Friday, April 29, 2011

A Soldiers Call

Sue Diaz shared a video she put together about the first phone call her son made home on his first deployment. I know this touched me and made me think about when my husband deployed the first time and the conversations we had. It took me back... and made me tear up. Some conversations are never easy, but the realization of someone growing is one of the most heartfelt things. 

Thank you, Sue, for allowing us to hear about your son's first call to you. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Trying to Regain Myself

Earlier today I was reading Heather's latest post on her blog, when it made me realize how much we take on as spouses of a military man or woman. There are times that suicide is committed by a spouse, attempted, or at least thought about. Heathers hopes are that her story and experience of a battle she faced years ago can reach out and touch someone else. Thank you for allowing us to share your story, Heather.

For many that don't know a war widow recently took her life...she fought a battle of trying to raise her children and move on with life without her soul mate...and that battle was just to much for her...people will judge her, call her selfish, and a bad mother...but really we have no idea what she was feeling, how the hopelessness of her life had consumed her. She was a person that had loved and lost. Her battle was to hard for her to do it alone....

I can from my experience share a bit because I did try to end my life...looking back at it, its still hard to feel the depth of pain and total darkness in my life. Its like having a cold vise around your heart, your body.Most people assume that I wasn't thinking about my kids, my husband, my life..and that's not true. I was thinking about a small part of my brain I was but the pain was so horrible it felt like my entire body was falling down a pit and I couldn't stop it...I would claw at the walls and still slip. I had dealt with so much(deployments, divorces, kids, death) so there wasn't just 1 thing that drew me to that edge it was a lot of little things compounded on me and I just couldn't handle it anymore...I just wanted to forget the life, the world, the pain...people can judge me and that's their business they have never walked a mile in my shoes, they've never dealt with what I've dealt with...I tried to live life like it was normal..I didn't show any outward signs, I didn't do what a "typical" suicidal person does, I didn't give my belongings away, I didn't cut off friends, I didn't do any of that..I just stopped caring..I just wanted the pain to stop.

I swallowed a bottle of pain meds, I think it was flexerall, I went into the living room, curled up on the couch and started to sleep but then a small piece of my brain screamed at me and reminded me I have a family, I have kids that need me...and I did reach out and had a friend call 911...I remember my house being full of EMT's, fireman, and Mp's and I remember them trying to talk to me and I remember trying to answer them but I couldn't...the next memory I have was being in the ER having charcoal forced down my throat and a nurse attempting to put an IV into my hand...and then I was back asleep. I woke up to see my friend Amie being at the ER with me and I remember her fussing at me(gotta love Amie) and I remember being transported to another hospital and there I slept for about 24hrs trying to get the rest of the drugs out of my system..I spent a week in the hospital trying to regain myself...the person I had lost. She's still not completely back but she's getting there...people can say that they would know to get help and they would know they'd never try suicide but til you are in that position you can't say what you would do...I know I can't ever judge a person that has committed suicide...because I've been there in their spot, I've felt hopeless and cold...

~Heather Moates

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Survivor's Guilt

For a few years now I have witnessed my husband struggle day after day with what is known as Survivor’s Guilt. Experiencing this is what prompts me to write this article. Mainly, it is to let others know how common this is and ways to help. Survivor’s Guilt is something that we as families cannot relate to, yet we find ourselves in situations of trying to “fix” things and help our spouse move past this battle in the aftermath of the war.  

It can strike at any time.......

It haunts our military service members on a daily basis.... The demons of war and the loss of the ones they are bonding and fighting beside that are lost causing them to lose themselves at times... It is one of the causes that leads a service member in the decision to take their own life. This horror that can damage and destroy some of our troops lives is known as Survivor's Guilt and it affects thousands of our men and women everyday.

Survivor's guilt is a psychological syndrome in which a person will believe he they have done wrong by surviving a traumatic event or situation that has claimed the life of others. At times, the other person/people can survive, and a service member will still be overcome with survivor's guilt because they know that injured person will never be the same.

Being surrounded by war and witnessing what our troops witness can lead to strong survivor's guilt.  Our service members are known to torture themselves and put themselves through another hell of wondering what they could have done differently to prevent what has occurred. They live minutes, hours, days, months, and more pondering the event, reliving it, and stuck on different actions that could have been taken at the time. The lose days in their life because as they are here and alive, they forget to live. They can be scared to enjoy life or to find happiness because they cannot get past the reason they lost someone in war, yet are still here and able to live life.

Survivor's Guilt symptoms can mock those of PTSD, Depression, Acute Stress Disorder, and anxiety disorders. With this being stated, sometimes complications can and will arise when trying to distinguish between these things. Flashbacks, nightmares, lack of motivation, loss of joy and pleasure in activities they use to enjoy, loss of appetite, feelings of worthlessness and mood swings. The person may become real distant from loved ones and turn to other sources as their personal self-medication, such as alcohol and pills.

When SG occurs, just as with PTSD, the person experiencing it needs to know that it is not their fault. They need to be reminded they are here for a reason and that no one holds them accountable for a situation or mission that was turned upside down. It's okay to be happy that they survived and move on with daily life. That's not saying they will forget what happened or the ones they lost. For some reason their life was spared and now is the time to cherish it and never take it for granted. Reassess life and make the best of it. Loved ones, please remind your service member that what they are experiencing is normal, but please make sure if they get out of control, seek help immediately!

For every ten suicide attempts, one suicide is unfortunately carried out as planned. Since 2005, the suicide rates amongst our troops has more than doubled. Though, as not all are as a result to Survivor's Guilt, a good amount does contribute to the service members that struggle with SG. In the 30,000 suicides that were sadly a success to Americans last year, about 20 percent were committed by Veterans.

If you are battling and struggling with Survivor's Guilt, or you have a loved one that is, please do not hesitate to ask for help. There are currently many options available to you at this time, none which should lead to suicide. Every state has at least one (typically more) Vet Centers, which offer free counseling to any combat service member as well as their immediate family. You can contact them at 1-877-WAR-VETS. You can contact your local VA for Mental Health and assistance. If you are not aware of your local clinic/Hospital, go to the VA website by clicking here.

