Cancer threatens a combat vet’s best friend and lifesaver

Guest post by Lisa Bonnington

UPDATE on November 16, 2018

Bella had her surgery a few weeks ago and one of her rear legs was removed. Recovery was swift. She is now a tripod and is learning quickly how to adjust to three legs instead of four. The leg that was removed was sent out for a biopsy that revealed cancer in the leg with no evidence that the cancer had spread to her body. If the leg had not been removed, the cancer would have spread.

When I learn more details from Lisa and Robbie, I will add them to this update.

Sincerely, Lloyd Lofthouse

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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.

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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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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.

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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?

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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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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”.

 

 

Megan Leavey and her dog Rex, Semper Fi – Once a Marine, Always a Marine

I saw a film today, Wednesday June 14, 2017, based on the true story of a U.S. Marine and her dog.  While watching the film, I was with her every step of her journey. The first part of the film shows a young American that has lost her way due to the death of a close friend. Her family is dysfunctional and poor just like mine was. I identified with her reason for joining the Marines and that decision straightened her life out like it did for me.  When she reached boot camp and I watched her expression and body language as the DI’s tore into her and the other recruits. I laughed because that was me in 1965 at MCRD. Leavey went through boot camp at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

When Megan is asked in the film why she joined, she said, “To get away from my life.” I couldn’t have said it better.

But after book camp, she was still struggling to find a balance in her life, and that got her in trouble leading her to the shit detail that introduced her to the Marine Corps infantry bomb dog program and Rex.

The battle scenes in Iraq were intense, and I was there with her every step of the way.

After she leaves the Marine Corps, she finds herself lost again until she takes up the struggle to adopt and save the life of Sergeant Rex, her combat dog, who had been retired and was scheduled for euthanasia.

After Vietnam (1966) and the Marines (1968), it took me years to find that balance. It’s not an easy journey.

Since it isn’t a secret that she was reunited with Rex, who taught her what love is, I’m going to admit that my eyes got misty while watching this part of the film. If you see the film, I suggest that you take some tissues.

Megan Leavey grew up in Valley Cottage, New York. She enlisted in the Marines in 2003 and after boot camp was stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, where she was paired with military working dog Rex. They served together on two deployments in Iraq. They were first deployed to Fallujah in 2005, and then to Ramadi in 2006, where they were both wounded by an improvised explosive device. Leavey was awarded the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a “V” device denoting heroism in combat.

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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”.