Here's An Update From The Army Major Whose Letter To The VA Went Viral Last Year

The Long March
D.J. Skelton
Courtesy photo

Tom Note: I offer this note here from my friend, Army Maj. D.J. Skelton, because I have learned a lot from following his ups and downs as he deals with the multi-year consequences of being grazed in the head by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq.

My apologies for my silence/absence for awhile. Quick update for those who are inquiring and have been trying to contact me unsuccessfully:

  • I recently found out I require another major surgery on my mouth to fix two growing holes in my palate. Needless to say I'm pretty exhausted and emotionally drained from the never ending surgeries. Every time I have to have one of these surgeries, it literally disrupts about three months of my life: appointments, pre-op, surgery, post-op, physical therapy, speech therapy, etc. Plus driving five-to-seven hours round trip for a dozen or more appointments in the span of six weeks is...well...not fun :)
  • Yes, I'm still in the Army. I am awaiting final decision on my Medical Board. I am not speculating the results. When they have reached a final decision, I will begin immediately out processing the Army.
  • Yes, I'm still a student at the Naval Postgrad School (just not a very good one...). I'm trying to finish my degree in March.
  • Yes, I am still working on putting together a Congressional Commission on the Future of Veterans Care in America as well as a National Veterans Care Foundation to ensure that "how" America cares for our veterans is a matter of national security and will remain a top priority for not just the government, but for all communities and organizations throughout the country. Once our government is fully funded and Congress is back on track, and I'm done with my next surgery and out of the Army, this will be my top priority for 2018-20119.
  • Yes Michael Jones and I are scheming again and what we have in store will blow your mind away :)
  • Yes, I realize I am out of shape and overweight :) I am currently seeking a trainer to whip me back into a lean green fighting machine. Anyone in the 831...hmu!
  • I will be somewhat insular and offline over the next couple of months. It’s been quite an emotional roller coaster the past few months, and I still have a few more to go until I can move on to the next chapter in my life. I have emotionally surrendered, if you will, to the fact I have yet another major surgery just around the corner, and unable to maintain relationships, projects, etc outside of my immediate medical care.

I am once again humbled at this thing called life. The past six months have been extremely introspective for me, and I suspect for many friends and colleagues. We have lost several amazing young leaders, for multiple reasons, that have made me revisit my priorities in life...and the relationships that exist within. I am truly grateful that I have another opportunity to solve another health problem, albeit through a complex surgery, nonetheless, I have this option...this choice. Sometimes we wake up to unforeseen events that there are no choices moving forward, even if that path is terminal. I am grateful for everyone in my life who constantly reminds me that regardless the magnitude of the hurdles life throws at me, none are insurmountable. They are...YOU are...there to help me when the dust settles, and I begin putting the pieces of my life back together.

There are days I don't want to talk about the details, about the surgery, about the disruption is causes in my day to day life. There are days it's easier for me to isolate and shut people out for awhile. I get it. But that's my natural reaction to dealing with these unexpected setbacks in life. You all know this about me.

I have an incredible son who keeps me focused and distracted. I have an even more amazing partner who, although doesn't always understand my struggles and pain, is the most patient, supportive, and loving caregiver. But it’s hard to balance it all...many times impossible. There is only so many hours in a day, emotions in a heart, tears in an eye. And honestly, at the end of the day, regardless of what was accomplished or not, you need to recharge, rest up, wake up the next day and charlie mike.

So...right now is one of those times where I feel I can't win...where being a wounded warrior just sucks. Something's gotta give...and that something is my ability to be a good friend, be an effective advocate, be a good soldier, a responsive and effective non profit leader, and on and on. FB is the tool of the day to keep in touch with loved ones and friends who mean something to me. Each and every one of you is special to me and has given me strength and support over the years in one capacity or another. Please be patient while I finish this next surgery and transition out of the Army. I'm not ignoring you. I haven't stopped caring about you or thinking about you and your families, or your organizations and causes. I just haven't been able to find the time to tell you in person, over the phone, a text, etc.

I look forward to going more than a few months without having to go the hospital or another medical appointment or therapy session. I look forward to going on outdoor adventures, being spontaneously obnoxious, going on disastrously yet amazingly fun ski and climbing trips.

Maj. D.J. Skelton is a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He led an infantry platoon at Second Fallujah and later commanded an infantry company in Afghanistan.

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