According to the PTSD VA website, PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.
To many people, those are just words. But to others, this is a daily reality.
Who He Was
When I met my husband in 2007, he was bright, outgoing, full of aspirations. His green eyes were as bright as could be.
I still remember the day he left. I remember sitting in our truck for a long, long time…sobbing. Reality of a 15 month deployment smacked me in the face. It took me about 20 minutes to get it together enough to start the truck.
That was the last time I saw him. . .as he was. War changed him, changed his mind about a lot of things.
Who He Became
He wasn’t particularly religious, but upon being in Iraq, he decided that God was going to get us through this. He began reading the Bible nightly. He reassured me of how we would make it. He told me how wonderful I was and how he couldn’t wait to hold me.
It All Fell Apart, A New Change
Let me pause here and say that there are many things I will gloss over here because some stories are not mine to tell to the general public. Some of his reality comes from the deeper darker parts he does not much share. That trust he has with me is not something I am willing to breach.
He lost his best friend about a month into the deployment. Then, 2 weeks later, he nearly lost his own life. Unfortunately, the day he was injured he saw a great deal I wish no one had to see. Some lost their lives that day. He was wounded on December 26, 2007. Holidays are hard.
I remember the first time I saw him in the hospital. I remember a man who was broken down with anger, sadness, and frustration. When he came home, he kept saying he wanted to get back out there, wanted to fight with the guys. He couldn’t even walk.
He came home angry, upset, cold, distant, impatient, angry at God. Yet, he told me he loved me. He was so short with me it was difficult not to feel like I was walking on eggshells. Though, as a caregiver and wife I felt as though I gave and gave. Of course, I was 19 when he came home hit with seven AK-47 rounds. I curse myself for not being more patient and understanding then, but I try to tell myself I was only 19…I couldn’t have possibly understood what I do now at 29. To be honest, I still cry when I am alone if I think back to particular moments where I could have been a stronger wife. This is why I have blossomed into the Strong Homemaker.
Over time, I realized where many military marriages fail in deployments. The man we see off to war, becomes a changed man from their “worldly experiences”, and then when something life altering happens, the veteran changes again.
I had the rare opportunity to bear in mind all three by seeing letters he wrote me while deployed and never sent.
A New Leaf
Through Veterans Community Response, counseling, and treatment he was able to speak on his pain. He found a connection with other combat veterans from the OIF/OEF era that lost their way. I remember the first time he went to a retreat in 2009. He came home and talked to me longer than he had in months. He talked about the things he was proud of. At the time, he couldn’t do much physically but he pushed his boundaries.
He talked about the new friends he had met. He never went into detail but mentioned that he had learned some ways to cope with his PTSD. He began to soften his shell. He let me in his heart again. Every year he pushes his boundaries, ever year he strengthens his bond with the fellow combat veterans. Now, he is a peer mentor, helping others as he heals. Every year he comes back to me….a little more the man I met.
By the way, those friends he has made are the best friends he could ever have. They bend over backward for each other, brothers in arms.
So, I encourage you to visit the Go Fund Me page and donate to the wonderful Veterans Community Response. It could help keep so many families together. It can help heal the pain of war. It can challenge the physical body, the mind, and spirit. I know it helped my husband, it can help so many. Reach into your hearts and thank a Veteran today by doing something lasting. By donating to VCR, you are helping fund retreats for combat veterans, outings, and more.
Their website is https://www.vetcomres.org