Cancer threatens a combat vet’s best friend and lifesaver

Guest post by Lisa Bonnington

Robbie spent four years as a US Marine before he became a Green Beret Special Forces medic in the Army.

Bella, Robbie’s PTSD service dog started her life as a rejected show dog thanks to an overbite. Then she became a skilled and irreplaceable service dog, a companion, a friend, and above all a life-saving member of Robbie’s family.

But the story of Bella and Robbie didn’t start there.

Several years after being honorably discharged, a deeply concerned friend tricked Robbie into going to the VA, where he was diagnosed with service related PTSD.  An account of this event is shared in Robbie’s soon to be released book The Next Mission.

Based on a recommendation that a service dog might help with Robbie’s PTSD symptoms that were becoming progressively worse, Robbie started the process to find a service animal. When he read Bella’s profile, he thought her temperament sounded ideal for his needs. Unfortunately, Bella was already scheduled for adoption to a man in Pennsylvania but that ended when the man lost his job and went through a divorce.

To meet Robbie, Bella started her second journey. She flew alone from Maryland to Atlanta with an eight-hour layover, before finally reaching her destination, Colorado Springs.  Bella arrived severely dehydrated, starving, scared, and covered in her own feces.  Lucky for Bella, Robbie’s medical training helped him deal with her health challenges and he was able to nurse Bella back to health.

Since then, the two have been inseparable.

Bella naturally and gracefully handles her responsibility as a service dog.  When Robbie’s PTSD is triggered she will place her head in his lap to take his focus off the trigger.  She will push her head under his hands, requesting a pet to give him a calming distraction.  If she hears stress in his voice, she often stands between Robbie and who or what has triggered him.

Bella is a kind, loving, gentle giant that thinks she is a lap dog.  I have never seen her aggressive unless she feels a member of her family is in danger.  She has adopted us, my boys and I, as her own.

Bella has grown into a skilled and irreplaceable service dog, a companion, a friend and above all a loved member of our family.

Recently Bella was diagnosed with Cancer in her hip.  The veterinarians and specialists we’ve met both recommended amputation of her hind quarter and possibly chemo therapy.  They also assured us that this was the best course of action and treatment to give her a chance to reach her normal life expectancy.  They assured us that dogs unlike people adapt quite easily to being a tripod.

However, this treatment comes at a very high price with the surgical estimate running between $5,000-$7,000 and that doesn’t include the expenses Robbie has already paid for x-rays, the diagnosis, medication, and the future possibility of chemo treatment.

With Robbie living on a fixed income due to his service disability, these costs are prohibitive, and we are not in a position to handle this expense.  We are now faced with the grim possibility of having to consider putting Bella down.  For anyone who has had to make this heartbreaking decision you know how devastating it can be.  To be forced to make it due to financial constraints is even worse.

We would not be able to live with ourselves if we did not exercise every possibility to help save Bella.  She has given so much of herself unconditionally, and it is our turn to take care of her.

Bella is the reason that Robbie, during very dark times, did not take his own life.  It is incomprehensible for him to consider taking hers.

I humbly ask you to consider a donation no matter how big or small and/or to share Bella’s story.  Go Fund Me: Saving Bella the Service Dog

Thank you.

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Regardless of what Donald Trump Claims, the United States is NOT paying for Europe’s Defense

In 2017, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Fact Sheet, the United State’s defense budget was $685.9 billion.

“In 2017 the report says the U.K. spent some $55.2 billion on defense, Germany $45.4 billion and France $45.9 billion. But this still pales when compared with the United States’ $685.9 billion in spending.”

But what about the European Union’s (EU) total spending on defense? “The total cumulative spending of the EU member states was 267.4 Billion USD.”

To put that in perspective, here are the next top five countries in the world for defense spending in 2017.

2. The People’s Republic of China – $228 billion
3. Saudi Arabia – $69.4 billion
4. Russia – $66.3 billion
5. India – $63.9 billion
6. France – $57.8 billion

If the European Union (EU) spent $267.4 billion on its defense in 2017, that means they were #2 on the list right behind the United States, and before China.

