Monday, July 9, 2012

1st Annual Silent Siren Salutes Summer

We are excited to announce our first fundraising event for Silent Siren on August 4, 2012 at Ottawa University!!  We have a full day of activities planned with fun for everyone!  Get those BBQ and kickball teams ready for some fun competition and prizes!!  Anyone can participate!  Kickball or BBQ not your thing?  No worries!!  Plan to come enjoy entertainment, carnival games, pie auction, and the outdoor family friendly movie at dark.  Proceeds will be benefiting Silent Siren, a program of the Karla Smith Foundation 501(c)3.

For more information please contact me, Gina Hill at or call 785-242-1319.  Registration is open now and ends July 20th!!  Don't wait, get your teams registered today!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

National PTSD Awareness Day

Today is National PTSD Awareness Day and I really want to make a difference for people struggling with PTSD, their caregivers, and their families.  PTSD is something that affects my family each and everyday.  Every single person who is close to my husband has been affected in some way by his PTSD.

One way, we can all make a difference is by educating ourselves and by passing information along through our social media sites.  This is a very simple task and can be done by anyone.  There are so many great resources out there about PTSD that are easy to understand and share.  Below is a list of some of my favorites.

  • Silent Siren is the organization that Allen and I founded to help families supporting a loved one with PTSD gain confidence in the Emergency System when in crisis and to educate emergency responders about PTSD.  You can find information about PTSD and mental illness in general through our website.  Connect on facebook at
  • Karla Smith Foundation is the parent organization of Silent Siren and "supports families affected by mental illness and suicide."  Under their learn more tab you can find information, support, resources, and coping strategies.  Find KSF on facebook at
  • Tug McGraw Foundation "provides resources and hands-on support, fosters understanding, promotes awareness, and stimulates research and scientific collaboration to improve the quality of life for people with brain-related trauma and tumors."  They recently launched a redesigned website that has great information on TBI, PTSD, and brain tumors and includes information for caregivers.  It also includes an interactive message board for each of their areas of focus. to connect on facebook.
  • Family of a Vet "helps veterans and the people who love them, find their way, find information, and to find a way not only to cope with life after combat....but to survive and thrive."  From their website you can find many articles about just about anything related to PTSD and secondary PTSD.  To find FOV on facebook go to
  • The National Center for PTSD has tons of information regarding PTSD for the public and professionals.  While this Center is a part of the VA, this information provided here is not explicitly for veterans.
The newest estimates say that 400,000 returning service members will suffer with PTSD but only half will seek treatment.  What will you do to help eliminate the stigma surrounding this invisible wound to help encourage those suffering in silence to seek treatment?

Even Now........Gina

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Ya Gotta Believe"

Allen and I were honored to be able to attend the first annual Tug McGraw Celebrity Shootout on Tuesday in Nashville, Tennessee.  The event was to raise money for the Tug McGraw Foundation which supports The Pathway Home in Yountville, California where Allen received the amazing help for his PTSD last year.

Attending an event like this was something we will never forget.  This was an enormous milestone for Allen in his recovery of PTSD.  A year ago, we never would have imagined that we would be at a gun club together where live ammunition was being fired!  It was the first time for Allen to be around live fire since he was in Iraq over 4 years ago.  Up until now, we have been afraid of what might happen in a situation with live fire.  I can't begin to tell you what this day meant for us!  Not only did it show us that Allen has come so far, it also showed us that Allen is capable of doing anything he sets his mind to.  The confidence this event built for both of us is life changing.  While we know that PTSD will be with him for the rest of his life, we also know that it doesn't have to be a show stopper.  He has put in the hard work to learn strategies to help him live life to the fullest and attending this event proved it!

Our day started at 5:00 am when the alarm went off.  Both of us were wondering why we had agreed to do the media requests, but once we were moving that thought was quickly forgotten.  At 6:00 am the ABC affiliate was at the gun club to do live shots throughout their morning show.  The main event began at 9:00 am with practice opening up.  The first shot rang out and Allen didn't even flinch!  He sniffed the air for the smell of gun powder and smiled!  Not too long ago, that smell sent him to a very dark place.  The day would only get better from here!  The National Anthem played and the event kicked off with a small talk from Jennifer Brusstar, executive director of Tug McGraw Foundation followed by Mark McGraw who had organized the event.

