My fellow wounded warrior friends and I have been contacted recently by people asking why would certain people be saying that a soldier has been injured and their family and friends are saying no one is helping them and they even seem to be begging for money. They have said that it seems like we're all being taken care of, but others are saying the opposite. Well there are lots of reasons why people may say that.
When something happens to someone we love, we just act. We don't always take the time to think or to learn about the options first. So they could be saying that because they just don't know what's out there. Basically they are reacting to the panic of the situation and are simply trying to help their loved one without doing the research first. Which is totally understandable if you think about it.
When tragedy strikes you will get the opportunity to really see who people are. All their defense mechanisms will fall down because they can't hold up their walls and deal with what's going on at the same time. So you'll find out they might be using the soldiers injuries for their own profit. Some are so stricken with grief they become paralyzed and don't know what to do and don't know where to even begin to look for help. And them some people are flat our drama queens and they want your attention and pity. The list of why people will say they are not being taken care of sits in a nice Venn Diagram and is mixed with so many emotions.
We have encountered many people let their anger rule and immediately lash out at our government and blame them for what has happened and sometimes they go off on some super crazy tangents. Some will say that since their soldier was serving our country and protecting our freedoms you should empty your purses and wallets to help them. And they'll say that our soldiers will not receive adequate care and support. Well let me tell you how Chaz and I feel about that.
Chaz knew and chose the risks when he signed his contracts with the Army. I knew the risks and chose to support him by marrying him and standing by him for the past 13 years. I am too selfish to join the Army. I cannot give myself up so freely and be told what to do. But I can support my husband and all his colleagues for their selflessness and courage. I got to tell you, it is pretty freaking sweet to be surrounded by heroes everyday! They inspire me to do more for them. Their stories drive my fight for us to do better for them.
Our soldiers know and accept what they are giving up for their service to our country. Our soldiers do not expect anything from the American people. Our soldiers do not feel entitled. They are proud that they served for us. They are pissed that they got taken out, but they are getting to their new normal one day at a time. The warriors in our circle of friends would be back in the fight right now if you let them, Chaz is one of them. Chaz embodies the Soldiers' Creed, the NCO Creed and all the above. My Chaz is an American soldier, he embodies the spirit of so many soldiers who have gone before him. We knew the risks and we chose to stay in. Chaz signed his "do or die" contract a few years ago. We were in for the 20. Sure the Army has its faults but has been great to our family. We are Army Strong and proud of it.
Obviously the Army cannot take care of every problem we have. There are too many of us and some will slip through the cracks. Yes that sucks and it's not fair and we wish we could solve all of this. Some people choose to slip through the cracks because of their anger. But please remember that's why the non-profits exist. Amazing people saw the need for help and that's why they are doing what they are doing. I am so proud that we have had help from the non-profits. Their help has made our family succeed on our journey. We have not abused the non-profits, but heck yes we have used some of them. We plan to use their help some more this year. Does that make us bad or beggars? No, not at all. These people want to help us and our little family deserves a few easy buttons now and then. What would make us bad is if we abused them and if we didn't share their information so they can help other families like ours.
Some people feel like what the Army and the non-profits are doing is not enough. Maybe it's not, but to Chaz and I it's pretty freaking awesome. Of course I say this as a wounded warrior wife of one year, I can only hope the future is just as great. Chaz's medical care has been outstanding. To me that's all that matters. The VA has ways to help us (vehicle, housing and clothing allowance and etc) and maybe it's not good enough to you, but to us it's great. If Chaz wasn't in the service, what would we do?! Civilians don't have all the things we have access too. (Well normal civilians don't.) Then all these amazing Americans that want to say thank you. Oh my gosh I could write a book on how amazing the support of our country is. Our family has been so blessed and we are not the only family by far. We are just one of the few families that talk so publicly about it. We have tried to use the attention we have received to educate others on what is out there and how they can help other military families. Everyday I share a resource with another family and I am so blessed to be able to do that. Let me explain a few things to possibly help a few more families.
When your service member is injured the person your service member wants the Army to contact will be contacted. This person is listed on the form they should have filled out before they deployed. Then that person can choose to let the Army contact others. When Chaz was hurt I was called first, then I authorized the Army to notify his parents. The thought of me telling them Chaz was hurt was too painful. I had no idea what to say or how to say it so I let the Army do it. You might think that is insensitive, but please remember I had two little girls looking at me and I needed to be an iron lady myself right then. I was going to have to split into two and I knew I would talk to them soon and the Army needed me to do other things for Chaz. I also had to get the arrangements working for what I was doing in TN so I could meet Chaz in DC when he got here.
If your service member is injured severely to a certain degree then you will be authorized to go to Germany (and the Army pays for this). If you need to be there, they will get you there. It may not be as fast as you like, but it will happen. Chaz was severe, but they didn't have a reason to hold him so they sent him to DC which is where I met him (which is both amazing and awesome). When it's time for you to meet your soldier, up to three people can have orders. These three people are given ITO (invitation travel orders) to come be with that service member. This includes a round trip plane ticket and housing accommodations (hotel, Fisher House, something) and $71 per Diem (DC area) for expenses. The Army picks you up from the airport and helps you through the whole process. For Chaz his ITO orders were given to me, his mom and dad.
Once your soldier goes to outpatient status one person is chosen to go on NMA (Non-Medical Attendant) orders. For Chaz that was me. The Army provides you with some type of on post housing. We stayed at Fisher House and then moved to 1200 (a handicap compatible apartment building off campus). This is the way it was done at WRAMC. They had the Malogne House which did not have kitchens. I needed to be able to cook for my family. Now Bethesda has Building 62 which is super nice and is like a 2 bedroom apartment. When you are an injured soldier living in WTB housing you will not lose your housing allowance, which was vital for our family because we still have a mortgage to pay for our house in TN each month.