In addition, EU countries agree to create a European mega-army. “Twenty-three EU countries, including Germany and France, have agreed to integrate their defense forces.”

What will the EU’s combined military look like? The EU possesses 525 nuclear warheads and hosts between 90 and 130 US warheads. Italy hosts 70-90 B61 nuclear bombs, while Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands have 10-20 each.

The EU has the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world, after the United States and Russia.

The European Union’s combined active military forces in 2011 totaled 1,551,038 personnel while according to Pew Research, in 2017, 61,710 U.S. troops were deployed in the EU.

Since the U.S. has approximately 1.3 million active-duty troops that means less than five percent of US troops were stationed in Europe.

In addition, the United States and Russia are NOT the only countries with special forces troops.

The Top 10 Most Elite Special Forces units in the world taken from a list of fifty. Fifteen European countries have Special Forces units on the complete list. Three European countries are listed on the top ten with the British SAS at #1.

These are the TOP TEN:

  1. British SAS
  2. US Navy SEALs
  3. Indonesian Kopassus
  4. Russian Spetznaz
  5. U.S. Delta Force
  6. Indian NSG
  7. U.S. Green Berets
  8. German KSK
  9. Australian Special Air Service Regiment
  10. Polish GROM

Why did Donald Trump lie about the United States paying for Europe’s defense?

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award-winning author.

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Which one is the Dream

Note: This post was written by me from a writing prompt in my Vet Center PTSD peer support group. The Prompt was “Dreams”.

When his daughter told him she wanted to go fishing, he didn’t know if he was dreaming or not. She was supposed to be dead, but he didn’t want her dead.

“How am I going to teach you to fish when I’ve never done it?” he asked. “I don’t own a fishing rod.”

“Look, Dad, I’m not going to be around much longer.” Amie was nine. “Everything the doctors tried has failed. The treatments have been worse than the Leukemia.” She covered her bald head with the spread fingers of both hands. “I hate being bald. I want my hair back. I want to live my final months without the treatment pain, and I want to start by learning how to fish together. Then we can go skydiving or go skiing in South America when it’s summer here.”

“I’ve never skied,” he replied.

“We’ll learn together,” she said and took his hand in both of hers. “This is going to be fun and you’ll have pleasant memories of us doing things together after I’m gone. That’s what I want.”

Warm tears flooded his eyes. He didn’t want to lose her too. He’d already lost his wife to a hit-and-run driver when they’d been out riding bicycles together as a family. He’d witnessed it happen. He’d also seen the car’s license plate before the driver sped off, but he didn’t report that to the police. He wanted to execute the murderer himself, and he knew who’d help him. They were all in the same Marine Corps unit and had been deployed together several times to Iraq and then Afghanistan.

Wait, how could they help him? They’d all been killed in the same ambush in Afghanistan where he’d been taken prisoner by terrorists.

“Don’t go, Dad!” Amie said. “You can’t leave. We have to go fishing again.”

But her voice faded and was gone, and he opened his eyes to darkness. The air was frigid and stuffy. He tried to straighten his legs but couldn’t because the space he was in was to small. He explored it with his hands. It seemed he was in a rusty metal box that was about a foot high, two feet wide and five feet long. He tried to scream but his tongue was swollen, his throat raw, and his lips scabbed. His rectum also hurt and then he remembered how they had stripped him naked, and tied him face down to a metal rack before taking turns sodomizing him.

He heard metal screech and then the top of the metal box opened letting in blinding light. He blinked but couldn’t clear his vision. He felt rough hands grab him and drag him from the cramped box. He was slapped. He was punched. He felt blood running from his nose.  He wanted to fight back, to resist, but he was too weak.

Then they were tying him to a metal lattice and lowering him into a pit full of a brown slop that smelled like shit. Once his body was immersed, he had to lean his head back as far as possible to keep his mouth out of the crap so he could breathe.

