Sometimes it takes awhile for PTSD to catch up with a soldier’s return home from war. Sometimes the signs are right there all along. If you’re in the middle of a deployment or dealing with the aftermath of combat here at home, my number one piece of advice after keeping the faith is: Document EVERYTHING.
Our first introduction to PTSD did not seem like much if discussed only on its own merits but if you are a mom, you know what a mother’s intuition is. Mine was on full alert following my son’s surprise two week leave from Iraq. Like many soldiers, he decided to surprise us, in part because if his leave was cancelled at the last moment, he did not want us set up for disappointment.
During his leave, my son had a nightmare. He described it to me and a friend while we were out to dinner. In it, he was driving a Humvee. On one side of him was the Tigris River. On the other side were innocent Iraqi civilians. In front of him were insurgents…the enemy. In the back of his Humvee; his younger brother and sister. He knew he had a choice to make. Someone would have to get hurt. Does he choose the river? His concern was for the safety of his siblings. He woke up screaming.
During that same leave, we went to get the tags for his car updated. While he was at the window getting his license plates, his sister walked over to the vending machine in view of me. He left the window as the lady was talking to him and took his sister by the arm and brought her back to me. He said she couldn’t wander off like that because I had no idea what could happen to kids in a war zone.
I documented both of these incidents in my journal. A few months after his deployment ended, my son had a memory lapse. He could not find his car. Afraid people would think he was crazy, he never reported it missing. When I learned about this, I called and was put through to a Chaplain for his unit. He went to the First Sergeant. The First Sergeant called my son in and told him to get “your mother off our backs.” I exchanged emails with this man. I kept them. It helped to prove when we found out about my son’s TBI the time frame of when the symptoms started.
We don’t plan for our loved ones to come home injured or worse, to never make it home at all. Actually, we do. Wills are written, Powers of Attorney are obtained. Documenting everything, whether it seems important or not, can help if the time comes when you find yourself having to fight for your veteran’s benefits. It helps the veteran get the physical and mental help he or she needs.
The VA system is good for the most part but like with everything, there are bad apples. Some really do strive to decrease benefits in order to get bonuses. Paperwork is “lost” time and again. Sending mail certified, making copies of everything, writing down dates and times and WHO you have contact with can help you win the argument: “We never heard of this.” or “We never saw your son, daughter, spouse, etc.”
It stands to reason that if a person has a brain injury, epilepsy, PTSD, memory loss, headaches and mood swings, he or she is not going to be able to tend to the grueling journey of obtaining VA benefits.
Documenting everything for your veteran will help him in the long run. This, in turn, will make things a little easier for you as well. You ARE both worth it.