Saturday, April 19, 2014

PTSD Workbook Giveaway

Our FlenerFamily.blogspot.com is only a couple hundred views away from 6,000. To celebrate, I'm doing a give away! I will give one reader a copy of the The PTSD Workbook: Simple, Effective Techniques for Overcoming Traumatic Stress Symptoms  It is an excellent tool for both veterans with PTSD and civilians with non-combat related PTSD.

I came across this resource when I was in grad school working on my Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology about a decade ago. This Workbook that I'm giving away is the newest 2013 edition and has a value of $24.95. I recommend it to my students every year and to other veterans as well. 

As wife and caregiver to a combat wounded veteran with severe PTSD, part of my mission of this blog is to raise awareness and lessen the stigma of PTSD/TBI and put tools and encouragement in the hands of those who need them. Please feel free to subscribe, check out the PTSD/TBI tab for articles and information. 

Contest Starts April 20th, 2014 and runs through May 14th, 2014. TO BE ENTERED simply use the Rafflecopter below, share, tweet, but you must at least leave a comment in the Rafflecopter explaining why you'd like to win or who you would give the book to (if not used personally). 

a Rafflecopter giveaway *This site and article contain affiliate links to Amazon.com.  This giveaway is not sponsored nor endorsed by Amazon.com, Facebook, Twitter, the books authors or publishers, or anyone else other than myself, Amanda Flener.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Don't Judge a Book by its Cover Photo

For several years, John refused to take pictures. He wouldn't get in a Christmas photo. He didn't want you to even aim a camera at him. The auto reflex of a hand flying up to block his face from the camera was almost instantaneous. One of my favorite family pics was us at Disney, but he was in his wheelchair. When I put it on a Christmas photo card collage, he refused for me to send them out. He was embarrassed.

Then, one day, something clicked. He was ok with photos. He was ok with trips.  Wheelchair or on his two legs. Why? Because, he said, "I want my boys to remember that I tried to have fun with them."

John's memory started declining after his last deployment.  It was on that deployment that he received his Purple Heart for wounds from an IED blast that decommissioned his Bradley Fighting Vehicle.  He told me this week, that his vehicle was subjected to 113 IED/Explosions prior to that final one that took it out and left him with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Trip to Universal
Not only did John want the boys to remember the times that he attempted to go places, but he also wanted photos to show him that he had been places, done things, and got the photo to prove it.  Not a bad idea, considering two years ago, he and I took a weekend getaway that he still has no recollection of.

MRIs have shown that his brain is loosing mass and volume as a result of the brain injury.  It is basically shrinking. Therefore, he experiences dementia like symptoms at times.  Sometimes he doesn't remember that he's eaten, sometimes he can't recall facts.

New research is focusing on younger veterans and their caregivers and many of those caregivers have been reluctant to discuss their life with others.  They hide it well.  PTSD/TBI are thought of as invisible illnesses and many like John, can look and function "normal" for limited times when passerby's would not think they have severe disabilities.

Posing for a crazy picture
Sleep vs. Picking noses!
Oh my!
So while caregivers are gaining recognition by congress, non-profits, the Veteran's Administration, and perhaps other family and friends, there may be more scrutiny towards these invisible disabilities.  For example, private groups on Facebook or other social media are available for vets and caregivers and many non-profits are reaching out to this generation of wounded and caregivers.  Yet, some of those among them and in society are ridiculing and making judgments based on appearances or a moment's interactions, or based on their Facebook feed or photos.

Look at my photos on Facebook and you'll find a combination of me, my husband, my kids, trips we've taken, and so forth.  Now, John will agree to put his arm around me and smile, usually.  But what you don't see is the before, after, and in between.  

EPCOT 2014 - John asked for a photo and
waited for the PhotoPass Photog to take it.

When you look at my photo from last week's one day trip to EPCOT, you see we appear normal and smiling. What you don't see is that after only 15 minutes of being in the park, he was profusely sweating from physical pain and discomfort of being around people, in closer proximity than was comfortable. What you don't see is that immediately after lunch, we went back to the room to take pain meds and to rest. Sleep. Sleep for two hours with a bathroom break and a seizure in between while he was sitting on the toilet. What got my attention was the nose bleed from his right nostril, as characteristic of his seizures, splattering on the floor.

