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'Make the VA Great Again' – How an Injured Army Officer Helps Vets Receive Better Care

'Make the VA Great Again' – How an Injured Army Officer Helps Vets Receive Better Care Read Transcript

ANGELA ZATOPEK: In 2005, Army Major Scotty Smiley

was in northern Iraq when a suicide bomber set off

an explosion, leaving him completely blind.

I woke up about, a little less than a week later

in Walter Reed Army Medical Center,

as the drugs began to come off.

I really, truly realized where I was.

My wife was here.

And then, something is wrong, like, my eyes, I can't see.

I went back to my room and I prayed, not for his eyesight,

so I didn't care about his eyesight.

I just wanted his heart.

I wanted God to fill him, and fill him even stronger than he

was before.

ANGELA ZATOPEK: Fighting a new battle,

Smiley knew to overcome it, would take one thing.

SCOTTY SMILEY: I had to forgive the man who blew himself up,

and it was tough, you know, the man who took my eyesight.

And most importantly, denying God and really questioned God,

I had to ask God for forgiveness.

And once I made that decision, that's when I really

began to build my--

begin my recovery.

Taking on a new lifestyle and perspective,

after the accident, Smiley and his wife

decided to launch a ministry called, Hope Unseen.

Now traveling the country, speaking

to different groups about overcoming obstacles,

and also working with our government officials

to improve veteran care.

TIFFANY SMILEY: Scotty wrote, Hope Unseen,

sort of a memoir about his journey, our journey, together.

I started to see Scotty sharing his story,

and it was not only changing Scotty,

but it was changing other people.

ANGELA ZATOPEK: The Smileys have also been strong advocates

to improve the V.A. System, recalling

the constant hurdles they endured

while trying to seek benefits.

It was daunting.

We had to fight for every little bit of care and resource.

You know, I started to question, why is it so difficult?

And, how do I get help on this?

And someone suggested, well you need

to hire a lawyer to navigate the V.A. Benefit system.

And that's where I was--

I just said, absolutely not.

This is not OK.

With your ministry, obviously, that's

launched you guys into a lot of different public spheres.

And one, is recently the White House.

Tell me about your interaction with President Trump.

TIFFANY SMILEY: He was actually sort of shocked,

to hear firsthand, what our service members go through.

He couldn't believe it, and he also

said he couldn't believe the suicide rate.

When he was briefed on that, that alone

shows that there's a culture issue going on here,

that together, we can address it.

ANGELA ZATOPEK: Recently, Trump signed the V.A. Accountability

Act, making it easier for the Department of Veteran Affairs

to fire incompetent employees.

Veterans have fulfilled their duty to this nation,

and now, we must fulfill our duty to them.

ANGELA ZATOPEK: Trump also just signed an executive order

for a s dollar initiative to modernize information

technology and records, something the Smileys would say

was a major problem when they were seeking care.

You have lived this experience.

You've walked the battlefields, and off, through this injury.

What would you say to other people in the service--

veterans, or maybe they're currently

serving-- if they're battling an injury that

could be life-altering, or PTSD, what is your message to them?

I didn't believe I deserved it.

I didn't believe my family and the change of life

in which we were going through, that we deserved it.

But it was hope, that my bedrock was God,

and because I had that I found that life was worth living.

ANGELA ZATOPEK: And Smiley lives life to the fullest,

like completing an Ironman triathlon, where

he'll release a documentary on that experience

later this year.

Yeah, it was a blast.

The year that it took me to train, and the 16 hours

and 48 minutes that it took me to complete the Ironman,

a little less enjoyable.

Tell me a little bit about how you navigate it.

SCOTTY SMILEY: My brother-in-law, I hold his arm.

And then once we entered the water, I led the swim,

and then he'd tap my left calf for me

to go left, tap my right calf for me to go right.

On the bicycle, I have a tandem bicycle, I'm the engine.

I just pedal in the back.

My handlebars are stationary, and then my partner

pedals in the front.

We run side by side.

We have a little stretchy tube that we hold onto,

and then he tells me left when we

need to go left, right when we go right,

and if I say, hey, let's slow down.

For me, it was just amazing, the team

that enabled us to cross the finish line on time.

ANGELA ZATOPEK: Continuing to work as a team,

the Smileys want to use their experience

to show others that they can persevere

through hope, and focusing not on what is seen,

but what is unseen.

From Dallas, Texas, I'm Angela Zatopek for CBN News.


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