Adam’s exposure to a chemical led to his separation from service. When he was discharged from Walter Reed, he wasn’t sure where to go next.

After dealing with his new reality while on his own for years, he found VA and credits his health care team with saving his life and wakening him from a deep depression.

What led to your injury?

While serving in Kosovo, I came across a mysterious chemical and it was just another normal day. And as I was coming back, we were unloading, and everything seemed ordinary. But I felt a little fatigued and, as it worsened, they rushed me to the MASH tent out on Camp Bondsteel, and then from there they rushed me to Germany. And then all of a sudden, you know, I wake up, I go to sleep and wake up two months later.

My lung’s gone, and I have a brain injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome. And it’s a 98% mortality rate. I didn’t know about VA.

How did you first get involved with VA?

My mom was on the phone and she knew I was ready to check out of life itself. And I don’t sugarcoat it because it won’t help anybody. But she turned around, she’s like, ‘Hey, they can get you help at the Huntington VA.’ The next day, they came and got me. A lady from a Vet Center took me to the Huntington VA and enrolled me.

What do you think about your VA health care?

They kind of set the bar there from what I expect all Veterans to be taken care of. Really, they treated me like a human being again. I didn’t feel like I deserved to feel anything but darkness, anger, depression.

It all went together, and I felt that’s what I deserved. I was just existing and that’s all, and I didn’t want anything else. The health care at my VA, it helped save my life. It really did.

What happened when you went there?

They’re heroes to me because they never gave up. I was in a deep, dark hole. I couldn’t climb out. I tried my best. I never, ever give up, and I always try 150%, whatever I do. And I never give up. I couldn’t get out of it and it was over a decade. I lost all that time.

Did you meet somebody who inspired you to come back?

So, it was more than one person. It was just like my whole team came together and ratcheted down in the hole. And it took them all to pull me out. Because it doesn’t just take one VA employee. It took a whole team to help me. Now I’m living life to the fullest. I’m enjoying every day. Yeah, when you try and you really care about life, it’s hard, but it’s worth it. So just keep going.

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By Bronwyn Emmet is a public affairs specialist for VA's National Veterans Outreach Office

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Published on Sep. 15, 2021

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