A few days ago I had the opportunity to continue a tradition I started 8 years ago. That tradition was a simple one: Choose (2) veterans to hang out with on Veteran’s Day. This was my mission. The (2) I chose were Ralph Barry Cox and Eric Hall (Red). I did not know what I was getting myself into, but I soon found out. Both have PTSD, both have personality disorders and various other ailments. So we set out to enjoy Veteran’s Day just us (3). It was trying at times considering I was dealing with my own PTSD at the time, but I was determined to give the guys a good time. Fast forward 8 years and this past Veterans Day was different because of COVID19, but we put on or masks and we were determined to keep our tradition intact. Well, Red forgot his mask for breakfast and I had to supply him with one. For lunch, we were supposed to go to Texas Road House, but red somehow got lost Red because he wanted a free sundae. As I attempted to find Red, he did not know where he was. This exacerbated the situation. Suffice it to say Barry and I went to Texas Road House without Red. I chose these (2) because they make laugh and I care for them and I love them. Thank You, Barry and Red for being in my life and making me better whether you know it or not.
It has been a while since I have written in this blog. From doing my doctorate to volunteering to my own mental maintenance, it has been difficult to keep up with updating this page. But this morning I have too. since my last entry, there has been a loss of life that has affected me greatly. These people were intricate parts of my life since I have lived here in Knoxville. The first is Miss Beverly Joyce Walter or as I loved to call her “Mrs. Hobbit”. She and her partner, Steve Bell, Mr. Hobbit, were always making me smile on my worst days whether they knew it or not. She past 10/28/2019. The second is a man I knew in high school and played football with his 2 older brothers. His name is Santiago Munoz. I had the pleasure of speaking to him at length 2 months before he passed. We talked about life, addiction, and recovery. I told him about my mission to have someplace for veterans to go when they complete a drug and alcohol abuse program. He said these words to me, “I am proud of you brother. You know better than anyone where we came from and what we deal with.” When I hung up the phone with him I cried. Next is Tony Anthony Blakely. He was always a character. I was fortunate to know this man. He was extremely funny and always challenged me, literally. Since we both were almost the same height, he found every opportunity to tell me that he could take me if my arms were not so big. I would laugh and ask him how he was doing. He died on March 9, 2020. Frederick “Big Bossman” Kennedy. This man lived in my apartment complex above me. He was not a Veteran, but he affected my life. He was an amputee and was going through several therapeutic appointments to help him cope with the new prosthetic leg. Our running joke was the way he parked on a slant in the parking spaces. H would always say, ” I’ll get it right next time big bruh”. He passed on August 12, 2020. Lastly, Scott Jenkins. I have known Scott for the 8 years I have been in Knoxville. He was a troubled soul yet he found time to laugh and joke. He graduated from the Steps House Program and was ready to move into his own apartment, but the apartment was not going to be ready for 10-14 days. Scott decided that he was going to sleep in his car, in the parking lot of my apartment complex. At the same time, I was supposed to be leaving to be heading to North Carolina to see my sister. Suffice to say I did not make that trip. I turned around at the Rutledge Pike exit and came back to my apartment. Scott was in his vehicle asleep. I knocked on the window and startled him. I said,’ C’mon brother. You’re not sleeping in your car. He stayed with me until his apartment was ready. He died on 9/12/2020. I will keep pressing on in the memory of these souls that have enriched my life. R.I.P.
Hello to you all. It has been quite a while since my last post, but with good reason. The hectic grind to get funding for SOBER LIVING is a huge undertaking, yet my motivation and drive has been renewed. Renewed how, you may ask? About 2 weeks ago a Veteran came into my program with a tracheotomy hole in his neck, homeless and high on meth. My director and I suggested that he go to a 30 day intensive treatment program and come back. I must be honest, my director and I did not think he would return. He did. He was clean and sober. At his point I was shocked and surprised. Now monumental task was communicating with him. He would to speak and nothing would come out. As a result, I asked him to right everything down so I can read it. I learned that he had insurance and that he was not able to get a voice box because he needs a prescription for one. I immediately hit the phones. Finally, after 2 hours on the phone, I got him an appointment with a primary care physician and an order for his voice box. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and mouthed the words “Thank You. You are the first person that did not shy away from me because I have this damned hole in my throat.” I was moved. He then began to write. He wrote that he also has leukemia. I told him right then and there that I would all that is within me to aid and assist him in any way I can. He hugged me and said thank you again. It is week 3 and he is still writing me notes, telling me thank you, and always smiling.
On August 19th The United Way will decide what organizations will be funded thru the 2021 fiscal year. All of your prayers are greatly appreciated. Also Sober Living Inc has launched a GoFund Me campaign that is posted at www.soberlivingllc.org/gofundme. Congratulations to Scott and Kelly Jenkins on their wedding nuptials. I wish you guys all the best.
In this journey to recovery, there are small victories that are cherished. These are cherished by the afflicted and those that care about them alike. Here is one such story that serves to continually remind me of why I do what I do.
It was October 19, 2014, and Notre Dame was playing Florida State. I was watching the game with a veteran that I had come to call my friend. Now understand he hated Notre Dame with a passion but agreed to watch the game with me. The game came down to its final moments and penalty was called that sealed Notre Dames fate.
With 2:42 seconds left int he game, Notre Dame was on the 5-yard line with the ball. The ball was snapped and thrown for what looked like a touchdown. But no; a flag was thrown for offensive pass interference. And the kicker? It was 4th down. All FSU had to do was run the clock out and the game was OVER.
In that moment, I was dejected, irritated and flat-out mad. But my buddy turned to me and said, ” Ric you guys were cheated. They should never have called that penalty!”. I told him thanks and went to bed.
At approximately 6:30 am the next morning I heard what I thought was thunder since it had been raining the previous day.
It was not thunder.
It was my buddy. He had fallen from his chair and hit the floor. I called 911 and my best friend and I rushed to him and began CPR. I breathed for him while my best friend did chest compression. I felt the last breath he took on my cheek. His name was Bruce Hensley. And he watched his last game with me.
That last moment I shared with him watching my team, which he hated, lose and to have him tell me we should have won, Is one I cherish deeply.
Besides that, and more importantly … HE DIED SOBER.
I was born in Chicago Illinois on November 28, 1966, at approximately 12:13p.m. For 22 years I navigated the violent streets of the inner city. Luckily, I found football to occupy my time and keep me out of trouble.
I enjoyed football and became proficient at it. So much so, that I received a scholarship to Northeastern Illinois University where I started as a freshman. Unfortunately, the football program was discontinued and my scholarship was null en void.
Enter the U.S. Military. Army Alpha Battery 5/1 Field Artillery, Ft Polk Louisiana: “THE KING of BATTLE”. After serving my country, I noticed that my knees and back were hurting with more and more frequency. I went to the V.A. (Veterans Administration) to get medical attention for my condition. 14 years went by and I had every pill, shot, voodoo that they could muster.
Not only that, I was angry all the time … I mean all the time! I was short-tempered, impatient and easily triggered. After going back to the V.A.’s in Chicago, Milwaukee, Kansas,and Georgia with no clear answer as to why I felt this way, why I hated the sight of people, why large groups simply terrified me, I finally came here to Knoxville TN.
Here I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), where I received double knee replacements, and am receiving PTSD counseling. I have been here since May 9th, 2013 and here is where my calling became clear.
Here is where I saw a need. Here is where I WILL make a difference in as many veterans’ lives as I can.