Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Momism: Letter to Uncle Sam and Santa


Dear Uncle Sam and Santa,

I’m writing this letter to both of you because in order to understand my Christmas wish, you need to understand how I got to this point.  Before I can feel I have the right to ask for this special gift, I need to tell you what my family and so many others have given.

A little over ten years ago, our country was attacked one beautiful, fall morning. People were at work, children were at school, passengers were on planes.  My younger two children were at school and my oldest was sleeping in his room, just three weeks away from basic training.  I received a call from my brother, who was working as a cable installer.  He asked if I had heard about one of the Twin Towers in New York being hit by a plane.  I said no.  I had been halfway watching the Regis talk show as I got ready for work when they broke in with the announcement.  I watched it, sympathizing for those passengers and their families.  What an awful accident.  

Suddenly, at that moment, I and millions around our country and quite possibly the world, were witness to yet another plane hitting the second tower.  It was not a tragic accident.  We were being attacked!  

Although I was crying, I got my bearings and called my younger children’s schools.  My daughter was in elementary and my younger son in junior high.  Both schools assured me it would be in their best interests to let them stay in school and try to proceed with a normal day.  (Yet, when they got home, they both said all they did was watch the horror on television with their teachers and classmates for the rest of the day). 
I then woke up my older son.  I begged him to change his mind about going to basic and told him what had just happened.  The newscast announced the Pentagon was hit and then just a bit later, we heard about the plane that went down in a Pennsylvania field.  My son looked me in the eye and said “Mom, it’s more important than ever that I go, for you, Jeremy and the Munchkin (his nickname for his little sister).  America is mine.” 

Uncle Sam and Santa, my son never wavered in his determination to defend this country.  He never hesitated when surrounded by bombs 24/7.  None of our troops did.  He didn’t go to sick call when the headaches started after a particularly bad explosion.  As he said “How do I go whine about a headache when one of my buddies got killed?”  He didn’t realize he had a brain injury and the headaches were a symptom. 
Now, on to my Christmas request.  I already got what I wanted most, my son came home alive.  What I am asking for is something for him and every other combat soldier and veteran.  Please, PLEASE, stop throwing them away.  In return for my son coming home alive, we gave up a part of his personality.  He was one of the greatest young people, so caring and generous.  I found a batch of letters written to him from girls here in our community begging him to love them, to be their boyfriend, that they would dump this one or that one if he would just pick them.  He wouldn’t do something like that to his friends.  I heard him tell several of them that at different times.  How ironic that some of those same girls talk bad about him now because of his brain injury and PTSD.  Yet, they have no clue what goes on in a war zone.  Their guys never joined.
So please, Uncle Sam, respect what those who made it home went through.  It’s not about your bonus, it’s about his well-being.  Please, Santa, put it on the hearts of our government to take care of our combat veterans when they do make it home, because they do not come home alone and they are missing some wonderful parts of their souls and minds.  

I will gladly take my son the way he is today, a brain injury, epilepsy, headaches, PTSD and so much other drama because I know I still get to see him when so many others lost their loved ones completely.  Still, I’m just asking that they not be ignored by the same government they defended, the same one that gives rights to protestors who disrespect them yet has to be begged for help in an emergency room by a mother who knows in her heart that something is wrong and isn’t surprised when they admit there is a physical brain injury after all.  

Just a little more care and consideration for those that served and were willing to die if necessary for their country, Uncle Sam and Santa.  That’s all I’m asking for this Christmas.  That, and the hope that no parent gets a visit on Christmas Day, unless it’s a surprise one from their own loved one standing at the door.  

A Veteran’s Mom

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Love Letter Campaign: My Love Letter





