- Posted July 29, 2014 by
St. Louis, Missouri
This iReport is part of an assignment:
First Person: Your essays
PTSD Healing Evolution
PTSD Healing Evolution
My name is Anita Harvey. I am a disabled veteran of the United States Army. I'm a child of The Sixties; yeah. I am one of the many faces affected by the VA Scandal story first reported by CNN.
My story, however, is not the usual. October 7, 2007 is the date I retired from government civil service at the U.S Department of Agriculture. That was the beginning of my healing evolution.
While stationed at Camp Casey, South Korea, during the ice cold winter of January 1998, I slipped on black ice, breaking my ankle and ending my military career but it was not the end of my love for the military.
Sixteen years later I find myself promoting my first fiction novel, detailing the agonizing pain of PTSD and its effects on myself and today's warriors.
After a year tour in South Korea I returned to Ft. Hood Texas in September 1998 and was unable to deal with restrictions the broken ankle put on my physical abilities.
I was a gun-ho fast tracking female non-commissioned officer but my hopes for warrant officer school was over. I needed the ankle I broke and according to the docs my age was a liability to the recovery necessary for tactical training. Anything was possible but the brutal reality was that my small slender frame held a secret of potential joint degeneration if I continued engagement of active duty military lifestyle. I was devastated.
I could have easily continued my career as a Personnel Sergeant. My primary duties of providing admin support to active duty troops was in great demand but promotion would have been slow, if at all. A vital part of a soldiers rank is his or her ability to perform at optimum physical levels for their age group. After the injury I was restricted from running and allowed to walk for that part of my Physical Fitness Test. Walking could not give you the points needed for maxing your PT test; you simply qualified.
Up until that time in my career I maintained a PT score of 300 points and proudly displayed the blue patch of honor on my exercise uniforms. I was not willing to accept what I considered a death sentence to my military career. I began to suffer emotionally.
I could not muster the mental fortitude needed to say ‘I can do it’. I was unable to focus on the need of the soldiers I served which was even more confusing to me. Taking care of soldiers was a core value of the Army Personnel Command. I fully embraced those values because of my Christian upbringing.
After the injury I no longer possessed the desire to continue my military service and accepted a medical discharge under honorable conditions; of course because I was a dedicated soldier. One of my military mentors used to call me super soldier because I did not shy away from competing with infantry soldiers in contests challenging knowledge of tactical elements.
Shortly after my medical discharge on 30 September 2000 I registered with the VA Medical facility in Temple Texas. I was on my way there to an eye appointment a year later when the first plane went missing.
The admiration and respect I earned from my military peers and command was all I had to hold on to when those planes crashed into the Twin Towers. Devastation could not define what I felt.
For over a year I tried desperately to succeed in the network marketing business specializing in cosmetics. Upon discharge I received around $38,000 dollars in separation pay from the Army. I was determined to be my own boss instead of participating in a corporate world I no longer respected. When those planes hit the towers I did not think about the $20,000 dollars I had just poured into my new business. I only felt the deep menacing groan in the pit of my stomach. The piercing still quiet that gripped the entire state of Texas turned Killeen and Ft. Hood into empty spaces and wastelands as personnel and vehicles disappeared from sight. Birds suddenly vanished, trees stood motionless and the wind simply ceased. The nightmare dream that lurked in the back of my mind since 1991 was coming to pass right before my eyes on that dreadful day of September 11, 2001.
I was stuck on the sofa in the study of my Texas home unable to move. In a state of shock I watched as America’s devastated news media play the dastardly scene over and over. The most hardened journalist was at a loss for words, no matter what their network affiliation.
“At that moment I no longer suspected a connection to the spirit world; I am sure of it.” ‘Fight for the American Soul’, by Anita Harvey, back cover. (Design by Create Space)
Because my medical injuries showed no more than ten percent impairment rating per the Army Medical Board I did not retire but was given full separation pay as a lump sum. After nine-eleven Ft. Hood became a closed post and only active duty, retired, and civilian employees were allowed inside. I was, and felt shut out from my military family.
I soon discovered the VA was no easy organization to engage. My first impression was a corporate culture of control. I welcomed that environment in the beginning. I recalled the childhood memories of a filthy John Cochran VA back in St. Louis but at that time I had no intentions of going back to my hometown except to visit my family.
I mentally transferred my respect for the efficiency of the U.S. Army to the local VA Medical facility in Temple Texas. I soon learned that proximity of the civilian facility to the military post gave me a false sense of security.
I tried clinging to my only two connections; the religious community and an unlikely friendship that developed between myself and a former soldier whom I briefly and barely supervised. She and I are both students of scripture and spent many nights on the phone discovering prophesy in each other’s words, prayers, and praises. She was the inspiration for one of my main supporting characters. We both were suffering our own battle scars incurred by life, service and terrorism.
Returning to St. Louis, Mo, my hometown, in June of 2004 was a decision of emotional distress.
Starting in 2006 I was recording my pain, what my environment was giving me and putting it in fiction form. The people, the news, pop culture, my family and friends. It just so happened that my Faith was talking with a strong voice into my consciousness. That I could not help.
Today the sergeant inside me will always serve and pray for the American soldier serving for freedom.
Complete in its content by 2008 my novel ‘Fight for the American Soul’, seem to be a prophetic reflection of the real America and world today. In the novel my four main characters representing Gen X and the Millennial’s, experience every current major headline we’re witnessing in a real world. The mystery is that my writings were spontaneous.
The emotional distress proceeded my physical injury and I was given a general diagnosis of ‘failure to adapt to the work place environment’. My recurring symptoms resulted in an early civil service government retirement at the age forty-six under disability conditions. Once again it seemed I was opting out of participation from ordinary life.
