“No one ever wants to face the fact that they can’t make it on their own. Veterans Count didn’t just give us financial help and counseling. They gave us a support system and let us know that people cared.” —Elaine Simons, wife of an Army National Guardsman
Life completely fell apart for Elaine Simons when her husband Scott, an Army National Guardsman deployed for 14 month to Iraq in 2004. As a mother of three children, she was on her own. In order to keep up with everything that needed to be done, Elaine went from a full-time supervisor at a local grocery store to a part-time position. The bills started piling up and she began drinking a lot. It was a downward spiral that would result in the repossession of both of the family’s vehicles, massive debt and serious coping issues with all of her children.
“I lost it and didn’t think I could hold it together,” she recalls of this dark time. “I was a wreck and things got out of control fast.”
Upon Scott’s return in 2005, the family was in crisis mode trying to get a financial leg up, dealing with marital issues, helping the kids through transitional issues, and getting the Elaine the rehab help she needed for her drinking. To add to the turmoil, Elaine was diagnosed with a chronic illness that landed her in the hospital.
“Scott is a very proud man and didn’t want to ask for help,” recalls Elaine. “But when I was sick I was hopeless and I felt worthless. We were doing the best we could. During that time, Scott learned from a chaplain at the National Guard that Easter Seals had launched a new program to help veterans and their families. They encouraged us to give it a try. We did because we were out of options.”
The Simons’ first meeting with their Easter Seals Care Coordinator Joyce was like a dream come true. “I remember crying on the couch because I was so overwhelmed by the support she offered,” says Elaine. “I kept wondering what the catch was but there wasn’t one. She told us Easter Seals wanted to help my family get back on track because of the sacrifices we had made.”
Until Elaine’s social security payments kicked in—since she was now unemployed due to her illness—Joyce made arrangements to help the family in a variety of ways including the purchase of a new wood stove to heat their home during the winter, gas cards, help with bills, food cards, money for propane, gift cards for Christmas gifts for the children and arrangements for family counseling. By 2008 the family was back on track and no longer needed support from Easter Seals.
In 2012, Scott learned he was deploying again. Unwilling to go down the dark road of the first deployment again, the Simons reached out to Easter Seals to put a plan in place for the upcoming deployment. This time their Care Coordinator was Susan and she began working with the family months before the deployment. After Scott left, Elaine’s medical issues worsened. Susan was there for support and company.
“I was lonely and sad but Susan was there when I needed her,” says Elaine. “She was someone I could talk to and help me through. Scott was comfortable with Susan and was relieved I’d have the help we needed while he was gone. We both felt like it would be OK this time.”
When Scott came home in 2013, new financial issues arose. Elaine’s father had been diagnosed with a fast moving cancer that took his life in only seven weeks. The family’s budget was compromised due to Elaine’s repeated trips to Florida to help care for him but Susan was there to help alleviate some of the financial issues with gas cards and food cards.
Although the Simons have had many ups and downs in the past 10 years. They are facing the future with a positive attitude because of the support they received from Easter Seals.
“There is help out there for military families who feel alone when a spouse is gone,” she says. “Sometimes it is hard to see beyond the four walls of where you live but we learned from Easter Seals that there are people out there who care and want to help.”
Learn more about Veterans Count, please call 603.623.8863 or click here.