Sunday, February 26, 2012

Venting ala Blog...

So, tonight I'm pissed.  There's really no other way... no prettier way to put it into words (my VERY southern mom hates it when I use that term...).  And, in my typical fashion, I'm going to blog.  Read or don't read... I'm okay with that :)

I live 24 x 7 in a household run by PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury).  I am a full time caregiver of a physically and mentally wounded hero.  I am the mom of an adorable, but very precocious five year old.  I also spend every ounce of the time I have left trying to figure out how to help other heroes and families that are living in households like mine.  To put it simply, my life is stressful.  My days are long.  My nights are never long enough.  And, I do my best.

Today, someone (a random stranger) found the time, after talking to me for 2 minutes in the middle of an extremely chaotic moment, to track down someone I know and completely bad mouth me and my family.  I have no way to address that person directly without pulling the "middle man" into the fray (which I won't), but I thought maybe instead I'd use my frustration to explain a little bit about my family, my life as a caregiver, and why I (and others like me) may not always be in perfect form... no matter how hard we try.

For the past 5 days my husband has been in a sleep cycle that includes 90 - 120 minutes of sleep followed by 6 - 8 hours of being awake.  He's having horrible nightmares (PTSD) and his sleep rhythm is completely messed up (TBI).  As a result, in the last five days, I've had 90 - 120 minutes of sleep a night because as a caregiver and mom, I don't get to "catch up" during his next sleep time during the day.

Not only am I sleep deprived, but my husband's sleep deprivation means his mood swings are all over the map.  Hello, super giddy hubby.  Hello, super meanie.  Hello super giddy hubby. Hello, Mr. Meanie on steroids.  As a result, I'm in full time "management" mode... reducing and anticipating triggers, soothing circumstances, managing moods... for roughly 20 hours a day.

I'm also in "super mom" mode.  Our five year old (remember I said "precocious"!) has to stay busy... c-o-n-s-t-a-n-t-l-y during these times or it's a recipe for disaster.  A bored, whiney five year old = a PTSD nightmare... ask anyone.

I've also had a headache of the super-duper form for almost a week, have several (fellow caregiver) friends with their own crises that I'm trying to at least be a listening ear for, have several pieces of paperwork (VA related) that are overdue and I'm trying to get finished, my house is a wreck and we have a VA home visit on Tuesday (36 hours give or take), I need to go grocery shopping, I'm way behind on laundry, there are several household business-related things that I need to address... and the "to do" list goes on for about five miles.

I'm describing all of this, not from a "poor me, don't you feel sooooo sorry for me" standpoint (because, honestly, I'm not a fan of that), but because the life I'm describing is the "typical" life of the majority of caregivers who are living with and loving a Veteran with PTSD, TBI, and/or physical injuries.  We have our "stuff", our hero's "stuff", our kids "stuff", and then about a billion things that a typical person wouldn't even imagine.  Because of this, we become kick "grass" managers, referees, consolers, cajolers, nurses, and jills-of-all-trades... but even with our new found super powers (ha! don't I wish!) we're very much human.  AND, we are very much tired, struggling, frayed, barely-keeping-our-heads-above-water humans at that.

So, the next time you meet a random person in public... or a member of your family who's caring for a Veteran... or are with a friend who is living this life... please remember just how much is hidden in the smile and life of that caregiver.  Remember, try to understand, don't judge, and most of all be kind.  We have enough weighing on us without someone tearing us down, promise.

Thanks for listening!

((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!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Humor - Even When Lost

My grandfather has been one of the most quintessential people in my life. He's the only man I can honestly say has always been there for me no matter what from birth until his mind would no longer let him fill that role. He's the man who taught me how to ride a bike and lectured me about the hemline of my skirts. He was the closest thing to a "dad" I had in the moments when it mattered most.

While I was back home visiting last week I went to go see him. He's in a nursing home now with Parkinson's Disease and moderate dementia. There are days he doesn't know his own name much the less those of family and friends. A friend from my Mom's church stopped by and saw him while I was there - someone who he likely wouldn't have even recognized before the dementia, but since she's there often visiting a friend she stops and says hi.

She came up to him with a big genuine smile and said "Jack, you're looking good today!"

Without missing a beat he looked right at her and said, "I'd rather be good lookin'!" and smiled the same smile from ear to ear that I remember seeing with every joke he delivered for as long as I can remember.

I love that his sense of humor is still intact and he's enjoying life. He's not going to let the fact that he can't remember most things get him down - he's going to keep RIGHT ON doing what he loved most - making himself and others smile...even when he doesn't probably remember why he does it because that's who he was and in some ways still is. He doesn't let what's wrong in his life stop him from doing what his heart tells him is right - bringing others joy.

When I told him who I was, he looked at me puzzled yet smiling and said, "When did you get so old?"

I quipped back "When you did!"

And that same smile appeared.

Yup - he raised me to do the same. To bring others joy even on the days when I'm having a hard time. While I was there he was complimenting me over and over on always being a good kid and showering me with praise. He didn't know it, but I'd been having a rough day mentally and was very grateful for hearing that I was still a good kid. :)

We exchanged several rounds of teasing and smiles before I had to leave. It might have been the best moments I have had with him in half a decade.

At the end of the day, we make the choices in how we choose to spend our time on this earth. Certainly not every moment can be filled with happiness and laughter, but I'd like to think I've taken a page from his life. I'd like to think I spend my time and energy lifting up others with a smile and some encouragement rather than ignoring them or letting them down because at the end of the day, that's what it's all about. My grandfather taught me that. Can he help you learn it too?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Just Frustrated

I originally posted this a few days ago on my personal blog, Southern Girl's Stand, and have now decided to share it here because of the amazing response I received from it... I am sure many of you can relate to my feelings. Being able to relate to someone when things are tough somehow makes us feel human again and in a "better" place because we know we really aren't alone.....

We have officially survived the first month and few days of Kev's retirement. To lay it out there, it has been exactly one month and six days since Kevin's retirement began and to be honest, I am still struggling to process it in ways that I never thought I would.

Let's take the main factor of it all... My husband is 31 years old and *MEDICALLY* Retired from the army. People, do we realize why one would become medically retired? It is all really beginning to hit me like a ton of bricks just tumbling on top of me. I have known for quite awhile the serious extend of my husbands injuries, but there is just something about having to face the facts and to put it simple, accept it all. Kev was MR due to the injuries he sustained while deployed to Iraq. In our worlds, many of these issues seem so common, yet when I look out into the world that I once knew...they are far from common and truthfully, I feel the distance between myself and family/friends because they just don't get "it". I know to some that one thing may sound absurd, but to the ones living this life after combat, it makes perfect sense.

I wish I could just make a detailed list of all the changes that not only Kevin has been through and will continue to go through, but also the changes that each one of us in our house has had to endure. Too many times I have already heard comments on "how nice" it must be that Kevin does not have to work or how "great" it is that he is out of the army and yet, to avoid the "drama" or misinterpretations, I typically just change the conversation. In all honesty, I want to shout back to these people that I would much rather have Kevin in the army full time like he was and working all the time if I could have him back as he was before 2007. Yes, I am blessed that my husband is still alive, but he will never be the man I married. Don't misconstrue what I have just stated, because he IS the man I love and the man I am IN love with, but when it comes down to it, he isn't the man that he use to be.

Too often, I also have people tell me that to look at Kevin, one would never think there was something wrong. Sadly, I find myself trying to keep the giggles from seeping out at this. Really? That is the first thing people think? I have a laundry list of health issues and all the time hear the same thing about me. When are people going to open their eyes and realize that just because someone doesn't look like they are sick or doesn't look like they have a disability that it doesn't mean there is nothing wrong with them?

Tonight I am just feeling out of sort and simply alone. It is 1:30 in the morning, everyone else is in bed, I can't sleep, and even though I have friends I could call I really just don't want to try to explain why I feel the way I do when they expect me to be okay with it all and to be excited that we no longer have the worries or concerns of the army. I want my friends to tell me it's okay to be angry for what we are going through, it's okay to be completely pissed that even though my husband returned from war, a part of him died over there. I want them to tell me it's okay to in a sense "envy" others relationships because they carry on with life because they have never had to live through the hell that war brings. I want to see people appreciate what they have more and quit taking it for granted because their loved ones have to work late or whatever. I want to be told it's okay to get upset, it's okay to be frustrated, and you know what...it's okay to even shed a few tears now and then. What I don't want to hear right now is "Be glad he's home", "Be glad that he will never deploy again"... and so on. Yes, I am glad for these things, but I would do it all over again if I knew Kevin would come home unwounded...

