When Marine veteran Josh Ray met NMCRS visiting nurse Bobbi Crann, he was living with his wife and their six children in a fixer-upper house in Oceanside, California, that he was trying to fix up himself. “I was at the end of my rope,” he recalled. “I had pushed myself as hard as I could for three years after getting out of the Marine Corps but my PTSD symptoms were showing themselves more often than not, and I was having a tough time.”
Josh met Bobbi for coffee and spent two hours talking to her. “I was drowning and she became my life preserver,” he said. “She said, ‘I’ll help. I’ll give you some support.’ And then I started asking for help from others. Life’s a lot easier when you have people on your side helping you.”
Meeting Bobbi was not Josh’s first encounter with NMCRS. “When I was transitioning from active duty, there was an issue with my pay because of my medical board paperwork had not yet been processed. A month before I got out my pay was stopped. NMCRS gave me a no-interest loan and I paid it back right away. That was really helpful because that was a stressful time for me.” Josh knew to go to the Society for financial assistance because he’d been a long-time contributor to the Active Duty Fund Drive. “I was a donor throughout my Marine Corps career,” he recalled. “My drill instructor told me NMCRS was a good organization so I donated through the Active Duty Fund Drive every year, which kept NMCRS in my mind.”
Josh served in the Marine Corps from 2004 to 2012, including an eight-month deployment to Fallujah as a machine gunner for Department of Defense security—a job that constantly put him directly in the line of fire. “I got shot at a lot,” he said. “Multiple times per week, they would take pot shots, trying to get me as we drove by. I was a gunner so my head was exposed because I was standing up in the HUMV. We got blown up. At one point we were exiting Camp Fallujah and my vehicle went over a hill and I hit my head hard, smacking my face on the machine gun, which split my head open. I threw bandages on it and continued the mission. I needed eight stitches, and they gave me a couple days of rest to let the wound heal then I was back at it.” It only takes one traumatic brain injury to do serious damage.
Later, back at Camp Pendleton, California, Josh finally felt like he was fully recovered and was running 30 miles a week while training other Marines when he tore cartilage in his knee. The injury eventually led to a medical separation from the Marines, and Josh had a tough time transitioning to the civilian world. He’d wanted to become a Marine since he was a high school freshman, sitting in economics class on September 11, 2001, watching the Twin Towers collapse on TV. “From then on I felt something had to be done. When things aren’t going right some individuals feel the need to stand up. From that point on I knew I was going to be in the military. It was an act of national pride. I felt like the nation was calling us and somebody’s got to stand up. I said, ‘I’ll do it.’”
So after he was injured, Josh wasn’t sure what to do. He went through vocational rehabilitation to find a way to serve that didn’t involve putting pressure on his knee. He decided to learn public relations, and enrolled at Palomar Community College in 2012, just before he officially separated from the Marine Corps. Josh earned two degrees—in general education and journalism, then transferred to California State University at San Marcos and graduated with his bachelor’s degree in communications—with honors—last May.
Despite this apparent success, Josh still struggled. “Everything was going up, but I was still so down and doubting myself,” he explained. “I lost a lot of confidence. I realized I had to make a change. I had to take my mental and physical health more seriously. My wife said, ‘you really should reach out for support,’ and I got the hint.”
Bobbi helped Josh regain his confidence by taking him to the FOCUS Marine Foundation in 2015, where he spent a week working with other men and women who had served. “It was amazing to be in the same room as all those people. FOCUS got me back on track, and reminded me that what I did was worth it.” Bobbi also helped Josh’s family manage the logistics of him being away from home for a week.
“I told Bobbi, ‘I think I want to go but I’m having a hard time explaining it to my wife,’” Bobbi helped the family find the money for Josh’s transportation to and from FOCUS and arranged for child care help so Josh’s wife could have help with the family’s six kids, who ranged in age from two to 11.
“Once I completed FOCUS, I started setting goals and achieving them,” Josh said. “One of my goals was to graduate with honors, which I did. My next goal was to work in public relations (PR) but I was having a hard time finding work. Finally, I found an internship with the Department of Fish and Wildlife doing public affairs. I loved that job. I was in the woods following around biologists and scientists, taking videos and pictures and asking questions. I was making a difference and I was the source of information. I realized that’s what I wanted to do.”
Although he successfully completed his internship, Josh discovered that prospective employers are usually looking for someone with more PR experience than he has. He’s determined to follow his passion rather than taking a job in sales or another field that he doesn’t find meaningful.
Recently, he found another internship with the US Navy, reporting on its environmental efforts. “I love this work, but it’s only through August. We have enough money to survive, but things are tight. I don’t know if this will turn into anything but I know I’ll feel a lot better knowing I tried.”
Meanwhile, his Society Visiting Nurse, Bobbi Crann, continues to provide emotional support and identify community resources to Josh and his family. “When I needed someone to lean on, she was there.” Bobbi knew that Josh’s focus on school and his internships left him with no time or money to continue renovating his house. “She connected me with Wounded Warrior Homes in San Diego, which connected me with the Home Depot Foundation. I was contacted by the Home Depot Foundation headquarters in Georgia and asked if I would go to Los Angeles to talk about my life on a television show. I had to think about that. I told them the message had to be about the importance of veterans asking for support and help.”
So Josh and his wife and kids went to Los Angeles and appeared on the TD Jakes show, which aired on the Oprah Network. “They took care of our kids, they did my wife’s hair and makeup and dressed her up extraordinarily nicely, which she loved. She was so happy.” On the show, the Home Depot Foundation and Wounded Warrior Homes announced that they would be donating labor and materials to fix up the family’s home and also planned to give them furnishings for the house, including a patio set and a grill. The Ray family home received a new kitchen, new bathrooms, and other upgrades. “I’d started doing the work myself—I ripped out the carpet, put in new flooring and painted the walls, but I couldn’t do the work myself anymore. The house isn’t finished yet, but it’s definitely more comfortable and it’s an improvement. It would’ve taken me 10 more years to get the house into the condition it is now.”
“Everything our Society Visiting Nurse, Bobbi, has done for us has made me really respect and trust and love her,” Josh said. “Working with her helped me learn to ask for support and give people a chance to help instead of trying to do everything on my own. She knows when we have a need and she’s always keeping an eye out for other opportunities for us.”
The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society’s visiting nurse program – making a difference for combat-served Marines, Sailors, their families and caregivers. If you, or someone you know, needs help or is interested in this program, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-696-0032.
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso