Please help this veteran's family
Hi! My name is Precious. I'm the wife of Jason, a US Army veteran who did two tours in Iraq in 2003 and 2008.
Jason is a father of four. We have three kids together: Alanna, 5, Liberty, 3, and Charles, 2.
Jason went missing sometime overnight on Nov. 28/29. He appeared several hours later at his father's house, in his hometown, where he got into some trouble during a psychotic break from undiagnosed mental illnesses he probably acquired during active duty.
For those of you who haven't had a chance, please check out the Toronto Star article here and the CityNews video clip here . I haven't had much time to keep this page updated. Partly because I'm so overwhelmed but also because I'm at a loss at how my husband's case has progressed. Neither tells the full story and there are a few inconsistencies but, it will give you the general idea of the history of Jason's case.
I micro-blog about him on Twitter and Facebook regularly and I've become a pretty outspoken advocate for the treatment of not only justice-involved veterans but mentally ill defendants going through the system. I've seen things that we only talk about but can't seem to change. Once my husband's case has concluded, I've definitely got some plans to try and see what we can do to address those flaws. But, that's not what this page is about.
Whos is Jason?
Jason is a family man. Despite how coldly the court documents portray him, he has no history of violence. He is one of the kindest, most honest, trustworthy and funniest people you will ever meet. He did what he had to do when he was in Iraq but that is not who he was when he was home.
What happened was directly related to undiagnosed illnesses he acquired during active duty and as much as I appreciate all the help we've received through the justice system, things haven't been easy.
Jason has been in and out of state custody since November. Every time his custody changes, his healthcare (both physical and mental) gets reset and we have to start over.
He's been unable to work. He's been unable to get to his VA compensation and pension exam, which would not only help investigate and treat his illnesses further, but would also help with some of the financial burden that his family has been under since this incident. He's been unable to continue the amazing care the VA has been giving him.
PTSD and Paranoia
Even though we've known each other since we were teenagers, we didn't become close until 2009, shortly after he was discharged from the army.
Looking back, there are things I remember that made me think something wasn't quite right.
Our first apartment was in uptown Toronto, right on the subway line. I always remember that despite how regularly the train passed under our home, it took him several months to get accustomed. He did not like how it made our apartment shake. The noise always bothered him.
Our window was also just steps away from a main roadway where there was a major bus-stop. The sound of the vehicles going by sometimes made him jump.
He told me that crowded areas in Toronto reminded him of Baghdad and he would get jumpy on garbage day, when bags of trash would be by the sidewalk (he told me that insurgents would hide IEDs in garbage bags in Iraq). Bridges and underpasses made him nervous, as he said people would drop bombs from there in Iraq.
Over time, he seemed to have learned to cope although I did notice over time, he became increasingly paranoid.
We sought help several times over the years, even up to and including the night he "disappeared." But I don't think anyone really took us seriously. I think it's partially a lack of understanding of how service affects the mental health of a veteran but largely also because his delusions weren't debilitating. His fears were always things that were possible, but unlikely -- like being watched by the government. It happens. But he probably wasn't being surveilled. And at the end of the day, it didn't stop him from leaving the house or going to work.
Why we need help
My husband's case is ongoing. For the most part, with the help of family, we've been able to cover legal costs, however, it's been really tough financially without Jason.
Those of you who know us well, know that the past few years have already been difficult for us.
My mom, Peachy, was diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer while my step-dad, Dennis, lay in a coma for 8 months -- in the same hospital (he later passed away peacefully). My mom has been in and out of remission. We believe her diet and the nutraceuticals she's incorporated into her care played a huge role in helping her battle this horrible disease. Because my mom was gravely ill when my step-dad died, it was Jason and I who planned and paid for his funeral.
Nowadays, we struggle just finding enough money for gas to go down to Ohio to visit Jason, take him to his appointments (when he's out on bond), attend his court hearings, etc.
He also has a son from a previous marriage, who we financially support.
We run our own business. My mom, step-dad, Jason and I all worked together on this project. Basically, there used to be four of us working and now there's just me.
Any help would be appreciated. It's not for Jason's legal costs. It would go towards things like:
-Child support for his eldest son
-Gas money for our trips to and from Ohio
-Groceries for the kids (including diapers)
-Clothing (the kids grow quickly!)
