Do you still have your boyfriend?

No … I think the first year that I was home you know it’s just been so difficult. And I think his lack of understanding of that and him wishing that I was just that same person again … all of a sudden he was like one day: “I felt sorry for you so I would have told you then that I didn’t want to spend time with you, but I felt sorry for you so I continued on for like six more months.” And then he just decided he doesn’t want anything to do with me. It’s just so hard. I’d like to find someone to settle down with and be happy, but I don’t know who wants to get wrapped up in this mess. I’m very sensitive about how I look even though I wear shorts. But it’s damn hot out. I’m not going to wear a sweat suit or anything.

You are talking about your boyfriend, but do you think his insensitivity is reflective of the way our country as a whole is treating veterans of this war?

Yeah. They just don’t get it. They’re [the soldiers are] all screwed up in the head from all the stuff we see over there. [Pointing at a yacht moored in front of us] There’s people sitting here on their boats right now. I’m asking 10 seconds out of their day to think of everybody over there.

There are so many issues with this world. Our country will take care of everybody else’s country, yet we’ve got veterans and people on the streets. There’s a guy, he’s homeless, and he’s always at that 7-Eleven on Fourteenth. His name is Tom, and he’s always standing there by the trashcan. If he’s there—if it’s the last $5 I have in my pocket—every time I see him I try to buy him something.

What is your medical condition now?

I wish you could see the handful of pills I have to take every morning. I have to take narcotics every morning and every night. Then if I don’t take the narcotics I go through serious withdrawals. If I missed one last night I’d be laid up on the couch in pain and vomiting. I have so much damage to my right leg my left leg is actually the good one. I get really sick. Right now I don’t feel good. I get really nauseous feeling.

 Actually, I’m kind of glad that I take all the medicine that I do or I’d probably be a raging alcoholic. [Laughs] I really can’t drink a lot because of the medicine. My liver probably appreciates that.

Tell me about your prosthetic leg.

I just got this in April. It’s all squishy [laughs]. To tell you the truth, when I’m covered up to the ankle you really can’t tell.

Are there support services—medical and otherwise—in the North to help you?

Oh, I’m sure there are. I have so much on my plate right now. My head is spinning. I have TBI which is traumatic brain injury from the concussion of the explosion. So I have really bad memory. So I try to remember everything, and everybody—they don’t just stop for a second and realize that I am not like you. At all.

[Crying] I mean, I’m glad you called because I probably wouldn’t have left the house today. I know I’m supposed to go to my therapy, but I barely go to that because I feel sick, and I can’t get out of bed because my nightmares are so bad that I force myself to stay awake. I just got done having a four-month stretch every night. I was pulling all-nighters because every time I shut my eyes I’d have a nightmare.

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowsk