal. But it is to us. Chaz has not gone that far yet. So it's a very big deal to us and is super exciting.

We had to go to this BBQ. First we are honored that anyone wants to help us in any form, shape or fashion. We couldn't let them do this and not show up to say thanks, even though they told us that it was far away and to not worry about it. Chaz and I are just so thankful for all the amazing people who keep coming into our lives to help us get to that new normal.

We had so much fun with this group of people. They had food, a band and games to help raise money to help us move on with our new normal. There were a ton of motorcycles and people there. So many people were there that I did not meet everyone. I think Chaz at least shook all of their hands. We did meet some great people from the various motorcycle clubs from all over the region, the VFWs, American Legion and Ladies Auxiliary. It was a great day filled with great people.

Cyrus and Mariah you guys did a great job!! Many thanks to you guys for kicking this off and many thanks to all of your awesome friends and their friends and their friends! We all had such a great time yesterday and we are so thankful for all of you guys.

We got to really get away from the hospital and really see the area. Maryland is beautiful. We drove past Baltimore and got to see the city. The girls and I went there to see NKOTBSB but we enjoyed seeing it again and Chaz got to see it for the first time. There was a huge cruise ship docked on the harbor and that got my brain churning.Deryn pointed out that her favorite TV person Duff from Ace of Cakes lives in Baltimore and that we need to find him. Deryn also was excited to see that Philadelphia and New York were within driving distance too. So we discussed where else our travels could take us. It's so exciting to think about all the things we could do. After we get back from TN we hope that Chaz will be up for some of these adventures.

On the way home we found a Sonic. Wahoo!! We all four were so excited. In TN and OK Sonics are everywhere. Here they are almost non-existent. Even though we ate at the BBQ, our little crew had to stop and get a treat. That cherry limeade was perfect and hit the spot. It was nice to find a little reminder of home yesterday. It was a great surprise. If these awesome people wouldn't have had this BBQ for us then we wouldn't have gone on our little adventure. What another amazing day!!!

Guys thanks again for everything!!! We are so grateful for you taking your time out to help us! We'll see you soon!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Our Night with Bob & Elizabeth Dole & their family & friends

Our night started out a little frustrating. Unfortunately they did not bring the buses with the wheelchair lift. So Deryn and I ran back to Fisher House and grabbed Chaz's legs and all the things he needed to put his legs on and we drove them back down. They are very heavy and it was very hot yesterday. She and I drove them down parked and got them to him. Then Chaz got to walk onto the bus. He did very well and people were very happy to move and let us have the front rows so we could all sit together.

We drove to the Watergate. I thought we were going to the Rivers at Watergate. That is the restaurant we dined at for the Kennedy Center event. But no we went into the actual South building of the Watergate complex. Chaz, the girls and I just moved right along and then in the middle of the hallway was Mrs. Dole welcoming everyone to their home and giving out hugs to everyone. I just continued to push Chaz in and then Mr Dole was in the living room waiting for everyone and taking pictures. We took our shook his hand and move on to the others come in. Then we went out to the patio. You're thinking oh my gosh she's crazy it was so hot. But Mrs Dole have a tent set up to cover their patio with AC pumping into it. It was freaking sweet. Then we look and there's a bar set up for the occasion. Chaz and I finally began assessing the situation and then it dawned on us that we were in their home. Chaz says, "Did you know we were coming to their house?" I told him, "No I thought we were going to the Rivers (the restaurant)" He said, "Well this is a nice surprise." I agreed.

We hung out on the patio and hung out with other soldiers and friends of the Dole family and the Dole family. We met their daughter Robin and their adorable friend Bunny from North Carolina. Then I met this great family from Oregon. The daughter, was named Kate ot Katie, we just so many Kates and Katies I get them mixed up all the time and my friends know I am not great with names. But I hung out with her for a while. She reminded me a lot of myself, just a younger version. Her little brother Clark thought Chaz was too cool (because we all know Chaz is) and became friends with him. What a great family! I hope our path cross again. You could tell they were so excited to be there and to meet the soldiers and their families.

We were treated to a lovely self serve buffet dinner. We had some yummy ham and all sorts of fixings. Deryn and Ryann loved the crescent rolls. I lost count of how many they ate. We also met David Bradley (I think that was his last name). He was another family friend and was super nice too.

Then the Doles brought everyone in the living room and they both spoke and it was so cool to listen to them. Mr Dole said the title of the greatest generation is now being past to us. He says no one ever asked them to deploy, come home, deploy. He also said the soldiers are his inspiration. He also told this great story about when Monica Lewinski moved out next door they bought her apartment so they could have more room. Deryn commented while we were there that Chaz should talk to them about how they set up their house because it could work for us. Then she found their stair lift (like the one on Up) and said, "Here mom, this is what Daddy needs." Then we sang Happy Birthday to him and ate some cake.

The girls were extremely well behaved. Then this ladybug caught Ryann's eye in this glass case and asked for my camera because she was to take a picture of it because it was so pretty and she wanted to remember it. Then she had me take her picture with it. Then Deryn said it's time to leave we have to say thank you. She grabbed Ryann and they ran to Mr Dole and cut in front of what I did not realize until it was too late was a line waiting to do the same. Boy those cuties are fast. Deryn took Ryann by the hand and walked right up to him and said, "Thank you so much for having our family. I hope you have a happy birthday." That was a super proud mommy moment. Mr Dole asked to take a picture with them and thanked them for coming.

Ryann then walked by the ladybug again and said, "Mommy, who's ladybug is that?" I pointed to Mrs Dole and said, "It hers sweetie." She said, " Can I tell her it's pretty?" I said sure and about that time Mrs. Dole walked over and Ryann looked up and said, "I like your ladybug it's very pretty." Mrs Dole says, "Here, look at it better." Ryann had it in her hand for just seconds and Mrs Dole says, "Now it's your ladybug." I tried to argue but Mrs Dole wouldn't have it and I began tearing up. Chaz looked at me and and motioned the what's up at me. I sent Ryann over to him she open her hand and he started to tear up. I immediately hugged her and said thank you. She said, "It's a simple gift from one family to another." I told her, "You are just amazing thank you so much." Then I looked and so many other people had tears in the eyes and some were even crying. It was such a simple, yet incredibly beautiful moment. I will cherish it for the rest of my life. Mrs Dole then says, "Oh but what to give to your other daughter?" Deryn then says, "We'll share it, thank you." Then I asked to take their picture. Just thinking about last night, I immediately start fighting back the tears.

We wished them well and said good-bye to all our new friends.We got our goodies bags loaded up and then we got on the bus. Ryann held tight to that ladybug. Then she asked to put it in my purse after Chaz and I talked to her about how we wanted to make sure it was safe. Oh the bus ride home, Deryn says, "Mom, we have to do something nice for them. That party was so nice and that was so nice for her to give Ry that ladybug." Ryann and Deryn decided she would draw a picture of it to send to her.