Now what does the Army ask you to do to receive your $71 per day. They ask you to go to the SFAC (Solider Family Assistance Center) and sign in once a week. Then every 15 days you fill out a travel voucher to have your per Diem funds directly deposited into your account. Since these funds fall under the scope of a disability payment they are non-taxable to you. Why do you have to sign in and do the paperwork? Because we have had people who just showed up every 15 days to collect money and they were not here helping the soldier. Oh yes, yes that has happened.
Please also remember our soldiers are being paid their regular pay the entire time. While they are in-patient their pay is still considered combat zone qualified since their injuries were obtain in combat. In other words their pay is tax exempt. Then when they go out-patient they still get the same pays the only difference is they are taxable.
You can see the beginning is fairly well taken care of. Then as you progress in your healing there are a ton of non-profits that help pay for flights, food, bill assistance, hotels and lodging, etc. In the case that your regular pay is not enough to meet your families' needs. This list of non-profits is a very nice long list and these amazing Americans are just waiting to help our families. We have been blessed to help them help others. We are proud to know some of them personally and happily help tell others about them. Here's our list to google. Fisher House (housing), Hero Miles (plane tickets for the family travel to the soldier), Veterans Airlift Command (WW travel), Yellow Ribbon Fund (rental cars for caregivers, hotel stays for visiting families), Help Our Military Heroes (adapted vans), Operation Ward 57, Operation Second Chance & Operation Homefront (these last 3 do all sorts of stuff) and this is my short list.
Here's my golden rule on dealing with other injured families. Go with your gut!! If you think something is fishy with a family, then it probably is. We have had to back away from helping some families. We have tried to help them, but the help was never good enough. They wanted what they wanted immediately their way. Well where I come from, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Just let me find out that you've bad mouthed a non-profit because you are a brat. We will have words to share, I promise you. Not all non-profits are a good fit with all families, that doesn't mean you need to bash them. Non-profits are ran by amazing people who just want to help. It may not be your way or exactly what you want, but the fact they sacrifice their time and resources for your family is commendable and you should be thankful for what you are given. Running a non-profit is not an easy task and we should appreciate what these folks are doing for us.
I have said time and time again don't give to Chaz and our family, give to one of the many non-profits listed on Team Allen. Chaz and I got this, that's why we are trying to pay it forward. We are where we are thanks to those who helped us get here. We are further down the road and now the help needs to go to the families who just started on this path. Just so you know the non-profits are very easy to contact and are so happy to help. All you have to do is ask your LNO, Squad Leader or SFAC person who come to check on your soldier everyday. If you can ask for money on facebook, then you can ask these people who you see everyday what options are available for your family.
Have we had a fundraiser? Yes. Do we have t-shirts and stickers that say Team Allen on them? Yes. But Chaz and I never asked for any of it. Our friends did it for us. They wanted to make sure we had everything we needed for us and our girls. Does that make us horrible people? Absolutely not. Does having a fundraiser for your soldier make you a horrible person? Absolutely not. Our community wanted us to know how much they supported our family and that is amazing. If your community wants to do that for your soldier, then do it! We don't know what the future holds, but to get there we need to know people are there to support our families.
The community support has helped Chaz so much in his healing. We're really lucky because we've got the communities from where we each grew up, plus where we currently leave. So we've got support coming from many directions. I've said it once and I will say it again. It takes a village to educate a child, it takes a nation to heal a soldier. Chaz and I didn't know what to say about the t-shirts. We were so humbled that anyone would even have that idea. We think it's so cool that anyone wanted to do it. Chaz (and every other soldier we know) doesn't think he's a hero, he'll tell you he was just doing his job. So they feel so honored when you recognize them for their service and sacrifice.
With all that said, please be aware there are some people out there who are trying to take advantage of this situation. They are some people using their soldiers to make money for themselves. Yes we have seen this many, many times. Nothing is worse then watching this happen to a soldier. The soldier usually has no knowledge or absolutely no control over it. JAG tries to get in and intervene, but sometimes there's nothing they can do. So if you have doubts about someone's intentions then ask what non-profit can you donate to in their name and go that route. The non-profit will make sure the soldiers gets it if they need it. This helps put the power in the soldiers' hands.
Here's another belief that Chaz and I have. You cannot solve money problems with money. You solve money problems with education. What I mean is why do you have the money problems in the first place? Let's get to the root cause and fix that rather than tossing money at the "problem." We donate to non-profits, but not to individuals. For individuals we do other things. We might cook a meal, watch their kids or something along these lines, thus saving the individual money. In the case of the injured families, we share our resources with them in hopes of fixing their problems. If the non-profits feel they need financial assistance then let the non-profits help. That is what they are there for.
The journey to the new normal is an extremely hard road to navigate, but support for our families is a must. The message I want to get across with this blog post is that support doesn't come with a price tag. Telling me you are praying for our family means just as much to us as a check that is written or a gift that is given. Please don't let someone guilt or bully you into parting with your money. Should you be compelled to help our troops? Damn straight you should! Every American should! These wounded warriors are amazing and they deserve our prayers and support for the sacrifices they have made. But there are so many ways to help support our troops and they don't all involve your purse or wallet. You can share the facebook pages of the non-profits with your facebook friends. You can share the stories of our families with others so that encourages them to pray for our families. If you want to help raise money then you can have your own fundraiser for one of the non-profits. Mostly importantly let your gut lead you. If you listen God is telling you the right thing to do. Listen to that voice and you won't go wrong.