“Dad, Dad,” he heard Amie’s voice say. “Do you hear me?  It’s okay. I’m right here with you. I’m not dead. You were rescued. You’re in a military hospital. You aren’t a prisoner anymore, and leukemia didn’t get me. Remember? And I’m not nine. I’m twenty. We’re going to get through this together. I want you back, Dad. You’re all the family I have.”

He hoped Amie’s voice was real.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award-winning author.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

To Blindly Obey … or Not

The fictional Ohio class nuclear-powered U.S. ballistic missile submarine Colorado picks up a Seal Team leaving Pakistan after a secret mission there. One of the Seals has been shot. Then the sub receives questionable orders through an old cold war network out of Alaska to nuke Pakistan. During the cold war, this backup was there in case Washington DC was hit and the federal government wiped out.

A quick check by the sub reveals that Washington DC is okay, and there is no sign that the United States is under attack, so the Captain and his XO ask for confirmation through the proper Strategic Command network based in Nebraska. The reply is an immediate attack on their sub by another U.S. Navy ship that received orders from the president of the United States to destroy the Colorado.

The Colorado did not refuse to fire and kill almost 5 million people in two Pakistani cities. All they did was ask for confirmation through the proper network.

The fictional Colorado survives the first attempt to destroy it, but all kinds of challenges and problems beset Captain Marcus Chaplin and his XO Sam Kendal as they struggle to make it out of this mess alive.

This TV series begs a question. How obedient should our military forces be to the President of the United States when he gives them an order?

Because Captain Marcus and his XO refused to blindly follow a presidential order, they are labeled traitors by the U.S. government and the president sends a kill order to destroy the sub and its entire crew, and there is no shortage of other U.S. Navy ships and their captains that are willing to follow that order without question.

During the series, an ignorant crew member accuses the Captain to his face that he is a traitor because he didn’t blindly obey the president. The captain tells the sailor, and everyone else listening to this confrontation, that the oath for U.S. Military officers says nothing about blindly obeying an order from the president.

To make his point, Marcus recites the oath he took when he became a midshipmen: “Having been appointed a midshipman in the United States navy, do you solemnly swear (or affirm that you will support and defend the  Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that you take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter, so help you God.”

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) also makes it clear that military personnel need to obey the “lawful command of his superior officer,” In each case, military personnel have an obligation and a duty to only obey Lawful orders and indeed have an obligation to disobey Unlawful orders, including orders by the president that do not comply with the UCMJ. The moral and legal obligation is to the U.S. Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders, especially if those orders are in direct violation of the Constitution and the UCMJ.

In fact, President Donald Trump took a similar oath before he officially became president and he has already broken that oath repeatedly.  For instance, instead of defending the 1st Amendment, he attacks the credibility of the free press every chance he gets.

It’s also obvious that there are too many real-life American citizens that do not know about these oaths and laws that exist to protect our country and its citizens from corrupt leaders.

We now live in dangerous times with a real president that has more than once demonstrated that he wants total obedience and loyalty from everyone in his administration, but Donald Trump is having a hard time getting what he wants and this helps explain why he keeps firing people.

Last Resort is worth watching to understand what is at stake in the world we currently live in. How can anyone be a traitor to the United States by questioning and then disobeying what was an allegedly unlawful order? The worst that should have happened was a court-martial to determine if the order that was not carried out was in fact, unlawful.

And Captain Marcus does demand a court-martial several times, but the fictional U.S. President in this TV series doesn’t want that. Instead, that fictional president and his administration only wants to destroy the sub and its crew.

This is eerily similar to what our current President Donald Trump wants to do with the investigation that special counsel Robert Mueller is conducting over the 2016 election interference by Russia, as Trump repeatedly attacks Mueller’s investigation.

In these dangerous times, we can only hope that our military will refuse any allegedly unlawful orders that Donald Trump gives them or any future U.S. President if there is a future.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award-winning author.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

I am a Former U.S. Marine – what about you?

