Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lost and Almost Broken

Before I start my story, please let me state that I love my husband to death. I love him with every inch of my body and every beat of my heart.  I have been by his side his entire military career, which includes: boot camp, SOI, and two back-to-back deployments (that does not include the training, and etc. etc. etc.) For those of you who think we as wives know what we are getting into when we married a marine---YOU ARE DEAD WRONG!!! Yes, I married a marine, but it did not come with a hand book, especially how to deal with a marine, and your marine, who has PTSD. 

It is a shame that when I married my husband, he was only home and we were only married for less than a month when he did his first deployment to Iraq. He came home, however, a different person with a child to raise on top of that. He was impatient, angry, and etc. Before, he was the kind of man that never yelled or raised his voice to me. He was soft, kind, and gentle. Don’t get me wrong, he is still that way but it comes in strives.  I gave birth to our son when he was deployed and took care of the home front...I went from being a single, on-my-own women...to a wife and mother. I had to move away from the only home I had ever known - to a whole new area away from my family, friends, job, and college...to follow the man I loved...that in itself takes a lot of love, courage, and dedication. I have no regrets, don’t get me wrong, yet I feel like I do not get enough credit for the sacrifices I have made. I always hear of the sacrifices he has made for us, and believe me I know he has...I am so proud of him and what he has done because I don’t think I could ever do what he did or see what he saw...however, I still do not think I get enough credit for the strength, sacrifice, and pain I go through.
 It started with Iraq...things started to change. With him and us, however, there was no time to deal with it because seven months later, after his deployment, he was off again but to Afghanistan.  That deployment, I feel was the death of him. He did things there and saw things there that a human being should never witness or do. It also breaks my heart because I would give anything...I would give my last breath to take his pain away, but I just don’t think he realizes that. He does not see the pain that I go through because I was not there. No, I did not go to war, however, I have had to deal with the after math of war...a side that I do not feel is published or spoken about enough. 

It is a tough spot to be in because you feel alone, you feel broken, frustrated, tired, and like you are drowning...you want to turn to your spouse, your partner,  love, and best friend, however, he cannot save you because he is trying to hold on to you because he is doing the same thing. So I have always put my emotions to the side, swallowed my pain and frustration and tended to him. However, I feel myself becoming unhealthy and I feel myself starting to lose my mind. I just do not know how much more I can take of this and the sad part is I try to tell my husband this but he cannot hear me. I feel like I am screaming at the top of my lungs but no one can hear me. I am a strong women, that is no joke because I have been through so much and I am still pushing while everything is still getting in my way and trying to hold me back or down. However, I am starting to burn out and I am feeling myself starting to burn out mentally and physically. I just wish America knew that sacrifice that comes with their freedoms. I also wish my husband and everyone else could see and feel the pain I am going through. I am sorry this is a long story, but I had a lot to say and needed to get it out....

Submitted By: A Drowning Wife

Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Review: Blind Devotion: Survival on the Front Lines of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction

"I need to get out of here! Please just help me get my kids out of here!" I was yelling at the 911 dispatcher now, my voice transformed by fear and desperation that had been mysteriously absent since the nightmare began over an hour ago.

I winced when I heard my husband come on the line again from somewhere outside the house. "Go on...Get the XXXX out of here, then" he screamed. It was Sean's voice, but hardly recognizable, just as he was no longer recognizable.

These two paragraphs start the book, Blind Devotion written by Sharlene Prinsen. Prinsen has a way of capturing attention from start to finish while openly sharing her experiences and what her family has endured with a life of PTSD. Throughout the book, Prinsen writes about her husband’s struggles and internal battles with PTSD, addiction, and outbursts in the years before PTSD was diagnosed. She shares her own battles and the rollercoaster of emotions she faced and actions that she had to take to maintain the safety of not only herself, but her children as well.

From page to page, in detail Prinsen describes the issues with alcohol and pills, hitting bottom in marriage and life, struggling while raising children, but also in finding hope and finding light while in a dark and alone tunnel.

As a wife of a wounded combat veteran, too often while reading Blind Devotion, I felt as though I was reading my own story. I found myself in tears at some points reliving the good and bad times and I also found myself with a smile thinking of the moments that we as veterans wives catch the glimpses of who they use to be. We cling on to those moments and allow them to guide us through the dark times.

I strongly encourage people, especially wives of veterans, to read Blind Devotion. This book is an eye-opener to anyone that reads it whether it be in the sense of bringing awareness to life following deployments or bringing comfort to so many in knowing they are not alone.