My Dearest Husband James,

My Big Papa, I have started many letters so many times telling you how much I love you and how proud I am of you and to be your wife. You are my best friend, my lover, my husband and my forever. There are not enough beautiful words to describe the love I feel for you. When you joined the Army shortly after our handsome son was born I knew things were going to be different. You went off to basic and grew to be a soldier. When you were deployed to Afghanistan I was terrified. That evening I drove away and left you at Ft. McCoy knowing the next day you would step onto a plane and be gone halfway across the world my heart ached. My whole life and our three beautiful children's lives are wrapped up in you. Your smile, your hugs, the warmth of your touch and just your presence alone makes my heart feel at peace so the day you stepped foot on that plane my peace went with you. I worried constantly of your safety and the safety of your fellow soldiers with you. I remember the call I received telling me your were okay when you lost two of your fellow friends. My heart yearned to comfort the families of those soldiers but at the same time I was relieved. 12 months is entirely too long to be away from your reason for breathing. I became emotionless and just lived life through the motions. When you came home I had you twenty four hours a day, seven days a week until you went to DEMOB. You were gone an extra 4 weeks longer than the rest of your unit because of your injuries. I was depressed and did not know where our lives were going more over I was worried about YOU. When you returned home still unaware of the things that were going on I had to be strong and push through. With all the stress of your appointments and your transition back into civilian life we ran into some road bumps and even a detour or two. Some that scared the both of us. The worst was when you said I do not thing this is going to work. My heart fell and broke into a million pieces. When you explained you did not want me to go through the strain of what is to come, to protect my heart I REFUSED! When we hit those detours I had no idea where your mind was or even if your heart was still into it but I KNEW you love me as much as I love you and I was NOT going to give up and I was not going to let YOU. To this day I REFUSE to give up on you and our love. Now that we have both overcome some of the worst we have had, I am optimistic that the rest of our lives from here on out will be built on those detours to only strengthen what we have together. I know you are not completely healed and you may never be the same man that left on that summer day but I can honestly say I love you more today than I ever have. WE have been through so much in our 8 years together and I am looking forward to forever with you.


I could go on and on but a quote from our favorite movie says it all... “So it's not gonna be easy. It's going to be really hard;  we're gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me... everyday.”-The Notebook.

Relationships are very hard work and are not to be taken lightly and I know that we do not. But love, it comes naturally and baby the love you and I share is a Forever and Ever kind of love.

With all my heart and soul,
Forever and Always
Your Sweet Pea,
Jennifer

This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving -Taking time to be thankful... even when thankful is a challenge!

So, this time of year in our household (as many of you who regularly read the blog already know) is a "bad" PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) time.  We just kind of bare knuckle it from the beginning of September until the middle of January.  There are endless nights of nightmares... days of edginess... a general sense of unease that seems to spill over onto everything about our lives.  We're all (to put it mildly) crabby!

To be honest (perhaps too much so?), even though I know I have a multitude of blessings (a roof over my head, food in my belly, a healthy child, a husband who came home to me from combat, family and friends who love me, freedom to worship a God I love thanks to men and women who are still in harms way even as I write this, etc., etc.), I sometimes find it hard to find that thankful place within me on Thanksgiving.  It's something I'm loathe to admit... but one of the "rules" at FOV is we're honest... even when what we're saying may not even be something we particularly like about ourselves. 

But, I also find the exercise... the challenge if you will... cathartic.

It's a chance to put behind me the swirling chaos that is my life at this time of year and focus on the many things that anchor me among that chaos.  And it frees me, if only for a short time, from the storm.  It shifts my focus.  It lightens my load.  It reminds me of how good I really DO have it (despite all of the crap that tries to get in the way of that!).

So, dear readers, today on Thanksgiving, I issue the same challenge to you! To take time to make a list of the things and people that add light and beauty to your life despite anything else that attempts to overwhelm them.

There is no doubt that life after combat can suck at times... but coping... surviving AND thriving, means fighting back.  And celebrating Thanksgiving by giving thanks is a kick "grass" way to do that!

And, in the spirit of that challenge, here is a section of my list (I won't make you read the whole thing!):

My Faith - without which my days would simply crumble
My husband - a man who despite the challenges of PTSD, TBI, and the personal costs of combat is still here beside me as my life's love

My child - a bundle of energy and love who keeps me on my toes and fills my days with wonderment

My family - who stand beside and encourage me, without whom my life as I know it would not be possible

My friends - who really have become family... sisters and brothers who may not share blood, but instead share life and laughter and love with me

My mission - the opportunity to give back to the heroes and families that I came to love as part of the military community and whom I now have the privilege and honor to continue serving, something I feel deeply called to, even when it challenges me

Happy Thanksgiving to our heroes and families everywhere!  May this post find you together, enjoying peaceful time while creating beautiful family memories.  You will be in my thoughts and prayers today (as always).  For those who are serving today in harms way, I will stop many times today to think of you and say a special prayer of thanks for you and of protection over you... both for you and for your families at home.  May God bless each of you... and may He continue to bless the land we love.