Other Numbers Available to you:
The Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), Press 1
The National Veterans PTSD Hotline: 1-800-293-1438

~Brittney Biddle
Proud Wife of an OIF/OEF War Veteran
FOV Community Blog Coordinator

Speaking Up

My husband and I went to his mental health appointment today, it was a new doctor in training and a supervising doctor handling the appointment. My husband brings me to these appointments because he doesn't want to go alone, he says I am his security blanket, I make it easier for him to talk about hard things just by being there. I can calm him when he is about to explode and I know his body language. He also has memory problems from the TBI so by the time he left the office he would forget most of what had happened. When the doctors saw us standing there they told him he would have to go in alone, they said I could come in at the end, he said he wanted to me there for the whole thing when they said no, I could see the nervous look in his eye so I told them he had memory problems and I needed to be there, again they said no I could come in at the end. At this point my husband was looking very anxious, I told them I wasn't comfortable with that and they saw I wasn't about to back down so I got to go in (but was told not to speak for the first part- fair enough). So why am I telling you this? Because I think many people would not speak up and it is so important for you to speak up, you may feel like you don't have the right because you are "just a spouse" but you are so much more than that. You are your veteran's advocate. You know him better than anyone, you are with him/her day in and day out. Many times your vet won't or can't speak up, that is when you need to step in. Unfortunately in my experience I have found that the VA can be a bit of a bully but if you stand your ground, remain persistent and be that squeaky wheel they will comply. If you are having issues and have exhausted all avenues through the VA then contact your local Congressman, I have found that just asking for the patient liaison or suggesting to the staff that perhaps a Congressman may be able to help sometimes moves things along.

Don't be mean, don't be nasty, don't swear, don't lose your temper but do be firm, consistent and concise. When you run into a problem make sure you have an idea in your head of what you expect from the person you are speaking to. If the person says that they will check with so and so on this or that and will get back to you make sure you ask them when they will be getting back to you and let them know that if you haven't heard from them by that date or time you will call them to follow up.

Hard choices... being angry or being happy

First, let me start this post by saying that I'm always actually talking to myself first and foremost as I write. I'm headed toward five years of dealing with "beastie boy PTSD" and still am far from perfect at coping with it.

There's something I've been working on lately that I've mentioned here on the blog and on our Facebook page ( I've been working on my attitude toward my hubby and our life together. I realized about six weeks ago that I had slowly but steadily slipped into the habit of handling every situation with sarcasm, aggravation, and general bitchiness. Basically, everything, every little, tiny, thing (and of course the not so tiny things) my husband did were making me angry and I was making no attempt to control my own reactions.

I hear some of you tuning me out already :) Hold on, stay with me!!

There's this normal stage when PTSD first infects a family that the primary caregiver (typically the spouse) goes through a time where she is just simply, incredibly, and completely pissed off with the world. It doesn't mean that person is bad... they're just moving through a normal part of the process of coming to terms with a HUGE change in their life. At this point, after years of talking to thousands of spouses, I can pick out someone in this stage very quickly. And, I know if they're in that stage there are certain pieces of advice and ideas that they're simply not going to "hear" yet... they need time to finish being angry before they can move on and start coping.

So, you'd think with all of this "street sense" about living with PTSD, that I would have noticed myself somehow circling back into the angry phase... or maybe not circling back but going through a new one... but I didn't. It caught me by surprise! It seemed like one day I was coping reasonably well (and I consider "reasonably well" to be like Stepford wife perfect by PTSD standards!) and the next I was feeding into the undercurrent of hostility in our family.

So, with all of that said, I came to the conclusion that I had two choices -

(1) Keep being angry - Granted I felt like I was right to be angry most of the time, PTSD can cause my husband to say and do some pretty awful, hurtful things. I felt justified. And it felt good to "let it all out" and just loose my temper as I felt like it, telling him exactly what I thought, not mincing words, "letting him have it", blah, blah, blah. I might also be miserable, but at least I was RIGHT in my misery. I could avoid talking to my husband because I was right. Or, even if I talked to him, could keep it short and sweet, nothing extra, because I just didn't want to deal with him, because I was ANGRY and after all, RIGHT.

(2) Choose to be happy - While not ignoring any truly harmful behavior, I could choose my battles. When my husband said something that I knew came from a PTSD place, I could just CHOOSE (not always easy, but can be done) to let it go, not to react, not to have to tell him just how wrong it was. I could look at the things in my life that are good - at my daughter, at my family, at the fact that my husband did return from Iraq walking instead of in a flag draped coffin - instead of the things that are admittedly not so great. I could ignore the temptation to hold a grudge, but instead get up fresh every morning and start again.

There are two quotes that really got me to start thinking about this. One is from the Bible. It says, "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." (Proverbs 14:1). But, even if you don't read the Bible (or just want another reference), there's another quote from William James that says, ""Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude."

When I first started this experiment, I have to admit I didn't expect to see any change in my husband. I was simply trying to prevent the bitterness, anger, and resentment that was growing in my gut from taking me over. But, I've been pleasantly surprised to see my husband respond to my attitude with a new attitude of his own. Now, has PTSD magically disappeared from our household? No. Are we suddenly, blissfully happy? No. But, this is certainly a much better, healthier way to live together!

So, I challenge you to make what seems like a hard choice (but I promise will become a much easier to live with choice)... CHOOSE to be happy and not so freaking pissed off. You have that power. Believe me, if I can do it, you can definitely do it. I promise!

HUGE hugs,

Brannan Vines
Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
Founder of - an organization dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and more!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Moment of Loneliness

"When we truly realize we are alone is when we need others the most."

Loneliness is an emotion that military spouses feel at frequent times in numerous situations. We understand the amount of loneliness that is felt in a room where we are surrounded by people and our spouse is deployed, in a room alone, and in a room sitting with our spouse after they return from war...

I am not sure if the times that I have felt more alone in this life were the times that my husband faced deployments or if it would be now, as he battles PTSD and TBI. There are times when I felt the most alone when he was deployed for obvious reasons... I was home by myself and he was thousands of miles away from me, on a totally different time zone, and fighting a war. Yet, there are moments now, even with him home, that I feel more alone that I have ever felt before. I feel as though a great distance has been cast between my family/friends and I. There are times that I get on Facebook and I will see family that has asked for prayers because someone has caught a cold or is having surgery or they are just having a rough day. I see family and friends posting to one another, just letting them know that they are thinking about them. Then there is me. I am battling major health problems, again, as I write this and an everyday battle watching my husband with his combat problems. With both of us, our problems will never go away. No matter how much people try to push them out of the way, this is it for us. I have noticed that the more we have to work through the more we are alone in this life. I can't tell you the last time someone in my family left a status of "please say a prayer...." followed by what we are going through. For quite awhile I would feel upset and let down over this. I mean, I have given up so much in the past to always be there for my family and friends and hear I am screaming out for someone to just be here for us, for someone to just let me cry and vent when I feel as though I am hitting bottom. After so much time passed, I realized I no longer have that....

