Today I will go back to the 3rd floor of Bldg 62. I am going there today to meet with a member of the Surgeon General's staff and a few families to get a real dialog started so we can work together and solve problems for these families. We won't fix everything today, but we'll at least get started. Great things are going to happen. I just know it!
The 3rd floor is where WTB resides. I have not been there since July. I am going to tell you the story that pushed me to deciding I would not go there unless it was really important. In July, I made the decision to cut the toxic things out of my life and WTB was one of those cuts. I realized I was wasting my life there so I just stopped going and I started working with the non-profits. I have been so much happy since I made that switch.
First let me clarify the Army is Chaz's career. It's not mine. There's a very good reason I did not join the military and this journey has proven that I am not a good soldier. I am great team player, but I am so not a soldier. I love my husband with all my heart and I support him in his career, but I have always stayed out of it. He signed up, I did not. My job is to support him. I can support him without being drowned in stupid.
I feel like I was drafted into the Army once he was injured. I had to step up and be his voice. There's no telling what would have happened if I didn't. Slowly but surely I got to back off and get things back to the way they always have been. I stepped back from being Chaz's voice and stepped up for others. I speak Army policy and regulation very well. I am a little different because I also speak common sense. I guess you could say I am multilingual. :)
At the end of June there was a power outage that lasted into the 4th of July. I am sure you read about it in the news. Well the girls were in TN, thank goodness. Chaz and I just made the best out of the situation. A week without power in the summer's heat is not fun, but it could have been worse. Chaz at one point told me he was proud of me for not complaining. I told him I couldn't complain. I knew he had endured hotter temperatures in Iraq and Afghanistan. I also knew he was enduring hotter temperatures now because of his amputations. So I would sweat and keep my mouth shut.
That Saturday morning when the power went out, I emailed our chain of command. I didn't and still don't have our squad leaders information. I wanted them to know about the status of the 30 families here in our building. About an hour later our squad leader called to check on us. Chaz asked him where could we get an extension cord and a fan. We had one outlet that worked and the building told us to plug fans in. The squad leader says, "I don't know, we don't have them here. You'll have to look it up." So how exactly were we supposed to do that with one outlet of power?! I asked Chaz to ask him where is the closest Home Depot or Lowes. The squad leader told Chaz that he had no idea and that we'd have to look that up too. Instead Chaz and I took our friend up on her offer and went and stayed with her. She invited several other families to join us as well. Eventually Chaz and I did just drive around and we found a home depot. We took our cords and fans back to our apartment to make it tolerable.
Instead of joining us at our friends' parents' house, many families chose to wait on the Army. By the time people in charge began reacting, the hotels were either all booked or were charging a ridiculous rate. Late that evening the Army started sending families an hour away to Aberdeen Proving Ground. One family was told to get on a bus and that they were being taken to a hotel. They thought it was in close proximity. No, it was over an hour away. The families were all put up in rooms there. Only one was ADA compliant so the warriors all shared a key to use the bathroom there. Could it have been worse, absolutely? But what this showed me was there was a lack of an emergency plan.
Do you know how many people came to help the families evacuate? 1, yes 1 person from WTB came to help evacuate 30 families in our building. Our neighbor, a fellow wounded warrior and his friend, who was visiting on leave, went door to door trying to check on the families while the 1 person from WTB sat in the lobby and waited.
The families that went to Aberdeen stayed there for almost a week. The WTB cancelled all of their medical appointments while they were there. I found it interesting that they all were contacting me for updates. I was told by more than one family that they had no idea what was going on. Finally July 4th, the power came back on and we all moved forward. We emptied our fridge and freezers of the spoiled groceries and tried to get caught up. I had a lot of fun that week. I got to sit for the IRS RTRP exam on top of all of this.
The Tuesday following the power outage, I went to a NMA meeting. I stated that we had survived that emergency and now was the perfect time to plan for the next one. History shows us the best time to plan for the next emergency was on the heals of the one that just occurred. I was snipped at and told that I "needed to have more compassion for the private lives of the (WTB) squad leaders." What did I say back?! "Why, you don't have any for mine?" That was it, that pushed me over the edge. I left the 3rd floor and I have yet to return.
Let me get this straight, I am supposed to have more compassion for people who get to make this place their home, while my family and countless other families are forced to live here thanks to the tragic consequences of war?! Explain that to me again.
I called my mom that next day and cried to her. I just don't understand why you want to fake it until you make it when lives are at stake. Our amputees dehydrate rapidly. The higher that amputation the harder it is on them. They are on narcotics which also adds to dehydration. Heat rises and some of them are on the 14th floor. They had no water and no power and some of them have no legs. Why don't you want to make sure these families have what they need in case of an emergency? 99% of us are not from the DC/MD/VA area. We don't know where to go in case of an emergency. The WTB is their life line to help and that life line took them to Aberdeen and left them. Chaz and I are older and we know what to do. Some of these guys have never dealt with any of this and they don't know what to do.
I sent an email that week to a General's wife who has become a great friend to us. I told her I didn't really miss Ft Campbell until that meeting. I told her about when Chaz deployed to Iraq. Deryn was 3 and Ryann was just an infant. A really bad storm came through and blew down our 6ft fence panels. Rear Detachment called to check on me and the girls. I told them about my fence and they sent 3 guys to help me. But here I'm away from my family, my friends, my network, my everything. I am starting over in a huge city. My husband is a double amputee. We have a massive power outage. My new friends and the maintenance workers of the building are the ones who help me.
I'm in a building with 30 wounded warrior families. All of which have a member of their household who is disabled in some capacity and then send 1 person to help. Thank goodness Chaz has prosthetic legs because the elevators were out. The maintenance crew helped me get his chair up and down the stairs when we were coming and going. So what about those families who haven't made new friends yet? What about the ones who are intimidated by the big city we've been thrust into? We all sucked it up and made the best out of it. We helped each other through it. That's what we did. But we can prepare for the next time and pray there isn't one.
The lesson I learned from that event is really only us cripples can take care of each other. (Before you get offended by that statement, Chaz was the one who stated it.) Why is this?! Because the people "helping" us hear us, but don't listen. They are too busy telling us what we need. Could the power outage have been worse? Of course, but what it showed us is we need an emergency plan to fall back on for when this happens again. It showed us we have a gap in service to these families. So I tried to go to the WTB for help and was told to have more compassion for the WTB's squad leaders. I am having more compassion for them. I reached out and contacted the non-profits. In the case this happens again I'll be able to sleep knowing the families have a life line they can count on.