This is a several part series designed to highlight the struggles of combat veterans and their (and their family’s) re-adjustment into civilian life. Also, we discuss what helped change my husband for the better.
Even if you are not married to some one suffering PTSD, it is important that we spouses get to know what makes our husband tick, what drives them forward, what scares them. By knowing and caring about these things, it will bring you closer.
Part 1: How we Got Here
Being married to a combat veteran has to be one of the most difficult challenges in my life. Difficult does not mean it isn’t beautiful. Challenges come with rewards.
These challenges I have faced helped to shape me into the Strong Homemaker.
As many of you know, my husband and I married at 18. He deployed at 19 for his first time. It wasn’t even a full two months before I got the phone call. It was his voice on the line.
“Hey, are you okay? You sound sick.”
“No, I have been shot. I want….. you to know I love you……”
“…I…..have to go….”
The line went dead. He had just taken SEVEN BULLETS, watched his friends die, and he himself was not slated to make it. That is why his superior let him have the SAT phone to tell me he loved me one last time.
The adjustment home was difficult. The man who was a three sport athlete, planned 20 years in the Army was now “broken” and “defeated.” He had been through 16 surgeries and spent nearly a year in a wheelchair and hospital bed. I had to now help him with everything. Feeding him, clothing him, bathroom tasks.
This lack of what he used to have made him angry and cold. The constant flashbacks of the day he was injured, watching his friends go down as he went down killed him inside. I didn’t know how to reach him. Everything was so muddled within his pain and suffering that I wasn’t even sure he loved me anymore. Though, in times of quiet, he told me he did more than the day he met me. It kept me going for him.
In 2009, he went to his first retreat with Veterans’ Community Response. It was an organization set up by firefighters to help combat veterans.
He was surrounded by combat veterans going through similar situations –mental and/or physical wounds related to combat. For the first time, he was able to speak on his pain. The veterans surrounding him offered support while the counselors from the Veteran Outreach Center offered tools for healing. For the first time, he realized he wasn’t alone.
During his time, he learned to challenge his physical abilities, to find healing with some of the effects of PTSD, to connect with other combat veterans that he now considers brothers.
He has gone on retreats every year since 2009, and now he goes as a peer mentor for those struggling in the same place he was. Don’t get me wrong, he still struggles, but he finds a lot more reasons to be happy and tools to get though the tough times.
Veterans’ Community Response
Here is a simple snippet of what they do.
“Veterans Community Response is a non-profit organization composed of firefighters, veterans and therapists working diligently to support combat veterans in their post war readjustment process. Our programs center on the intention of helping combat veterans develop the skills to navigate their post war challenges to achieve productive and satisfying lives after serving our country. It is our firm belief that with support, compassion and understanding we can create a safe and structured environment that will promote the healing process for all we serve.”
This organization has changed many lives, including my husband’s. What better way to celebrate Memorial Day than to help those veterans trying to re-adjust to civilian life and deal with injuries.
They reach out in the community, hold retreats for veterans to help them heal, and even simple one day outings to connect veterans.
My hope here is to raise enough money to have their retreats covered through the summer. Most of the volunteers are firefighters reaching out to help the combat veterans, so they also hold jobs whilst spending much of their free time volunteering.
Check out their website at https://www.vetcomres.org.