We made it back to the park but we couldn't take the complimentary bus transportation because he didn't feel like he could wait for a bus to run if he needed to come back sooner. At dinner, we had to be selective in where to sit in relation to his back towards the least amount of people or so that he could see the door or windows.  He couldn't focus on the menu. He couldn't see it. Headache commenced.  I ordered his food for him. A waiter dropped dishes at dinner, he jumped. Where do we sit in the American Pavilion for the show? Luckily there were only 6 others in the last showing of the evening and that was comfortable, as none looked like a stereotypical terrorist.  All clear. Relax for a few minutes.

Then sleep for almost the entirety of the next three days as the two nights away was too mentally and physically exhausting.


Great Photo but you missed the
before and after. Thanks for
your perseverance 
In other events, my current profile photo where John is wearing his Purple Heart hat, was taken after we attended two consecutive MOPH events. Before the first one, he had a seizure before even getting out of bed that morning.  Trouble walking, trouble moving, dizzy, and in severe pain from the muscle contractions from the seizures. Before the first presentation, he stood for some time, walked without ambulation assistance, and with sweat dripping by the handkerchief fulls, he persevered.  He refused to quit, refused to sit for the longest time, and presented his awards.  Only a couple people were cognizant enough to see that despite his nice jacket, hat adorned with medals, and freshly shaven face (around the goatee, of course) that he was in severe pain.  Then again, he crashed for about two days from the pain and exhaustion of the events. I had to assist him in sitting up, had to help him steady himself out of the floor when he fell, and had to assist with other things as he was mostly confined to bed for the remainder of the week.

So before you are quick to judge about someone else's injuries or their need for disability or compensation….I'd urge you to think hard about all that you might not be seeing.  These vets like to look like they are doing good when people see them.  They really, in most cases, don't want sympathy. They just want to be treated like anyone else.  Hopefully, you will never hear me passing judgment on someone because of their illness or injury and I'd urge you to do the same. If you had to walk a mile in their shoes….you would likely be very surprised.

Thank a solder, honor a hero. Leave the opinionated criticism out. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why a Purple Heart City/County Campaign?

I promised a blog about the impact of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) - Chapter 1000 campaign on the Purple Heart cities, counties, and locations and here it is.
Me and My husband (John) at Ray City, GA 
What is a Purple Heart City or location?
Proclamation from Homerville, GA
  • A Purple Heart City, County, or location has issued a proclamation declaring their area or
    institution as having great admiration for  the men and women from who have served in the Armed Forces
  • They also recognize the service and sacrifice of our nation's Combat Wounded and those who were killed in action.  
  • They have a chance to honor their local veterans, their Purple Heart recipients, and tell them and their families they appreciate their service and the sacrifices they have made.


Why do you want to travel the state and go to all these places as they become Purple Heart locations?

Valdosta, GA - Chapter 1000 Members,
Department Commander, and Mayor
Why not?  We have the opportunity to spread awareness of not only the MOPH but the service and sacrifice of local people in communities where we and our members live.  Our Chapter is comprised of combat wounded veterans who are spread across a very large portion of rural southern Georgia.  John met 5 Purple Heart veterans in a city less than 30 minutes from our home who had never heard of the MOPH.  These were veterans from Vietnam and WWII.  We've met family members that want to join as Associates to honor the service and sacrifice of their loved ones who received the Purple Heart.


Tifton, GA
Collecting and Giving Info
We've been able to give out information to veterans and family members about how the MOPH has  programs (like their assistance with VA Claims) that are in place to help ALL veterans, combat wounded or not.  We've told student veterans about scholorships they can apply for if eligible.

Of course, we would love to see our membership grow.  As a new chapter that just formed and received its charter in the last quarter of 2013, we are looking to increase our numbers.  But we don't want to simply increase our numbers.  We want to bring awareness of the MOPH into our communities, we want to engage in projects that give back and have a real impact, and we want to be able to proudly thank these veterans across our area for their service.