Recently, on another blog, I was chastised in a reply to one of my comments where I mentioned I was a former Marine.  The Blog post was about Trump wanting to arm teachers to protect our public schools. I was against that insane, stupid idea from the serial lying, Orange Dumpster who is also known to me as the Kremlin’s Agent Orange. I have no respect for Donald Trump. I despise this poor excuse for a human being.

My anonymous critic was allegedly a she, and she had never been a U.S. Marine because she pointed out in her comment that all the Marines she knew referred to themselves as inactive Marines and that she had never heard anyone refer to themselves as a former Marine.  The way she wrote her comment made it sound like I was a liar and had never been a U.S. Marine.

To be clear, I have been an active Marine, an inactive Marine, and finally a former Marine. I’ve been a former Marine for a long time and it is going to stay that way up to my last heart beat and breathe. I wouldn’t accept one million dollars to become an active Marine again, but I also wouldn’t accept a million dollars to sell my experiences as a U.S. Marine to someone else.

An active U.S. Marine is still in uniform and belongs to the U.S. government.  Believe me when I say that when you join any of the branches of the U.S. military, you basically become a slave with a wage, and my DD-214 clearly shows I was an active Marine from May 1965 to May 1968 when I was released from active duty and became an inactive Marine until the end of my reserve obligation. During the years I was in the inactive reserves, I could have been called back to active duty at any time.

That inactive duty ended on January 20, 1971 when I became a free civilian again and was officially a former Marine.

The VA says, “A person who is active duty is in the military full time. They work for the military full time, may live on a military base, and can be deployed at any time. Persons in the Reserve or National Guard are not full-time active duty military personnel, although they can be deployed at any time should the need arise.”

The U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve says, “The Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) is a category of the Ready Reserve of the Reserve Component of the Armed Forces of the United States composed of former active duty or reserve military personnel, and is authorized under 10 U.S.Code Section 1005.  The IRR is composed of enlisted personnel and officers, from all ranges of Military Occupational Specialties including combat arms, combat support, and combat service support.

“Individuals assigned to the IRR receive no pay and are not obligated to drill, conduct annual training, or participate in any military activities (except for periodic Muster activities) until ordered by Presidential Authority.  Individuals who are assigned to an “Inactive Status” are entitled to limited benefits.  These benefits include:  Entitlement to a Military ID Card, ID Cards for their dependents, PX (Exchange) benefits, Commissary benefits, and MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) Benefits.”

My inactive status as a U.S. Marine ended forty-seven years ago in 1971. That was when I became a former Marine. Any former Marine that claims they are an inactive Marine and they are not in the IRR or the Ready Reserve is technically wrong. It doesn’t matter what they think, they are wrong if they call themselves an inactive Marine once they become a civilian again with no official, legal ties to the Marine Corps. I was once an active Marine and will always think and react like a Marine. Marines belong to a unique tribe, a brotherhood of warriors trained to kill in combat, but once we leave active or inactive duty, we are a former Marine.

My Honorable Discharge is dated January 20, 1971 … not May 17, 1968 when I left active duty for inactive duty.

Here’s why I’m writing this post. If there are former Marines out there calling themselves inactive Marines and they are not in the Marine reserves, they are doing real inactive Marines a disservice because those Marine are still in a position to be called up and sent into harm’s way on a moment’s notice, while former Marines are not in that same situation. If a former Marine wants to serve again, they have to return to active or inactive duty if the U.S. Marines will take them back.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award winning author.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

Transitions from War, from combat to active living

Mike Ergo was a Marine rifleman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines from 2001-2005 and deployed to Iraq twice. Coming home from combat was rough. His body returned, but his mind and spirit were still in Fallujah for many years. … Triathlons, trail running, and endurance challenges like GORUCK have help him to overcome the sadness, anger, fear, and anxiety that are a part of PTSD.

The Biggest Race of My Life by Mike Ergo

“Lindsey Schmidt from Ironman’s PR firm reached out a few months ago to say they heard my story. Ironman wanted to get me on a cool, new veteran podcast to talk about why I race. It would be a chance to talk about the Marines on my jersey that keep me moving towards the finish line. I agreed to do the interview.  I wrote an eBook  about the Mind, Body, and Spirit. Finally, a chance to talk to a larger audience about a great way to deal with PTSD!

1927897_52180045766_8469_nMike Ergo is on the left

The interview started out great (listen to it here). We talked about how I went into the Marine Corps, ditched the band and joined the infantry, and shipped out to Iraq. He asked me what house-to-house fighting was like in Fallujah. Chaps was there in 2007 and has walked the streets of the former Baath Party hub. And of course, we chatted about how triathlon has helped me deal with the demons of PTSD and turn it into something positive. So Chaps throws the verbal jab and I take the bait.” …

This post is continued on Mike’s Blog Transitions from War from combat to active living – Reconnecting with Mind, Body, and Spirit

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Lloyd Lofthouse, the host of The Soulful Veteran, is a former U.S. Marine (1965 – 1968), Vietnam Veteran (1966), retired public school teacher, journalist, and award winning author.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

 

 

Heavily Armed on the 4th of July

On the evening before the 4th of July this year someone set off some M80s or Cherry bombs, and it sounded like my house was the target. After slipping from window to window and carefully looking out, I left the house and checked the perimeter of my property looking for any signs of damage. While I was out staying in the shadows, there was no one in sight. The street was empty, and I didn’t find any damage or evidence of the explosives I’d heard that rattled my windows.

I went back inside, locked up, and later that night, when I left my home office after 8:00 pm, I took my loaded shogun with me to the family room where I watched a DVD.

All the noisy, flashy fireworks are a perfect cover for criminals and crazies to act, and that’s why on July 4th, I’m ready to fight. I slipped a large canister of pepper spray in my shirt pocket, hid a loaded pistol under a pillow and carried the shotgun to the family room with me to continue watching that DVD I started the night before.

With the 4th of July explosions popping off lighting the sky, every 10 minutes, I put the DVD on hold and slipped from room to room to peak out windows and make sure nothing suspicious was going on outside.  Even though there were plenty of explosions and flashy fireworks in the distance, I never saw anyone outside of the house, on the street, or across the street, but I stayed alert and ready anyway. To most combat vets with PTSD, when you relax and think everything is okay, that’s when the shit will hit the fan so you never relax.

Each window and door in my house has four locks. The last two locks can only be activated inside the house. No key will unlock them from outside. In fact, the workers that installed the new windows soon after I bought the house told me that one of my self-made locks was called a Deadman, because the simple, homemade device made it difficult for firemen to get in the house to save me.

I still remember my reply. “The threat of dying in a house fire doesn’t cause me to lose sleep. But the thought of some punk breaking into my house and me not being ready because I didn’t hear them does. If I know it is easy for someone to get inside my house without hearing them, I will be awake all night listening to every sound. I wanted to make sure that anyone breaking into my house had to make a lot of noise to do it and alert me. If a fire breaks out and kills me, too bad.”  I think that way because of the odds of a fire vs. a break-in.

According to FEMA, in 2010 there were 362,100 residential fires in the United States while there are about 131 million housing units.  That means the odds of my house catching fire are about a quarter of one percent.  But according to A Secure Life.com, “Data from the FBI 2012 crime report shows that we can expect one in every thirty-six homes in the United States to be burglarized this year (every year).”  Those odds are more than 3-percent or 12x the risk of a house fire.

I’m a combat vet. I live with the fight or flight response of PTSD, and I have no intention to run away. That leaves me with one choice, to fight. If someone breaks in my house while I’m home, one of us is going to die and I plan on it not being me.

It wasn’t always this way. I was married for forty years and to protect my wife and family from the flashbacks, caused by the combat memories that followed me home from the war, I kept my firearms locked away and lost a lot of sleep. Now that I’m on my own, the weapons are out when I’m home, and I sleep better knowing the house is sealed – something I had no control over when I was married. What is a vet to do when the wife can’t sleep unless she leaves the bedroom window open, and she sometimes wakes up and leaves the house on hot nights to get some cool air, but forgets to lock the front door when she returns?

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award winning author.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.