Veteran’s Challenges Bring Difficulties of Chronic Disease to Light


At 52, Gregory is a veteran of the First Gulf War, and he has the physical and emotional scars that often accompany military service members home from the battlefield. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—an inflammatory lung disease that can increase the risk of heart disease, lung cancer and a variety of other conditions—are just a few of the issues he deals with every day.

Gregory served as a member of the U.S. Army Special Operations Forces (Green Berets) in Panama and then as a noncommissioned officer in Saudi Arabia and Iraq during the First Gulf War. Upon his return to the U.S., a constant cough led Gregory to seek medical help. After years of misdiagnosis, doctors finally pinpointed COPD as the cause of Gregory’s troubles.

“I never smoked in my life, so I believe the COPD is a result of all the burned garbage and explosives I inhaled during the war,” said Gregory.

Gregory faces many of the challenges that other Project Angel Heart clients face—inability to work because of an illness, lack of transportation, fatigue, difficulty finding safe and affordable housing, and lots and lots of medical needs (appointments, medications, etc.).

He relies on the Disabled American Veterans organization or friends for transportation to medical appointments. And, after learning about Project Angel Heart at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, he started getting nutritious meals delivered to his home each week by a Project Angel Heart volunteer. According to Gregory, the meals have resulted in less stress, improved weight, and more energy. Having access to healthy meals has also helped him stick to his prescribed health regimen.

“Project Angel Heart is one of those things that’s a godsend,” said Gregory. “They take real good care of me and do an outstanding job for a veteran.”

Photos: McBoat Photography