It just breaks me to see him on days when he can barely walk. It breaks me to see him snap over things that seem so trivial to most. It breaks me to see him no longer find happiness and joy in the simple things in life that he use to. I hate seeing Kevin hurting mentally and physically. I hate seeing him struggle with simple tasks and daily routine. I hate the permanent changes. I hate people simply not understanding or even trying to understand. I despise how people that promised they would stand beside us through these times and would always be here don't even bother to pick up the phone anymore.

So, yes, I would rather have lived through another 11.5 years of Kevin active duty army and retiring at 20 years other than seeing and living through my husband becoming severely injured in Iraq (multiple times) and being permanently changed.

~Brittney Biddle
Proud Wife of an OIF Wounded Veteran
FOV Communications Liaison
brittney@familyofavet.com 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

PTSD INJECTION

J and Kateri Peterson have a new update on their progress with the injection for PTSD.  Check out http://damespaz.blogspot.com/2012/02/quick-update-on-2nd-injectionand.html for the update....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Love Letter Campaign: The Love I Hold

Thank you to all that submitted during our Love Letter Campaign! We truly appreciate each and every one of you and love that you so openly wrote and allowed us to share your letters. Throughout the year, we will continue accepting submissions and will launch our second annual Love Letter Campaign on Veterans Day, November 11, 2012.
Again thank you so much to everyone that participated this year, thank you to our dedicated readers, thank you to the ones that thought about writing, yet just couldn't quite find the words. We've all be there and there is still time to write for our next one!
"The Love I Hold" will be our final submission for this years campaign.
-Brittney Biddle



My Dearest Bran,

I have thought long and hard about how to write my feelings for you; we have certainly been privy to a way of daily life experienced by few, and understood by only that few.  However we have managed to pull through stressors that many other couples could not.  I have decided the best way to let you know my love for you is to fill your heart full of superlative adjectives.

I am the most grateful wife to have the honor of holding your innermost thoughts.  I am the proudest wife in the world when it comes to your service, your sacrifice, and your dedication to our country, our family, and our marriage. I am the most hopeful wife there is knowing that our journey together will hold significant meaning in the grand scheme of life.  I am most excited when thinking of how far we have come, and pondering where we have the ability to go.  I am fondest of the times we have held each other close, not being able to see the light at the end of that inevitable tunnel, knowing that somehow our love for one another is enough.  And finally, you are my greatest friend.  I love you sweetheart; I know our love will continue to grow even during those moments where our superlative adjectives aren't so positive.

May the world know the love I hold for you and the love I know you hold for me,
   
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

The injection for PTSD and the Peterson's part DEUX

Where have you been , Ms. Peterson, I hear you thinking it.

Let me tell you.

I've been trying to keep myself together, which, by the way, is turning out to be a full time job, on top of the several other full time jobs I have (kids, caregiving, volunteering, actual go to work job). I've also been trying to desperately keep my husband from falling apart as well.

He is very frustrated. Beaten down. Defeated. Deleted.

On January 17th, we had the great fortune of going to Chicago IL to meet Dr. Lipov (see his website if you have not yet....advancedpaincenters or chicagomedicalinnovations) to receive the Stellate Ganglion Block. An injection of anesthetic into my husbands neck (the bundle of nerves there), purported to ease, if not get rid of all together, symptoms of his severe PTSD.

Every body is different, and though many have had great success, we, unfortunately, have had a little hiccup.

My husband felt relief very quickly. *I* noticed a difference on the ride back to the hotel. *HE* noticed a difference that night during dinner.

Unfortunately, but not unknowingly, the effects tapered slowly over time (about a month) and I contacted Dr. Lipov's staff and arranged for a second injection.

Today, almost a month exactly, my husband is spending 24 hours to receive the second injection.

Let me just tell you this though, he is still only taking two pills. One for depression/anxiety and one for cholesterol.

Remember, he was taking upwards of 10 or more a DAY. He is only 29 years old.

Considering the major things just getting off all those drugs, I say he is doing remarkably well, despite some new developments (or rather, finally out in the open developments), despite being discouraged, despite seeing the light and then having it go dim on him.

God I love this man.

I can't tell you enough how this journey has shaped me, molded my soul, opened my eyes, ripped at my heart.

We wouldn't change it. I wouldn't. He wouldn't. So here's the deal.

Stay tuned.

