Yesterday afternoon my oldest son had a meltdown. Actually, it was more of a heartbreak. His neighbor buddy was fighting with him and he was so upset. He did what any little boy would do...he cried for his daddy. Unfortunately, daddy is in another state. So, I let Gabe call his dad and talk about what was bothering him. I have to admit, I hesitated at first. I know from experience that his time in OIF has caused crying children to be a PTSD trigger for him. I habitually calmed Gabe down before I allowed him to call. Once he talked with his dad, he felt a lot better and his dad was happy to be able to help him.
Divorce has caused a lot of emotion, as I am sure it always does. My parents have been married for 38 years, so I didn't come into my marriage with any real experience with a broken home. It took a lot of time and turmoil before my former husband and I came to a point where we felt separation and, later, divorce were the best option for us. Like many PTSD veterans from the Vietnam War, my former husband had turned to work as his "drug" of choice. I am thankful it wasn't alcohol or drugs, but workaholism often causes as many problems.
After his stoploss was lifted, my former husband was brought back from Iraq and was separated from the Army. There were no PTSD checks, no "welcome home" ceremonies, nothing. He was here and his guys were still in Iraq. He felt as if he never finished the job he was sent there to do. I remember him finally telling me one day that, on his last day in the Army, he sat in his truck outside the gates of Fort Riley and couldn't believe where he was. Ten years of his life given to the Army and now he was just tossed into the civilian world. He was lost and I didn't know it.
He began work with a communication tower company and was on the road. He was gone most of the time and soon found that he loved the work he was doing. Climbing to heights of up to 2000' was exciting and brought back the adrenaline rush of combat. Reading Col. Grossman's book, "On Killing", helped me understand the addiction that can occur with combat. Little did I know, his job building towers had provided him with a "high" that he craved.
Fast forward 7 years later, and he is now a project manager with a major Communication Tower company. I am incredibly proud of his work ethic and focus, although it was part of what cost us our marriage. Because of this, there is a big part of me that harbors some resentment toward him. Today, however, I thought about it. I don't drive the kids to see him often because it is a long way and because I want him to take the initiative. Then I think about my work with Family of a Vet, and I remind myself that my former husband IS a combat veteran and he IS sick. I decided to take my kids to see him this weekend because they are asking and I know he is missing them terribly. In order to be intellectually honest, I feel I must remember that my former husband has a disability and this is part of what I can do to support him and our kids. Listening to my heart when making these decisions may not always be easy (and very often isn't), but it is almost always worth it.