Even if you're unable to provide help financially, people have offered help in other ways:
-Food donations (people have brought us gift cards, hot meals and even boxes of dry goods)
-Gift cards for groceries (i.e. Walmart)
-Second-hand clothing for the kids
-Bottles of water (purified or distilled water -- no spring water due to dietary restrictions)
Right now, I'm looking for a chest of drawers for the kids (new or used) as I bought a cheap one from Canadian Tire that just fell apart on me. I can't afford to replace it at the moment but I will drive outside the city to pick one up! If you know someone who has one they'd like me to take off their hands, I'll go and get it! :)
I also want to thank the communty for the contiuous love and support, both financially and emotionally.
You have all been amazing. Thank you for the hot meals, the Christmas presents for the kids, the giftcards, the dry goods, the clothing -- everything.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, Jason was moved up to Level 2 (see previous update). This meant he could FINALLY see the kids. But because of Mother's Day and staff shortage, he wasn't able to see the kids until last weekend. It was the first time Charles, Liberty and Alanna had seen him in 3 months.
I also spent a few hours with him during visitation on Saturday and for the first time, Jason and I had a serious talk about the future. It was a really difficult conversation.
He kept talking about re-enlisting after he got out of there. I know it's not about me but it was very hard to listen to. He kept talking about wanting to go back to the army. Wanting to do more. Wanting to give more. That he had so much more to offer. He wanted to be medically fit enough to go back. I just didn't really know what to say.
I tried to explain to him that I felt he had already given so much. He didn't see it that way.
Being a soldier was all he ever wanted to do. It's all he feels he knows how to do. He feels like he was very good at his job. Given everything that's happened, the chances of him being a soldier again are probably pretty slim.
The only other dream he's ever had was to become an Ohio state trooper and that's probably not in the cards now either.
I think all this weighed heavily on him.
Then, I drove back to Canada and tried to have a normal week. I threw a birthday party for Alanna yesterday -- it was almost 2 months past her actual birthday. There were a lot of smiles and everyone was happy but it was a pretty tough weekend.
Probably one of the toughest since all this started.
I mean this with nothing but the utmost respect for our fallen heroes but every story I read, every interview I watched -- it just reminded me of Jason. About him wanting to give. Him wanting to give more. Wanting to give all of himself.
Anyway, I decided to post this today (Tuesday) instead of yesterday because Memorial Day isn't about us. It's not about me. It's not even about Jason. But it was still a very emotional weekend.
My heart goes out to those that paid the ultimate price for our freedom. I hurt for the families that have been left behind.
Thank you to those who serve.
All gave some. Some gave all.
Superheroes are great.
But to me, the real heroes are those who put their lives on the line for us.
That's real strength. Real honour. Real character. Real integrity.
I hope we never forget it.
Have a great week everyone!
When Jason was admitted, he was admitted to the first available bed, which wasn't the unit he was meant to stay in. We had set up all these medical appointments with the VA but unfortunately, he was moved and all the proper paperwork was not put through so, his medical appointments got postponed.
Anyway, he was finally properly assessed and cleared to go to his appointments on Friday. They decided to kill two birds with one stone and expedited him to Level 2 (since the forensic team was coming out to clear him to go to medical appointments, they decided to do the level 2 assessment, also). The paperwork isn't written up yet but, we're told he got the thumbs up.
There are 5 levels for him to work through before conditional release into the community, and a couple more levels after that before his case is fully closed.
Level 1: Can only stay in his hospital unit.
Level 2: Can leave the unit, supervised. Can have visitation from minors (he can finally see his kids).
Level 3: Can leave the unit, unsupervised. He can get a job in the hospital (i.e. cleaning, etc.).
Level 4: Can leave the hospital for day trips.
Level 5: Released to a group home.
It really comes down to each patient. Some people are at Level 5 but have been there for several years. Some are already at Level 5 and they've only been there for a year. After speaking to Jason's treatment team, it seems as though they are optimistic about Jason. Those of you who know -- REALLY KNOW -- Jason, know what a kind-hearted, gentle soul he is. He keeps a low profile and never gets into any trouble so, I'm optimistic he'll be home sooner, rather than later.
