Delphine Metcalf-Foster, National Commander

Making lemonade of life’s most serious challenges

For more than a quarter of a century, I have advocated for my fellow disabled veterans as a member of DAV. Over the years, I have encountered too many who questioned the validity of their own military service and the severity of their service-connected conditions. I have encouraged veterans to submit a claim for illness and injury sustained as a result of service, only to have them hesitate and tell me that “it wasn’t that bad” or “others had it worse.”

It’s a noble and very “military” mentality—to care for others before oneself and convey strength over adversity. But it has been a personal mission of mine to ensure those who sustained an illness or injury as a result of their time in the military are aware of the resources and support they earned through their service and sacrifice.

For veterans who have invisible wounds, such as post-traumatic stress, the reluctance to seek assistance is sometimes amplified. I understand, because I have been there, too.

While I was medevaced out of the Middle East during the Persian Gulf War because of physical injuries, the invisible wounds impacted me most following my retirement from the Army in 1996. Dealing firsthand with war casualties was a frequent occurrence during my deployment, and I didn’t realize how long those experiences would stay with me.

It took quite some time, but through VA mental health services, and of course the support of all my DAV brothers and sisters, my invisible wounds have become more manageable. Like my physical injuries, I still experience residual effects and setbacks, but I am surviving and thriving. My military service changed me. So did the war. But at a point, I stopped allowing myself to believe that all of these changes are for the worse. They made me who I am today, and I’ve learned to grow and utilize my strengths.

The biggest step in that process was asking for help. If you are suffering from invisible wounds, seek care as soon as possible. Don’t let it linger and continue to negatively impact your life. The VA offers a variety of mental health services that can cater to your needs.

Also consider getting involved in an organization that helps other veterans. My service through DAV has helped me immensely. I have had the opportunity to support my fellow veterans on their road to recovery, and it has meant a lot to help people overcome some of the same obstacles I experienced.

I look at my wounds from service as lemons—and I chose to make lemonade. It has not always been an easy journey, and it certainly isn’t one I traveled alone, but it has helped define who I am as a leader and provided me with an opportunity to serve others.

As DAV members, it is of the utmost importance we remember that not all wounds are visible. Ask your fellow veterans how they are doing, because although they may appear to be fine on the outside, that doesn’t mean they are on the inside. They may need your help making lemonade.

 

If you want to find out more about the National Commander, you can find her biography here.