by Sue Pearson
As a caregiver and wife, I take care of a 100% disabled veteran husband (Tom) who proudly served our country for 24 years in the Air Force including serving in the Vietnam War who needs assistance with daily tasks, such as showering, administering medication, transportation to medical appointments and planning his day. I am always thinking, what I need to do for the two of us? He is a left leg amputee above the knee, caused from many health issues serving in the military. He is now retired.
As a caregiver, I fulfill many different roles: wife, friend, nurse, case manager, chauffeur, etc. so, I pray for God to give me wisdom to know which role to step into for the best care for every situation.
The demands of caring for a spouse can be overwhelming and builds stress with no end in sight. There are times I have limited time and energy. There are times my spouse becomes very irritable due to the pain or illnesses he suffers, which causes stress emotionally and physically on his body.
Caregivers need encouragement, inspiration, and faith to care for a loved one. When I feel overwhelmed, I turn to God and read Matthew 11: 28-30.
My spouse requires a lot of medical care. He has gone through many surgeries, 3rd degree burns, speech, occupational and physical therapy, and even having cancer twice.
I always have to go and engage/fight for him, usually in a physician’s office or hospital, and help him through so many surgeries—and– even dying in December 2009, which God performed a miracle and brought him from being dead to living again.
It is difficult at times to try to keep up with the household chores, medical bills, plumbing issues, appliances breaking down, yardwork, food shopping, being a chauffeur, and sometimes, even burning the meals.
There are days I have no time for myself to relax or dedicate time to read God’s word or prayer time which causes bad or fearful thoughts. I need to focus on prayers and think about God’s gifts and promises, instead of our problems, which can be very difficult at times. I have had to give up fun activities and time with friends and family to take care of my spouse.
As a caregiver for Tom, I find that it does affect me physically and emotionally. Also, as a caregiver, I sacrifice many social relationships and traveling with my spouse. That comes at a cost emotionally and I feel alone at times.
Furthermore, as a caregiver and wife, I feel guilty that I’m not doing enough for my spouse. Still, I never think of myself as a caregiver. I must trust in God above all else. I couldn’t do this without God who calls us to care. Sometimes the medical conditions my spouse suffers from breaks my heart.
I must ask God to give me strength daily to care for Tom and rely on God’s power working through me instead of my own efforts. We must trust God in every situation, which can be difficult at times while caring for one’s spouse. I must aim to protect his dignity. I must try to keep him active and engaged in activities which is very difficult due to his poor health.
I believe Tom paid a huge price in service of his country, but he has no regrets about serving his country. It is an honor to take care of him, since we have been married for 41 years. Caregivers are forgotten at times and need to be remembered.
In 1952, I left, to attend a Boy Scout jamboree with other scouts to spend two weeks in Blair Atholl, Scotland We were the sons of American military personnel who were stationed in a southern Germany as part of the allied occupation force. It had only been a recent practice to participate in any form of group activity with local people, due to the disparity of living conditions and the after shock of the war years. We traveled on an olive drab military bus as far as the coast of the English channel at Ostend, Belgium.
All along our route we saw the terrible evidence of the war that had just been fought. Our presence, for some was their first contact with American youth. As I look back I remember how hard we worked to leave a good impression:
When we rode on the ship to England, we found a group of touring middle age women who had been visiting loved ones buried in the military cemeteries. Some of us, with guitars (Tony Phillips and David Murphy, I believe) led them in songs.
At the train station we drew the attention of the BBC, who noticed that we were going down the aisles passing out small packages of marshmallows. We learned that few of them had not seen or tasted a marshmallow before. At the beginning of our trip. each of us packed a can of Hormel ham to share with our host families. We realized that the British were still under a strict food rationing system. At the Tower of London, we were told that the only ones in England who were given a daily ration of meat were the ravens who populated the large courtyard.
We were awakened from our tents, in Scotland by the thrilling sound of bagpipes. I even accomplished a ‘l rounder’ in a Cricket game. I think, for all of us, that we so wanted to make the battle scarred world whole again.
By Hudson Phillips.