Soon the shooters were all off.  The teams were made up of four people plus a professional shooter and a celebrity.  Allen and I went down on the course and he loved it!  He learned a lot about the sport and spent quite a bit of time with Terry Hetrick, a pro shooter from the Nashville Gun Club.  Allen can't wait to go back!!

After the shoot, we all enjoyed a BBQ lunch and waited for the results.  Winning teams received baseballs, Tug McGraw jerseys, or guitars autographed by all 17 celebrities!  Pretty great prizes in my opinion!!  A silent auction also brought in great items and funding.  The final part of the event was a demonstration presented by Bill Keever and Josh Richmond who is on the 2012 US Olympic team!  This was about a 20 minute show and it was great!  Josh's shooting skills are amazing!  He wowed us with clays and then brought out the food!  Allen insisted on being in the front row and didn't move even when he began being hit by chunks of tomato!  Needless to say, I quickly took cover!!  As you can see in the picture to the right, he did turn his back but was completely covered in shaving cream that Josh had shot!!  Frankie was also pretty covered, poor girl!

Allen and I will definitely be at the 2nd Annual TMF Celebrity Shootout and will be bringing along the boys!  We can't wait as we are sure it will be another fantastic day!  Terry promised Allen that he was saving a spot on his team for Makale next year but he may just have to save one for Allen as well!!  

Thanks to Bobby Brooks, Mark McGraw, Jennifer Brusstar, Tim McGraw and all of the celebrities, Josh Richmond, Terry Hetrick, Sherri and Jenni Clark, all of the sponsors, and everyone else involved in making this event such a spectacular day in our lives.  You will never know the impact it had on us and the huge step it was in Allen's walk with PTSD.  

The steps that Allen continues to take amaze me everyday.  His courage and strength inspire me to be the best that I can be.  (Sorry, that sounds kind of like an Army commercial!)  He is truly my hero!  "Ya Gotta Believe!!"

Even Now.......Gina

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


“A smile starts on the lips, A grin spreads to the eyes, A chuckle comes from the belly; But a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, Overflows, and bubbles all around.”
Carolyn Birmingham -

There is no better sound in the world than hearing someone you love, let out a deep, full belly laugh.  I don't think there is much more in this world that gives me joy than to hear this type of laughter out of one of my kids or my husband.  It shows their happiness and enjoyment, which in turn, makes me happy.

It's been a really long time since I've heard Allen's true, full, belly laugh.  It's been so long in fact that I think I may have forgotten what it sounded like.  However, the last couple of months, I've been noticing it creeping back in to our lives.  At first, it really caught me off guard.  It sounded almost foreign to my ears.  I listened and relished the sound.

Today we had a neighborhood block picnic at our house.  It was the annual HOA meeting so we volunteered to have it at our house so that everyone could see the house and the kids could enjoy the pool.      It was a beautiful day for it and I think most of the neighbors were here.  We had our meeting, ate, played, showed them the house and just got to know everyone.  It was really a great time.  As people were starting to leave, I noticed a group of the men in the garage with Allen checking out the project truck.  He was so excited showing them the truck and the progress they have made.  It is so amazing to see him putting himself out there again, to engage in conversations, to interact with people and even more amazing that they are people he really doesn't know that well.  This is a huge thing for him.  But, even better than all of that, is hearing him laugh.  That true, deep, joyful laugh that has been missing for a very long time.  I heard it many times throughout the afternoon today, and each time I took note.  I relish the sound each time I hear it.  It stands out to me.  It reminds me of where we've been and how far we've come.  I hope that this is something that I will cherish the rest of my life.  We tend to take so much for granted in this world, and I hope that this is something that I never will.

As I sit and think about the sound of Allen's laugh, I find myself wondering if this is the way his laugh has always sounded, or if it truly has changed.  It sounds so foreign to me, but I am not sure if that's because it has changed like most everything else about him, or if it's just been so long since I've truly heard it that it sounds so new again.  At first, I thought it had changed.  However, after thinking about it, I'm not convinced it has.  I've written before about his voice changing so it very well could be that the sound of his laugh has changed just as his voice did.   I'm leaning more towards the fact that it has just been too long since I've heard it that I notice it again.  Absence does make the heart grow fonder!  Either way, I'll take it and cherish it as often as I can get it!