For those wondering that ladybug will be living in my purse until I find a better place for it. Ryann says that's her favorite ladybug and she wants it to stay safe. Smart girl, huh?!

Life is so great!! I am so thankful for all these absolutely amazing experiences that just jump right onto our path. Every time I think we can't be more blessed, I swear God laughs and knocks me off my feet again. I could just explode from joy and gratefulness. One thing is for sure, this family won't forget our evening with the Doles anytime soon!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Happy 6th Month Alive Day for us!!!

I woke up this morning and knew it was just going to be a great day. But I wake up with this attitude everyday. Then as the morning progressed I realized the date. I knew my best friend was having her baby and realized we have a new birthday to celebrate and then it dawned on me, wow 6 months ago today was when Chaz took the step that changed our lives.

Alive Days are a big deal around here. Even though the guys are so humble they don't want to celebrate these milestones. Chaz says he'll only celebrate the big ones and today is a big one for me! I just sit back and look at how far we've come in such a short time and it makes me so proud! I am so blessed to be married to such a great and inspirational man and then to be blessed by these two resilient little girls. We wouldn't be able to get through all of this without our team effort. Chaz and I compliment each other very well. Even though we are opposites we make it work and we make a great team. We lift each other up and defeat any adversities that dare try to come our way. And because of this teamwork, together we have created these two amazing little girls. I feel sometimes I could burst from all the things I have to be thankful for. I am so blessed to have that problem.

It is not hard for me to close my eyes and remember the call that came in that day. I remember having to sit the girls down and tell them everything. I remember how worried I was on the first plane ride I took to go see Chaz. I remember all the worries, doubts and confusions I had. And I remember how he washed all those away once I saw him. I won't forget any of it anytime soon. But I'll also never forget all of the good that has come to us within the past six months.

We have been so blessed by some many people and organizations. Thank you just doesn't seem like enough. But we are surrounded by people who don't expect nor want to be thanked. This is kind of my thank you card to all of them. I am normally so good about all the thank you cards, but I don't think I'll ever be able to write them all.

I always knew I had so many awesome friends and family, but now I know who my real friends are. I thank you for all your support. Thank you for helping me make all of this work. I know you all had your doubts with the week here, week there plan, but together we did it. It truly takes a village to make life work and we are so blessed that ours has grown to be so big in the past six months.

Thank you all for helping us get this far. We never could have made it without all of your support and prayers! We are forever thankful. God bless you all!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 21 Update

Of course we've had another busy week and it's not over yet! I realized today we were overdue for an update. So here goes!!

Good news on the medical front! Chaz had contracted a bacterial infection with the staph infection. We discovered this after his surgery when Dr Strauss took his 20 samples. They were worried about the bacterial strain because Chaz is one of four soldiers who have had it so far in the entire department of defense medical system. Obviously it's new and came from Afghanistan. Infectious disease has been watching it very closely. We got the call this week that they are showing no sign of it at all. In addition the staph infection is not showing up. So he will get one more week of antibiotics and then out with the Picc line! They are going to retest him Monday to make sure. If the results come out to be the same then his last dose will be July 27th and the pic line comes out July 28th!!! Woot-woot!!!

Also his last set of legs have been ordered. The C-legs are en route! These legs are not the c shaped running legs, he'll get those later. These are the legs with the bendable knee and ankle and will feel more natural. Hopefully they'll get here before we go to TN. That will make our lives easier when we get home for our vacation.

Alright update on us. The girls are great. We started homeschooling this past week because they were bored. Right now I am just focusing on review and then tossing in extras here and there. They are having a blast with the other kids here at Fisher House. They have also highly enjoyed our field trips. They are super excited that we'll be back in TN within a month. They are like Chaz and I, ready to go to the house! I am enjoying all of the awesome opportunities that keep coming to us. I just think this is all so amazing! We are all having a blast with our new adventures.

We are officially number 1 on the apartment waiting list. But that could mean this week or next month, who knows. But we needed up in the company commander's office thanks to the non-listening abilities of Chaz's chain of command. We finally found a set of ears that listen and care. I lost it Tuesday! Chaz put in for leave last week. His Primary doctor and therapists approved the departure date of Aug 15th without any problems. Well Tuesday they said we could go now and get back by Aug 18th or leave Aug 20th. I flipped. First we can't leave now, the doctor wants his infection cleared up and I want him to have the picc line gone, so we have one less thing to do while we are at home. So the first idea is a no go. Then they said we can leave next week after the line comes out and we cut our leave short to be here on the 18th, uh no! We are taking those 30 freaking days and I am not cutting it short again unless it's another medical emergency. So then the guys says well then you'll just have to wait until Aug 20th. Chaz said, you know what there's a reason we picked Aug 15th. The reason is our daughter has a cardiologist appointment at Vanderbilt Hospital on the 16th. The guy then says well your wife can change that appointment or your daughter can be seen at Walter Reed or Bethesda. Chaz said no, I want the 1st Sargeant and CO (Company Commander) in the CO's office now. Chaz had warned the guy and he finally pushed him into a corner and Chaz flipped. You just don't mess with our kids and definitely don't mess with the medical treatments of our girls.

We left the meeting we were in (we were asked to participate in a couple's resilience study) and went straight to WTB. Chaz went in first. He said eye contact with this guy is now non-existent. Sucks for that guy, huh?! So the CO actually listened and said oh ok, well then what can we do to help you guys. He asked me what do I want. I told him I need an easy button to make this all go away because my stomach is paying the price for all of it. He then said can you stay at WRAMC Fisher House until I get you an apartment. I told him I could check. He then said, "Ok you stay here, I am going to work on the apartment". I then asked about sending the stuff we don't need or will need in TN to our house in advance. He said, "Sure do you need boxes, if you do let us know and once you get it in there bring it here and we'll mail it for you." Then he said "We'll be moving you, so don't worry about that. I will make sure you get the help you need. But I bet you'll want to pack it." I told him the girls and I can handle that. Then we moved onto the leave topic. He said he had denied our leave upon the recommendation of the Sgt, but the Sgt didn't tell him squat about De's dr's appointment. He said he agreed with me that Deryn needs to stay with her continuity of care and agreed being seen here wouldn't be worth starting over. He agreed him approving the leave was the best thing to do for everyone. Then he said it's not like I have to hold your hands as you walk into Bethesda, but that's where you'll be seen once you return. We agreed, but the funny thing is, that was exactly why the Sgt wanted the leave denied. UGH!!!!

Prior to Tuesday I was moving us from WR Fisher House to Bethesda Fisher House unless or until the apartment became available. Then I was storing our stuff with a friend until we returned. At Fisher House Bethesda you can only be gone for 10 days. You have to move out of your room if you are gone longer and our con leave is 30 days. Now the Army is helping me mail some of it home and then moving where ever we need to go. Finally an easy button!! I have a Hooah button, but I'm long over due for an easy button.

Long story short, we're #1 on the apartment list and hopefully it will be sooner than later. We will be staying at the Fisher House at WRAMC until we go on leave on Aug 15th. We may switch rooms, because our House Manager, Maurice, may be closing our house down and putting us all in the bigger house, which is fine. He says we can take our dear sweet time taking everything over. If we get the apartment prior to Aug 15 then we'll go ahead and move there. If not the Army stores our stuff, which won't be much and they will put it in the apartment if it becomes available while we're gone. Allegedly we will have the apartment before our arrival in Sept. Lord I hope so, because if not I guess we'll go to a hotel upon our return?!

Uh yes this is all frustrating and even confusing. Someone in the Department of Defense or the Army (not sure, maybe both) obviously doesn't realize that we are still at war and we still have soldiers being treated for their injuries. They evidently didn't realize some of these guys will have families and they might need a place to stay because some of there treatments might take a while. Can someone please pass this news flash along? Trust me our little family is not the only family dealing with this crazy frustration and confusion.

Once again I am just thankful for Fisher House. Where would our family be without Fisher? All of the Army's housing is full and the Army is begging Fisher to take families in. Folks we have a problem. This BRAC move is making everyone crazy. The Army didn't prepare for the housing problem, which I actually understand. They can only go off of the inpatients and outpatients in the facility at the time. They cannot predict how many people will be injured and how many will have families and who will need housing. But in January if the hospital was full of injured soldiers and your outpatient housing was reaching capacity, I would assume you need to prepare for that shift that will occur later. But the housing people were too busy dealing with the BRAC move.

I currently stay out of the hospital as much as possible. It is not the same positive environment right now. No one knows what is going to happen next. Some security clearances have not gone through for the Army personnel going to a Naval institution. Some civilian contractors still don't know if their contracts are being renewed. It is a little crazy! The persons with the most expertise are being split between the two hospitals. I am pleased to report Chaz's care is remaining at the excellent level it has always been at. I know some other families have not been so lucky. Now you understand why De's appointment came at such perfect timing. It will get us out of here when things get super crazy!

Now for those worried about Deryn. I got the call from our awesome pediatrician letting me know her concerns. She heard a murmur and wants another set of ears on De. We totally agree. The doctor says on a scale of 1 to 10, she's thinking maybe a 2 for De. So we aren't worrying about anything until the second ears examine her. She's fine by the way.  She is running around like normal. No worries! But we aren't playing around with her health. We are getting her to the cardiologist and getting this taken of.

As for me I am concentrating on our girls and on having fun. When I start thinking about everything else it just stresses me out. Stress causes illness and I don't have time to be sick. My allergies give me enough trouble. I am just so thankful that I can focus on the positive and keep my brain on track. If we didn't have our little cuties to focus on, I would totally be an alcoholic by now. Oh wait, no I wouldn't you, can't have alcohol at Fisher House, I guess that saves me from that huh?! Any who I am thankful for all the wars I have been through before so I can survive this never-ending one. Please say a prayer today for all the families here at Walter Reed and Bethesda. We are dealing with a lot and we all need your prayers. We are constantly at war and on the defense for our families. We need your prayers to survive this BRAC move.

I know that this Fall everything will be better. The move will be over and we can focus on moving on rather than moving around. Regardless we are out of here in a matter of weeks and we are going to have a ton of fun until we go!! Just wait until you see what else comes out way. I don't even know what all is coming and I am super excited about it! ;)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

HOMH-- Help Our Military Heroes (Our new family)

Last night Ted, from HOMH, asked me what will the next blog be about. I told him what ever pops into my head tomorrow morning. Well I woke up this morning and all I could think about is how thankful I am for HOMH, Rideaway and Capt Phipps.

Captain Tammy Phipps is the only driving instructor in the Department of Defense. And we are blessed to have her here at WRAMC. Occupational Therapy recommends the soldiers to go visit Tammy and then she sets them up with a driving lesson schedule. HOMH talks to her about possible candidates and then Laurie enters the picture. I am so thankful Senator Lieberman stopped by yesterday because I snatched him up and introduced him to Chaz and then to Tammy and to HOMH and Rideaway and explained it all. I told him this is what you need to be talking about on the hill. These champions who are helping us fight our war on our road to our new normal. He said so I guess we need some more Capt Phipps huh?! I said yes sir because we have a lot more than one amputee who needs their independence back.

We met Laurie from HOMH the same day we met Dr Oz. Laurie comes in and meets with the families and assesses their needs and sees if HOMH can help or not. Then she reports back to the board and they decide who and how many they can help. I didn't know it at the time, but Laurie recorded me talking to Dr Oz. She told me days later when she called to tell us the board decided that when she saw me talking to Dr Oz she knew recording me and taking it back to the board was the right thing to do. Laurie told me that as I was talking to Dr Oz she wanted us to have that van as soon as possible.

So we were approved and the ball started rolling. HOMH got us in touch with Ride-away so we could get a rental van asap. Te'tro got us into a rental way faster than we ever thought could happen. It was so exciting. Chaz was discharging from the hospital and thanks to HOMH and Rideaway I was going to be able to drive Chaz to the airport to pick up my mom and our cuties from the airport. But first we went to the grocery store. You have no idea what it felt like to give him that freedom. From that day on, Chaz didn't need me to get into the vehicle. I simply clicked a button, the door opened and a ramp came out. He wheeled up and buckled, he or I pressed the button to pull the ramp back up and shut the door and we were off and running.

Before that day, I had to help get his wheelchair as close to the PT cruiser (provided by the Yellow Ribbon Fund) as possible. Then we put in a transfer board and then I helped him transfer. The boy may have lost his legs, but trust me he is not light at all. Unfortunately, Chaz only has one good limb left. Obviously his legs are gone, but his right arm is fused and really can't bare any weight on it. So that's where I come in. During the course of helping him get in and out of the vehicle or help him transfer to his chair, I pulled a few muscles and am pretty sure I cracked a rib. I should have bought stock in tylenol a long time ago!

We enjoyed our rental vans (we turned our first in when we went to TN and got another when we returned to WRAMC). But we of course we anxious to get our own. A few weeks ago we got to go watch our friends Scott and Laura get their new van and we knew our day was coming soon. Yesterday was the Allen family's big day.

My friends with vans are smiling with joy today because the Allens now own a van. I was a van snob. They just weren't for me. I am an SUV gal. But our lives have changed. Once I talked to my friend, Shauna who is also a HOMH recipient, about the van and what it did for her husband's morale I was sold. Chaz was hung up on getting him a truck. I was trying to talk to him about the van, but he was stuck on the truck. So one day, I finally said, ok you were injured, I got that, but the girls and I are a very big factor in all this. Believe it or not this injury is only medically about you, the rest is a family issue. This van could really be a gigantic help to our family. Please let's talk to these people and hear them out. Once he heard Shauna and Anthony talk about how much easier mobility had become he was in. So we moved on to Laurie and the rest of the HOMH family. For those who don't know me very well. I am am very direct and to the point, especially with my hubby.