In terms of fundraising, we are getting so close to $3,000 but are still a little short. I'd really appreciate any help with travel expenses as the US dollar rose drastically. It's now $1.40 CDN per $1 US. Also, I'd like to try and put together some money for his eldest child, Kyle.
Thank you for all the support. It's so encouraging to continue to receive love and financial assistance from the community. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Alanna just turned 6 last month. We've been putting off her birthday party for almost 2 months, with Jason having two hearings within a week of her birthday. We're hoping to finally throw her a much-anticipated party before June and end this month on a high note.
Oh, and also (I feel awful always asking for money) but Alanna is participating in Jump Rope for Heart, for the second year in a row. Again, she's jumping in memory of Grandpa Dennis. If you'd like to donate, you can do so through her Heart & Stroke Foundation page: http://support.heartandstroke.ca/goto/IJumpForMyGrandpa.
Thank you, God bless and have a wonderful week!
I'm confident he can start the process of transitioning back into the community sooner, rather than later. He's doing really well on his meds.
In many ways, hospitalization is good news. But, it's also terrible news because it means that The State could be in our lives for the next 10.5 years, and it means we'll be apart for at least the next 6 months, as his first assessment likely won't be until October. (The psychiatrist at the hearing said she felt it was important Jason be near his family and advocated for him to be moved closer to home. I'm glad we got that on the record but, I'm pessimistic that the State would be willing to lose jurisdiction over the case.)
I've always been critical of the fact that despite how sick Jason was, he was constantly taken back and forth between the hospital and jail. He spent 116 days in custody, most of that time in county lock-up. After the trial, he had to wait in jail for a bed at the hospital. Also, his thyroid issues have remained largely ignored -- which could actually be fatal if left untreated.
I tried to keep Easter weekend as "normal" as possible for the kids. We went to church, had an egg hunt, then drove back to Canada.
Monday and Tuesday was when it really hit me. My brain was in overdrive. I had so many questions I felt needed to be answered. I obsessed for two days over what I was going to do to make sure this didn't happen to another family.
I'm no one. I don't have money, privilege or connections -- all I have is a pen. Writing can be therapeutic, but it can also be very powerful. It can be a blessing and a burden: Striking a balance between being constructive and being resentful. So, I settled on a letter-writing campaign. I'm sitting on them before I send my first batch of letters out. I need to be taken seriously so, it needs to come from the right place.
Early Thursday morning, I got a call that Jason's army pension hit a road block. I had to make several phone calls. I ended up taking my daughter to school late. Just before noon, I found out Jason had been moved to the hospital. I spent that day juggling the VA Benefits Department, the VA Medical Department, as well as the State hospital. I didn't get off work until midnight. I didn't even get to enjoy 420. Ha! (If you need to remember when Jason was moved -- it was on 420.)
Friday, I found out that Jason was admitted bradycardic (low heart rate). They did an EKG. I wanted to know what they were going to do. I spent the morning tracking down the doctor. I also found out that until further notice, justice-involved patients wouldn't be allowed visitors. So, again, I was late for work. I ended up having to call the VA to pressure the State hospital to bring him in to see his VA healthcare team. I also had a very pleasant conversation with the chief of security at the hospital. I believe the visitation ban is temporary. It just had to coincide with when Jason arrived (of course, because that's how the universe works). I don't know if you remember but last month, someone had rammed their car into the fence of an outdoor patient area. They also banned visitation FOR EVERYONE for nearly a week while they tried to set new rules. It turned out, that was the last straw in a string of unfortunate events. Since it's a hospital, pretty much anyone could visit. They were finding that justice-involved patients who were in gangs were having gang members come to the facility. Banned paraphernalia was being snuck in so, they had to ban food, and start using metal detectors. It's a big place, but there's not that many patients, in my opinion. So, as usual, it's a "special few" who ruin it for the rest of us. So, of course, it was an awful start to Jason's hospitalization. He was really looking forward to seeing his family. And now, visitation for him is not allowed -- at least it's temporary! I know the hospital knows how important family is when recovering from any illness.
Friday was awful. I was determined to regroup and to be more productive next week so, I binge-watched some Netflix, got a good night of sleep, went to Sabbath services the next day. That brings us to today and to this update.
