Published on January 13th, 2016 | by Millennium Magazine Staff0
How One Veteran And His Family Found Support After An Injury
Pictured: Staff Sgt. Sean Johnson and his wife Melissa
(NAPSI)—Service-related injuries have an effect that is felt by the entire family. Here’s a look at one couple and how they coped.
One Family’s Story
When Melissa Johnson and her husband, Sean, got married in 1995, Sean had already served in Operation Desert Storm and had been trained as a paramedic. He first enlisted in the U.S. Army at 17 and later would go on to do two more tours of duty.
It was during his third tour, Operation Iraqi Freedom, when he was hit by mortar fire. It left him with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
“The combination of ever-changing symptoms really made Sean’s situation difficult,” Melissa said. “We weren’t getting answers from the doctors. Army medics weren’t looking for the signs of traumatic brain injury back then and his condition went undiagnosed for two years. We were having a tough time getting benefits. It was an uphill battle-a continuing series of uphill battles.”
It was also hard for friends and family to understand what was going on or how to help.
After experiencing increasing problems with his vision, Sean was declared legally blind in 2008. While he has a bit of usable remaining vision—enough to read text up close for a short time—he has lost the peripheral vision needed to travel safely. The damage to his brain hampers interpretation of information coming through his eyes.
Answers At Last
When Sean finally got connected with the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) Field Service Officers at Hines Blind Rehabilitation Center, things began to turn around. “All of a sudden, people were providing us with information—we didn’t have to go searching for it. We got connected with people and programs we’d never have been aware of at home in rural South Dakota,” Melissa said. “It was really that first BVA convention—meeting people, hearing success stories—it was so empowering. That was where Sean found out about tandem cycling; it gave him so much hope. It started us in a new direction.”
For Melissa, meeting other families that were dealing with similar issues was most rewarding. Spouses and family members are the support teams for recovering veterans. “Caregiver burnout is a serious problem,” Melissa said.
“Young spouses may also be juggling with caring for young children and jobs. There’s a lot we can learn from each other, and from older veterans and their families that have already successfully navigated the changes.”
Melissa now serves as Secretary for the National BVA Auxiliary Board. “The BVA Auxiliary offers a lot of support to veterans and their families,” Melissa said. “It is there to make sure the spouses, partners and children of blinded veterans have a place they can turn to with their questions and concerns.
“I believe BVA programs and outreach are absolutely critical to the recovery and healing of our blind veterans,” she said. “It is essential for a veteran who is adjusting to blindness to connect with peers who understand what they’re going through. The information, resources and guidance provided by BVA are invaluable.”
For further facts on the BVA, how it can help veterans and how you can help it, go to www.bva.org.