I'm exhausted and just covered a sick nurse at work, I'm going to bed now, but know that I will write again, and very soon, and I *need* you to understand our story. I *need* you to share our story. I do. I have never felt more urgency about anything in all my life. It is absolutely *imperative* you share our life with the ones with you love.

It really can be the difference between life and death.

So, with that said, if you know a Veteran who is struggling with LIFE AFTER COMBAT do not wait, do not second guess yourself. REACH OUT. Go to FAMILY OF A VET right now and reach out to me, or any other Senior Staff Member. You do NOT have to go through this alone. PTSD and TBI are serious, and left untreated and unchecked, WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE. It WILL RUIN YOUR MARRIAGE. IT WILL HURT YOUR CHILDREN BEYOND REPAIR. But if you know someone who is struggling, you have a duty to honor them by helping!

My usual disclaimer applies to this post, as well as all of my previous posts, and my future posts.

See you in a bit!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Love Letter Campaign: For Better or Worse





My Dearest Husband,

I knew the night I met you that my life was changed forever. I had no idea how much.

Here I am, 4 years and a whole lot of adventure later, your wife. From the summer walks with the little one when you decided to stop going home...to the first utterance of  "PTSD"...to rushing to marry because you were going to war yet again...to that awful WTU that so broke your spirit...to nights of anger and destruction and mornings of tears and desperation and just wishing for normal...to blackouts, hospital stays, medications, treatments, and the realization that TBIs don't just stay where they are. Most painful, perhaps, is that you so often believe that you are not worth all this, that your PTSD makes you somehow less of a husband, a father, or a man. I assure you, you are worth every moment. You are not your PTSD.

But after every crisis and every hopeless night, there is something more. We wake renewed, and your head on my shoulder reminds me that when all is said and done, I would rather have these hard times with you than easy times with anyone else.

We promised "for better or for worse" and we meant it. I am incredibly proud of how far you have come in your recovery, and I never want you to doubt again that by your side, good or bad, is where I always want to be.

You have never stopped being the love of my life, not for a moment. I will fight for you as long as I live - for the care that you need and deserve, for understanding from others, and for what we have worked so hard to build.

Forever and ever,
Kaete *xoxo*


Submitted by Kaete, Proud Wife of a Wounded Warrior

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.

The Love Letter Campaign: To My Husband



My Dear, Sweet Love,

Long before I was ready to admit it, I was in love with you. Not a 'little girl' kind of love, and certainly not the fantasy that we as young girls are so often subjected to- the prospect of a Prince Charming on his white horse, coming to rescue me from the evil witch.  No- this was far deeper, and much more profound.

The years have passed since that day when you quite literally stumbled into a doorway in the strangest, deliberate yet least Marine-like maneuver it had ever been my pleasure to witness.  You were supposed to be grumpy and "grumbly" and your military bearing was supposed to be 'impeccable.'  Why the little boy flirt decided to show himself on that first Monday in January, I don't know.

You were charming.  I think now that it was then I started to fall in love with you.

There are so many things that I wish you could remember.  How we fell in love, how close we were before your injury.  How we would lay close to each other and talk, endlessly, transitioning from one conversation to another seamlessly.  You remember so little of us as a couple; your memory of me from before the injury is limited to the early interactions we had, but without the emotion; the conversations that we had are now conversations that you were not a part of. The love that developed for us is not the same love that you feel now.

There are times that I want nothing more than to shake the memories back into you.  Sometimes, when it is late at night and we are laying close together, you are almost the same man that you were before your injury.  A sudden memory will come forward, only to be lost again. 

You hid your injuries from me for so long, and that hurts as much as knowing that you don't remember what our love was like before.  You came back after your injury with the need to be with me, to talk to me, to be close, but without understanding why.  Because we didn't live together, your inability to sleep didn't register with me.  You were the 'king of the studied response'- thinking about questions before answering them slowly and deliberately.  I feel like I failed you in some way because I couldn't put 'two and two' together. 

We lost an unborn child, and I nearly lost myself in grief.  I thought you were the strong one, but I realize now that a lot of that strength was because there were no real emotional attachments to me, or to that unborn child.

I thought we were completely committed to each other, but found out later that you were lost.  You had shadows of emotion, but nothing tangible.  You found yourself with someone else, someone from your past, from long before me.  Not that you felt any more for her than you did for me, but because you were trying to find yourself and understand why your emotions were void.  I don't blame you, and although it hurts beyond words I understand, and I forgive you.

