At Sixty-eight, I am in denial about the state of affairs in America, and if I did not trust that a greater purpose was being served, I might even let current affairs steal my joy. Living with my eighty-nine-year-old young mother since my Veteran hubby of forty-three years hopped into heaven, we have had so many discussions about how the country has changed.
Years ago, as a little girl, I have so many memories of my parents having guests at dinner, or us going to dinner with others. No subject was off limits, and open respectful dialogue was the order of the day. With much passion and sincerity, the dinner table was a safe place to share your views, and never fear that a difference in how you saw things or what you believed would ever separate anyone. America without the internet was not as keen at making everyone in lockstep in trying to please the masses, the media, or the government.
Veterans, you are needed now more than ever to fight with your votes, your lifestyles, and your last ounce of breath for America to be free from the current govt tyranny mandates. Oh yes, there is a very real war going on in America and I for one am appalled at what I am seeing. Words like INDOCTRINATION…. MANDATES…..LAWLESSNESS…GOVT MEDIA…and more, give a great list to ponder.
So many of the younger generation will not remember when it was unthinkable that our government would censor free speech, try to lock up anyone who questions, and worst of all, have absolutely no shame that many of the webs being spun lack any scientific basis.
At times the amount of lies, corruption, and lack of truth can seem overwhelming, but my prayer and hope is that blinders are lifted and all Americans start questioning many of these areas that make absolutely no sense. After fighting for forty-three years for my husband to get real medical care through the VA, he stepped into heaven on September 12th, 2021. I watched him blow out his last breath with a look of wonder in his eyes at what he was seeing on the other side. After our last years fighting the VA at every turn, I silently asked my heavenly Father what HE WANTED.
The price you warriors pay, the price I as his spouse paid, and his family. This was a no-brainer. At seventy, after a 100% percent rating, a nine-year battle with the VA to acknowledge his injuries and all that he walked to live an outstanding life helping others, I was exhausted with the suffering.
Let’s take the nine-year VA battle! I was his attorney and advocate and quickly realized in life that for us to have an income, I had to create jobs, one after the other. Whether it was care homes for the disabled, gardening, a pizza parlor, or a gift basket company, Dennis helped in all the ways that he could and tried to do as much as he could to help with whatever endeavor we were involved in.
Finally, after twenty-two years of marriage, we had a Congressman, who loved what we were doing for the community through our non-profit Happy Thoughts, and said, why isn’t Dennis getting help? Well, it took my sister and about four other strangers all within a few weeks to convince him to even go to the VA for help.
Being a Combat Veteran who was in the jungle most of his 14 months in country, he did not trust the VA, and shortly after his initial release from the Army ended up on the seventh floor with a diagnosis of psychosis, a drug regime that included four major meds, kept him completely doped up and handed the man a ping pong paddle as they did not yet know what a post-traumatic stress injury could do to your life.
Even though we had everything from a human bite to his chest, self-medicating, homelessness, and literally had relatives bring him in and fill out the paperwork for him? I still had to fight nine years, for the VA to admit the man was suffering.
He never rented his own apartment, bought anything on time, or ever had a bill in his name. After eight years I finally found attorneys for the final year of battles, and even though the judges outside of the system kept ruling in his favor, the final idiotic hurt, was when the top appeals court judge said, DON’T EVER ASK THIS GUY ANOTHER QUESTION AND GIVE HIM HIS FULL RATING! With that, he sent his decision to the VA who sent me an email demanding that Dennis, who had short-term memory proven by the VA on record, be asked to write down the last twenty-two years of his dysfunction before they would continue his case.
When I got the email, I cried, threw up, screamed, yelled, and could not fathom how evil the people in this organization seemed to be. Then after a wonderful fit, I sat down, wrote all night, and had him sign off on it. When the rating finally came, the attorneys took 25% of his back wages and social security that belonged to me and his children. Later I was told that if I had been dishonest and not forwarded their part, since the check came to me, the VA would have had to pay them directly.