Then there's Maureen from Rideaway. She is God's gift to bureaucracy. Since she is prior service she understands the system. I filled out once piece of paperwork for the VA and that is it. Maureen and Rideaway did the rest. Chaz just had to sign on the lines, get the keys and drive. It was so nice to have someone minimize the paperwork and make out lives a little easier. We all know about the government and their paperwork. But thanks to Maureen we barely did anything. 

The girls LOVE the van. It has tons of room and it has a DVD player with headphones in it so they are in heaven. I love it because Chaz now can drive it. He presses the button, door opens, ramp comes down, he presses a switch to make the seat turn around and face him then presses that button to make him turn back around then he drives off. It is amazing!! One of the things that crossed my mind when he was injured was oh my goodness I'll have to be his driver, for the rest of our lives. I had no idea that such amazing people were already getting our soldiers back their independence. What an enormous blessing, this all is.

HOMH currently has one fundraiser a year. They are based out of Connecticut and they have a spin-a-thon there. Last year they raised $180,000 in one day!! How amazing is it that people who will more than likely never meet these soldiers believe in and support this cause? This is what should be on the news. Our media should be filled with stories of heroes raising money and helping our soldiers create their new normal. But no we have to hear about the new celebrity crisis.

I am pleased to report that yesterday four ladies who participate in the spin-a-thon were at our van presentation. Chaz and I were so happy to shake their hands and thank them for participating in raising the funds to help us move forward. People never realize how something that may seem so small can actually be huge to someone else. These fabulous people turned the spinning classes that they love into a way to help others. How incredibly brilliant is that?!

So today please say a prayer of thanks for HOMH, Rideaway and Capt Phipps. Pray that Senator Lieberman heard my words and will become an advocate for this program. God is listening and can make great things happen. These people are absolutely amazing and already have a special place in heaven. God sees and knows about their great works. He has amazing things planned for them. Chaz and I are so blessed that we can be a part of it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Why Am I Homeschooling our girls?!

Just like everything else in our little world I find myself defending myself on why we are homeschooling our girls. I just shrug my shoulders and say hmm, one more war huh?! We are homeschooling the girls for these reasons. First we will be traveling back and forth for possibly the next year depending on Chaz's healing. Second, we finally get to be a family. Third, we're in DC! Fourth, we need control over something in our lives right now.

We do not know what the next year holds. The girls have been attending Clarksville-Montgomery County schools (CMCSS) in TN since they were school age. The CMCSS school year begins Aug 6. We cannot return to TN until August 15th and we are only allowed to stay for up to a month. The Maryland school year begins right after Labor Day, at that time we will still be in TN. We also plan to return to TN for the Christmas season. Since we plan to do so much traveling, Chaz and I cussed and discussed and then talked to several other homeschooling parents and decided it was an option worth looking into. So we began looking. My friend Cassandra has one of the biggest advocates and has been such a blessing in helping us make this decision. She has been homeschooling for going on 5 years and has been through many trials and errors. We are so blessed to have her as our personal adviser. She is full of so much valuable information. It is great to have someone so knowledgeable in our corner.  

My second reason for homeschooling to me is the most important one. Chaz has been coming in and out of the girls lives all of their lives. Poor Deryn and Ryann have only known wars, deployments and separations. We have been given the gift of time together as a family. Chaz will have to go to appointments everyday, but every afternoon he will be with his girls. We get to have dinner together every night. We have only had this sporadically and we never knew how long we would have him. The girls have never had the opportunity to have their dad so often for an indefinite amount of time. It is the best part of this situation. As Ryann said the other day, "I am so happy Daddy's not going back to big work." (That's what she calls deployments). I myself have waited over 12 years to have Chaz in my life every day. I have had to give him up time and time again. But that will never happen again. Of course I am not happy that this is what had to happen so we could have him, but I am just so thankful to have him. He is the love of my life and we can begin enjoying our happily ever after now without interruptions.

Our third reason is that we are in DC. Holy moley we are in one of the most educational locations in America. We have so many resources at our finger tips the girls have a chance to learn so much in such a short time. The funny part is they don't even realize they are learning because they are having so much fun. We have plans for so many adventures. Of course there's the monuments and museums, but we have Mt Vernon, Montpelier, Monticello, Baltimore, Gettysburg, New York and Colonial Williamsburg within a very short driving distance away from us. Chaz and I haven't been to places so it will be a learning experience for our whole family. Of course those who know me best know I am way excited about all of this. But I get even more excited when Chaz and the girls get as excited as I do!

My fourth reason is that we need to have some control over our lives right now. Chaz and I don't know what's coming next. We don't know how long we'll be living here. We don't know when or if the next infection is coming. We don't know if he'll have anymore surgeries. We cannot control the timing of his healing and healing the human body is not something you want to rush. We have so little control over our lives right now that we need a positive place to focus our energy. We can control the girls education. We can spend time learning with them. We can travel to places and have tons of fun with our girls. Since we have something positive to focus on and it helps the days pass a lot more easily.

So there's our main reasons for homeschooling. Honestly we don't care about other peoples' opinions. We know that what we are doing for our girls is the best thing to do. However people keep asking why so here is why. I doubt we'll home-school the girls for the rest of their lives. We are very happy with the CMCSS school system and one day we will finally return to our home in Clarksville. Chaz plans to remain on active duty and we will stay at Ft Campbell so the girls will remain in that school zone. This is what we feel we need to do for our family right now.

Our little family has suffered a hard blow this year. Chaz and I want to enjoy our family right now. We want to spend all the time we can with our little cuties. They will of course still get social interactions. We are not going to lock them up and them only spend time with us. Kids need to be kids. I am currently looking for a gymnastics and /or dance studio for them to get out some of their energy. I am also going to contact the local Girl Scout council. In addition, they have already made several friends here and we'll continue those relationships. Chaz and I may not be perfect parents but we are blessed to be parents and we will celebrate that and enjoy everyday with our girls. Besides before we know it they will be teenagers going a hundred miles an hour and will barely acknowledge us. Time flies and we know that and before we know it, all of this will just be memories and we want it filled with great ones.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Amazing Non-Profits with Such Amazing People

Last night at the Congressional Cupcake Wars we got to help represent Fisher House. It was such an honor. The owners of Sprinkles donated $10,000 to Fisher House and Chaz and I were able to thank them for military families everywhere. I know Charles and Candice (owners of Sprinkles) enjoyed seeing exactly where that money goes. I know I always like seeing my donations at work.