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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Love Letter Campaign: I love you


I heard  your stories of a time long ago.  I love you and I care.  I always liked how you seemed so patient with the civilians.  I don't know if I could have been as brave as  you were. Even if I didn't understand you I always loved you.  When I was only four I experienced a traumatic event.  I do understand pain and I love you through it.  You are my hero for being there.  Just for being there for us you are my hero. I am sorry you have lung cancer and I wish I could be there for you more. My heart goes out to you and I do understand you.  Now I see you for who you really are. I love you grandpa and someday I hope to see you again. Sometimes you seem so far away but you are always here in my heart.  Despite the distance between us I will always love my Grandpa. You inspire me to be strong and to do my art.  I love taking pictures of beautiful sunshine when it hits the tree leaves.  I appreciate life more because of the love you gave.  Thank you for being strong for us.  The family loves you and we really do care.

With Love,
The Granddaughter of a Veteran

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Love Letter Campaign: My Declaration of Love



To My Husband, Nicholas Johnson,

About a week ago you asked me why I put up with everything and stay. You questioned how long I would be able to put up with the way life is for us right now. I thought about what you asked me and at first I didn’t have an answer. I went to ask my question to a close group of friends that deal with this life first hand. I typed it out and just stopped and looked at it on the screen, “How long do you put up with this mess of a life before you give up?” I couldn’t do anything other than look at those words on the screen. How long? I asked myself a few things after a few minutes. Am I crazy? How dare I ask that question? That is the craziest thing I have ever thought. I thought of our vows and the day we got married and all of a sudden it was like the last 2 years just flashed before my eyes. I remembered everything from the good to the bad and everything in between. When you get married you make a commitment. You make a promise, to love you and be there for you through sickness in health. How dare I ask how long do you put up with things this way? I had no right asking that. I asked it out of anger and hurt. But those feelings all went away when I thought of our life together and the reason we started this journey to begin with, because we fell in love.

I had no idea that August 2009 would change my life in every way possible. Things were not what I expected and it was crazy. We met through a mutual friend in early August. We went on our first date August 10th. I was so nervous it wasn’t even funny. I felt like I was 13 and I had butterflies again. You picked me up that evening and took me out to dinner. We ate at Red Robin and had an evening full of conversation and laughs. No awkward moments at all. It was like I had known you forever. It was such a crazy feeling of comfort that I had never felt before. After dinner you took me to my favorite place in the whole world, the beach. We walked the beach just talking and enjoying the weather and then we sat down and talked forever. I remember what happened next like it happened yesterday. You leaned in and kissed me. It was the most magical moment of my life. You made me feel like the only woman in the world and it was a feeling I had never felt before. That night after you took me home I was on could nine. I felt like it was all a dream and I was afraid to wake up. I think I may have fallen asleep with a smile from ear to ear. We had a date every day that week. It was one of the best weeks of my life up until that point.

We never talked much about marriage or how serious we wanted things to be because at that time we were both military and had no clue what the next day would hold. We took it all day by day and enjoyed every minute. August 20th I spent the day with you, nothing special. You took me out to dinner again and then we went to the beach. It seemed like just a regular evening, something we would do any day of the week. It was late and it was getting chilly with the breeze from the ocean. You gave me your shirt even though it wasn’t much and just held me close to keep me warmer. We talked a bit and just relaxed after a long day. I made what I thought would be a silly comment about falling in love with you, not knowing that you were feeling the same way. And then you asked me to stand up. I argued because I was tired and cold. Finally I gave in. You knelt down and took my hand, and asked me if I would marry you. I was in shock. Before I could answer a crab bit you and I just started to laugh. It was a moment I will never forget. It was just you, me, the beach, and the light of the moon. Of course I said yes. But I still had no clue how much you would change my life. From that moment on you loved me more than I ever thought was possible.

A few weeks after being engaged, I had gotten a text from you saying that you were deploying. I didn’t know to where or for how long. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. I was angry, sad, lonely, and anxious. It was like my stomach just sank. Later that evening you called me to discuss some details and also letting me know that you didn’t know all the details yet you just knew that it was Afghanistan. The end of September I came back out to live with you. We were not married yet but had planned on a quick courthouse wedding since we didn’t know how much time we would have together. October 6th was a crazy day from the start, it seemed like the whole world was against us from the start. Nothing that morning was going right for us at all. But we were determined. That afternoon we finally pulled things together and managed to get hitched. It wasn’t anything romantic but it was legal and that’s what counted. From that moment on I was yours and you were mine. I think sometimes I forget about that determination we had that day or how much I loved you the first moment that I met you.

