My husband goes above and beyond in his job. Although at times he may feel as if it is a “thankless” job, he serves our nation’s Veterans through his work as a Peer Support.
What is a peer support?
Sam is a Peer Support Specialist. He offers support (as a peer, not as a therapist) to others engaged in mental health treatment. This job is powerful as Sam can connect with other Veterans on a personal level, sometimes reflecting on their time in the military and sometimes reflecting on their time in the civilian world.
This job is a trigger.
There are days when Sam comes home emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted.
There are days when Sam comes home and does not want to talk about his day.
There are days when Sam comes home and the first thing he does when he walks in the door is wrap his arms around me in a hug.
The power of a Peer Support is amazing. The ins and outs of the job are interesting to me, a civilian, a person who only sees a sometimes outward struggle of mental health. A peer support, like Sam, can show other Veterans that a recovery and focus on healing from invisible wounds is possible.
Sam is in therapy himself, which also shows his Veterans that they too can work to heal. Sam has the tools to assist Veterans when they might be facing a crisis, Sam has the tools to assist Veterans when they just need a listening ear. Sam can promote mental health awareness in his job and in his actions.
You could say that Sam has a “heart of gold.”
On Thursday, Sam attended an awards ceremony. If you know my husband personally, you know he would never mention this, and to be honest, I am surprised that he told me. He is not big on recongnition, rather, he feels as if he is a team player.
Over the past few years Sam’s team of Peer Supports has dwindled down to just himself. I know that he longs for his colleauges who helped him in his recovery and in this job, but some have retired, and one has recently passed away.
You may recall that we shared a story of Sam’s colleauge, Dale. Dale Baynes was a Peer Support with the VA. As you may also recall from our blog post, when Dale passed he only had friends (who were also colleagues) at his side, there was no immediate family to be contacted and no one to assist in the medical decisions that needed to be made. When Dale passed, there were no family members to assist with the funeral or burial process.
You can read the post about Dale’s passing here: http://walkingwithmemphis.com/2018/12/dale/
Thursday Sam was recognized at the VA for his Heart of Gold. This award is presented in recognition of a single action or special instance that reflects a step beyond the expectations of the job.
The Heart of Gold must for for an act that is not related to the employee’s job duties and should be given to an employee (or employees) that demonstrate the values and mission of the VA Medical Center. These employees also serve as role models.
Sam was nominated for this award (along with Kim Coloni) for the recognition of the time and effort contributed to Dale. The passing of a former VA employee and Veteran during his final days. Dale was hospitalized with some serious health conditions prior to being transferred to the VA Community Living Center where he passed away. Sam stayed with Dale day and night when he could (when he was working and not working) and used his personal time to make arrangments for Dale with the funeral and burial. Sam contacted long lost family members (a cousin that Dale had not seen in over 20 years) and arranged to get some of his belongings donated to various Veterans and programs in need. He did this along with Kim, and when it was time for the funeral services, Sam, Kim, and their former colleague, Mike, spoke on Dale’s behalf.
Sam was presented with a certificate honoring his efforts of an exceptional level of compassion. He helped fulfil the needs of a Veteran, but he also helped out a dear friend.
I am so proud of Sam. As I sit here, with big tears streaming down my face, I am reminded of Sam’s three-week trauma resiliency training for This Able Veteran and how he learned to open his heart because he has so much love to give.
Congratulations, Sam. I know that you may feel that this award is not something you deserve, and I know that you may not want the recognition, but I am proud of you for your kindness and compassion. You have a job that is often taxing, but what you do in that role truly does make a difference.