It took me months of going back and forth and feeling as though I had done something wrong before it all started to make sense to me. It is much easier for someone to be there for you when things are good than when they begin to fall apart. People in general just don't want to listen or be that shoulder when times get tough. Especially when times hit with me and I am lying in a hospital bed, fighting for my life...or when Kevin is struggling everyday and I am trying my hardest to just pick up the pieces and mold us back together. It gets hard. It gets even harder when I have no outlet. Why am I the go to person when things get tough for my family and friends, but I can't seem to have the same friendship back when I need it? I know I put off as being the "strong one" at all times, but come on, even the strong ones fall down at times.

So, here I am now, at 1:30 in the morning feeling more alone than I have in awhile. I sit here and think that after the week I have had and the things that go through my mind, there is no one I could just call or text and know they would respond and be here for me. I can't help but to wonder why people run when things get tough. People get upset because we no longer go to their houses, so it is easier to just write us off. Do they not realize that we can't anymore. Kevin does not do well at someone else's house and it is just better for people to come here. Do they not realize that there are times when I do have to cancel plans at the last minute because he is having a day? The severity of Kevin's PTSD does keep us home a lot, more so than before and I refuse to go somewhere and be around people without him. If he can't handle it, then I won't be there. That's just how it is supposed to go in marriage. I am the one picking up the pieces, but who is supposed to help me mold the pieces back together when I fall apart? What happened to the friends and family that promised they would always be here?

I know it is hard to see someone that you love struggle with something, but people aren't supposed to walk away from ones they claim to love. Through it all, I have learned who I am and how to better depend on myself and I have even found a deeper closeness between my husband and I. I have found more of an independence and as much as I would love to have the ones that I truly believed in, I can now smile over the lessons I have learned. Even if it did lead me down a long and lonely road. I have learned and discovered who I am in life.

Through this ordeal and learning to pick up the pieces, I have also found a passion and love for PTSD/TBI and other combat related injuries Advocacy. I want to reach out and help others.

In this life, even when we feel isolated from the world, we are never alone. There is always someone that is going through a battle that can share similarities to what we are taking on. So, to all of you that have felt the emotions of being alone like I am now or have in the past, just know there are so many of us that have been in your shoes and would love nothing more than to get you our of where you are now. Just keep your head up.

Even when a night like tonight hits me...I refuse to give up

~ Brittney Biddle
Proud Wife of an OIF/OEF Veteran
FOV Community Blog Coordinator

Friday, April 22, 2011

Am I Alone?

Earlier this evening I received an email from Heather Moates and it really hit a spot with me. How often do we feel alone, even though we know there are others that are facing some of the same battles. It is difficult for people that have never walked in our shoes, or the shoes of a Vet to understand the changes that we face and live through. Heather, you are never alone and always have us by your side!

Just feeling kind of blah today...and a bit like life is passing by me and yes forgotten. Since John's injuries continually got worse and I made a decision to quit work full time to take care of him it feels like life is speeding by me and everyone around me has moved on and I'm stuck in one point of life. I understand it's easier to ignore me by most people because I am a reminder of something no one wants to deal husband is a reminder to people of a stigma that most soldiers and families don't want to deal with or acknowledge. And I get that...if it wasn't my life and I wasn't living it I'm sure I'd be avoiding someone like me also...I can honestly say it hurts like hell...

I do know I'm not alone in the world, especially when it's announced that 100,000+ soldiers are coming home from deployments with PTSD and thousands of others are injured. Yet, I still feel's like standing in a crowded room and you're screaming for someone to look at see that you're in pain and you're hurting and they just keep walking by...afraid to look you in the eye because that makes then notice someone be drawn into someone else's pain...and we are so involved in our lives that it's hard to do that. And I completely get that...but every once in awhile it would be nice to hear someone say, "Hey, you're not alone"...

Makes me wonder I alone?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

This was sent to us from someone that has chosen to remain anonymous. As we all know, OIF/OEF are not the only wars that have left our service members battling PTSD and other combat related injuries. Yet, we are all aware of it not being diagnosed until a few years ago. Before then, it was not mentioned nor heard of as it is now. Many Vet's from the Vietnam era struggled through life battling with PTSD and other issues as they left war and re-joined their families back home. Just know, to all the ones that have served throughout the latest deployments and the years before, you and your families are in our prayers and the support will never end! It's never to late to seek help or to lean on someone!

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and prayers with us.

"I just want to say I think it is great that you are there for each other. My husband is a Vietnam (Marine combat) vet and we did not know what was going on. Now 40 years later, having raised our children through his symptoms, the impact on our lives was huge. We all have different forms of co-dependent behavior. Responding/reacting to the irrational outbursts without understanding or help has left all of us feeling less then we are and fearful. You are in my prayers and I am so relieved to hear you have support of one another."

Trying to Understand

We received this story from one of our readers, Vienus Claxton and are glad to share it with everyone. Many of us have been faced with the changes that our spouses or loved ones present us with within time of returning from their deployments. Thank you Vienus for allowing us to share your story!

I met and married a hero! When I met Jimi he had been home from Iraq for about a year. I was proud to say my husband had served as an MP for our country. However, I thought his battle was over. This story is a bit strange because every man in my entire family had served in a war. I have never seen the effects of war with my dad (he was in Korea) and I lived with him my whole life. Only my Uncle (Vietnam) had flash backs and problems. So, I always thought most people came back from war and were fine. 

When we started dating he seemed fine. He had trouble sleepig and a few nightmares, but as far as I could see that was it. Fast forward 7 yrs and he is in pieces. I am having to learn more about this so I can learn to see why he is the way he is. Most days he is doing good to be civil and happy. I don't know where he has been or what he has seen, so of course I don't understand. It makes it so hard on a family.

When you do not live with a solider or a vet NO ONE really understands. Most American's are clueless, I know I was until now. When someone does not acutally have a solider in their everyday life; they forget there is a war going on (or at least I did). I think what I have learned is that the war truly begins when these men and women come home....