We didn’t have much time together being married as we would have liked. The end of November just after Thanksgiving you got the news on your orders. You would be leaving about 2 weeks after that. We had about 2 solid months to “enjoy” being married and then our world was turned upside down. The moment you loaded into the van to leave I felt like my whole world was falling apart. I had no idea how I could continue on without you. I was so scared for you, me and for us. I just knew that I had to be strong for you because you had been so strong for me this far. I managed to swallow my emotions early that morning and hug you one last time. I watched you leave and I didn’t know what to do next. I didn’t know if I would see you again or when I would talk to you again. It was the worst feeling in the whole world just watching your life walk away and not know what the future would hold for us. For the next few days I just continued with what I knew I had to do. But I felt so empty.

All of a sudden my kisses goodnight were gone and my hugs in the morning were no more. The love of my life, my everything, my husband and my hero were off to war. It felt like the scene from a movie. It didn’t feel like it was really happening to us.

Everyday felt like a year while you were away. I always heard people say that but I never knew what they meant. Now I knew. It was so awful. I missed you more and more everyday and I had no idea how because I thought I loved you more than anything. My life hung on every email, phone call, and letter. It felt like I couldn’t breathe until I heard from you again because I had to know you were ok. I just wanted more than anything to wake up and have you home with me. Soon I was preparing for your return home. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was so nervous. I think I was more nervous during the homecoming process than I had ever been during our relationship thus far. Finally that day came. I got up early and made sure that I looked as pretty as possible for you. I drove to base and parked and waited. I felt like I was waiting for days. It was about a 7 hour wait but it was worth it. Finally I saw your smiling face and ran into your arms again. It was the happiest moment of my life to have you home with me after 7 long trying months. I had your arms around me and your kisses to comfort me. It was heaven all over again. Once again I loved you more than I did before.

The months after homecoming seemed hard but I just figured it was all part of the adjustment everyone had talked about. I kept quiet and just kept loving you. Soon it wasn’t enough. I then realized that we were battling something much bigger than imagined. It was what we later found out to be TBI and PTSD. It felt like a battle we would never win, and still feels like that some days. Every day has been a learning experience and a journey. It hasn’t been easy but we still have us. I know that this is something we will deal with for a very long time, if not forever. I know it won’t be easy and I know some days will be hell, but at least we are going through it together. Just know that no matter how angry or upset I may seem at the time that I love you more than anything and I am always going to be your wife.

I am so proud to say that you are my husband, my hero, my love, and my everything. You mean the world to me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You are the only one I want to love forever and ever. You are my husband and I am your wife. I know it’s been a crazy life but we are in this together and I mean that more than you know.

I love you with all of my heart, my love!

Love,
Your wife, Sara Johnson

This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Momisms: One Day at a Time


Being the family member of a combat vet is something I am very proud of.  It is also a roller coaster ride that never seems ends.  What is hard to get through to other people is, it isn’t easy for the veterans and it’s not easy for us.  All we can do, though, is take it one day at a time.  

More and more people in all walks of life are discovering that war changes people.  I was just a child when the Vietnam War occurred.  I heard over the years about homeless vets, PTSD and how it changes people.  My generation did not go to war.  My son’s did.  

Today, I am experiencing firsthand the things I read about in school and political magazines.  I believe that SOME (not all) homeless veterans are that way because they pull away from family.  Even on days when my son gets mad at me, I want it understood that my door is always open to him.  

When I read that over 300,000 combat veterans have brain injuries, it doesn’t surprise me.  I’m living with it every day.  Mood swings, memory loss, epilepsy are all part of the roller coaster life I live.  He forgets appointments.  He oversleeps.  He fidgets.  He gets aggravated.  These are all symptoms of what he came home with so when people say he should be more responsible?  Hello, it’s a BRAIN INJURY; it’s not someone being irresponsible.  

At my age, I try to do for him the best I can.  Sometimes I have my own foul-ups and health issues to deal with, but they take a backseat to his.  He doesn’t ask me to, it’s my decision.  If either of my younger two had gone to combat, I would be doing the same for them.  If any of the three had been born with health problems, I would take the journey on so to me, this is no different.  

What is different is the young man who joined the Army just weeks before 9/11.  That Tuesday morning, I asked him if he wanted to reconsider his choice.  He said no, that America was his and it was more important than ever that he go to basic…for me, his brother and his sister.  That morning plays over and over in my mind and keeps me fighting for him even on those days when I get blamed for everything.  