I don't know when or where things changed for you, but they did.  At some point, you told me your 'head cleared.'  Rather than remembering, however, your emotions have developed anew.  You are emotionally vested in us- not just in me, but in my children who you call your own.  I see the love that you feel for them, and for me, in your actions and in your words every day. 

We finally married, and moved together to your home in a different state.  In a few short months, we will welcome a little boy.

It is difficult to see you stumble, to hear you stutter trying to speak, and to see you struggle with your memory and the little things that were so simple before your injury.  I struggle with knowing that the time we were together before your injury is gone, and the memories that we shared are now mine alone.  No, it isn't fair that our lives have been challenged and changed this way, but we cannot change what has happened.  We can only move forward.  The love that we feel for each other now is just as real as what we felt before your injury, but is more intense, with a closeness that makes everything that we have gone through seem worth it. I miss the man that I fell in love with, but the man that found his way back to us is so much more than I ever imagined.  This is no fairy tale, sweetheart, but make no mistakes, you are most definitely my Prince Charming. 

Tonight, as I do every night, when I curl up next to you as close as I can possibly be, I will silently thank you- for being the man that you were when we met, for finding your way through the darkness back to me, and for being the man that you are now.  I love you, more than any words put onto paper could ever convey.

All My Love,
Your Wife


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.

The Love Letter Campaign: Dear Love of My Life



Dear Everett,
I have written and rewritten this letter more times than I care to admit. Each time the lump in my throat that has been here since you came home hurt five years ago grows so big I can barely breath.  I have no desire to revisit what we have been through, how much pain you are in every day or the way you and our life together has been forever changed.  I do however wish to tell you this-I wish to tell you what has not changed, what will never change-

You are the first thing I think of when I wake in the morning. You are the last thing I think of when I drift off to sleep.  You fill my dreams like you fill my heart, completely. You are the most beautiful man I have ever seen or will ever see. Since the first time I looked at you you are all I see. You are my first and only true love and you will always be. I pray that we will never be apart and know that even in death there would be no other. You were made for me and me for you. An eternity with you could never be long enough.  I will love you forever and ever and after that.

Lisa


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.

The Love Letter Campaign: Love Without End



To my husband,

I had to laugh when I titled my letter, Love Without End.  Nearly 9 years ago when I had those words inscribed inside your wedding band, you (lovingly) laughed at me, "mocking" the words with a deeper, broadcaster-like voice - "Love Without End". At the time, we had no idea all the bumps we would face in the upcoming years. Knowing what we know now, those words hold no joking matter; I do simply love you without end. 


We both feel the strain and struggle PTSD has left on our marriage and the home we have built.  Our marriage may not be ideal, compared to the "you and I" we once knew - but PTSD is not ideal.  Through everything, I know you struggle each and everyday to identify who you are now.  Sometimes with all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we never take the time to slow down and really tell the ones we love just how much they STILL mean.  I stil yearn to hear your voice and feel your touch; your "deep in the belly" laughter still brings a smile to my face; undying love grows each day as I see you and I in our children. 


We both are aware of the difficulties we are facing right now, handling the uncertainty with hugs and tears.  Whichever path life leads us down, I promise you my "Love without End"


With all my heart...
Still In Love With My Marine

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.

The Love Letter Campaign: The soft hearted man who grieves for those who have passed because of him


My Sweet Love,

You have been through so much. I know that you grieve over the lives you have taken. You protected us from the bad when we could not do it ourselves. You risked your sanity to make sure we were all safe. My heart aches for you everyday. My mind goes a million miles an hour to try to help you. I love you for all that you have done and will do for us. Your struggles are my struggles, your pain is my pain, your life is my life. I am proud to call you mine and mine only!! My love for you gets stronger and stronger as each day passes. The only thing I can say now is Please come back to me... Please seek help that you need!! I cry everyday hoping that today is the day that I have my Ryan back. I love you with all my heart soul and mind!!! The reason I know that you are a good man is that you feel bad about what you had to do. That's what makes you the best man in the world to me and everyone you served for. I am not good with words my dear, but believe me when I say this too you, I LOVE YOU!!! 
Love,
Shannon


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.

The Love Letter Campaign: I Loved You Before I Met You


Dear Randy,

The day after Valentines Day will mark the 12th Anniversary of the day we met.