~ Vienus Claxton

Walking on Eggshells, Part One

I received an email from Mrs. S who is going to share her story and experiences in a series. Stay tuned for more from Mrs. S in the near future! 

During the summer of 2006, the kids and I started planning our move to his permanent duty station in Georgia.  He had spent the last year stationed in South Korea and 7-months prior to that in boot camp and schooling in Kentucky.  We hadn’t lived together for almost 20 months.  He left for boot camp when our daughter was four and our son was only 5-weeks old so we were very excited to live together again.  He arranged for his friends wife to drive with us from California to Georgia. It was a five day drive.  I couldn’t help but to cry halfway through our trip.  The highways were different, the scenery was strange and I realized that I would be living a very different life. 

It was quite a change to go from living on a military base with people I couldn’t seem to relate with to my husband, who I hadn’t lived with in almost two years, but I did the best I could. Our daughter started struggling in school and I started getting really sick.  We all seemed stressed so we sought family counseling, which didn’t last long because he received his orders for his deployment to Iraq shortly after we started.  We had not even gotten to live together this time for over 5 months before having to prepare for his deployment.  I decided that the kids and I should move back to California where we were from.  I was scared to death that something horrible would happen to him during his 15-month deployment and if it did, I wanted to live closer to our families and support system.

During his deployment we rarely spoke and I did the best I could to have a normal life for the kids.  I couldn’t let myself think about what he might be going through over there.  I couldn’t watch the news or read the newspaper without feeling overcome with anxiety.  Our daughter started doing better in school, but seemed to be angry and withdrawn.  I found her a counselor and got her enrolled in martial arts….this helped her a lot.  Our son stopped napping and became quite hyper.  I enrolled him in preschool in hopes that it would bring him some normalcy.  Instead I would receive a call from 3-10 times a month to pick him up from school for unacceptable behavior.  I felt everything would be better once Daddy was home and done with his tour and military term.

I knew how much danger he was in while he was deployed.  He was part of the surge and often didn’t even have a FOB.  His orders were just for southern Baghdad, Iraq. His unit was responsible for clearing out the enemy and taking over their terrorist training camps.  At one point while his team was on patrol with the mission to take over a palace where terrorists were being trained.  They moved forward to clear another sector and set up another observation post but because of the surrounding danger they had to stay put.  They didn’t even have enough food or water.  They had to filter water out of the Tigris River and hunt chickens and goats for food.  When black hawks were able to drop food in, they dropped it in body bags.

At another point in his deployment he called to tell me that he should have died.  He explained that he was supposed to go out on a mission but was replaced at the last moment.  Everyone on that mission was blown up and most died.  He felt that he was to blame.  I couldn’t express my gratitude enough that I was so glad he was alive and he must be meant for bigger and better things.  He didn’t believe me.  He was so used to death and despair at this point and knowing that someone gave their life for his triggered deep guilt.  This was the last time he told me about anything that was going on ‘over there’. 

He became completely agitated anytime we spoke on the phone or instant message from then on.  Communication was next to none for the rest of his deployment, except for him declaring how much he couldn’t wait until he could get home.  He was sent back to Georgia in August 2008 after 15-months in Iraq.  He would call more but was still extremely irritable.  He said he wanted to re-enlist to be Special Forces.  I couldn’t go through this all over again and told him so.  I couldn’t stand to loose him, especially to a war he had already put so much into.  Arguments over this became very intense.  I told him to do what makes him happy but we would not be going with him.  He then said he wanted a divorce.  I was completely devastated.  I couldn’t believe that he’d rather ‘play army’ and risk his life instead of being a father.  I couldn’t believe we waited all this time for him and how much he said he wanted to be home to just have him leave again. 

He flew home for his scheduled leave to see the kids.    He went back to Georgia and pursued Special Forces again.  He mentioned that he saw a doctor there that told him he might be experiencing mild PTSD and told him that maybe he should get a dog to help him out. We already had a dog at home and I recently found out that I was extremely allergic to them, amongst other things so I told him that he shouldn’t get another one for me to take care of while he was away.  He got a dog anyway.  He said she helped him a lot…alerting him before anyone would approach him and offered him a lot of comfort.  I couldn’t argue with that.  I then found out I was pregnant and told him.  He told me that he no longer wanted to re-enlist and would come home as soon as his four-years was up, which was less than two months. 

He came home in October. He was different… a little slower with things, seemed to have a hard time keeping up with conversations.  He was very jumpy and constantly checking locks and perimeters.  He’d get debilitating headaches, couldn’t stand being in any crowds, despised talking on the phone, and often wanted to be left alone.  I have never known him to ever want to be alone until this point.  I figured he was stressed about what the future would hold for him.  He struggled to decide on a career.  He constantly changed his mind about what he wanted to do.  The economy was horrible and he couldn’t find a job.  I hadn’t worked since before we moved to Georgia and couldn’t due to my health.  So he started to receive unemployment. 

We argued often.  If my full undivided attention was on him when he spoke…he felt that I was being disrespectful.  He also seemed mean to the kids…treating them like soldiers.  He’d make them do push ups or stand on their tippy toes if he felt they were getting out of hand.  Our son became robotic…saying “Yes, Daddy” with a blank stare every time he spoke to him.  Our daughter began locking doors and double checking them just like he did…even locking us out accidentally a few times. The kids and I became very jumpy as a result to everything.  

We began to walk on eggshells.....

Death of a Beloved Son

We received this from one of out volunteers. Upon reading this, my eyes swelled with tears and my heart ached for Elizabeth. . From all of us, you and your family are always in our prayers! Thank you for sharing your story! If you or your Veteran  are in the need of help, please don't wait! 

“Stoicism is not Heroism…
Elizabeth Sparks on the death of her son”

Our son, PFC Cody J. Thompson, US Army Reserves, took his life on 02 December 2008.  Since that time, I have been determined that he would not die in vain.  I am a survivor of suicide, an elite club of which I would rather not be a member. 