Blind Devotion: Survival on the Front Lines of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction is not only a story based on survival of the front lines, but it also a story based on love, healing, recommitment, hope, and family life following the changes that deployments bring.

Sharlene also has a faith-based support group Facebook page called "Hope and Healing Recovery Support (Sharlene Prinsen) www.facebook.com/SharlenePrinsenRecoverySupport 

Information on 
Blind Devotion: Survival on the Front Lines of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction:
Author: Sharlene Prinsen
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Publisher: Hazelden
ISBN: 978-1-61649-409-4
E-book ISBN: 978-1-61649-450-6

Book Read and Reviewed by:
Brittney Biddle
Wife of a Wounded Combat Veteran
Family of a Vet Communications Liaison

Heart Broken and Confused

My story began in 2009...

My husband faced his first deployment to Iraq while he was in the Army. He was prior Air Force before the army and was a medic. He was on home base support when we invaded Iraq. He enlisted in the Army in 2006 after being turned down by the Air Force due to them downgrading and not allowing prior airmen to re-enlist. He went through all of his training. During this time I was pregnant with our first child. He received orders to our first duty station with the Army, where we were for two and a half years. At the beginning of 2009 he deployed for twelve months. So my son and I, who was a baby made it through those 12 months together.

He returned home unharmed physically, yet I started to notice that something was wrong pretty soon after he came home. He wasn't the same man that he was before. He started to isolate himself from my son and me and from friends. He would get on his computer and play a game for hours, until early morning hours because he was unable to sleep. We began to fight all the time. Nothing was ever the same. We have always had great communication and honesty, since our marriage began in 2002 until this time. He became silent and only spoke to me if it was important. I told him several times that he needed to get help, and of course he denied that he needed help and said he was fine.

So in 2010 we had to relocate to our second duty station with the Army. During this time, I was pregnant with our second child, delivering her three months after our move. Soon after things went downhill and he hit rock bottom. He finally decided to get help through the Army. His chain of command and he decided that we will go through a medical board and get medically discharged from the Army. He was diagnosed with PTSD and severe anxiety and depression disorder, as well as with sleep apnea and insomnia. So in early 2011 we made the decision for our children and I to move back home with family for support so that I could go back to work and not have to pay for child care. We just weren't making it on one income anymore.

It took a year and a half for my hubby to be medically discharged. We were separated all that time except for a brief visit home for the holidays. He just recently returned home. We moved into a house and are still getting settled. He has been home for a month now and we are struggling trying to keep our heads above water. He had told me on the phone that things will be very different when he comes home cause he isn't the same person he was since the last time we were together around the holidays. I guess I just wasn't prepared for how different it was going to be. He came home and I didn't know who he was. He re-bonded with our children just fine. But with me is a total different thing. He told me to be patient until he can start his therapy with the VA. I honestly am trying to be. I'm hurting deeply inside. He said that we still need to communicate that we always have in the past. I told him that how can I do that when I don't even know you? My husband was always very affectionate. He hasn't even touched me or shown any interest in me as a person. I'm do confused and heartbroken. I feel guilty about feeling this way, but I'm having a hard time controlling my feelings. I know that what he is going through is way worse. He said he doesn't know himself and he can't have a relationship with anyone until he gets help. He was on medications, but stopped taking them due to how they made him feel. He is a true picture of PTSD.

We don't even have a friendship, never mind a marriage. I just don't know what to do. I'm always on edge wondering everyday how I'm going to feel based in his mood. I've never felt so alone I'm my life. I feel so selfish for feeling the way I do. I just don't know how to turn off my feelings. My hubby and I just co exist and share a house with with our children. I can only hope we make it through this. We have always had a strong marriage until these last few years. God only knows what our future holds. Please pray for my family and me.

Submitted By: A Heart Broken Wife

Monday Momism: War IS a Big Deal

So, we wonder how a little thing like combat can change a person so much. Yes, I did insert the word little because that is how it comes across when someone tells me that war is “no big deal”. The truth is, war IS a big dea.  The truth is, they don't know what a soldier, Marine, military member goes through in a war zone. The main reason is because a combat veteran doesn't want their family member to experience it, even second-hand.

People who haven't been to war don't know how hard it is for a soldier who sees a child with a soccer ball to refrain from joining in and playing because that innocent child could very well have a hidden bomb strapped to him. A scream in an alley that leads him and his comrades to try to help a girl could be an ambush. Constant 24 hour explosions, even if not in their path, can and has lead to many TBIs (traumatic brain injuries).