I truly enjoyed talking to the Congresspersons, news reporters and everyone else about how awesome Fisher House has been to us. Chaz and I will forever be grateful for our room at Fisher and all the plane tickets provided by Hero Miles to help me and the girls get back and forth between TN and DC. If it wasn't for Hero Miles our plan of one week in DC, one week in TN may not have worked out so well. We are so thankful that if Fisher House wanted us to go anywhere and speak on their behalf we'd do it in a heart beat! I just can't believe one year ago I was taking my Girl Scouts on a tour of the Ft Campbell Fisher House and now we live in one. Chaz and I still can't believe Q108 in Clarksville helped Chaz raise $10,000 so he can bike the Army Ten Miler. We are both so excited that so many people are behind Chaz and Fisher House. It's just amazing!

Fisher House is probably the most well known, but we are also thankful for Operation Troop Aid, Help Our Military Heroes, Operation Ward 57, Operation Second Chance, the Walter Reed Society, Operation Homefront, The Yellow Ribbon Fund and the Wounded Warriors' Trust. All of these great 501s have helped us in some type of capacity. The common denominator for all these organizations is the terrifically amazing people who run and operate them. The people who make these organizations work all just want to help our military. They just want to thank everyone in the military for their service and they want to do anything little or big to bring smiles to the faces of the wounded warriors and their families. These organizations don't just focus on the wounded, they focus on all the the soldiers across the branches.

There are so many wounded warriors and our families and unfortunately the Army just doesn't have the funds to help us in every aspect. That's where all these great organizations step in. They bridge that gap to help us have that continuity of care that is necessary for healing. It is these organizations that make the war we are fighting so much easier. These organizations are not looking for thanks, they do it because they know it is necessary. We have been told more than once to stop saying thank you, but that will not ever happen. We are too thankful for all the blessings we have received while we are on this journey.

One thing is for sure I am so glad that our girls can witness all of this. They are learning the lessons of community, compassion and so much more. They will learn this is a big, big world and we have to help each other through so times. When we help each other the world is such a better place. These are such important lessons for them to learn and they are learning the best way possible.

Chaz and I just want to say thanks to all the other organizations we have and haven't encountered yet. We know you are all out there and that you are also fighting the fight with us. We ask that you all keep up the great work. You have no idea how inspiring you all are. You have no idea how huge your impact on all of these families is. Thank you all for your hard work!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why did I choose this title?

I have had a few people ask me why did I choose this title. I thought I would tell exactly why. To other wives, mothers and persons who are caring for a wounded warrior it is totally obvious. To the outsiders who have never walked in our shoes, you are confused and oblivious. Let me preface this with the fact that I am not looking for sympathy, but only understanding.

From the day you receive the call that someone you love has been injured, you are on the defense, who have no idea what is next. Some of us don't know if our soldiers are even going to survive. So the battle to survive is the first fight, next comes the battle to get to the person you love. You have to wait to find out where and when they are getting to the place that they will be treated. You find yourself making sure a phone is always close by. I remember keeping my cell phone in my hand several times. And I remember jumping every time that phone rang. The Army's Casualty Affairs office was very efficient in this process. They were truly great. They were attentive and caring and brought me a lot of comfort.

Then there's the drama battle. There are so many people who just want to be a part of the drama. They want to be able to tell people they know you just so they can have attention too. You will find out very quickly who your true friends are. The weak and selfish cannot handle the struggle and they will drop out quick. If they can't make it all about them, all the time they will just disappear, which is where you want them. They will only drag you down filling your head with constant worries and sorrow. People will say some crazy things because they just don't know what else to say. The weak will lash out at the strong because they don't know how to deal. So their way of dealing is to try to tear you down. Misery loves company. The weak are jealous because you can stand and they cannot. They allow themselves to drown in self-pity rather than rising up and saying Thank you God he is alive and coming home. They want you to share that mind set. They want to be sad. So when you smile and move forward their solution is that you are crazy, delusional, or that you are just not coping. The weak don't have the faith, hope and courage to get through the storm. They do not know how to put their trust in God. You see when God is for you, nothing can be truly be against you. The selfish can only focus on the fact that a tragedy has struck them. Not you, not the soldier, not anyone else, just them. They will make it about them too. They will strike at anyone and everyone. Their anger is their way of healing. God will help lead them out of your inner circle if you just allow it.

The anger is another battle you must face. You cannot push the anger down. You must look at it and acknowledge it's there. I tell people all the time, "Of course I'm angry. My husband is 31 years old and lost his legs in a war that I don't understand. But I can control and handle my anger because I know God has a plan for us. I find peace in trusting Him and it gets me through everyday." I get every morning and say thanks for one more day, thanks that I can see and hear and walk, thanks for my amazing husband and beautiful children. Once you start looking at what you have to be thankful for the world becomes a much better place. We have found out that people who can't control the anger show their true colors. People close to us have said some things to me and to Chaz that will take me a while to get over. Words can cut very deep and when people are going through tragedies they become so raw and so exposed you truly find out who they are. It can be heartbreaking. On the other side, some people emerge from the back ground and turn out to be more amazing then you ever knew. I am pleased to say I have only been hurt by a few people and I have been lifted up and supported by so many people that I cannot count them all. It is another thing I am thankful for.

The next battle is the medical battle. Everyday our wounded warriors battle pain, nerves, infections and diseases. You never know when any of these will strike and you have to remain ready for the attack. WRAMC has a very well trained medical staff. They have dealt with these issues time and time again and know exactly what to do and when. But you have to be able to listen and to be patient. Hiccups are going to happen. You have to just know they will. But you cannot let them ruin all the progress that has already come. You just have say this is just a hiccup and we'll be back on the road soon. You also have to know that you can countless great days and then like a bomb the pain will strike and you have to fight it with all you have. You also have to be ready for the random infection that rears it's ugly head. We have already fought e-coli, MRSA and are now fighting another staph infection. Hopefully we are done fighting after this one, but only time will tell. But regardless we are ready to fight.

Then there's the emotional battle. These guys are soldiers. They were fighting the fight and now they have been dealt a huge blow. They feel like they have deserted their boys. They know the loss of them from the battlefield hurt one or many people. They know that now their guys will have to pause and mourn their absence and wonder what could they have done differently. They know these emotions because they have already been there before. Survivor's remorse is a really hard battle to fight. We fought that battle after Iraq and luckily Chaz was the only one hurt so we didn't have to fight that fight this time.

The most important lesson I have learned during all of this is that you have to listen to your heart and your body. If you are tired, then sleep. You need to scream, then scream. If you need a beer, go get one. Your body will tell you want you need and your heart will guide down the right path. You have to trust your heart to lead you. If you have enough faith, then your heart is directly connected to God and you will not be lead wrong.

