“I know what it means to feel lost,” said Monaca Gilmore, a retired Army Sergeant who returned from Iraq in 2006. After the armored vehicle behind hers in her convoy took the full force of an improvised explosive device, she was knocked unconscious.
She returned home with post traumatic stress, migraines, and vision problems, and ended up having to endure brain surgery. “For a while, I got lost in the VA health system,” she said. “But my Master Sergeant Paulette Bowen and her husband stood by me. They drove for hours to make sure I got the health care I deserved. Even now, if I need them, they’re there for me.”
Struggling to deal with her health issues, Monaca fell into a depression a couple of years ago. Danny Wallace was BVA’s National Sergeant-at-Arms at the time. “He reached out to me. I was ready to give up, but he encouraged me to keep fighting. He said, ‘Hey, it’s going to be all right. You got to keep pushing. We want you to get well. We want you to have some type of peace in your life.’ He got me into a lot of guided activities — golfing, fishing, hunting. I really do appreciate people
Today, Monaca is paying it forward by helping other blinded veterans. She is the first female BVA National Sergeant-at-Arms, and an active member of BVA’s Operation Peer Support and Project Gemini.
“I pray every day, not only for myself, but for all veterans out there — we shouldn’t have to be fighting for our medications and doctors appointments. We shouldn’t have veterans who are homeless. The VA has come a long way in the past eight years, but we still have a long way to go. It’s important that we stick together and help each other, and that means everybody.”