To this day, I do not know if this is true, but the fact he was gouged in his life income, for all that suffering, and the VA didn’t have to pay for putting us through that? Nine years were filled with lost paperwork, lying workers, advocates who never did, and a bureaucracy that proved how not to run a system. The humiliation of being picked apart by psychologists who had never seen war, never walked in his shoes, and tried to wrap their heads around his challenges was fun as well.
Dennis, my hero never felt worthy, struggled with survivors’ guilt, and if it hadn’t been for our three sons, and the faith he found, there is no way he would have put himself through this hellish process. I am sharing all of this to allow others to see the price that our service members can pay. A lifetime of consequences of offering to serve our country. Meanwhile? Despite the broken and homeless, we house illegal immigrants and send billions to Ukraine. I have kept this nine-year story to get his rating to a minimum to try to give a feel for, what I as his wife walked with the VA.
Was it worth not giving up? YES!
Was there a sense of JUSTICE, when what the taxpayers had voted for, was given to our family, due to his service? YES!
The second anniversary of my husband’s exit from this world is quickly approaching and it would take ten more articles to share what he did do with his life, who he impacted, and how blessed we are to have had the honor of being his family. I was pondering what he would say to you if he were here.
Never give up. Keep battling, because if I can make it, you can too.
In 2020 during the forced lockdowns, even then, my hero (which he would never let me call him) faced a camera while our middle son recorded a YouTube series to share the wealth of information this Vietnam combat veteran had learned. This was the same man who would not answer a phone or a door the first few years of our marriage.
Surviving Vietnam is the name of the series, and it has saved veteran lives. The purpose was to stop veteran suicide and encourage, educate, and share some of what he walked to leave this world a brighter place. I am still dealing with the trauma of knowing that repeated VA delays were directly responsible. He waited for a pacemaker at Stanford, and despite FIVE hospitalizations in less than three months due to his lungs filling with water, they would not mark him urgent. I was on the phone numerous times, before he left, begging the local VA, and Stanford to allow him to be seen immediately and was told he was not urgent.
The caveat? When I missed his appointment at Stanford? The VA girls called to tell me off and ask why he had missed his appointment! I said, well he died! You would not allow him the care, so his heart stopped!
The day before my best friend went home, I had no idea it was his last. But for the first time since that nine-year battle with the VA, I found myself hiding in the bathroom, sobbing my brains out as I realized I could not FIX, push, or make happen what needed to happen. I always had tried to hide the price of carrying, advocating, and never letting him know the pain involved. This time, I could not get it together. I literally! fell into his lap uncontrollably sobbing and kept saying over and over:
“I AM SO SORRY, I AM SO SORRY, I CANNOT FIX THIS.”
Dennis gently stroked my hair and the next morning–he left. Diagnosis? His heart stopped! That my friends is a whole other story…. but for now, I can only think that I was allowed to see that after forty-three years of being the wind beneath his wings, I literally had nothing left to give.
I now know what survivors’ guilt is. So my attempt to say, all those who have served, including their spouses and families, life is hard, full of trials and battles, and yet, this is where you will find who you are and why you’re here.
I miss him horribly, and there is no greater joy than to continue sharing his heart about injustice, the world, and the answers that can help you.
We need you now as NEVER before dear veterans! Please never give up and live life to the fullest while you can. LIVE IN THE MOMENT and find peace that passes understanding.
For 43 years, Dennis and Diana Nickell shared their lives, passion, and hearts. Dennis, a Vietnam Combat Veteran who dealt daily with the aftermath of his 14 months in-country, spent his later years reaching out to Veterans, their loved ones and tried to help share why you should never give up. Sept, 12th, 2021 Dennis joined his brothers in arms in heaven, who never had the chance to have the life he fought for daily, and his wife Diana still carries on the mission of educating, enlightening, and encouraging those who have paid such a heavy price for freedom.
Dedicated to ALL, first responders, and heroes, Diana has found peace in the wealth of her family and her faith. The YouTube series Surviving Vietnam can be accessed freely at https://www.survivevietnam.com/
“Quiet Place” first appeared in Breaking Chains, written by Dennis Nickell.
All rights are reserved, for created content shared about their amazing journey, including original poetry by Diana. Feel free to contact Diana at email@example.com with any questions or concerns.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.