I could never disrespect a combat veteran by saying it couldn't have been that bad. Seriously, think of a war movie. Think of the sitcom MASH. Think of a scary movie such as Nightmare on Elm Street. If that can get your adrenaline going for a few minutes, how can you not comprehend real war 24/7?

Now, in fairness, I do know some soldiers have stated this themselves, that it wasn't a big deal. They are stating it as a way of not having to deal with it, not talking about it to family and friends. But watch them for a few days and you'll see what I mean: they pace, they won't sit in a restaurant (if you can even get them to go) unless they are facing the door, they have flashbacks and they have major mood swings. Some are called lazy for sleeping all morning. It's because they don't want to go to sleep. They fight it for as long as they can because of the nightmares.

Try this: Spend a day following your normal routine. Say it's a Saturday and you're at the soccer field. Could you imagine that child with a bomb strapped under his or her shirt? It happens in a war zone. Say it's Monday and the kids are going off to school. Can you imagine a child going for the first time at the age of 9 or 10 because she never had the right to before? It happens in other countries. Police officers are given time off when they are involved in a shooting. A soldier in a war zone has to stay alert at all times, even while back at the post grabbing a few hours of shut-eye because IEDs are exploding everywhere.

Most people recognize that PTSD has a stigma. Combat veterans don't like seeking help because they are afraid people will think they are crazy. I see a second stigma attached to it. People think combat veterans dealing with PTSD and a TBI are lazy. That stigma is just as prejudicial and discriminating in my opinion.

I can't imagine what those on the front lines saw. I don't disrespect our combat veterans. If you have any appreciation for the life of freedom we have here in the states, hopefully, you don't, either. If you are confused, though, if you are frustrated by the changes in your loved one since he or she came home, then please know that you are NOT ALONE. Find a support group. If you can't, then contact us and we will help you find one either in your area or online.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Invisible Tears

The pain in his eyes cannot easily be told,
The soldier inside, he’s outta control.
What cause his panic and fear,
Is that the unexpected is always near.

He can’t shake the feeling of total despair,
Because when he closes his eyes the blood remains there.
Why can’t we take a minute to look deep inside?
And see this soldier is the reason we are still alive.

The war is done; send the home they say,
But are we ready to be there or just go our own way.
His wounds may not be seen but if we look really deep,
The pain he bears would make us weep.
The agony endured in the sands of hell,
He keeps locked inside…he may never tell.

It’s up to us to hold them very close,
But we won’t be able to silence the screams and echoes.
Whether he sleeps in your bed or simply a passer-by,
We can attempt to understand but we would be wasting our time.

As civilians we can never comprehend,
The hell they endured to protect and defend.
Shake his hand, say Thank you,
He did it for me, you, the red, the white and the blue.

Each day that passes our fragile soldiers by,
He may wonder why he is the one still alive.
Just continue to live everyday life,
While our soldiers will struggle with their extreme sacrifice.

Imagine every day you wake and your all alone,
Eight thousand miles away from comfort and home.
Every single minute was a fight for his life,
Who knows the last time he talked to the wife.
The kids may not know the daddy that returns home,
He will be surrounded by love yet feel all alone.
We have no clue how he fought to stay alive,
Or what it really took to survive.
We have no clue what was done by those brave hands,
He will do his best to bury all those memories in the sand.

Those memories will continue to haunt him day and night,
Its for the US of A he fought the good fight.
Ignorance is no longer an excuse to be blind,
Some wounds you can look but will not find.
Continue to fly the American flag in the sky,
While I, his wife, wipe the invisible tears my soldier cries.
 Written By: Megan McLemore

Friday, September 14, 2012

From a Child's Perspective: My Favorite Hobby

My Favorite Hobby Is Playing Video Games ...
My favorite hobby is playing video games, because it makes me comfortable when I need time to think, or need to calm down.
When I play video games I can beat the game if I wanted to in a day, but the only time I beat a game in one day is when I have the time, or when I am not on the road to Alexandria, LA or somewhere important. 
I play video games so that way I can block out or try to block out what is 
going on, because my family is a military family. My mom takes care of my dad, but I try to bond with my dad, but it just doesn't work. He yells at me when I know he doesn't mean to, because he isn't the same as he use to be, all that because of the war. So I am sad that I don't have the kind of dad that does stuff with you. I play on my laptop, PS3, Wii, Ps2, or just watch television on my computer or iPod, sometimes even my T.V. 
More reasons I play video games is so I spend time with my friends or other family members who live far away.
Sometimes when I play video games, it is so I can take out my anger on the people on the game. The reasons is because people make me sad and mad. I really like that sometimes. Certain games can teach you things that you didn't know and not like any math games or anything. I mean like the game Minecraft. Minecraft is a game that you need math to build houses, make your tools, make what ever you want, or even just mine in a cave or a crevice.