Once your get to discharge your soldier from the hospital the real war begins. It's the war with policies and procedures of the Army, VA and government. Soldiers are trained to listen and obey. I am so thankful I never joined the Army because I can see how ridiculous this all is. These guys have just been through hell and then they discharge from the hospital and the Army has it in their head that since they are still soldiers they can do everything soldiers can do. This is where I like to point out the obvious and say things like, "Hey, don't know if you go the memo, but he has no legs and a fused arm and you want him to do what?" One thing is for sure some Army people are severely lacking in the common sense department. The WTB here expects these guys to show up for formations and to in-process as if they were regular soldiers at a regular duty station. Luckily Chaz has set appointments at 9 and 10 everyday so he doesn't have to report to formation, but he has to call in everyday at 7:30am for accountability. It is one of the most asinine things I have ever witness first hand. Then these devoted soldiers like my hubby say ok and push themselves to do what they are told even though they were just discharged from the hospital.  This is the dedication of our American soldiers. Sure we've lost our legs and arms, but let's go line up for formation, it's no big deal. Oh we need to go take a class, ok. Our Army would not be the great Army it is without these incredible men and women. But these men and women need to concentrate on healing, not on staying compliant with regulations and procedures.

My favorite battle is the fight of the NMA. We have to be the advocate of care and reason for these soldiers. I met a wife one time who had been bullied. She said a person from the WTB told her he didn't care if she was tired. She signed on to be her hubby's NMA and she had to step up and do her job and quit whining. I asked her "What did you say back." She said, "Nothing." I said. "Want to know what I would have said?" She said, "Yes." I told her, "I would have told him to bite me and I'd like to see him do a fourth of what we do everyday." She said she didn't think she could do that. I said "Why, because it's the Army?!" She says yes. I said, "Well you are a human being and what we are doing and giving up is a lot. We are being asked to do something that not everyone can handle doing. We do not need any added stress and how dare he speak to you like that. Next time tell him just what I told you to say and see what happens." I bumped into her again weeks later and sure enough she had another conflict and she stood up to them. I told her I was proud of her and she said her life has become so much easier since she stood up and confronted that guy.

The saddest part is why did she have to do that. Why does the WTB (not the Army) feel like they have to act like bullies on the playground? As if we need another battle.  I have talked to dozens of warriors and NMAs who are battling the same battle. It has become a constant war for us all. A war that I am ready to fight regardless of the consequences. What's the worst they can do? They can't take away my birthday and therefore I have nothing to fear. My favorite is these guys think they can beat us down. They think they can bark orders at us and we'll do whatever they tell us. But I simply lie low and take notes for the next battle. You see I am a double threat. I am college educated and I've been dealing with the Army for over a decade. They just don't know what to do with a girl like me.

The Army has taken very good care of us our the years and I will never fault the Army as an institution. I fault the individuals who have been given a smidge of power and now think they call all the shots. I do believe the Army needs to examine WRAMC's WTB. I cannot speak for the other WTBs across the nation, but I would like to see how they operate. Ours here has a total lack of communication and that carries terrible consequences. I can only hope that with time and some great people coming in it will get better. I know it will get better it just stinks right now.

We will win our war because we have God on our side. We will win because we know what is right and fair. We will win because because we are Army wives and we have been through hell and back already. I will win because everything I have ever gone through before God put me through it so I could be strong and handle this now. God put me through the fire many times so today I can be the rock for my husband and kids and so I can lead us through. I am thankful for every disappointment, every heart break, every confrontation I have suffered through. Because of all of these adversities I can fight everyday for my family.

I look forward to the day that we can just look back at this as just a memory. Some days it is just so hard to keep fighting to remind people that these guys deserve their care and compassion. I am so thankful for our teams of doctors who do not require convincing. I am thankful for the non-profits out there who recognize the need for comfort and go above and beyond. Having so many things to be thankful for makes the really crappy days not so crappy. But I will continue to fight because it a necessary fight that will yield very important results.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our Amazing trip to our Nation's Capitol

Sunday we went to a BBQ at the Malogne House. That's where I met Bert. Chaz had met him before, can't remember where, but Chaz had told him that once the girls got here we'd go on the tour. Back to Sunday, Bert sees Chaz and he points to me and the girls then Bert walks with Chaz over to me and says. "Want a private tour of the Capitol." Of course I say yes. Bert says. "Tomorrow at 4:30-5ish." I said, "We can do it!"

Luckily Chaz only three appointments yesterday. But he got into a little argument with some people from the WTB over the apartment. Then his pic line slid out a little (we think while he slept) and we had to have the nurse come and fix that, so I was so glad to have a nice distraction for us. I knew how special this was going to be, but Chaz was oblivious, bless him. So I had to do the I want to do this and I don't ask for much so get in the freaking car speech and then listen to everyone whine the car ride over. Then when I said hey girls see that building, that's where we're going. Everything turned towards the positive. We got through security and parked. Bert met us at our car.

As we walked in he called Marsha Blackburn's office to tell them we arrived. Her receptionist seemed to be preoccupied. My favorite was when Bert said, "We have a wounded warrior from the 101st who is a registered voter in her district and his family touring the Capitol, you might want her to know. He's kind of important. Thank you." He then had to explain what a wounded warrior was. I am seriously not making that one up.

The first thing I noticed was the stairs. They were made out of marble but were so worn down from all of those who came before us. It was so cool to see that and then to walk those steps. How awesome?!

As we went into the Capitol, Bert treated Chaz as if he was a rockstar. He introduced us to everyone and I mean everyone. It was crazy as we walked around Senators, Representatives, Security Guards, aides and staffers just walked right up to us as if we were celebrities. Bert was so kind he took my camera and took a ton of pics for me, there's like over 200 pics. I realized once I got home we never took one with Bert. I was so proud to see everyone put their politics aside and rush over to us to say thank you. If you look you will see Congresspersons and Senators from both parties standing side by side talking to us. It was a proud moment for me.

I caught eyes with Lamar Alexander quick, he's our Senator from TN. I met him when I was 17 in McMinnville and I got to hear him play piano back then. He and I agree on a lot of education issues. I was excited to meet him and then Senator Bob Corker came up right behind him. Both guys were awesome and yes I got their numbers. Lamar was upset that he didn't have any cards so he wrote his out on a piece of paper for me.

As we're standing with Corker, Senator John McCain came up. I think he was Chaz's favorite. We kept going back and forth thanking each other for serving the country. He then came up and put his arm around me and said "Many thanks to you. I don't know how you gals do all that you do." Such a great guy and I am so glad we got to meet him.

Next up was Bernie Sanders. I looked up at him and said, "Oh my goodness, it's Bernie Sanders." He was shocked and said, "You know who I am?" And I said "Yes sir, I studied you so many times in college. It is so nice to put a face and handshake with a name." Turns our that Senator Brown (who is some type of rockstar) was cut off by me being excited about Sanders. Bert told that story to everyone. I guess it goes in the when I translated Latin file.

