I am America's ultimate nightmare, according to our government's complaints about expenses that need to be cut and issues that need fixing by the individuals involved. An unemployed, deadbeat dad, a veteran with mental health issues, on welfare. The kind of person that without the Veteran status most would rather condemn than look for a way to help, and believe me you cannot put any more guilt on my back than I already live with each and every day of my life.
I served my country from 1986 to 1989 in the Army as a Radio & Teletype Operator earning an honorable discharge under what the Army called a "Happy Divorce." That is where soldiers who have mental health issues or are unable to adapt to military life are offered a way out which costs the Army less than if they gave them the medical discharge they probably should provide. My personal issues were Borderline Personality Disorder though they did not diagnose the main issue, which was Bipolar Disorder with major depression tendencies. I suffered from major depression after a death in the family while serving on funeral detail during my station at Fort Ord, California, which also led to my re-enlistment in the Army in an attempt to both straighten out my life and run from issues at home.
While serving in Germany after re-enlisting I drank heavily, got more depressed and on several occasions attempted suicide. One of those occasions I was then put in a hospital room with my co-workers in my platoon forced to stand guard over me in the room to prevent further attempts. These men and women then became afraid to work near me and this helped to cause the second attempt, which left me in ICU for a week unconscious. After waking, I was offered the discharge while still in ICU by the very Psychiatrist (a German contractor) who failed to diagnose me in the first place. Once I left the hospital I was informed I had my security clearance taken away from me due to being considered a security risk, was removed from my platoon forced to work in the headquarters gym because I lost my clearance. By the time, I got my discharge I was certainly willing to leave though it left me with fear of what would become of me.
When I got to Fort Dix, New Jersey, they processed me out of the Army with all of the other soldiers who were getting discharges of all kinds including Honorable. Under my chapter 34 discharge, I was then not allowed to keep my medical file. I was informed with a room full of those like me that we had two choices. One was give up the medical file and are discharged the other was to keep it and be put back into service placed wherever the Army deemed necessary. I then gave up the one thing that tied my issues to the Army, which would allow me to apply for medical assistance or compensation for the aggravation of my disease by my service to my country. Leaving me out in the cold with no proof other than the copies I had and no medical assistance from the Veterans Administration, which turned me down several times including during one court appointed visit to a state mental facility for suicidal tendencies during college.
Through the years I went through my life as many Veterans do: anger and guilt plagued by issues varying from loss of brothers in combat when I wasn't there, to the fact that I couldn't even complete my duty like "normal" soldiers do, earning my twenty years in service to my country. Instead, I became a victim of my disease with failed marriages, three beautiful children I could not provide for and a world seemingly uninterested in caring or feeling the same empathy that has plagued me for their issues. A consuming desire to take their pain upon me, their cancers, deaths and make them the reason I hate me as much as they do. I would have gladly taken the place of many relatives, friends and people I have never meant to be dead and most of all honored and loved for the person they were.
It's true I am on welfare, getting the medical care from the Veterans Administration which may never have let me in were it not for me being destitute and in need of mental health treatment. The new guidelines protecting Veterans from their attempts at suicide finally opened a door that had been closed to me, including a period where my first wife was a registered nurse working at a VA medical facility. I suffer from much guilt about being treated while so many combat veterans who failed to apply in time or cannot seemingly get treatment for whatever reason do not. I never understood what made me qualify for anything such as love, affection or care when I could not learn to love myself in the first place.
Why I wrote this article, you might ask. Because I want, many who write about welfare and deadbeat dads with such disdain to know that there might be reasons you cannot see for what choices—right or wrong—those people make in life. I understand more than most the desire to not be unemployed on welfare, not paying my child support, but many either don't want to hire me, work with me or help me for whatever reason, especially since I am both a disruptive and self-imploding man who talks to himself out loud all the time. Many say these are the results from my issues that include the bipolar, borderline personality disorder, high blood pressure, heart condition, arthritis and the desire to slam a hammer into the face of anyone who picks on me for the way I look when all I want to do is earn money to pay my bills in peace like everyone else. Anyone ever been punched in the head several times just for doing your job? I have, while working in security quite a few years back, partially where I became PTSD as well.
I hope that whomever you are, the next time you think of making fun of, condemning or insulting a person in any way you think of that person as if they are you, because one day that may very well be you, or someone you care for—and how would you like them to be treated?