Notes from the end of TAPS weekend in DC


May 30th 2022

-Maybe my brother stayed sick and struggling, just to connect with my dad.  Just to keep us together. Dr. Phil has talked about how a person will do that in a family. I think that was what Nathaniel was doing. Now how do I share that with him?

-The big question I am asking myself for the past two days, why am I here?  What was I looking for?

I do think that I want to understand his death more

What came to me this morning so clearly, I wanted more of him.  I was thinking about how he adjusted to me marrying a person 21 years older and walked me down the aisle.  I wanted more of him while he was alive and I feel robbed by not having more. I blame the PTSD for blocking that from me.

What will being mad at the PTSD do to help you?

What will being mad at the PTSD change?

He is gone, and none of that matters.  You have to take stock of what you got and move forward.

Was it ever going to be enough?

What would enough look like? Holidays together, stopping by when he went to the VA.  Letting me know he was in town.

It feels lonely and helpless to accept that there is no more.

It feels sad

I didn’t realize it, but I have been trying to make sense of how he died.  My mind likes to interpret it in selfish ways, that he abandoned us before I was ready, that he didn’t love me enough, that he chose to leave me. And all of that is fair and true, but here is the key thing.  It is NOT all of the story and truth. You see our lives are lived in 360 degrees of direction.  That is just the daughter who loves a father, and it would never be enough. That isn’t both of my brothers’ stories, that isn’t my dad’s story, that isn’t my mom’s story, that isn’t the story of his battle buddies, that isn’t the story of his co-workers, that isn’t the story of the waitress at his bar.  Those stories are really the stories of who he was and it was far greater than I will ever be able to tell, but that would be the more 360 view of my father and his passing. I plan to keep a focus on that and not just on my own focus of loss. 

That is why the painting is so great for my process.

How can I best honor him?

-Tell his PTSD story to others

-Save more lives from suicide after their service

-become a peer mentor

-spread the word about TAPS to everyone and everything

               Funeral homes



               Chaplins at hospitals

               Social workers at hospitals



               Military cemeteries in Minnesota, ND, SD, WIS, Iowa

               Give speeches and presentations to Vets, families, and friends

Does TAPS have or pay for local ambassadors?


When I talk to people about what my dad was like before he went to Vietnam they talk about his laughter, that he was the center of a party, he was sexy, fun, and a little wild. When I ask them about what he was like when he got back, they say he rarely laughed, had a hard time around people, and hated the 4th of July. Then he started to have kids this was all in the part where he just had PTS. Had we known then what we know now, this would be the place where we all paused and worried not about anything more than sending an army of love and support to his brain to help him process out all of the dehumanization he had to go through to come home to his wife alive.  We would have re-added the human back with his body.  It takes time to get all those connections reconnected and integrated with the traumatic experiences he went through, but it would have been well worth it.

But that was 1975 and we didn’t know anything about saving each other from hell.

Having us kids, well that triggered his responsibility button and he was not going to do anything less than his best. He fought that PTS every day to go to work, to come home to us, to be part of the church, and to just breathe air.  And as the nightmare became night terrors, the PTS became PTSD and there was even more distance from the man he was before Vietnam and the man walking around the world in 1983. You see he now didn’t just fight in a war from 1969 to 1972, he was still fighting that war every day and the more time that passed that he had to live in that war, the further away from us he had to get to survive as a shell of a human and the more he needed to protect us from himself. There is the great battle going on in his mind trying to figure out how to live, provide for his family and fight this war that won’t stop playing in his mind, the million “what if’s” that are getting louder and louder. He finds a way, but it requires us to get further and further away from him, until finally, my mom has to leave for her own personal safety and me and my brothers. His anger is palatable to this point, he feels totally abandoned. It’s 2000 and the world is finally able to talk about PTSD, but they still really aren’t sure what to do about it and they have missed the window of saving many of his fellow brothers and sisters of the Vietnam War. At this point, the PTSD monster is all-consuming of most waking thoughts. He is able to push them out by going to work.  The same job he got in 1974 right out of college. He holds onto that job for dear life, people not knowing that is truly one of the only things keeping him alive on this earth. Until it comes the time, his body can no longer do the job, it once did and after forty-plus years they have to push him into retirement, more scared than he had ever been in his whole life.  Now he is really alone with the PTSD and the war and then a great pandemic hits and he locks himself away from the world in hopes to be safe and to survive this illness that is coming for people like him. COVID never gets him, but cancer does, and he welcomes it with open arms as a release from the years of pain and war he has endured. He dances in the end and celebrates the amazing life he was able to have while fighting with PTSD. He won the war with PTSD, it didn’t win.  He raised his family, he had a job, he provided for us and he died of cancer and not suicide, which is what he wanted lots of the time.

He was FREE.

I loved him and he was gone!

How do you honor that kind of hero?

How do you not see that as being a hero?