“I loved you before I met you” Our Song – holds  the perfect words to describe my love for you. “I saw your face in my dreams, I felt the warmth of your embrace, I saw the love in your eyes”. 

Year after year as men came and went in my life – I did not recognize them. None had the familiar face and the warmth in their smile that came with the man in my dreams.  Not until you.  Not until that cold and dreary morning - February  15, 2000 when standing in the pouring rain I reached out to shake your hand – and looked up into your eyes for the first time – and there you were – the man I had dreamed of all those years.  There you were standing in front of me.  And that moment I knew…you had finally arrived.  I say it was love at first sight – but actually I had been in love with you long before our eyes finally met. 

I had given up on love.  Thirteen years of marriage to a man that I never felt love from. Nine years of dating,  seven of those on and off  with a man who was incapable of commitment and unable to say the words “I love you”.  I was waiting for you.  Another disappointing Valentines Day - and then there you were.  You were my motorcoach driver for the VIP group that I was taking to Reno for a customer appreciation event.  My customers had all met you – and loved you.  My little old ladies - “Blue Hairs” as you so fondly referred to them, wrote letters requesting “Blue Eyes”  to be their driver.  But somehow  you had eluded me ………until that rainy morning.  I tended to my customers, and you to your driving, but I just couldn’t get you out of my mind. Sitting behind you for the four hour drive across the mountains – so close I could reach out and touch you – yet so far away.  Was it just my imagination, or did you hold my hand just a little too long as you helped me off the bus!
.  That touch was electric – and warmed me to my core on that cold wintry day. 

I had already made plans with friends for that evening, and as you dropped us off I said goodnight and laughed about you being single. I said that I had someone “in mind for you”  and to my disappointment you smiled and said that would be nice – when could you meet her.  I meant me. Later that night when my friends and I parted, I  called to tell you that I had left something on the bus. You were staying across town at a different hotel but said quickly – I’ll be right there.  You must have flown – no more than I got out to the front entrance of the hotel then you were there.  Smiling at me and asking “what did you leave on the bus?” Embarrassed by my boldness I answered – “YOU” .

We talked and laughed for hours.  I can still remember the smell of your leather jacket, and the scent of your cologne.  And your eyes, your face, your hair, so new and yet so familiar.  The exact man that had been in my dreams for all those years. 

The next day, you and my fifty VIP customers dropped me off at the Reno airport.  I had another group that I was meeting to escort on a trip to New York City.  One hundred eyes were upon us as you helped me off the bus and I waited on the sidewalk for you to bring my suitcase - and then, blind to those 100 eyes you hugged me good-bye. 

As I flew across the country, I wondered what the future would bring.  You were a “driver” and I was the Regional Sales Manager.  Not the best combination for a relationship, and not one that the company we worked for would look kindly on. 

Six days later I arrived with my group at the airport in San Francisco.  My 13 year daughter and my mom had been on the New York trip with me.  As I scanned the baggage claim area for my driver --- there you were.  My heart stopped.  What would my daughter think of you?  She had not liked one single man that I had dated in nine years.  As we walked towards each other your arms went around me – not in a quick friendship greeting – but a powerful, make my knees shake and my heart tremble kind of hug.  The kind of hug that made my daughter and my mom take notice.

  “Who IS THAT? My thirteen year old demanded.

“Just the driver”  I replied.  Hum, was her response.

To my surprise the bus was filled with drinks and snacks. “Oh I knew that it had been a long trip and thought it might be nice for the passengers”.  You nonchalantly whispered. You were  right.  46 people and our flight from New York had been cancelled that morning – and finally 12 long hours later we had arrived in San Francisco and still had a four hour bus trip home.  A nightmare of a day was putting it mildly.  But instantly you made it better. I was amazed by your thoughtfulness. This wasn’t the kind of thing that drivers did.

We talked all the way home.  You told me of your twelve years in the Navy, your career in aerospace, your aspirations of making the Senior Golf Pro tour until an injury killed your dreams.  After your third marriage ended you decided to come home to your roots in Redding.  The thought of 3 marriages scared me – but you explained them all away. 

You were scheduled for another trip that would take you away for a few days, but promised to call when you got home.  True to your word you called and invited me to dinner.