When an individual dies by suicide, that person's family and friends are left with an intense, devastating and persistent pain.  It is an experience unlike any other.  When news arrives that someone we love has died by suicide, most survivors are immediately thrown into a traumatic and complicated grief.
Traumatic losses such as the death of a loved one to suicide are far outside of what we normally expect in life.  They cause us to question our beliefs about safety, and shatter our fundamental assumptions of the world.
Some survivors have a more difficult time healing. They develop more severe and lasting symptoms, which are diagnosed as "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" (PTSD).  Some of the responses include:

 Distressing recollections, dreams or reliving the experience
 Feeling numb, emotionally detached from others
 Always feeling "on guard" or hypervigilant, as being easily startled by noises
 Difficulty working or concentrating
 Difficulty in social situations
 Irritability or outbursts of anger

Survivors each grieve in very different ways and our grief is incredibly complicated, mostly related to the manner in which our loved one died. 

Survivors must accept the fact that their loved one died by their own hand and for those of us left behind, many questions remain, questions that will never be answered. I therefore, have made it my mission to continue his legacy of caring and love of others.  He would always tell me to, “oh, just pay it forward mom,” and that is what I am doing. 

Although I grieve every day, in so many ways, I have chosen to celebrate his life.  I have supportive friends and family whom are nurturing and allow me to grieve in my way and in my time.  This is one of the most important pieces of healing.

Pay it forward, in the memory of my son and the honor of our troops!  Hooooaaahhhh!

Elizabeth Sparks, RN
Trauma RN
STILL an Army Mom

Tuesday, April 19, 2011's all so confusing. They are real, they all have a huge impact but sometimes I wonder if it is used by my husband as an excuse not to fight, a get out of life today card....I don't want to down play anything he is going through or has gone through, its all real, I know this and I certainly don't think he is fine on days like this but often it feels as if he just gives into it because its easier than fighting it and then I get mad because when he gives into it he is in fact giving it far more importance than our family, he isn't willing to fight to come back to us, he doesn't want to deal with us and because he doesn't want to fight he just feels that its his right to check out of his role as a father, a husband and a responsible human being whenever he wants. If he doesn't do something its because he forgot but yet when I remind him I am somehow a nag but when he forgets of course I should have reminded him....He will give me his word on things, "I promise if I don't do it today I will do it tomorrow" he says to ease my anxiety over a phone call that he must make regarding his VA Compensation...tomorrow comes and PTSD takes over and I've reminded him about the phone call...all of a sudden I am a horrible person for asking him to do something in the state that he is in. When I tell him he has to do things even when he doesn't feel like it and I also remind him the neuro psychologist said the same thing he tells me that pushing him is stupid, he walks away, has a cigarette and retreats to our bedroom where he has been for the past 6 hours. He just decided to check out of life, left me with a six year old to feed and take care of and try to explain why daddy can't be with her when she cries that she misses him.

Thankfully after an hour of crying she is in bed and I am writing this post, alternating between sad music and angry girl music. Thank the Lord for music, music makes me feel alive, I can't cry anymore, I don't know why, I want to, a good cry would do me well but the tears won't come, I think I've used up my lifetimes supply already. Music lets me cry without tears and it gives me strength when I'm feeling weak and it even gives me a way to let my rage out when I just can't hold it in anymore...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hanging by a Thread

There are days when I go to bed feeling on top of the world and as though we have accomplished and overcome so much.... Then there are days that I feel the rope is beginning to break and I am just hanging on by a thread. These days leave me in a whirlwind and always trying to calm the storm while picking up the pieces.

The past week was taken over by briefings! What a week it was, to say the least. I had to take place in the ACAP, DTAP, TAP, and VA briefings with Kevin due to him not having the memory he use to as well as him not having the patience and tolerance as he once had. Parts of the briefings were very beneficial, while others left me feeling quite restless. Yet, all of it had Kevin on edge, especially sitting around some of the soldiers in the room. There were privates that have never had to experience what so many of the other soldiers have, yet they were being chaptered out. There were the few female soldiers that tend to make all female soldiers look bad by getting pregnant or pulling the family care plan in order to avoid the upcoming deployment by getting out. There were the ones that complained about the army, yet have never seen the war because they would rather do drugs and be discharged other than serve their country as they signed their name for. Honestly, they should have the briefings in separate rooms for the ones that have experienced the war first hand and the ones that have gone to the field or less. The ones that are being discharged for medical reasons that have come from combat or are retiring had disappointment and some anger and frustration in their eyes as they sat in a room with these soldiers.

This past week has left Kevin on edge and in a "mood". I have not updated much on any sites nor have I spent anytime on the internet because I have been purely exhausted. I am tired from last week and being on the go so much. I have learned that my body still cannot handle being busy and going nonstop, which has left me a little upset and frustrated. I am tired from trying to figure out ways to make Kevin happy when he is having his "days", "moments", and "road rage".  I feel as though I am in a time that has me pulling away and searching for answers and truths. I understand why my husband is how he is now and what the war does, so I don't need anyone trying to help me grasp it all. He tells me more than he tells anyone else. I also know there is not much I can do to make the moments better, except to just be here. Last night and this morning I have felt more out of it and helpless than ever, just wanting to scream and cry. The past few days I have felt myself on edge and wanting to just breakdown into tears. Will I? Probably not. How healthy would it be for my children or Kevin to witness that? What gets me even more is when my close friends are going through something, I tend to be the one sending emails and calling or texting. When I see on fb they aren't around or don't post when they typically do, I instantly get in touch with them and find out what is going on. One person did this over the weekend... one that I have known for the past two weeks, yet in many ways feel like I have known her for so much longer. I could never express my gratitude towards this person and how much she has helped me over the past two weeks. Why is it that friends are so quick to turn or "not notice" when someone is going through something. Why is it when the optimistic one hits a rough patch she is expected to keep going with that smile and knowing that everything is going to be okay. Yes, I know it will in the end. But, right now, I feel overwhelmed and anxious. I have mixed emotions on everything and honestly, I am scared as to what the future holds for us when Kevin is out of the army. Speaking of him getting out, the VA and Fort Bliss are behind with the MEB process, so it could be as late as December before he is out. I am okay with this because I know the day of him getting out is in our near future. I also see it as anything before December is a perk and something we will gladly accept.

I wish there was a way I could make people that have never walked these steps understand. They think I should have no worries and be excited for us to no longer have to worry about deployments and him always away. I am excited over this. I am very relieved that he is not participating in NTC as I write this in preparation for this upcoming deployment. This makes three deployments in the five years that we have been here. Three!!! He should be heading out again this summer, but he's not because of the mental and physical injuries he has sustained from Iraq. I am not even sure where I have gone or am going with this post right now. I am just writing to write I suppose. There are moments that I would gladly trade places with him just to take the burden off of him for awhile.

We left here for a bit on Sunday and not even five minutes into the drive road rage showed it's ugly head! I cringe when road rage takes over and he gets angry with other drivers. Things that people vent about, yet have no compassion or understanding that he isn't driving like a jackass for no reason....Yet, how do you explain to people this is just one of 'those' things that PTSD and TBI do to a soldier. They don't care, they just say "well, he shouldn't be driving then". This road rage is a reason that we don't take our leisurely drives anymore like we use to. A few years ago we would get in the car and just drive to wherever our vehicle ended up at. We use to go out and find some really cool towns and cities, get out walk around and explore. I remember in Germany, we would do this every weekend when the weather was nice. We would even take a picnic with us and stop off somewhere with an amazing view and just relax. Now, this rarely happens. When it does, within minutes of being on the road his mood changes. It's like a light switch at times. The same thing happens when we go to the store. Even when he wants to go to pick up a few things. Within a matter of minutes he is frustrated and angry from all the people. In the end, I feel helpless.

Maybe from all of this I am just down because even when his mood perks up I am expected to present myself full of smiles and laughter, when at times I just want to crawl in a hole and cry because I can't always hide myself behind a smile. This time is one of those times. I can't just smile and pretend I am not upset. Instead, I have been keeping to myself since last night. I asked him a question and he sounded irritated in his answer, so I just walked out of the room. I climbed into bed and just layed there. At one point he did ask me if I was going to sleep, feeling pretty groggy I think I told him "probably". However, I am not too sure. This morning once we were both up, we didn't even hold a conversation, not because either of us are angry or upset with each other, but because he is not a morning person and even though I am I had nothing to say. When he left we did tell each other that we love one another....but, that is it.

So, maybe my feelings and 'mood' right now stems from this past week and maybe I feel upset and helpless because I know I can't take this away from him, I can't make his experiences better. All I can do is keep going. I can keep pushing and remain positive with everything in life. At the same time, maybe just for today, I can stay in this mood and just ride it out. I can continue being my chipper self tomorrow or this afternoon. Right now, I just want to sort through my own feelings...especially when I know he has to pull a 24 hour duty today and I have time to get over whatever it is that I am feeling and going through.

Just for today, I will do what I can and accomplish what I can. I will not lose my faith or get lost in this day of helplessness. As always, I will see the brighter side of things and make the most and best in all that I do and am faced with. However, today, I am not going to push myself to anymore than I mentally and physically can. I know all these emotions are only from Kevin and all that we face together, some have to do with my health issues. The health issues are also getting to me and building up. Especially when I hear that someone else is pregnant or that someone is not cherishing their pregnancy or enjoying their baby. My health issues are getting to me because I am no longer the person that I use to be and am totally dependent on medications.... Enough about that. Save it for another day.

Right now, I am just going to pray and hope that as the days goes on, things get better and brighter.

~Brittney Biddle
FOV Community Blog Coordinator

Sunday, April 17, 2011

PTSD & Facing the Heartache

By now many of you will be used to my ramblings. If you're not, you'll soon learn that my posts are often about what I'm learning or processing as the wife of a disabled Veteran with PTSD, TBI, and other injuries.

I've been struggling lately with being particularly irritated with my husband. TBI (traumatic brain injury) I can deal with. The injuries to his hip, back, shoulder, etc., I can deal with. But, the damn PTSD is driving me over the edge. I swear to you there are times when I want to strangle him... really do something to make him see how much hurt he causes me... how painful, harmful and horrible his treatment of me is. There is that part of me that somehow wants to force him to just "snap out of it". And, unfortunately, our last few days on vacation have actually made that worse!!

We're visiting friends (one of the few ways we manage to take vacations, since it still keeps my hubby somewhat in his comfort zone). They're a couple that we've known pretty much forever... since high school... since before the Army... and war... and PTSD... and all the crap that came afterward.

Now, I have to explain, that on average I'm just not a jealous person. I don't want what others have. I'm happy for people when they are happy in their lives. But now, looking at my life, and looking at the "normal" life of our friends, the heartache I often try to ignore seems to be roaring to the surface. I look at their life as what could have been in ours... at the kindness they share... at the tenderness the husband expresses... and it makes me mourn. And (just what I need) its also making me even more short tempered with my husband.

I think few people realize when they first begin coping with a spouse who has PTSD that they will essentially face an ongoing "mourning" process. That they will have to grieve the loss of their life, of their pre-PTSD spouse, of what might have been.

I think we get so busy managing the PTSD symptoms for our Veterans sometimes, we even try to somehow skip this step. I know I do. I consciously stuff my feelings down... put them away for some other day when I'm more prepared to handle them... because truthfully, they terrify me. I worry that if I ever started down that road, that my carefully balanced, ever spinning menagerie of overfull plates would come crashing down around me. That if I started to feel the depth of my loss... the depth of my anger... the depth of my sadness, I could never get back up again.

So, if you, like me, are dealing with all of this pent up, threatening-to-explode, total-destruction-on-a-timer, what do you do?

Well, my therapist (a kind woman I found for free through Give An Hour - has recommended I literally have a funeral for the husband that was. That I write my "former" husband a letter and place it with some photos and momentos of our former life in a box and bury it. And, that I accompany that burial with a small ceremony, a symbolic opportunity to help me realize that what was will be no more.

At the time she made the recommendation, I blew it off... giving her some excuse... but really simply wanting to avoid the issue. Obviously, though, it has to be faced. Whatever process I choose to use, I have to do something. More than four years of essentially ignoring my underlying emotions isn't exactly working.

To make a go at this life... to find a new sort of happiness with my wounded hero... to build a life with the man I pledged to support in sickness and in health... it must be done. No more looking at the Joneses.

I've got to instead look forward at the life of the Vineses. I've got to make peace with the opportunity I've been given. Without my husband's battle with PTSD, would not exist. Without PTSD, there are a lot of people out there who could not have been helped (at least not by FOV). There's a purpose in this.

And if there's a purpose, there's also a Greater Plan... a God plan... for how to cope. There's a way for all of us to cope, for us to survive, for us to rebuild our families and navigate the minefield before us. We just have to keep going... but at the same time have to be willing (including me) to do the emotional work it takes to move forward.

Hugs and prayers to all of us tonight... and to our struggling heroes... and to the children we now raise in uncertain surroundings. May God grant us the wisdom, bravery, and patience to navigate our new lives and to let go of the lives we leave behind.

Brannan Vines
Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
Founder of - a site dedicated to helping heroes & their loved ones survive and thrive after combat!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Support Networks - Why you need one!

I "talk" by e-mail, through Facebook or Twitter, on the phone, or in person with hundreds of Veterans and loved ones each month. And, I can tell you honestly that those who are most in need of help are all lacking the same thing... a good support network.

In our military lives, support networks are kind of built-in. You arrive at a new duty station and as soon as you (or your spouse) reports to their new unit, you have people to call on. You may not be comfortable calling them, you may not particularly like them, but in a crunch, they're there.

Once we enter "veteran world", though, so many of us fail at setting up our own network. Truthfully, for those newly dealing with combat injuries, it can be one of those things you just can't seem to get around to. The days are too full with survival to worry about playing nice with anyone. But, honestly, if you are truly focusing on survival and not just treading water until your world collapses, you've got to make a plan to find a group of people you can rely on.

Right now as I type this I hear the groans. "Are you kidding me? If I try to add one more thing to my 'to do' list, I'm going to drown." I said the exact same thing four years ago. But, fortunately I had someone in my life who wouldn't let me ignore her advice. Please let me be that person for you!

Here are some great ways to start finding people with whom to connect -

(1) Ask at your nearest VA Vet Center or VA Medical Facility if they have a support group. Most facilities have groups for Veterans and many are starting groups for caregivers & spouses.

(2) If you've moved close to family or non-military friends, do your part to educate them about what your family is going through so that they can be a good support network. You can't really be upset if they're not helping you when they don't know what you need. When they ask if you need something, don't give vague responses. Give them specific ideas of how to help ("I could really use help watching our children on Tuesday afternoons so I can do errands," or "We need help with fixing our gutters, " etc.). Not expecting people to be mind readers will save you a lot of grief! Family Of a Vet even has an article (available by CLICKING HERE) that those dealing with PTSD can print and give to loved ones that contains a brief overview of PTSD and then tells them how they can be of help to you!

(3) Find a church where you're comfortable. Most churches provide ways for newcomers to meet and connect with members. Talk to the pastor. Let him or her know that you're new (or recently returned) to the area, share a little about your background, and be upfront about the fact that you are trying to be proactive about forming a support network for your family.

(4) Look online for moral support. There are many places where you can virtually meet others who are facing the same challenges. A few of my favorites are: the Facebook page (not a totally shameless plug, we really do have a great group of people!), the Veterans Benefit Network (has forums for spouses and for PTSD, and is, as a whole, about a lot more than just helping people navigate the VA benefit process), and Veteran Caregiver (their site will even "match" you with other caregivers who are close by and have similar situations).

Whatever you do, go ahead and get started. I promise you (cross my heart!) that it will make a huge difference in your ability to cope with your new life and in the happiness of your family. You can do it! I have faith in you. After all, I've never known a Veteran or caregiver that wasn't able to rise to a challenge!

Brannan Vines
Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
Founder of - a site dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and more!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Waterfall of Emotions

Angry, frustrated, exhausted, confused, frightened, depressed, cautious, enraged, overwhelmed, lonely, bitter, resentful....oh how my list could just go on and on! These are just a few of the words I feel washing over me at this moment. All of these stemming from what the army and deployments have done and put my husband and our family through.

I could never put into words what this life entails and what we take on day to day. At the end of the day, I am overly proud of my husband and for all he has been through. Yet, I can't help but to hate the wars and hate the army for taking my husband away from me all of these days, months, and years and then returning him to me a man of which I no longer know. Once the kinks begin to get straightened out, the vicious, ugly cycle then repeats itself. Only the next times, they bring him home a little less of the man he was when I last saw him and said "see you later", because we never say "goodbye"...

When my husband first enlisted, he was a typical southern guy, always trying to make more and do more. Always fun, outgoing, loved to go out, and loved being around our family and friends. Crowds didn't bother him. Noises and flashes didn't leave him jumpy. Movement on a bridge and things on the streets that now appear out of the ordinary didn't leave him scanning the area. Fireworks and loud pops didn't leave him ducking down and looking for cover in fear of an RPG or mortar. Life wasn't like it is now. Now days when we go out, we are forced to sit somewhere that leaves him facing the crowds and his back to a wall. He now scans stores, bridges, and restaurants in search of any possible threats and for the closest outlets. Flashes of lights, smells, and noises bring on heavy flashbacks that bring a sense of worry upon me that I never knew until life following deployments. Living in the desert tends to bring on flashbacks with him telling me that parts of El Paso remind him of the safe zones in Iraq. Driving down a deserted desert road and seeing tinsel thrown on two trees strike a mood that leaves him tense, scanning the desert because in a war zone that is a sign of being set up and the possibility of an upcoming IED or ambush. This isn't how life should be. My husband is all of thirty years old and has seen, faced, lived through, witnessed, done, and acted on that the majority of people could ever imagine possible. There is nothing about this life that is fair. Accidents and incidents in Iraq have left my husband with multiple physical damage that is spread throughout his body, injuries that can never be "fixed" because there is no amount of medical care to repair what has been done. Mental combat injuries from being thrown from the turret to the hell that he has had to endure and live through have left him battling Sleep Apnea, PTSD and TBI......forever. Where does it let up?

Since his TBI Psych Eval earlier in the week he has been on edge. Not once has it really let up because it brought back memories and flashbacks. This was something that no one had prepared us for or even warned us about. So, in the end it hit him and now me, like a ton of bricks. I expect days of keeping to myself and trying to control the kids because he is just having one of "those" days. I didn't even think almost a week following the eval we would still be battling it all. What also gets me is that he has had four 24 hour duties over a week and a half. Why does someone in his situation get placed on back to back duties. Why would you put someone with instantaneous changes in moods on duties that may leave them more disturbed than they already were? Why not just twelve hours at a time? Right now I feel as though I can barely talk to him and if circumstances were different, I would be furious with him. Yet, in this situation, I find myself capable of being able to handle it differently. Why, you may ask? Well, it's pretty simple. Kev signed up to protect me, our family, you, and the rest of our country. The most selfless act any man or woman can do. Even when enlisting, what he didn't ask for is this constant hell he is now forever living through and trying to overcome. In all reality, he can't help when these moods strike. He can't help when something stirs up a flashback or the feelings that rush over him. Therefore, I find it easier to contain the emotions that rush over me when it comes to him. However, at the end I find myself overly exhausted, emotional, missing my husband, lonely, and sad. I find myself longing for just a few moments of a life with limited worries. How nice would it be to only worry about material things, weekend trips without my husband or bills, rather than things that people overlook and take for granted. In eight years I have probably spent more time away from Kev than I have with him. I am turning 28 in a few weeks and have not had my husband home for one single birthday since I turned 20... Yet, as much as I want him home this year and not on duty, that just seems so trivial in this case. I just want my husband and to see him less stress, less on edge, and more at ease and enjoying the simple things in life.

I am so tired of hearing people tell me that once he is out of the army, the "old" Kevin will return. What will it take to make them realize and comprehend that the man I originally fell in love with years ago will never again be that person. He won't be the person he was before he enlisted and served his time at war... more than once. He is forever changed, which I have learned that I will always be in love with this man. Even through all the ups and downs, the obstacles that we have been pushed through, he will always hold my heart and I will always be in love with him. It's not him that will have to change from the man he has become, it is me that has and will learn to adjust and work around the changes without losing our love, and instead just gaining a more mature and understanding love in our relationship.

~ Brittney Biddle

Friday, April 8, 2011

A huge sigh of relief echoes around the world (literally)

Tonight troops fighting overseas and members of the military and their families around the world go to sleep for the first time in many weeks without the threat of a shutdown looming.

It's been an emotionally exhausting few weeks... weeks that were not necessary... and that I hope the American public will not forget the next time they go to the polls.

But, at least it's over. Sleep well, dear heroes. Finally your country has once again promised to pay you for offering your life in its defense.

Our troops know how to get the point across...

This was posted on Facebook by Operation Stand by My Man - Support Our Troops. I can't tell you how much I think it says. Leave it to our guys in uniform to figure out a way to get their point across without saying a word. E-mail this to your congressman!

USAA Is Prepared to Help Members Affected by a Government Shutdown

From USAA -

We continue to hope a government shutdown will be averted. USAA is committed to being there for our members when they need us the most.

USAA stands ready to help federal government employees who might face financial challenges from missed federal pay as a result of the shutdown, and we are prepared to discuss possible options to help them protect their financial security. Some options include payment deferrals, flexible payment arrangements, term modifications and fee waivers. As always, USAA members can sign up for free overdraft protection at any time.

Affected members can contact USAA at 1-800-531-USAA (8722) to discuss which options might be available.

In the meantime, we understand that some companies may be promoting special offers relating to the shutdown, and we caution our members and all consumers to be careful. As consumers make decisions, we suggest they consider the following:

• Do you trust and have a relationship with the company?

• What are the long-term and short-term costs?

• Do you understand the restrictions or "fine print" related to the offer?

Consumers also can refer to these articles on “7 Strategies for Getting by Without a Paycheck” and ”12 Common Scams that Threaten your Wallet.”

We value all the feedback and questions we are receiving from our members, and we will continue to work with our members to help them through this potential crisis.

Effect of Shutdown on Veterans & VA Services

Here's a summary of what veterans stand to loose as of midnight tonight if our leaders don't stop playing and really get to work...
  • VBA Regional Offices will have limited availability.
  • No decisions on claims appeals or motions will be issued by the Board of Veterans Appeals
  • No new education or vocational rehabilitation benefits processing.
  • No new compensation and pension benefits processing.
  • Freedom of Information Act requests will not be processed.
  • Privacy Act requests will not be processed.
  • Recruiting and hiring of Veteran job applicants will cease.
  • Internments at National Cemeteries will be conducted on a modified rate.
  • Overseas Military coordinator operations will be suspended.
  • VA Secretary Correspondence with veterans and VSO's will be suspended.
  • All Outreach and Public Awareness Activities suspended.
  • VA Call Centers and hotlines will cease to function.
For a complete list of what will and will not be available to veterans, go to

Another pat on the back to our U.S. Congress and President for the great job (read HUGE sarcasm between the lines) they're doing making sure our troops and veterans are cared for. Great job overall on keeping our country on track. Can we stop playing games now... adding extra crap to bills... trying to prove who has the bigger "stick"... and just get this thing done?!?!?

Of course, at least those of us in veteran world will still be getting money. Our brothers and sisters in the military community are still faced with less than half of their normal pay next Friday.

Paying Our Troops is a "Distraction"... Gee, Thanks Mr. President.

*Please note the following is personal opinion. Some will agree, others will not. And that's okay. After all, my right to speak up is part of what my husband fought for, right? This is not an "official" comment.*

If you would like to read the basis for this tirade, follow these links -

As I have for the past two weeks, I woke up this morning and checked the news for updates on the government shutdown and what will happen to military pay. What I found has me BOILING mad.

Basically what the stories boil down to is games (no huge surprise)... but with the added bonus of one side offering a possible, one-week temporary solution that would have ensured military pay through September 30th, getting that solution past the House of Representatives yesterday, only to have it crushed in the Senate.

Now, granted, this sounds like usual politics... one side tried to add somethings... the other side pouted... blah, blah, blah. But here is what President Obama had to say about this measure (which again would have FINALLY given our troops and families a reason not to worry)...
"'If presented with this bill, the president will veto it,' the White House said in an official statement of policy objecting to the House’s offer. The White House said it was 'a distraction from the real work' on reaching a broader agreement."
Now, I know there will be some who say I'm being petty (not many, I hope), but HOW DARE anyone call a measure that will set the hearts and minds of soldiers serving, right this moment, in harms way at ease a "distraction."

NO MR. PRESIDENT - A distraction is what you and your colleagues are doing to the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines currently getting shot at and blown up in Iraq and Afghanistan. A distraction is what you are causing military wives around the globe, who are already doing their best to hold their homes and communities together in increasingly difficult circumstances.

If you have another solution, by all means let's see it. But let me explain to you (Republicans and Democrats) how a true, fast solution for our military should work. Heck, just to make sure you'll get it, I'll put it in terms my five-year-old could understand:
Not paying our heroes is bad. Before we have fun and start playing games we have to do our jobs. Write a bill that says, "Our troops, that we love and want to take care of, will be paid." Period. Nothing else added.
But, don't call our military heroes a distraction and leave them and their families worried about their next paycheck, while you collect your normal $30,000+ this month and even your lowest paid Senate colleague collects $14,500. I can't believe you said that.