Easter Seals Greater Houston has done a wide variety of things for me. I am grateful for everything you all have done. Before meeting with ESGH, I had done very little to connect to the Veterans community and the Veterans services that I am able to access because of my time in the Army.
It has been a combination of effort from my mental health therapist, Amy Harkins, Jennifer Wright from the Service Dog Program and a few others who have helped me get tickets to concerts and other events. I had an amazing time at the VetsAid concert. I loved going to the Zoo for Walk With Me and I look forward to going again this year. I even got connected to Give Vets a Smile at UT Dental and got some much-needed work done. I plan to follow up with THRIVE (Easter Seals Financial Education Program) to keep working on my financial situation with Jenny Martinez. I am thankful to be connected to the Veteran Food Pantry. I tend to isolate so these activities mean the world to me.
I have the sense that there are puppet masters in the background at ESGH that are helping me out in ways that I don’t even really know about. I have appreciated everything Jennifer Wright has done to keep the process going to get a service dog. I do worry about some of the details of getting a service dog, but overall, I am very hopeful that having a service dog will help me explore and enjoy life to the fullest. Having a dog will allow me to do things that I don’t do now. A dog will open a door that I keep closed. And a Service Dog will be a much-needed friend. Jennifer has not given up on helping me get a service dog and I am so grateful that she has been persistent, on track, and motivated. If she had given up, I would have given up a long time ago.
I know that talking (via Telehealth) to my therapist Amy has really helped me do things that I would not have done otherwise. Talking has helped me to think about what I want to do. I want to explore and see things in Houston. Actually, one of the most helpful things we have done is meet in person. It was a very big step for me to start using Metro Lift so that I can meet in person. Getting familiar with Metro Lift has opened up many opportunities for me. Still, it is helpful that I can meet with my therapist by video when something gets off track. Having you all in my corner has been my saving grace.
“I did it. I found his grave. I talked with him for a long time. There was no rush. I gave him a cigarette right there on his headstone and we smoked and talked. I got to say things that I have been waiting thirty years to say. It’s been thirty years almost to the day since I saw him. I told him that I am sorry I wasn’t there for him that night. I told him that I know now it was not my fault that he died. I have been carrying that around for a long time. I realize that I can finally let that go. I got the sense that he was there with me and I heard him say, “Just remember me.” I know that he wants me to remember how he was a good friend and remember the good times that we had together. It took a lot for me to touch his gravestone. I felt a wave of anxiety come over me. And I stayed there until that feeling was gone. At the end, I stood at attention and gave a salute to him. I understand better now that I need to get out more, stop isolating. I can open up and be myself. I am able to say to myself, I want a life and I gotta step out and do that. And I know that therapy has helped me. It has helped to know that my ESGH therapist is rooting for me. She helped me face my past. At this point in my life, I am ready to embrace the new.”
Easter Seals Greater Houston, Veterans Mental Health Program
If you’ve watched one of the viral TED talk videos on YouTube, you know their tag line is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” At Easter Seals of Greater Houston, we also think we have ideas worth spreading and ours are focused on collaboration. Being the recipient of a 2016 Texas Veteran + Family Alliance (TV + FA) grant, our goal is to improve the quality of life for Texas Veterans and their families. By working hand in hand with proven Veteran Service Organizations, we are able to have an exponential impact on the community.
We decided to have two large Convenings that would allow us to improve the communication and collaboration of mental health and supportive service in the greater Houston area. Our first convening included Veteran Service Organizations, Mental Health professionals, Veterans and Corporate Partners. This diverse group was chosen so we could demonstrate to all the groups how each one was a vital part of the solution. The event featured an amazing singer for the anthem, Game Show style vignettes to introduce language and culture, break-out sessions that included using technology and apps, features for our partners, nationally recognized speaker COL (ret) David Sutherland of The Dixon Center and a catered lunch.
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and there have only been two looming questions for Easter Seals of Greater Houston: When is the next one and can we make the event longer? It seems we have found some great ideas worth sharing and we are truly changing the way that everyone views mental health and veterans services. Our next Convening will be June 13th at Combined Arms. We invite all greater Houston corporations and businesses interested in supporting veterans to join us at the Convening and learn how hiring Veterans could be amazing for your business! Please contact Tim Stroud at TStroud@eastersealshouston.org or 713-838-9050 for more information.
Tim Stroud, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Veteran Initiative Coordinator