Then if you follow through the pictures you'll see they just kept coming and then poof there's John Kerry. He was super nice and stood there and talked to us for quite a while. The sad thing is I couldn't even begin to tell you what we were talking about. Oh my goodness, we talked to so many people and they were all so absolutely fabulous, including the lady from Ohio (whose name I forgot).

As we were going to get on the elevator to continue our tour another guys stopped us. He was a former Marine and was super nice. Then we got up to our floor and off the elevator and the security guard and Chaz eyeball each other. Then they realize at the same time they served in Korea and in Iraq together. Small world huh?! That was another highlight of our tour. Then we met the Rep from Hawaii and he was a WWII vet.

We go down to the Senate reception room and I was on the phone telling Nick Steward where to meet us and then I had to say, "I have to hang up on you I am going to meet Al Franken." Al was too cool. I so wanted to do a Stuart Smalley impression, but I resisted.

Everyone went into vote and cuss and discuss what ever was going on and we finally went touring. Our nation's capitol is absolutely breath taking. There is so much history and so many beautiful details in every part of the building. If it is not on your bucket list you need to add it! We finally made it to the Rotunda and where greeted by the Nebraska Rep and his family. We stood and talked to them for a few. He has a really sweet wife, by the way. Then we headed to the House side. As we headed that way the Representatives poured out from somewhere and there we were again shaking hands and talking to so many people. Marsha Blackburn, our Clarksville Rep, walked by us. Bert told her that he left a message. You could tell by her face she didn't get it. But she was so nice and stood and talked to us for a while. While we were standing there talking to her we met John Boenher, Sean Duffy (Wisconsin) and several more people. Mrs Blackburn then stole our kids. She took them so they could go help her vote. Deryn was super excited and Ryann was just following along. Sean Duffy escorted me down the hall as I pushed Chaz and asked me a ton of questions. You could tell he cared about the military and wanted to know more.

We went down the hall to where Mrs. Blackburn told us to meet here and you can see by the pictures we were bombarded again. This time in the mix was Rep Steve Cohen (Memphis), Rep Jim Cooper (Nashville) Rep Fincher (Clarksville), the Reps from Indiana, Ohio and so many more. Cohen and I had a little talk because I heard him speak about the lottery years ago and I did an independent study on it. He and I had a talk about WRAMC and the WTB. He insisted on getting my info to talk about it more, which I will happily do. The Reps on the VA committees also came up to me. I was asked four times if I was willing to discuss the VA in depth more at a later date. So we shall see what will come of that. Should I let the WTB in on that secret (I think not). Nick Steward caught up with us at this time. Jean Schmidt (Ohio) came right up to us and talked for a while. I seriously thought she was going to cry as she heard Chaz's story. She then gave us all big hugs. She was super sweet and sincere.

We were invited to Senator McCarthy's office, the Majority Whip, for dinner and it was a very yummy Italian feast. We were all surprised by this, but thankful. Everyone was so nice offering us food, drinks, a place to sit everything. We went down the hall and dined there.

After dinner we made our way to the Senate Press Room. We all enjoyed this one. Nick was definitely the most excited. We each took turns taking pics at the podium and the girls took turns flipping around. Nick took a turn too, but I only got him with his big Yes! and not the actual flip. Then the alarm for Chaz's meds went off and I let De hook him up. I then explained to Nick and Bert what was going on. Once we got him hooked up we were off again. This time to the private chapel which contains the most beautiful piece of stained glass. (No pics are allowed). But oh my goodness, it has George Washington praying, and several pieces of the Founding Fathers concepts in it. It was awesome!!!

Then we went back towards the rotunda and really looked at everything. You can see that in the ton of pics I took. I think the Capitol is more beautiful at night. There's just something so special there. It's amazing to see it once the sun goes down. We went all around and really studied the paintings and sculptures that were in the room.

Then we went to the Parliamentarian's office and John Sullivan invited us to sit down. Do you know he is the 4th Parliamentarian since WWI? Seriously look it up! We sat and talked about his job as well as about Chaz and our world. He was so cordial. Ryann then chimes in and says, "Mom I am tired and I want to go." So we decided that would be it. We went outside and enjoyed the nighttime view of the Capitol.

Yes I stopped and got that baby ice cream on the way home. Actually we all got ice cream from McDonald's, not my first choice, but it was 10pm and I was tired. What an incredible night!! Chaz told me once we got in the car that he was so glad I made them go. He said it was way better than he ever imagined. He thought it was going to be completely the opposite. I so love surprising my hubby! When will he ever learn?! ;)

Have a great day!!! I hope you enjoyed the story of our awesome trip to the capitol!!

Help Our Military Heroes

On June 29, Chaz and I got to be apart of Help Our Military Heroes (HOMH) 9th award presentation of a fully handicapped accessible van to our friends, Scott, Laura and Zach. Monday, July 18, our family will be #10.

Captain Tammy Phipps is the WRAMCs driving instructor. She helps the soldiers revise their driving skills so they can get back out on the road. She also helps HOMH find possible candidates for these fully handicapped vans. Laurie, Ted and Marybeth (the chairs of HOMH) meet with the candidates to see if HOMH can help them obtain their goals. Once they find out they can, HOMH teams up with Rideaway, a company that takes vehicles and alters them to the disabled persons needs. Maureen Pepe is our incredible rep who feels like family. And thanks to the collaboration of these amazing people life becomes so much easier for our heroes at WRAMC and they get fully handicapped accessible vans.

The VA awards amputees vehicle grants to purchase or adapt a vehicle so they can get around a lot more easily. HOMH raises money to offset the cost difference and awards FREE vans to help our heroes get on with their new normal. HOMH had one fundraiser last year and thanks to their team effort with the VA and Rideaway they are about to award van #10 for the year. Rideaway obtains Dodge Caravans and then alters them to the vets needs. The vans are absolutely incredible.

This team effort makes it so easy you only have to submit some paperwork and sign and drive. They get the vans from Dodge, take care of the VA, the vehicle registration, all of it. They want to help our family just move on and they make it as easy for us as possible. You have no idea what a relief and comfort HOMH and Rideaway are until you are in this situation. These vans are a key piece to helping these soldiers move on with their lives. We, the average American, take getting in the car and driving for granted. Chaz has one good arm and he can transfer very well right now but some days are harder than others. But thanks to these amazing people, I press a button a door opens and a ramp comes down. We push Chaz in, he gets buckled and tethered down and off we go. Our van that we receive on Monday will be equipped with hand controls and Chaz will be able to drive it. Watch out he may be headed to a town near you soon!