The first week home on permanent disability I immersed myself into writing. I needed this pain out of me. I could no longer run it out with others in formation fashion on the hallow roads of Ft. Hood, I could not shoot it out on its massive gun ranges with their hypnotic smell of gunpowder and diesel fuel mix. I reached for my last armor of defense; the key board.
My early retirement did not provide the immediate relief I hoped for. My introspective view of personal empowerment often cause me to repeat history by refusing to accept responsibility for poor choices. In short I did not organize my time at the start of my disability and no one told me I should. Doctors only asked what I was doing with my time. Fortunate for me my characters kept track.
I was in full episodic mode of various mental health related symptoms. Racing thoughts, the inability to focus, breathe; depression, negative thoughts, frustration, anxiety and the deep need to be all things for all people all the time. Impossible!
After completing the St. Louis, VA Jefferson Barracks Substance Abuse Treatment Programs, I realized that my personal emotional distress as with all Americans was compounded with nine-eleven. But there was something more; the nightmare.
Having a strong academic and office administrative background I knew research was essential in conveying a story that touched so many lives beside mine. Along with my spiritual connection I take a pragmatic approach to most human practices. I question everything and everyone and I must humbly say that includes my Creator. My questions to the Creator are as those of a child to their Father. Being a literate child of the sixties made that ‘out of limits’ notion highly plausible.
The isolation I experienced as an imaginative youngest child of a deeply religious household gave way to the creation of invisible friends one of which had a good spiritual nature. “My entire life I suspected there was a connection between myself and the spirit world. The strange presence of beings unseen. The familiarity of sights, sounds, and the surreal has occupied my senses since I can remember.” ‘Fight for the American Soul’, by Anita Harvey, back cover. (Design by Create Space)
My research took me to different places outside my comfort zone. My meta-physical thoughts conveyed to me that humanity was in trouble and young people needed to step into the role of maturity. Not the loud mouth, talk back and neck snap maturity. But the maturity of individuals who take on the role of leaders in a new world. A world not of man’s hands but of God. They were the target market and somehow I had to get the message across.
So my characters, Daniel, Keisha, Jose`, and Ming were born and I had to learn their language.
Total immersion and dedication to my country in the Army did not allow me the time to desire or enjoy pop culture. Remember the super soldier who engaged tactical proficiency; the pragmatic child.
So I zeroed in on pop culture and discovered a show named 106 and Park. For my tired, emotionally embattled, and confused mind it was like being a teen in the seventies again. Only this crowd was young enough to be my children and grandchildren. The young hosts who both have blossomed into seasoned professionals were as big a deal to me as any host at the Academy Awards show. They had what I needed for my book. The language, style, and look of their Generation Tribe.
Every week was a major headliner strutting their talk, tunes and moves. I chose three for close observation. The young woman was at the top of her game. The one young man from the new city and thought to be insane. The other young man grew up in my hood and surprisingly I knew his game. Every now and then I love to rhyme. Between the three of them I gathered enough background information about their generation that I could proceed with my writing.
The writings were the only thing keeping me operational and functioning. Everything else around me seemed like chaos. My writings, the book, motivated me to make and keep my VA appointments.
There is a road map in the world of the disabled veteran and the Department of Veterans Affairs is on that road. Aside from the obvious this is where my story takes an unusual twist.
From the beginning of my PTSD healing evolution journey to now the VA along with my private physicians have been involved. Every right choice, wrong choice, bad choice or no choice they were informed by myself or my private physicians.
It was not easy penetrating the VA’s Wall of Resistance to approving a veteran’s compensation claim. The saying was that the doctors work for the VA and not the veteran. It was status quo that their jobs were to protect the funds of the VA from veterans no matter what. I didn’t accept that belief not because I trusted the VA but because of my extensive background in handling and maintaining government forms and regulatory compliances.
Every time they denied a claim I submitted another one at the appropriate time. I used Veteran Service Organizations if necessary, sometimes I did not. I’ve had success and denials with and without Veteran Service Organizations. At certain times I’ve even confided in lawyers. In many instances I’ve used the veteran grievance process which follows the VA medical facility’s management chain of command. Whatever it took to get my rightful benefits I was and am willing to put the VA to the test.
I found that when you hang in there and demand your rights even to the point of threatening them with congressional follow up, it’s worth the effort. I have no problem calling and or writing letters to my local and state representatives.
Since engaging the VA in Texas I have received a Bachelor of Professional Studies from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor with a 3.69 GPA. At that time I received up to $5000.00 of computer equipment, books, and other tools and resources. Since being back in St. Louis I’ve received up to an additional $7000.00 in Veterans Educational Assistance over the past four years.
It grieves me to see other veterans less versed on the government’s mode of operation, suffer at the hands of a few powerful whose power somehow have become absolute.
Today I consider myself reasonably compensated for my disabilities incurred while on active duty and have achieved a level of moderate engagement in daily routine activities pertaining to social media and branding. In addition to my monthly pensions, and my writing I have re-engaged my community by volunteering and enjoying the civic and cultural arts.
My journey of healing is ongoing but today I am focused on Mentoring, Veterans Resources, and Women Rights, Protecting our Children, Education and Science.
This one thing I have known since active duty and am sure of it today. Each veteran must become his or her own Administrator. In order to ensure proper receipt of your military medical file I suggest soldiers hand carry them to their local VA medical hospital and make copies for themselves as they separate from active duty service.
In the end what we have discovered is that we as Americans cannot afford to leave no one behind. For veterans, this means your soul.