Patriot Guard Riders standing at the rear…Got you back, guys
The communities that we've been engaged with have presented proclamations, awards, ceremonies, and even appreciation of the family members that stand beside these veterans.  We've experienced veterans from the Vietnam era who were never involved in a veteran organization, come out of their shell, so to speak.

Ray City, GA as the Honor Guard from
Moody AFB presents the colors



The cities and communities that these members are in have recognized them and thanked them. That was something that didn't happen with they came home from the war they fought so many decades ago.  As you can see above and to the left, The American Legion /Patriot Guard Riders came out to one small town celebration.  We were grateful of the outpouring and attention from this group in Ray City.  My husband, and commander, John stated:

"If I can get them just a little thanks and recognition, it is the least I can do as a younger vet."



Presentation to WGTC by
Chapter 1000
We've been into schools and been privileged to get Wiregrass Georgia Technical College on board as the nation's first Purple Heart Technical College. We gave awards to the faculty that work with their Veterans Student Association.  We were able to thank them for their service to this population that faces unique challenges as they reintegrate into civilian life and education.

Wiregrass Georgia Tech in Valdosta, GA -
4 Campuses represented and their VSA Faculty
Chapter 1000 has helped to put Georgia on the map…literally.  When we started our campaign to increase Purple Heart Cities and Counties, there was one Georgia city on the national map.  Port Wentworth, Georgia was the only dot on the map and now Georgia has at least 22 locations.  See Chapter 1000's Site with links to the Proclamations also here.

Other news coverage:






Thursday, March 20, 2014

I fell off the blog wagon. Where have we been?

It feels like I fell off the blogging wagon. For a while I blogged fairly consistently about our life, John's health, his struggles and victories with his service connected issues like his traumatic brain injury, seizures, PTSD, headaches, falls, and everything life was sending our way.

Then I pretty much just stopped. I hid a few posts. I quit writing for a while.

Why? There's not necessarily a simple answer. Did things suddenly get better so we had no bad health and sob stories to pull at your heart strings and make the fury of veteran injustice rise? Not quite. Did things get worse so we had to focus more on health and doing the best we can? Sort of. Did we pull the uber personal posts for privacy? Somewhat. Did I just not have time to focus on sharing our journey? Yes.

John's had a series of good and bad days, as typical. He's on a mission now though, a mission to help
John and the Military Order of the Purple Heart
Chapter 1000, with the help of a Purple Heart
Service Foundation Grant, provides countless
care packages to homeless vets and vets in need.
other vets. That is literally some days the only thing that drives him to get out of bed. Seriously. With the traumatic brain injury he gets tired easily. The slightest stimulation will cause him to need serious rest. When we have to go somewhere, he sleeps a lot before, and he crashes afterward. Does he look like he can manage when he's out in public….yes. Most of the time he does or he simply will not get out.  Just remember that all wounds aren't visible and that chances are after he has been out in public, on these missions to help others, chances are it was so overly stimulating and physically exhausting that he crashed after. Yes, perhaps he falls, sleeps most definitely, and seizures with his typical nose bleeds are likely.  Does this stop him on his new mission? Absolutely not.

Part of John's disability is a delusion of his disability.  Sure, he knows the diagnoses that he has, but often he doesn't accurately judge what he can or can't do safely.  He may think he could drive a few states away to meet a friend…when in actuality he couldn't completely make it to a grocery store and back independently.

We tag along together. He's more aware of his limitations now. We're a team. When he has trouble coming up with the right words or trouble saying what he means, I help fill in the blanks. When he gets to where he can hardly stand any longer, I find him a chair. I move it behind him. We have to be more organized to make things work right. By that, I don't mean my house is spotless or uber clean. I mean, he has to write down events, appointments, anything he must remember. iPhone apps help him with that. I help him with that.

So, life's not always rosy, but it isn't horrible either. It is different and we manage best we can. We have a great system of support that comes to our aid when we need them. We couldn't make this journey alone. We're grateful for the positives. If you are struggling, I encourage you to find meaning in something and find a mission.  Find a mission to help someone or something that can benefit from your help. Chances are, you will be glad you did and you might just get the bigger blessing.

You can find out more about the Military Order of the Purple Heart by clicking here.