Even Now.........Gina 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Friends, Healing, and a '57 Chevy

Allen, Stacy King, and Bill King with the '57 Chevy
Bill King, Makale, Allen, and Dreyson 

     One of the greatest blessings we have received since joining the world of wounded warriors are all of the amazing friendships we have developed that we never would have had the opportunity for before.  So many astounding people have crossed our path since Allen's injury, and many we are able to now call our friends!  One such couple is Bill and Stacy King.  We had the honor of meeting Bill and Stacy back in August 2011, after they had helped all week long on the build for our house.

     Bill and Stacy are extremely generous, loving, and just overall "good people."  They have a moving personal story as well and we are honored to be able to call them our friends.  The first time we met them was just a couple of weeks after the build.  Allen and Bill had the chance to sit down for a conversation and soon discovered their combined love for 57 Chevy pick ups.  Allen had expressed to Bill that his dream was to get a project vehicle to restore with the boys and an old Chevy Pickup would be his dream.  Bill shared with Allen that he actually had 57 Chevy that he had restored and was his first vehicle.  He later asked me if he could get that truck back would it be ok for him to give it to Allen and the boys to restore.  I said that would be great but we by all means didn't expect them to just give us a vehicle.  Bill expressed his interest in being able to do this for all of us and that he would be in touch but it probably wouldn't happen until the spring.

Dreyson trying out the driver's seat
     As it turns out, Bill was not able to get his old truck back.  However, he and his beautiful wife Stacy, were determined to find the perfect truck for Allen and the boys.  This started their journey of traveling around the country in search of the perfect project.  Bill later shared it with me that it was something he felt was meant to be and was happy to be able to give this to Allen, Makale, and Dreyson.  Read more about Bill and Stacy's journey at

1957 Chevy 3100 Pickup in Infantry Blue
     Beginning in late February, first part of March, we started getting emails and phone calls from Bill.  He and Stacy were on the hunt for the perfect project.  They were traveling everywhere!!  One day they were in Spring Hill, Kansas, the next Southern Illinois with plans to go on to Tennessee the following weekend.  We couldn't believe it.  I watched Allen with each communication from Bill and knew how much this meant to him.  Since getting PTSD, Allen doesn't get excited about too many things.  However, this was one of those rare things that was changing him.  He was opening up and showing some spunk!  He was really excited about getting a vehicle to work on with the boys.

Taking out the radiator

Soon, his dream came true when Bill and Stacy came up the driveway pulling a trailer and a 1957 Chevy!  We were all ecstatic and the fact that it was "infantry" blue made it even better!  (We have since found out it is more of a turquoise blue, but it's close enough.)  Our friendship has grown so much with the King's through this journey, it is really quite indescribable.  All I can really say is it was all definitely part of the plan for our lives and was truly meant to be for so many reasons.

A couple of weeks after they dropped off the truck, Bill and Stacy came back for the weekend.  Bill and Allen worked on the truck while Stacy and I ran parts for them and just hung out together.  We all had such a great time and our friendship blossomed even more.  I think that it has been such a joy for all of us throughout this whole process.  Healing has happened all the way around and the truck is on it's way to "healing" as well!

I am excited to see the process as it all unfolds.  I will do my best to update here the progress with the truck as well as all involved.  We are looking forward to Bill and Stacy visiting again in a couple of weeks and we will see how the truck changes then.

Oh, and by the way, every project vehicle like this gets a name and Allen has proudly decided to call this truck the "King!"  Thank you Bill and Stacy for your friendship as well as all you have done for our family.  You guys hold a very special place in all of our hearts!!

Even Now.........Gina

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Always Behind

Ahhhhhhhh, it seems I'm always trying to catch up lately!!  There have been several things I have wanted to blog about but just haven't gotten around to it.  So, now I'm playing catch up!!

