"He's gone". With those words on June 10, 2013 our lives changed forever. Our son, an Army National Guardsman who served in Iraq, had taken his own life due to PTS, TBI and an array of physical ailments and limited access to VA care. Our son did not seem to know what resources were "out there" to assist him and neither did we.
Since then, we have made it our mission to ensure that other veterans and families do not have to live the journey we have. We formed Operation Engage America, a nonprofit that identifies resources in each local community that assist veterans, military, first responders and their families with post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and military-to-civilian transition issues. Armed with this information, we host resource fairs around the country with these local organizations and hand out Resource Books to attendees in a one-stop-shop event. We have impacted lives: "Felt over all these years, thinking I was screwed up. I am a moral being and my feelings are normal given the circumstances. Thank you!" "Great event; lots of resources that got connected to; nothing worse than resources that nobody knows about; speakers were VERY good!"
In addition, we advocate for veterans, military and their families in Washington DC, meeting with leaders at VA, DoD and Congress. We have had several successes, including legislation that will allow veterans at VA who have had classified missions to opt for private therapy, as opposed to group therapy. We were also able to help VA find a platform to distribute "best practices" out to all VA medical centers so that individual centers are not working in silos, but sharing information that works. It takes ALL of us to move these legacy systems even a little bit. We're in it for the long haul; are you?