I like that a lot of times, when I need help or something on a game my friends can help me when I need it. It is fun to hang out with your friends, playing games and skyping with them at the same time. I know it can sometimes lag your PC, but I have a good one for now. I can run up to 10 windows and lag only just a tiny bit. I have a Windows 7 64-bit Toshiba with a 4.00GB of Ram. So I can play a lot of games if I would like to. I don't play video games everyday. I only do sometimes. This was my essay.

This is my hobby, I hope you enjoyed reading it. Thank you for reading.
Submitted By: a 12yr, Southwest LA

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thinking Back to 9/11

I was a sophomore in college in 2001 at the University of Missouri. I shared an off campus apartment with my best friend, Roxi. On the morning of September 11, I was sleeping because I did not do morning classes. Roxi, however, was just the opposite and was already at school. 

It was 10am and I was soundly sleeping when my phone started blowing up. I was not pleased given that I didn’t have class until 1300. I answered and it was Roxi. She was screaming, “Turn on the TV!! Turn on the TV!!” I fumbled for my remote and flipped on the TV. By this time the towers were enormous piles of smoking rubble. I was replays of the first tower fall and the second be struck by the jet and its subsequent fall.  Of course this was on all of the TV stations. I was in shock, in solidarity with the rest of America. 

I made my class at 1300 because we had a test. It was psychology 210. As I walked into the room, the wall mounted TV was on and the destruction again burned my corneas. My professor was a young, attractive woman with sort of a sultry voice. She walked in and simply said, “In light of today’s events, I am postponing the test until next week.” She then walked out of the room. I never saw that professor again. A month later I would learn that her father was a battalion chief in New York City and his remains were never found.
As I walked around campus, there was a quiet buzz as people spoke. I overheard words like “terrorism” and “Muslims” and “suicide jihadists.” As a Political Science major, I understood the consequence of what had just occurred in our country. By 1600, we knew this was an intentional attack. All commercial flights were grounded and America was paralyzed.
September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. By Thursday I watched four classmates explain to our instructors that they were reserve or guard members and that they had been activated. I was in awe at the idea of 20 year olds, just like me, were getting ready to do the unimaginable. They were literally going into the unknown. They were brave, but I know they were scared. We were all scared. 

My family, staunchly Democrat, was cringing at The President’s demeanor in the days following the attacks. Never a fan of Bush, my Grandpa Jenks, a highly decorated and wounded WWII veteran, said to me, “Liz, if he’s in charge for the duration, this will be your generation’s Vietnam. We don’t have a President Truman to end this one.” How right he would be.

 Grandpa would leave us in May 2003 and he died horrified, that again we were fighting a two wars at once, just as his generation did six decades earlier. 

Little did I know, a Senior Airman named Zachary Hershley was sitting in Tech School at Shepherd Air Force Base. He was rushed through his tech school and by late February of 2002, he was in Kuwait, staging for invasion into Iraq. 

I wouldn’t meet SRA Hershley, until he was Staff Sergeant Hershley in late 2004. I met him for the first time as he wore a flight suit. I thought he was pompous and he thought I was stuck up.  Within six months I was a military wife in a post-911 world. 

My husband would be wounded and forever scarred while serving our country. Our country was wounded and scarred as well. Our country would heal, SSgt Zachary Hershley would not. 

Each year, as the world “Remembers 911” or “Never Forgets” or whatever the popular slogan is on that particular year’s anniversary, it reminds this family that this is date that began our nightmare of being used, abused, and forgotten by those SSgt Hershley promised to serve. 

September 11th is not a time for mourning for us; it is a time of anger and hurt at our government, the Air Force, and even some of our fellow citizens who got to “go on” with their lives.  September 11th is a reminder of the hell that we live every day, where each year the flames are just as hot as the one before.

Elizabeth Hershley
Wife of OIF/OEF Veteran SSgt Zachary Hershley, wounded.