This blog post comes Marjorie who is the wife of a veteran, Tom, who participates in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s veteran’s mental health program as well as the service dog program. Marjorie is a staff member and she and Tom are the amazing parents of two daughters. Their young girls were both adopted and born with disabilities. They are an absolutely amazing family.
“Norman is one of Easter Seals Greater Houston’s most recent service dog pairings. He is a labrador retriever and was born on Christmas day in 2016. It wasn’t until he joined our family in February 2017 that we realized what a gift he would be to all of us. As the wife I was ever hopeful that he would be able to help my veteran husband with managing his post traumatic stress disorder. In June 2017, Norman became an integral part of our family when my husband, Tom, got sick. We picked up Norman from additional service dog training as soon as Tom got out of the hospital. Norman comforted Tom and their bond grew even more. As the training continued, Norman became more helpful even as a puppy in training. When Harvey hit there were many helicopters flying overhead which triggered severe PTSD and anxiety, Norman was alerting Tom as his anxiety increased. He helped Tom manage his PTSD and helped me to be more aware of when Tom was having a hard time even in dire circumstances. For that I am forever grateful. I do not know what the outcome would have been during this extremely stressful time without Norman.
We have also had an unexpected result of having Norman in our family. Our 5 year old daughter with special needs and also a client of Easter Seals has a tendency to “wander off”. Norman, as apparently his secondary job, will alert us immediately if she goes too far. He never barks unless she has gone beyond a boundary that he seems to know instinctively.
In November, Norman became a certified service dog having completed all his training. He and Tom are a true team now. You will not see Tom without Norman. I will forever be grateful for Easter Seals Greater Houston giving my husband more freedom from his PTSD symptoms and for his help with our daughter as well.”
Marjorie, Wife of Veteran in Veteran’s Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston
Usually I write about a person who was helped by the services I provide through Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans Program. This time I’m going to do that with a twist, so let me tell you the story. Years ago I met a Marine and after this initial meeting our paths diverged for a long time. About a year ago, our paths crossed again at a Marine Corps birthday celebration in Houston and I learned he was a County Veterans Service Officer. After catching up we discovered that we both worked in the Veteran community to reduce the stigma around mental health, providing services to Veterans and their family members. Though our services are different, they both aim to end the suffering in silence of so many Veterans. Over this year, we have discussed all these things and one thing was clear-we have the same mission. A partnership was born that extends to the many Veterans we meet each week.
You might think this is just a story about two people in the community working together to help Veterans, but it isn’t. Yes, we benefit from the collaboration because of the confidence and trust that is shared between us. I know he will work hard and go the extra mile to help those I refer to him. He knows this of me too. Yet, the most important part of our meeting is how our complimentary services have benefited those that have served and their families. He most often refers individuals who have suffered in silence for years due to experiences from their service. Most often it is combat related. He tells them how things can get better and how they can feel better. He offers hope from someone who has been there. He helps connect them to the services they need. And they get better. When they come to our Veterans Program I give them information about what they are dealing with, the sense of isolation reduces, they feel the support, more things seem possible, and more gets done. I tell them, “You didn’t get here by yourself, so build a unit that will help you get out of this.” Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans Program can be part of that unit. A County Veterans Service Officer is part of my unit. And we press forward . . . offering hope and services to those who want them and who no longer want to suffer alone.
Dr. Cristy Gamez-Galka, Mental Health Lead for Fort Bend Veterans Case Management Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston
Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to offer a variety of services that Veterans and their families can benefit from including Fort Bend Veterans Case Management Program, Fort Bend Veterans Companion Dog Program, Bank On Montgomery County as well as the collaborative efforts of the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance.