Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Caring for a Vet with Several Disabilities

My husband, Tim, was hit by his fifth IED before they even thought of sending him back to the rear for exams. Following his last IED attack, his rear commander called me to tell me that my kids and I would be leaving to Landstuhl to say our “goodbyes” to Tim due to the injuries he incurred while in combat. I had just dropped our oldest son off at his senior prom and immediately rushed home to contact all our stateside family and friends with the news. Luckily, for me and our family, our story doesn’t stop there. 

Tim had been severally hurt, but was alive and causing a ruckus because they called me ahead of his evaluation.  They finally sent him home to Germany where the next couple of months I was his caregiver; bathing, washing, toileting and all areas that he once did for himself.  After they stabilized him, we were sent stateside for further evaluation that couldn’t be done in Europe.  After arriving to our next duty station, we found out that almost everyone of the bones in his back were broken with the surgeon informing us he had never seen a back that bad in his career with the military.  For the next two years we juggled family, along with six hour trips to military hospitals and clinics for therapy, surgeries, as well as traumatic brain clinics to help him learn to help himself again. 

It was a long and complicated journey, showing the Army, VA, and DFAS their own
regulations to because they had never neither seen nor heard of many of these issues
until this point. Our communication was mainly through the internet, which added to the complications.

Making a long story short, I was able to navigate through all the politics, red tape, with not enough answers to my questions, so that I am able to care for my husband full time allowing him to receive every benefit that he is entitled to. He receives his VA check, disability check and the combat related special pay (CRSC).  We also had to show the military proof that any wounded soldier who makes the promotion list before being medically retired is to be promoted to the next rank that they earned. Somehow through all this mess, regulations and politics; we successfully did all the paperwork so that once my husband is now permanently retired.  Now that he is retired, he no longer has the worries of how he will support his family.

We have our good days and we have our bad days but I look at it like this; he’s home with me and it doesn’t matter that he might not be the same man he was before he was deployed. He’s still my man and I get to hold him and tell him I love him every single day, which is more than some family members get to do. 

If you’re a spouse or a wounded soldier, trust me, the resources are out there; thankfully in part to George Bush our former president.  I’m grateful that my husband was able to get out and still have his life. Yes it might be different, but it’s still our future being shared together. Medical, dental, paychecks, allotments and all the other stuff that goes with a medical retirement are right there for you to use.

I am willing to share our experiences or even let you know what hoops we had to jump through to make sure once my husband was out, he wasn't forgotten, nor would our kids suffer anymore. Since his last injury, the New York Times has written a story on him. The author, Bill Doyle, who writes about our heroes, has a new book out for sale in which my husband’s story is the first chapter.  I know getting ready for retirement by choice or not is an emotionally hard decision and transition, but knowing what I do now and the time I get with him every day was worth all the lonely days and nights. He will always be in constant pain, as there is no cure for that, as well as the nightmares and all that he witnessed over there.Yet, we both agree that is what he signed up to do and we’d rather it be over there than here in the united states. Our children are proud of their father and I’m just the proud wife of a real American hero.  

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and if someone tells you something that doesn't seem right speak up, your soldier fought for your rights. As a loving spouse it is okay for you to say no or ask why. 

Thank you for reading our journey and experiences. I hope you know you know you’re
not alone anymore and there is hope out there for all of our heroes. 

~Laurie, loving wife of an American hero

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