Saturday, January 14, 2012

Response from the White House

Last January, I wrote a letter to Michelle Obama reaching out for help.  Allen was away at The Pathway Home and things were not looking promising for him to return home to live with us on a permanent basis anytime soon.  I was extremely frustrated and felt that I had done everything I knew to get my husband the help he wanted and so desperately needed.  I was scared and grasping for straws.

So, I decided to write a letter to the first lady.  She has been passionate about helping military families so I thought maybe it would do some good.  After all, if we don't share our stories with those who can make change happen, how can we ever expect them to do something for us?  I posted a copy of that letter on my blog,  I emailed the letter to the white house and also followed that up with a hard copy in snail mail.  I wasn't sure which way was best, so figured I would do both.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed when I never received a response.  I expected it to take several weeks before getting one, but I really didn't think I'd not hear anything.  Well, that all changed last week when I received a call from the White House!  Allen answered the phone and brought it to me whispering to me that it was the guy from the white house.  I was completely confused while trying to figure out why our neighbor who lives in the "white" house was calling for me.  (He's the manager of our walmart so I was completely confused.)  Soon after saying hello my confusion cleared up.  It wasn't our neighbor from the "white" house, it was Tyler, from THE White House!  Tyler is a staffer there and told me that the first lady had received my letter and was considering using a quote out of it for an upcoming speech.  They needed to get my permission as well as all of my personal information.   He also informed me that things can always change but he would let me know if they decided to go ahead and use my letter.

I was completely thrilled to know the impact simply writing a letter could have.  I have always heard people encouraging others to write their elected officials but honestly, I never really figured it did much good.  I now am an avid fan of writing or calling your elected officials!  (I know she's not elected, but it seems to be about the same thing.)  Whether she used my letter or not, I was deeply honored and humbled that she received, read, and was impacted by my words and story.  Now, we just had to wait to hear from them again.

Much to my surprise I didn't have to wait long.  On Tuesday, January 10, Tyler called me again.  Mrs. Obama was going to be making a speech at Virginia Commonwealth University and was going to include part of my letter in her remarks.  We could log onto the universities website and watch the live feed on Wednesday afternoon.  I didn't know what she was going to be talking about, but was eager to hear her speak.  (The only thing better would have been to be able to be there live!)

Allen and I set up both of our laptops, side by side and tuned in.  We were hoping that our internet didn't spend a lot of time buffering but we didn't have much control over that.  Thankfully, it wasn't too bad, and we were able to watch most of the speech uninterrupted.  Her speech was amazing.  Of course it was special to me because she called me by name and used part of my letter.  But, even without that, I was deeply touched by her speech.  She gets "it".  Not many people, unless they are personally touched by the invisible wounds of war get "it".  She however seems to have a pretty good grasp on it as well as a passion for helping us.  It is refreshing to see that people who have the power to make changes are truly listening.

The main topic in her speech was launching a new initiative between 105 medical schools to devote more training, time, and resources for their students to treat PTSD, TBI and other "invisible" wounds of war.  These schools have committed to fund research as well.  It is an exciting time for wounded warrior families, although it can't come soon enough.  Many are still really struggling everyday for basic care and benefits.

To hear Mrs. Obama's speech in it's entirety, go to .    The part where she quotes my letter is at about the 20 minute 40 second mark.  But, I encourage you to listen to the entire speech.

Thank you Mrs. Obama for all you do for military families, specifically wounded warriors and their families.  It is refreshing to see someone remember the entire family and not just the service member/veteran.

Even Now.......Gina

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sorry For My Absence

I realize that I've been missing in action since the first part of December.  December was a crazy month for us and quite frankly, I needed a break from everything technology related!  So, this is really just a bit of an update on all of us.

Sickness was the word of the month for us at the Hill house.  Hopefully that means that we have all had everything going around this winter and will not get sick again.  We were all sick right before Christmas and most of us were sick numerous times throughout the Christmas break.  We had bronchial infections, coughs, runny noses, sneezes, tummy trouble and fevers.  It was not a fun time, but we are all feeling much better now!

While it was great all being home in our new house for Christmas this year, it was a tough time.  Allen really struggled with depression and other PTSD symptoms.  He spent A LOT of time in his quiet room but we made it through.  The boys had a great Christmas, and we spent it with my sister and parents.  We also enjoyed our time with Little Allen, Allen's oldest son who lives in Dallas.  He stayed here a week and we all miss him now that he's back home.  It did all of us good to spend some much needed time with him again.   Allen felt guilty being in his room so much, but it was what he needed to make it through the holidays.  We are so thankful to have that space for him.  It has made a world of difference.

New Year's Eve was our 9th wedding anniversary.  Typically we go spend it at my sister's house, but didn't this year as Makale had basketball practice.  We decided to just stay home and have a few friends over.  The boys had a great time as they each had friends over too.  Allen was able to mingle for a little while before retreating to his quiet room where he and a friend watched a movie.  We are quickly learning that a lot of people even at home is very stressful for him.

It's hard to believe that we were married 9 years ago!  Anniversaries for anything always make me reflect back to the initial event.  I thought back about what I dreamed our life would be like by now on our wedding day.  Never did this life enter my mind.  With that being said, while it's not easy most of the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.  The things we've gone through have made me realize that difficulties aren't necessarily a bad thing, but more often than not a blessing in disguise.

Today is a big day for Allen.  He is starting back to school at Ottawa University where they gave him and the boys each a full ride scholarship.  He will be taking a computer programming class.  He is starting with just one class this semester to see how he does and if he is ready to embark on going back to school.  I will be attending class with him at least until he is comfortable enough to be in class on his own.  He has a small class, only 13 including him and he already checked out the room and knows the professor.  I hope that we have done everything to help him be successful.  He is really excited and I think it will help alleviate some of the depression he deals with.  He will also have a "life coach" type advisory that will be able to help him if he needs any special accommodations or tutoring.  I think OU is going to be a good fit for him.  Of course, I think it's cool that we will potentially all have degrees from OU, my alma mater!!

Silent Siren is continuing to develop.  It is a lot of work and there is still much to be done, but we are making strides and getting the word out slowly but surely.  Stay tuned as we develop.  We can always use funding, so if you are looking for somewhere to donate to this year, please consider us.  There is a donate tab on our website at and can all be done online.  Or, if you prefer to send a check, you can email me through the tab on my blog and I can get you an address to mail a check to.

Happy New Year to you all!  May you have a blessed 2012!

Even Now.......Gina