In 1946, VA Voluntary Service was established as part of General Omar Bradley’s modernization of the Veterans Administration.Posted: June 7, 2017
In June 1945, less than two months after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death and Harry S. Truman assumed the presidency, he selected fellow Missourian General Omar Bradley to head the Veterans Administration. Bradley was confirmed and took his place at VA in August of that year. Bradley was charged with modernizing VA and he wasted no time in doing so. He established a national chaplain service in November and after getting congressional approval to create a professional Department of Medicine and Surgery in January 1946, set out establish other vital services to improve care for veterans. The Army had a long and successful record of working with volunteers and social organizations, and he knew that VA could benefit from coordinating volunteers at a national level, too.
The roots of large-scale volunteerism began during the Civil War. Men, women, and children in both the Confederate and Union territories who could not fight in the war, volunteered to do anything needed to help soldiers and the war effort. In June 1861 President Lincoln authorized the U.S. Sanitary Commission, an entirely volunteer group from New York, to help the Union Army medical department and legions of short-term “volunteer” soldiers that were enlisting to fight in the war. Local branches were established in many cities and “sanitary fairs” were held to raise money that bought ambulances, hospital ships, medical supplies, and personal items for wounded and convalescing soldiers. These volunteers documented burial locations for soldiers who died from their wounds, wrote letters to families, read to soldiers, and much more to comfort them or their families.
The U.S. Sanitary Commission was the largest national volunteer organization in American history at the time, igniting passions for those fighting the war and attracting thousands of volunteers like poet Walt Whitman, Clara Barton, and Frederick Law Olmsted to help them. Service with the U.S. Sanitary Commission inspired many of its volunteers to continue the work after the war, resulting in numerous new social and veterans fraternal organizations. The Grand Army of the Republic and American Red Cross are examples of Sanitary Commission spin-offs that were established after the war to provide services not only to veterans, but to their widows, families, and orphans, as well as immigrants and the poor. The U.S. Sanitary Commission played an essential role in proving the need for “soldiers homes” after the war that resulted in the establishment of the first federal institution in the world solely for disabled veterans of the “volunteer” forces in 1865. That institution, initially known as the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, was the origins of what today is known as VA’s Veterans Health Administration.
The passion for disabled soldiers and veterans, which sprang to life on a massive and national scale during the Civil War, became a new part of the American ethos, after the war, and VA and its predecessors were beneficiaries of that good will. During World War I, the Treasury Department was tasked with providing medical care to World War I disabled veterans, through its Bureau of War Risk Insurance(BWRI) and Public Health Service (PHS). Surgeon General Rupert Blue asked the American Red Cross for help and their volunteers supplied a significant auxiliary workforce that ranged from filing clerks to nurses and social workers. The Red Cross provided the first organized coordination of volunteer services in federal veterans programs, but as the Veterans Bureau, and later the Veterans Administration, took over roles once done by the Red Cross, much of that was lost.
As the U.S. geared up to fight yet another war in 1941, volunteer organizations once again came to the aid of service men and women and VA. General Bradley knew very well the important role that volunteers played in maintaining morale and hope in his troops during the war and that they could do the same for them as veterans. Bradley established a Special Services Division in 1946, just like Army had, which included a chaplain service, voluntary service coordination (VAVS), recreation service, and canteen service. Establishing a national office with experienced staff to meet with leaders of volunteer and veterans organizations was a common-sense move that has seen VA’s volunteer program grow, professionally, over the past 70 years into one of the largest, most experienced, and respected corps of volunteers in the federal government.
While VAVS celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, it continues the work with veterans that began 155 years ago, and has found its own place in American history. I dare say that the men and women of the U.S. Sanitary Commission would be most proud of their modern brothers and sisters caring for this generation of veterans.
Today we laid my 2nd husband to rest. It was a emotional time for me. So many things felt. It’s no secret that he had hurt us. Before the hurt there was friendship and love though. Who ever said there is a fine line between love and hate truly knew what they were talking about in this instance. I cried today for the man I once knew, that friend who once cared, the soldier who who served us all.Once again I received a flag with the thanks of our President and Nation for service. Once again I jumped at the first shots fired as the salute was led, just like I did when I said good bye to my Dad. The tears ran down my face wile my hand covered my heart as the bugler sounded taps . The young Soldier could feel my hands tremble as he placed our flag in my hands and knelt giving sympathy with his words and eyes as I sat alone.
In this moment I couldn’t tell you that the thoughts going through my head are totally clear. I can say I said my good byes and cried the tears I needed too. Not only did I say good bye but I also let go of pent up pains and hurt.
I forgave a long time ago , but held on to the hurt. Not something I recommend any one do.
