Nonprofit providing free healthcare help to local veterans needs public’s help with special mission

Published 12:38 am Wednesday, February 22, 2023

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In 2011, Nicholas Crouch held and kissed his 3-week-old son and then his wife before leaving for his third deployment with the U.S. Navy.

It would be his last.

“My entire family basically is a military family,” the Orange resident said. “It was never a question of if, but when.”

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He enlisted Feb. 20, 2008, and would go on to serve for nearly six years.

During his final deployment, he was onboard the USS Ronald Reagan headed towards the Middle East to assist war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan when a large earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. As the closest aircraft carrier, they responded. And for three weeks, they were near the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which had been damaged by surge water. Radiation leaked from the plant.

“I was exposed to massive amounts of radiation during my last deployment,” Crouch said. “That radiation is now deteriorating all of the soft tissue in my body. Basically now the soft tissue in my body is flaking away from my bones.”

Once home, Crouch, now 37, began seeking treatment for his pain. And he found himself constantly crossing other veterans who either couldn’t afford necessary treatment, or didn’t know where to find it.

So on Jan. 2, 2020, No Longer Limited Duty was formed.

“We try to solve those two problems,” he said. “We build the health and wellness team and pay the bill. It’s that simple.”

Meanwhile, in Port Neches, Jason Owens was sure of two things — he was suffering from chronic pain, and he couldn’t seem to find a reason why.

He had served in the U.S. Army from 2004-2007 and received a medical discharge for diabetes and neuropathy in his hands and legs.

He served as a medic, which required carrying heavy stretchers and other items, which caused nerve damage to his legs.

“I had 14 operations on my spinal cord and none of them helped,” Owens, 36, said. “The VA treated me like a drug seeker or as I was acting and it wasn’t as bad as it really was.”

His now 2-year-old son was born about three weeks after one of his surgeries. Owens was in a wheelchair.

“I remember feeling defeated that I was in a wheelchair and couldn’t even put my son down in the cradle in the hospital because they’re higher now,” he said. “It was a really tough time.”

His pain stayed at a 10. His foot would swell to the point that he couldn’t put on shoes.

“My leg would throb and turn purple,” he said. “Bad, bad purple. After crying in the triage area for 1.5 hours, they’re basically telling me there’s nothing they can do for me. The radiologist basically said I needed to go to another hospital, and so I did. I went there and said, ‘Please refer me to a doctor to amputate my leg.’”

But instead, he found what he called God’s intervention.

Owens stopped by a store owned by a friend, who in turn suggested he get in contact with one of his friends.

And so Crouch and Owens were introduced.

In December 2020 he began seeing a doctor in Sulphur, Louisiana, to treat complex regional pain syndrome. However, Owens was skeptical.

“I had looked it up on Google and nothing could be done,” he said. “This is the first doctor that knew anything about my condition, much-less say they could help me. I go see him and in one visit he was able to get me out of the wheelchair — no medicine, no special machines.”

Crouch said he only refers veterans to doctors and clinics that he’s seen for treatment.

“When I started the organization, I told (the practitioners) I only trust them. And they flat out said they didn’t matter how long we owe them, they’ll continue seeing (the veterans) because in the end that’s all that matters. They have basically agreed to continue to see our veterans and provide those services knowing that, when we can pay the bills, we pay the bills.”

But the nonprofit is in need of help.

The cost of what they owe is beginning to rival what they’ve spent.

No Longer Limited Duty

The 501(c)3 organization is serving veterans in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana.

“We help any and every veteran,” Crouch said. “All that matters is if they served. It doesn’t matter if they have VA. If they got on that dotted line and raised their hand and swore to protect the country and the Constitution, that’s enough.”

As of Tuesday they had served 55 local veterans.

Also on that day, the amount paid out was $73,095.42.

The amount owed is $37,845.25.

“We are 100 percent volunteer-based, so none of us receive any type of payment from the organization,” Crouch said. “So as long as we can continue to do it, that’s how we will do things.”

Members of the Board of Directors each serve three-year terms. Crouch said as original board members complete their terms, they’ve started rotating Veterans they’ve helped onto the board.