Last month, Allen and I were asked to speak at an American Legion Birthday party.  They really wanted Allen to speak, but also understood if he couldn't do it.  This was a big thing for him and took a little convincing that he could do it.  He has a really hard time being motivated to do much of anything much of the time.  As the date approached I really wasn't sure what was going to happen.  I had told them that I thought Allen was going to do it, but that they had to be flexible and open to him backing out at the last minute.  However, this is not easy for me!  I still am not completely comfortable doing public speaking so I am very regimented in preparing to do an event.  Allen is polar opposite.  He never prepares anything, and just basically flies by the seat of his pants.  He doesn't stress or anything, while I am a nervous wreck!  So, this flexibility I had to have was killing me!!

Finally the night before we were supposed to show up,  Allen committed to doing it.  We talked about it and (somewhat) planned what he would talk about and decided that he was going to pass it off to me so that I could talk about Silent Siren.  I was pretty confident that I could discuss Silent Siren without having it all written out so decided that I too, would wing it.

We arrived at the Legion about an hour before it was all supposed to start.  Allen had never been there before and instantly tensed up and was hyper vigilant.  I was pretty worried that I indeed was going to have to wing more than just my little explanation about Silent Siren.  So as I'm getting more and more nervous, I am also trying to calm Allen down and keep him in the moment.  Frankie is a life saver in these situations as well.  She knows him so well that she instantly gets to work.  Thankfully, they were serving a dinner before the program part of the evening which helped get Allen a little more acclimated to the new environment and also distracted him.  After the dinner was complete, Allen was actually pretty calm and said he could do it, much to my relief!!

After he was introduced, we both went to the podium and he began his speech.  He talked about service dogs and Puppies Behind Bars.  He spoke of how much Frankie has changed his life and how she works for him.  It was really very educational and I could tell that the audience was really receiving him well.  Part of his brain injury though is that he is easily distracted and tends to talk in circles a little bit.  (I just had my foot near him where I could gently nudge him to let him know he was wandering.)  He did really well.  He also got so caught up that he explained Silent Siren before he turned it over to me.  Then he remembered to turn it over to me but he had already explained what I was supposed to explain!!  It all turned out fine in the end and I was able to explain a little more about our program Silent Siren.

After we were finished, a group called the KC Betty's performed.  They were so cute and a lot of fun to watch.  Allen got a kick out of their performance but especially their song, Straighten up and Fly Right.  His grandma used to sing that song to him and he in turn has sang it to our kids.  We all sing it now!!  If you've not heard of the Betty's you should definitely check them out!!  We are hoping to do some work with them in the future to help promote Silent Siren.

It is so amazing watching Allen come out of the PTSD shell more often.  Seeing him with a genuine smile on his face isn't such a rarity anymore.  Hearing his deep belly laugh happens more and more!  It is hard to put into words how much it means to us all to have a part of him back home with us finally after so long.  We are definitely blessed!!

Even Now.......Gina

Monday, March 12, 2012


As I've talked about before, this year our family is really focusing on balance in our lives.  We are in a much more stable place than we have been the last few years, so now finding balance is key.  All of us struggle with this, we just don't often realize it or focus on it.  So, in striving to find balance, I've also learned that I have to de-stress a little.

This morning I came across a list of obvious ways to de-stress  There are some really great ideas here, and while they are very obvious, for most of us we just don't take the time to do them.  The one that I have done a lot of lately is unplugging.  The last couple of years, I have spent a great deal of time on my computer researching, networking, you name it.  I was actually probably somewhat addicted to it.  It made me crazy if I couldn't check my email, facebook, and blog regularly, multiple times a day.  Shortly after the holidays, I had just kind of had enough.  I guess you could say I was burnt out to some degree and took a step back for quite a while.  I didn't even miss it!!  It was great and very freeing for me.  (However, my blog has not been updated near like I would like and I often feel very guilty about that.)  In the big picture though, this has helped me a ton.  I no longer feel anxious if I don't go online for a day or even for a whole weekend!

With this has also come more time spent with my family.  Sometimes, things can overtake a big portion of our time and we don't even realize it.  Once again, it's all about balance.

I hope some of these tips from this article will help you realize how easy it can be to just take a little bit of time for yourself everyday and how much that can help reduce the stress in your life.

Even Now.......Gina