I will leave you all with this: For every 100 things that I do or set in motion on any given week, maybe four things are successful. Just like for every 50 calls I make, two people call me back. But I want to share the things that stood out in my mind about this week. The only way I stay sane is if I remind myself and everyone about the GOOD things, instead of focusing on the bad:
1. Jason was found NOT GUILTY. Sure, there's conditions but, HE'S NOT GUILTY.
2. He's finally in hospital. NO MORE JAIL. Because he's not guilty, the VA can now advocate for him to receive ALL the care he needs. Not everyone who ends up in the system, has another department who is willing to pick up the slack when it comes to care. That's not to say he hasn't been taken care of by the State hospital. He has. I like that hospital. It's really the judicial system (the system, not the people) that kind of put his medical needs on the back-burner. Those of my friends who believe in holistic medicine: You understand me when I say they should really look at the whole picture because it's all related. His thyroid, his liver, his heart, his psychosis, his PTSD, his possible TBI. They created a perfect storm that came to a head that night in November.
3. Jason has two amazing social workers, instead of one (one from the State hospital, one from the VA). They're both doing an amazing job so far. He's also got a case worker with the Veterans Services Commission. Again, lots of people fighting for him. It's amazing.
4. I gave the Ontario Minister of Health a tough time on Twitter on Monday. He tweeted about mental health before the end of the business day. It may not have anything to do with me but, I choose to believe, I got through to him a little.
5. Before the end of the business day on Friday, Jason's doctor had written up a requisition for him to see at least one of his VA doctors. (Some of my crazy paid off.)
6. I felt I was able to provide some (probably very little) insight on the new security measures at the hospital and who knows, maybe it will help provide a balance between safety and patient rights. They said they are still working on the wording of the new rules and I'm staying in touch with those in charge to make sure at least, from the patients' families' point of view, they are not unnecessarily harsh.
7. I got invited to SMAG, a conference where doctors across the US meet with VA Health, and it's open to the public. It's outside Washington, D.C. so, who knows if I'll be able to make it to the next one. It's definitely a good opportunity to be part of a better future for other veterans and their families. If I'm able to take them up on that invitation, I will.
Seven points. Seven days. I guess this week wasn't a total wash.
Have a wonderful week. Thank you for the love and support. We appreciate it more than we could ever express.
God bless! Please pray for a better week ahead. Please pray that our family can be whole again. <3
Tomorrow is Jason's status conference, which is a hearing of sorts. It's my understanding that a lot has to be done at this meeting and a lot needs to be put on the record.
We've already received the second assessment regarding his diagnoses and it backed up the first assessment so, there can't be any more assessments to slow down the case. The only thing that could potentially stall the end is if the judge, defense and prosecution can't agree on conditions.
Hopefully, a roadmap will be set to the end of Jason's case and we'll have some idea of when this will all end.
If you all recall, Jason's case entered the 5th month last Wednesday. As of tomorrow, his case would be 125 days old.
The last court hearing -- when the judge revoked Jason's bond on the same day he had a crucial appointment with the VA, and several other appointments shortly after that -- that day kind of broke me emotionally. It really shattered my hope that there's any kind of justice in the "justice system."
We've had our wins. Two favourable reports are certainly huge victories but, it's really disheartening to know that while the system is changing, it's still lagging behind compared to the research and dialogue regarding mental illness and justice-involved veterans.
Google reminded me of what we were doing on this same exact weekend a year ago. It reminded me of this family photograph we took in Ravenna when we came down for his eldest son's birthday. I will leave you with this photo.
God bless. Peace and love to all of you.
Precious, Alanna, Liberty, Charles (and Jason)
Hi. I don't know you or your family, but I wanted to tell you something that might be able to help your They can get him the help h. I am unable to donate money, but I can give you some advice in the military way. Contact JAG. Judge Advocate General. They can help your husband as he was military. He can get a JAG lawyer. Judge Advocate General Lawyers are free for your husband. He could also be suffering from PTSD if he was deployed overseas. I hope you are able to get in contact with them. If you are unable to, contact me via instant messenger and I will see what I can do to help you. I have friends and family in the military and retired. I'm sure we can all come up with a solution for your husband and family. I live in southern Ohio and have military family living in northern Ohio. Please let me know if I can help you in this area. Best Regards, Dawn Stacy