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  • Date: March 8, 2022
  • Category: get IT

got IT | Helping a disabled veteran reclaim his life

Dee Francis never planned to become a veteran, much less a disabled veteran with PTSD who hadn’t worked in more than three years. The only way to understand how Dee got to where he is today is to start at the beginning.

While receiving his Master’s in Business and Healthcare Administration from the University of Miami, Dee was the director of a large nursing home in the Florida Keys. A month before graduation, a Category 3 hurricane tore through the area and forced Dee and his staff to evacuate 500 patients from three different nursing homes. Throughout the evacuation and subsequent hurricane, Dee worked closely with the commanding officers of both Navy and Army disaster management teams. They admired Dee’s ability to lead under pressure while balancing the needs of his patients and his employees.

At the end of the nine-day experience, a commanding officer told Dee that the Navy could use a leader like him. “I took his compliment very seriously,” Dee said. “He wasn’t just being nice, he was recruiting me. I felt a real sense of camaraderie, unlike anything I’d felt in my career. I also believe that when your country needs you, you have to answer the call.”

Dee answered the call in late 1999 and spent the next three years as an active duty Naval Medical Service Corps officer. During the war in Afghanistan, Dee was working with a fleet hospital. He recognized that some inefficiencies led to a reduced percentage of servicemen and women being returned to duty. He developed a new procedure, got it approved, and began to teach it to others.

While Dee spent countless hours looking after his colleagues, he didn’t do the same for himself. As with many veterans, Dee experienced trauma while connected to the Navy, trauma that he does not wish to speak of. “I’ve accepted that bad stuff happened,” Dee shared. He began a slow downward spiral that started before he left the reserves in 2007. A decade later, Dee was feeling the beginning of the end.  “I knew I was in trouble, but there was nothing I could do to stop it,” Dee explained. “We are trained to ignore the pain. There were moments where I felt fine and I thought I’d put the past behind me, only to fall into these manic episodes where I remember nothing.”

After losing his job, family, and home, Dee tried to kill himself. “I woke up on the bathroom floor. Waking up was not in my plans. It was then that I realized that I needed help. Shortly afterwards, I was diagnosed with PTSD, Bi-polar disorder, and recently epilepsy. Once I learned what was causing my mood swings, dissociation, and self-harming behavior, I was better able to help myself cope.”

Today, Dee lives in Biddeford, where he is receiving support from Veterans, Inc., a non-profit organization that has helped 85,000 veterans to regain self-sufficiency and reconnect with family, friends and community. “I’m a kind and loving person, but when I’m off-balance, I’m not,” Dee explained. “I wish I’d realized that and asked for help sooner, but it is easier said than done. Once I did ask for help, I discovered that there are a lot of groups that want to take care of disabled veterans.”

For the past three months, Dee has been working with Dennis Michaud, Veterans, Inc.’s Employment and Training Specialist. Dee’s counselor felt he was a good fit for re-education programs, and set up the interview. Dennis is now helping Dee learn a new skill, one that Dee has always wanted to explore.

“I can’t drive much because of the epilepsy, and I don’t do well in public situations,” Dee shared. “My counselor and Dennis helped find a remote learning course that made me feel worthy again. With encouragement from Dennis, Dee discovered an Alternative Investments Certification course at Harvard University. In addition to paying for the course, Veterans, Inc. reached out to give IT. “There was no way I could do the coursework without a dependable computer. I’m so grateful for give IT. While I have no idea what the future will hold as far as my illnesses go, I now have hope.”

Because Dee needs to add networking and financial platforms to his computer for the course, we shipped him a laptop with exceptional speed and storage. Given Dee’s inability to work and the fact that he is actively getting the counseling and support he needs to turn his life around, we funded his computer with one of our get IT. grants. Dee starts his 5-week course on March 23rd and sent us the photo below to let us know how much he appreciates it.

veteran and computer

“This computer is kind of life-saving in many ways. I was alive, but I wasn’t living. I felt completely useless and unloveable. Now that I have this opportunity, I feel useful, and I’m happier than I’ve been in a long, long time.”

At give IT. get IT., we hope the computer we sent to Dee puts him on the path to reclaiming the things he’s lost over the last several years. In this picture, his smile says it all, and when he told us about the research he’s doing to prepare for his course, we found ourselves rooting for him even more, and we are not alone. Dennis from Veterans, Inc. added:  “I am so happy that Dee is on his feet and motivated to continue his education. Our motto has always been ‘They were there when we needed them… we must be there now that they need us.”  Thank you, give IT. get IT., for being part of a veteran’s dream and making it come true.

As always, we couldn’t help Dee without the reusable computers we receive from companies like IDEXX, Systems Engineering, and Bangor Savings Bank. If your business has surplus technology in need of recycling or you know a company that does, please connect with Allen Cornwall, our Technology Reuse and Recycling Advocate at acornwall@itec3.org or 207-749-3431.

If you’d like to help us help people like Dee by contributing to our get IT. sponsorship fund, please CLICK HERE to make a tax-deductible donation.