My son never hesitated to follow his Commander in Chief and his Commander in Iraq.  He never hesitated to be there for his comrades just as I know they were there for him.  He didn’t go get his headaches checked out after losing a comrade in an explosion.  

I can’t imagine what my son went through.  Some people can’t imagine what combat veterans continue to go through or what their immediate family members see.  We deal with it the best way we can, though, which is one day at a time.  Because we love who they used to be and we know that person is still in there somewhere, behind those injuries that aren’t always apparent to those on the outside looking in.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Love Letter Campaign: Hero of my Heart



Dear Hero of my Heart,

I have always marveled at the way life brings things back around to us. Year ago life(or the marvelous world of the internet) brought us together. You, a soldier doing his duty to God and country in the desert of Iraq. Myself, a mother trying to juggle too many things at one time.  Our common ground was simple, the place we grew up. Your family was still here. My grandparents(the ones that made this place home) had been called by God but I always felt closer to them here. I was enamored by you. By your kindness, by your warmth, by your love of our hometown, by the love you had for your children and your family. I truly felt I had been blessed by God to have you in my life, in even the smallest way.  I remember doing the crazy thing and flying out to Arizona to see you in person. Wow everyone thought I was nuts! Ok I admit I even thought I was a little crazy. But something told me to go…to meet you. So I ran through terminals like a mad woman. From Cleveland, to Dallas, to Tuscon, to you. And there you were waiting for me. Man I think every inch of my body was blushing. Oh and I was so scared. Scared you would see me and turn me away. I was afraid I was not good enough or pretty enough or smart enough. But there you were smiling like a fool. You were so sweet and well mannered(not something us tomboys are used to). We went back to your place. I think we had intentions to go somewhere. I ended up falling asleep on your chest and drooling on you(literally). The weekend was a blur. It did not last nearly long enough. I got on that return flight and cried the whole way home. My heart knew even then what it had to leave behind. Maybe part of me even knew that this was not yet our time. So we drifted apart. We both grew and changed. Loved and lost.

Over the years I checked in on you. Sent you a few emails that never got returned. But I still hoped the best for you. I wished you a blessed life.

A turning point in our lives came. Fate smiled and said it was time. We came back to our hometown together. People look at us or talk to us and think we have been together for years. Crazy to think it has only been a year. I feel like I have been with you for eternity yet then again it can feel like only a day.  Now we tackle an obstacle together. We do battle with PTSD and TBI. We fight to find answers for your pain. I fight for what you deserve. I fight because I love you. I fight because I love what you stand for. I fight because you are my life. I love you because you took a broken woman and made her whole again. You gave me and my girls a family. In you we have found a home. A home where we have worth. A home where we are loved and needed. I hope you never doubt your worth. For you mean the world to us. I love you. Our girls love you and are very very proud to have a step daddy who is such a good man and  a veteran. I am proud to call you mine!

All my love, today, tomorrow and every bit of eternity,
Amanda



This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Love Letter Campaign: I will stand by you my, Zachary


My dearest Zachary,

You are one of the loves of my life. I wish I could take all the hurt and the nightmares away. I wish I could renew your relationship with your mom. She loves you very much but does not know how to handle the anger, the foul language and the threats.

You did so many great things in Iraq and I thank you for keeping us free of terrorist.

I know your life is hard right now but I would do anything to help you.

Like the song from Rascal  Flatts I will stand by you.

Love you so much

Love,
Grandma

Submitted by Penny, Grandmother of a Combat Veteran

This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Love Letter Campaign: I Will Follow Anyone That Brings Me to You



Dear My Heart, 

Our story begins when we were young and with a pink telephone. I was 14 and thought you were cute. You didn't notice me and dated all my friends. Some how we managed to talk on the phone and I was so nervous all I could talk about was Christmas presents and my pink telephone.

MANY.. MANY years later we meet again..and we had a chance to catch up during a week of training a few months before you deployed. For one week I traveled 45 minutes every day after work to see you. I couldn't get enough of you. You made me laugh and forget my troubles. Every chance I had to visit you I did. Even though it came with a price (a speeding ticket almost each major trip I took)It didnt stop me. 

Dealing with deployment is a feeling I will never forget and until you, it was a feeling I never felt. Your last week or so before you left I enjoyed every day with you. When it came time to see you off I was scared, I was sad. I remember begging you 'please, don't leave me.' 