We can never thank HOMH, Capt Phipps and Rideaway enough for everything they have done for our family. They are helping our family along the road to our new normal. I know none of them do it for the praise or the thanks, but they sure as heck deserve it. We are so blessed to have them all apart of Team Allen. We are blessed to be the tenth van awarded this year. As of Monday we will officially be apart of the HOMH family, but seems like they've been apart of our team and family for such a long time.

Tammy, Laurie, Ted, Marybeth and Maureen, 
Thank you a gazillion times for everything you have done! I know you aren't looking for praise, but you deserve it and so much more. God has a special place in heaven for you all! We look forward to watching you award hundreds of more vans as time passes. God Bless you all.

Friday, July 8, 2011

July 8-Update

We are having a blast with our friends Demetria and Ray Hale this week. They extended their stay by two days!! We are so glad!! We have finally been able to do some touristy things. Chaz finally feels up to it. But we are doing it in small doses. Today he went to PT and OT and the girls are playing and I am making phone calls and sending emails in the hopes of getting somewhere with this apartment.

Yesterday was a big day! Chaz got 4 inches taller. He looks so much more comfortable. He is now eye level with me. He really likes being taller, he says he feels more like himself. His carbon fiber fitting should be here soon and that should make him even more comfortable. He also gets to order his next legs next week. These are called C-legs and they have a workable knee and ankle! Big steps ahead, wahoo!! His infection is under control so he will remain under the dose he is on for another 3-4 weeks.

We did get approval to return to TN on Aug 15th. As of yesterday, it is for 30 days. We hope that we will still get the entire 30, but with the Army you just never know. Regardless we are getting to go back home very soon! We are really excited about it.

Now as for the apartment, basically everyone here at WRAMC is so busy with the BRAC move to Bethesda that we have been forgotten about. We found out we were on the list but were deleted once because the kids were in TN and then again when we went on leave to TN and again when Chaz went back into the hospital. Nice, huh?! Beginning Monday I am going to start being a huge pain in the arse and I will be calling our leads twice every day until I get a date for a possible move in. This "I don't know" just isn't working for us. What I want to avoid is moving twice. As of today we will have to move into the Bethesda Fisher House within the next few weeks and then move into the apartment later in the year. What I don't want to happen is I move us to the new FH house and then move again within days of unpacking. If we could just get a date that would make life a lot easier. The frustrating part is we don't know what to do and no one will give us a straight answer on anything so Chaz and I just have to decode it all and put the puzzle together. As if our little family needs anything else to figure out.

Our meeting that was supposed to be on Monday was canceled about 30 minutes before it was supposed to start. Chaz and I both think they canceled it because they didn't have any answers for us. Our next meeting is set for July 12. So hopefully that meeting will reveal answers for us. We are probably in the most frustrating phase that we have ever been in. It's not really great to find out you have been forgotten about. It truly stinks. So we will be changing that beginning Monday. By the middle of next week the people will know our names when we call. My lovely hubby is so used to the Army system and just waiting and I am the fighter and I have no patience when people do not do their jobs. So we have enjoyed our time off and Monday morning the new battle begins, wahoo!

It looks like God's plan calls for us to be at Bethesda's Fisher House because he keeps putting it in our path. So I guess that's where we're going! I will do the two moves because we don't want our family to be homeless. I am not happy about it at all, but what are my other options. WRAMC is shutting down and Chaz will be treated at Bethesda and he needs us there with him. I am just so thankful to have Fisher House to support us because the Army can't communicate within itself right now and can't seem to get their act together. I can sleep well at night because the Fisher Foundation bridges the gaps of caring that the Armed Forces can't seem to provide right now. I know the people of the Fisher Foundation will be there to help us. I am thankful for Fisher House because our house manager already reserved us a room at Bethesda because he was afraid of exactly what is going on. Praise the Lord for the Fisher Foundation!!

Long story short, life is a little frustrating for us, but it's nothing that we can't handle. We are thankful for the people in our path who want to help us. I just pray that the people who are hindering us just get out of our way. Please continue to pray for our family!
Have a great day!
=) Jess

Thinking about today- July 4th

My closest circle of friends know that the American Revolution is my favorite time frame of history. So this morning I can't help but smile because over 200 years ago some amazing people stood up and said this is it England and the rest of the world, we are free, what are you going to do about it cause we are ready to fight. And we did fight and we won our independence and we have been rocking out every since.

We live in such a wonderful country. Every where you look there is something to be thankful for. If it wasn't for all of the Americans before us and the Americans fighting for us now we wouldn't be able to celebrate what we have. We all have so much to celebrate. When you begin to take stock in what we have the joy will overwhelm you and you will have a much better day. So take a minute and be thankful for all this great country provides for you.

Our little family was dealt an incredibly hard blow this year. But we are thankful everyday for what we have and what will come. The enemy may have tried to defeat us, but my husband, like so many other patriots before him and like those fighting now refuse to be defeated. They have refused to let that enemy win. I am not just talking about the enemies of war; I am also talking about the enemies everywhere. These wounded warriors could be defeated by viruses, depression, their injuries and so much more. Instead they get up everyday and continue to fight for their independence from their injuries. They now are fighting to obtain that new normal. These wounded warriors, like my husband, are making all veterans and Americans before them smile down from heaven upon them. I could not be more thankful for the sacrifices of all of these great men and women. And I could not be more grateful to be married to such an amazing person.

So today raise your glass, alcoholic or not, and toast those who made and keep making this day possible. Most importantly smile today because someone cared enough about you to fight for our independence and that we still have those incredible people fighting to protect you and your freedoms. Happy 4th!!!!
=) Jessica

July 2 Update

Chaz is doing very well. He is back to the normal we had before his two surgeries. Since he had 8 days off from his legs he had a little difficulty when he put his legs back on, but as you saw in the pictures after a few steps he was good to go. His carbon fiber sockets for his legs arrive on Wednesday. This is very exciting. The carbon fiber is more comfortable. All amputees have to have a plastic socket first because the plastic can be manipulated so easily. Your legs shrink a lot after they have been amputated. So the plastic is necessary during the first stages of your development. Chaz's legs have remained the same size for quite a while so no he's ready for carbon fiber. Chaz is pumped! Next step is making him taller, which will hopefully happen soon as well.

Chaz's blood test results showed that the antibiotics are doing their job. So he will remain at 2000mg of vancomycin (I know I misspelled it, but you get the idea) twice a day. I am administering the drugs via his Pic line. He has finally adjusted to it so it doesn't make him sleepy anymore, so he can move on with his day. He has to go to infectious disease once a week to have blood drawn and check those levels. We have to hope that this dosage will continue to work. If not he will have to begin getting getting it every 8 hours instead of every 12. As of today he has 5 weeks left of that treatment. We are trying to come back to TN around mid-August.

Hopefully we'll get word on going back home and getting the apartment next week. We got rid of that little hiccup we had and we are now back on the road to healing. We hope you have a great 4th!!!!