Today I say a prayer for the other separated widows like me. May they find peace as they move forward with their lives. May God wrap them in his love and guide them and me to be more like him. Amen.
By Paul Zolbrod, MAMF Writer-in-Residence
“How’re you doing?” I asked a fellow vet at the V.A. clinic this afternoon. He was on his way out, I on my way in. Like me he was hobbling with a cane, although he gripped his with his left hand, I mine with my right. He wore a brace over his right wrist, I mine on my left.
Once I greeted him at the far curb of the parking lot in front of the entrance, he stopped, looked me over, saw the same resemblance I had spotted, and smiled. “Not so bad, brother,” he said. “Under the circumstances.” We both leaned on our canes and rested before going our separate ways, ready to chat for a minute or so. As a rule it works that way; guys are always willing to connect–especially the older ones, the Vietnam vets, the Korean vets. There aren’t many WWII guys left, although those who can still get in and out on their own like to schmooze too.
“What’s wrong with you?” I asked.
“Everything,” he replied, looking at his feet and cupping one knee, then looking back at me, still smiling. “Knees. Both feet numb. Shoulders all stiff. What about you?”
“Everything except one,” I laughed.” I’ve had one knee replaced, the other’s still pretty good.” I looked him over again. He was maybe two or three inches shorter than me, but a little rounder and wider around the waist. Hair about as grey as mine, his face about as wrinkled or a little less. “How old are you I asked?”
“Seventy three,” he answered, which made him Vietnam. “You?”
“Eighty-three,” I said. “Korean War.”
“Aw, c’mon,” he replied. “You don’t look it.”
“That’s because you guys had it rougher,” I said, still laughing. “Folks hated you, they only forgot about us.”
And so it went for a few more minutes–light-hearted talk, easy-going chatter, even when the matter was fundamentally serious. He told me about his sessions in the heated pool for his shoulders, me about the exercises I was doing for mine under supervision up in physical therapy, the mutual concern genuine, the well-wishing sincere. Then we shook hands and bid each other happy Easter, he heading for his vehicle, I going inside to check at Orthotics to see if the special shoes had come in yet custom made for my messed up feet. Infantry feet they call it up in that department.
That’s the way it is at the clinic–perhaps my favorite place in Albuquerque. I like to say I’m lucky to get such good care; everybody deserves that kind of health care, I like to say, where we’re treated with dignity, there’s very little paper work, and nobody talks about money. But I’m luckier still to enjoy that kind of fellowship. Nowhere else that I know of do people get along so well. You have to be one of us to understand.
I recommend visiting a VA hospital. You’ll see guys going in and out with canes, on crutches, in wheel chairs, carrying oxygen tanks. Some of us move slowly. Some have to be pushed. Some have to lean on a wife or a son or daughter. Some of us are old like me and some older, some so young I want to cry for them. But boy do we get along. We make eye contact. We smile. We joke and tease. Folks need to see for themselves how well men can get along. It’s that way with the women vets, too. Those differences disappear as well.
There’s a great lesson to be learned at a VA hospital. No matter how bad I may be feeling as I set out for the clinic, I feel better once I’m inside, which is pretty often now, thanks to the company I get to keep.
In 1890, VHA’s predecessor–the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers–hired its first women nurses at the Northwestern Branch in Milwaukee (known today as the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center).
Able-bodied men who were residents of the National Homes served as wardmasters, nurses, and assistant nurses prior to 1890. An 1880 National Home board of managers report recommended that two wardmasters be paid $15 per month and have supervision of all wards–day and night–under supervision of the post surgeons. “These men should be strictly temperate, skillful, good-dispositioned, intelligent, and faithful. The other nurses should be divided into two classes, viz, nurses and assistant nurses. The nurses should have $8 per month for the first year, $10 per month for the second year, and $12 per month thereafter. The assistants should have $6 per month for the first six months, $7 per month for the second six months, and $8 per month thereafter.” The National Home veteran population was approaching old age by 1900, so a solution to replace them as nurses was sought.
The nursing profession in America was in its infancy after the Civil War. Hundreds of women had served as nurses during the war, but most had no formal training. The first nursing school in America opened at Bellevue Hospital in New York in 1873 and taught Florence Nightingale’s philosophy and practices of nursing care. New nursing schools opened up across the country afterwards. Read the rest of this entry »