When you left you kissed me once and then you were off. you promised to call every chance you could and from that point on I recieved atleast two phone calls a day. We did everything we could to pass the time; you sent me presents from Afghanistan and I made you carepackages. We talked about the future and all the amazing things we had to look forward to because now we had a life that would be shared with each other. 

You were away from me for less than a month the day you got hurt and I did not get my morning phone call as promised. I did not get any emails from you telling me you were safe, just busy..no need to worry you were fine. 

I had a gut feeling that day that something was wrong. The phone call I did recieve that day, was the call I was most scared of, you had been hurt.

I recieved phone calls with updates on how you were doing. It was never a call that made things better, it was never you calling me to tell me you were okay. I did not hear your voice again for almost four months. In those four months, my dreams were filled with messages from you. You told me in my dreams, I worried to much and that you would see me soon. 

With no word from you or any idea if you would ever call for me.. I waited. 

After you were injured, it was four months. Four long months till I heard your voice again. Four long months till I saw you again.

The explosion that almost took your life, took your eye sight. We now have a relationship that is slightly different from everyone else. We might have to do things in a different way. Things might get frustrating for us sometimes or seem difficult. We might have a few 'hiccups' here and there.. but I would rather stand by you for everything than not have you at all.

You can no longer look at me and tell me I am beautiful. Instead you have a memory of what I look like, and you tell me all the time that you think I am. You can no longer go out and buy me little gifts..but you've figured out away to still send me flowers. You know how much I hate driving, so when I start to get frustrated you know all the right things to say and do to make me laugh.

Everything that has happened has been life changing. Because of you.. I am a stronger person. I am a more loving person. I am a better person.

I couldn't imagine my life without you. I will forever stand by you. I will forever encourage you. I will forever be here for you.

Most importantly, I will forever love you.

When we started you were just a high school crush to a young girl.
When you deployed you were only my boyfriend.
Now you are my husband and best friend. 



Submitted by: Tara Kemp

This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Love Letter Campaign: Loving You with A Patient Heart

You know the first moment I saw you, despite your intimidating appearance I knew you were something to keep an eye on. You had this presence about you that expressed you were worth the attention. I don’t really know how to explain it. I mean watching you walk down the main hallway in our high school looking scary to all and just daring anyone to mess with you, I remember giving you a double take as I scurried away in the opposite direction as close to the wall as I could get. You’ve always been quite striking to me.

What I had not expected was you taking notice of me.

There I was the quiet girl doing her homework just sitting on the outskirts of our group of friends. You know that group who sat together in the morning that our mutual friend drug you over to sit with. I was beneath your notice since I wasn’t anyone who seemed like they would interest you. I guess it shows what I knew, huh? For you did notice me and saw something striking in me and felt you needed to get my attention. Who would have thought that waded up sheet of paper you threw at me would eventually lead to all of this?

I know we didn’t have the most conventional relationship, but then we are rather odd people in our own ways. I remember our first official date was you taking me to the Renaissance Festival. I also remember having to call and wake you up around noon so you would get ready as you were sleeping in from staying up late playing video games. It didn’t matter though for I had a wonderful time that day! Besides I managed to pay you back by bringing you home that night for dinner and threw you straight into the crazy mass that is my family. I can imagine what a shock it was to you growing up in a house with just your mom and step-dad. You did very well though, so polite and my family was taken with you from the get go! Why even my grandmother commented on how wonderful you were the next day!

It was that night though, that night which really was the beginning of us. It was when you first kissed me. You completely surprised me too, which I am sure was your intention. I didn’t know you bending down to “tie” your shoe was a ploy to distract me so when you stood back up you would hold my face and lean in to kiss me. Oh man was I caught off guard! I was in such a daze for the rest of the night!

We were such goofballs too back then! We not wanting to be like everyone else didn’t want to be considered boyfriend and girlfriend; oh no we had to be different. You were my “Keeper” and I was your “Keepie” and our friends teased us so bad over it too. It doesn’t matter though because it is just how we are, how we always have been.

We lived in our own little World the two of us. No one could understand the way we saw things. No one could understand the way we did things. We didn’t hold hands. We didn’t get each other traditional gifts. We showed our affection by lovingly insulting each other. We were in a sense weird, but that was just fine as we loved each other so the rest didn’t matter.

I know when you first mentioned joining the military I wasn’t very supportive. I was rather selfish because I didn’t want to be apart from you. I had finally found you and I just didn’t fancy having to let you go. I was worried that with you being away we’d drift apart or you’d find someone new. I was afraid and wasn’t thinking of your wishes at all.

September 11, 2001 changed all that of course. I couldn’t keep you back anymore. The truth was if I loved you I needed to let you go. If we were truly meant to be then it would work out somehow, but I needed to stop being selfish. You had dreams and I needed to let you see them out because I knew that if I didn’t resentment was sure to follow. I loved you so much and I wanted you to be happy and so I let you go.

When you were away at basic I did everything I could to still cling to what bit of you I had. I played our favorite music. I wrote you many letters. I watched your favorite movies. I spent time with your mom, anything I could to feel connected with you.

Then the letters you wrote in return began to talk about marriage. You wanted to marry me. My worries and fears of losing you were all for naught as you wanted to just connect us even closer, by sharing your name with me. I was so excited but I also had to make you wait. I knew my mother wouldn’t allow us to marry before I graduated high school. Still I knew knowing you wanted me as much as I wanted you made me the happiest girl in the World!

Luck was on our side though for when you graduated Basic Training and after a brief break went on to Germany to begin your true Army life, we also began to arrange the wedding plans. When there was talk of your unit deploying to Turkey my mother was understanding and said we could plan the wedding for before I left school as long as I still graduated. I was a giddy school girl for weeks! Ordering the supplies needed for our wedding! Going to dress fittings! All the while working diligently at school so I was sure to graduate and not disappoint my mom! I don’t think anything could have brought me down then!

Though things were crazy leading up to it, our wedding day was great! The day was sunny and clear and I took the day off from school to become your wife. We were young but we were in love and we knew what we were doing. Nothing was going to stop us!

Though it wasn’t until months later it seemed like no time at all when I flew out to join you in Germany. A 19 year old happily married high school graduate going off on an adventure! I was going to be reunited with my soul mate and we were going to live our lives to the fullest!

Then of course two months later I was saying goodbye to you yet again on a very emotional day as you ventured off to Iraq for a year. Your job came first then and I knowing how important it was to you did my best to be supportive. The year was long and rough. I waited by the phone and computer so as not to miss any communication with you! I dove into activities to stave off the loneliness and worry for your safety.

Then you were injured not once but twice. Both affecting you far deeper than we ever expected. When you returned home to me, you were a different man. I didn’t see it initially as I was blinded by the happiness of having you home again with me. In fact I didn’t see it for sometime because I didn’t understand it. How could I? You were no more prepared for it than I was. We found ourselves drowning in a World of PTSD, TBI, and chronic pain. You were all over the place with your emotions. There was anger, depression, detachment, but that happy guy I married seemed to be missing. I was lost as I stood by and watched this new you. I shed many tears while deep inside I wished for you to return to me.

I watched you punch holes in my walls. I watched you break my furniture. I watched you throw things across the room. I watched you yell and throw insults around. I watched you slam doors and drive away. I watched our children cry because they didn’t understand. I watched you spend hours upon hours asleep avoiding everything. I watched you stare off into space disconnected from everyone. I watched you avoid sleep at night because you wished to avoid having nightmares. I watched you pace throughout the house and check every lock while drawing the curtains. I watched you jump and hit the floor when loud noises were heard. I watched you get angry while driving and punch the roof of the car breaking the windshield. I watched you avoid leaving the house. I watched you shut down completely upon your return home on the days you were unable to avoid venturing out. I watched you struggle with inner demons I knew nothing about. I watched you scream in frustration and cry in misery.

However, I also watched you down on bended knee with eyes so guilty and an apology on your tongue. I watched you beg me not to go despite who you had become. I watched you tell me you loved me and needed me to stay. I watched you hold my hand and tell me you appreciated all I do for you though I deserve better. I watched you fight yourself to try and be a better person.

I knew then that it didn’t matter. It did not matter that you were no longer the man I married entirely. It did not matter that you were now ill. It did not matter that you were now disabled. It did not matter that all of this meant life for us would be a long time struggle. None of it matter except one simple thing.

I still loved you and I always will.

You are my soul mate through and through and I shall stand by your side forever! You may feel I deserve better, well I feel you deserve me. A friend, a partner, a lover, a wife, a caregiver, and of course everything else that entails because you will always be worth it to me! Always!

As always, eternally yours,

Your Loving Wife with the Patient Heart


Submitted by Aimee L. Taylor


This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.