How could something that felt so right also feel so wrong?  We were both seeing someone else – for you a relatively short term relationship – and she lived  three states away in Colorado.  And I was seeing a man that I had dated on and off for nearly seven years.  He had recently accepted a position in a City three hours away. 

We talked about us – about our possibilities – about our feelings. We were in agreement that if we were to proceed to explore a relationship we would both need to be free. 

To pursue you and the unknown, to see if what I felt in my heart after such a very short time of knowing you, presented me with a very big decision.  I would have to end a relationship with the man who had stood next to me during the most difficult time in my life – my son’s losing battle with cancer. 

After knowing you only three weeks – and only seeing you a handful of times I choose YOU.

We became inseparable when our schedules allowed.  Andrea adored you. On our six month anniversary the three of us were driving to Chevy’s for dinner.  My dear daughter commented on the Full Moon, suggesting that it would be a great night for a proposal.  Embarrassed, I hushed her.  At dinner you pulled out a blue velvet box, set it on the table and proposed to US.  WE SAID YES.  Two months later we had a beautiful Wedding – everything feel into place so easily, just like it was meant to be. Andrea my maid of honor, and your son your best man.  My dreams had come true.  I was happier than I had ever been.  I felt loved as I had never felt loved before.

The first few years were wonderful, everything that I could have imagined. Then suddenly our dream ended when you developed some medical problems and were no longer able to work.  It seemed repercussions from your two tours in Vietnam over 40 years ago had risen out of nowhere and were now threatening to ruin our lives.  Not only your diagnosis of diabetes and accompanying complications from your exposure to Agent Orange, but also the invisible wounds of  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Our bed was filled with the horrors and nightmares  of Vietnam.

Suddenly I was living with a stranger – I did not know that man – how to talk to him – how to help him. I had no idea what had happened to my beloved husband.

I had no idea what was happening to you or to me.  We both went through the gamut of emotions.  Fear – anger - depression.  Time after time I questioned if I could continue to live with this stranger who had intruded into my life as an unwelcome visitor.  If I could continue to hang on – to wait for the man that I fell in love with to return.  But suddenly – there you were, a small glimpse of the man that I feel in love with.  Reminding me that you were worth waiting for.  I had,
already waited all of my life for you.  And then as quickly as you returned, you would disappear again.

The years have moved from love to fear to anger and back again.  But always back to love.  Lately, you have been so much better. You have worked so hard to get better.  I hold my breath, afraid to get too comfortable, to forget the stranger that still looms inside you.  But these last weeks have been so wonderful.  We have laughed again, held hands and cuddled on the couch.  You decided we needed to get away – we played golf, we had fun…it was reminiscent of our honeymoon.  It was wonderful.  Your physical pain is still there – but your heart and mind have returned to me. 

The final icing on cake was when you hung up the telephone and said,
“The boys asked me to play golf tomorrow – but I told them that I go to church on Sundays – that is my day with my wife, and we always have lunch with her family”. 

You complemented me on my hair, on my dinner, you seem happy … despite  your pain.  I hope and pray that you are here to stay.  I thank God for the progress that you have made.  But even if the stranger returns – my heart will remember YOU – and why I loved you before I met you – and love you with all my heart today and always.

Happy Valentines Day My Love,

Debbie

 

I Loved You Before I Met You

Maybe it's intuition
But some things you just don't question
Like in your eyes, I see my future in an instant
And there it goes,
I think I found my best friend
I know that it might sound
More than a little crazy
But I believe

I knew I loved you before I met you
I think I dreamed you into life
I knew I loved you before I met you
I have been waiting all my life

There's just no rhyme or reason
Only the sense of completion
And in your eyes, I see
The missing pieces I'm searching for
I think I've found my way home
I know that it might sound
More than a little crazy
But I believe

I knew I loved you before I met you
I think I dreamed you into life
I knew I loved you before I met you
I have been waiting all my life

A thousand angels dance around you
I am complete now that I've found you

Writer: JONES, DANIEL / HAYES, DARREN


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, February 13, 2012

The Love Letter Campaign: Our Love Story





My love, my life, my battle buddy,


I struggle to put into words how much I care, love and adore you.  I envy you most days.  As odd as that sounds, your strength, dedication, will power, love…this list goes on and on.  You went to war for a country you love, for people you have never met and never will meet.  You stood tall for a president who cared enough about another country’s people to rid them of an evil ruler.  You stood strong for a life every parent wants for their children-freedom, hope, safety.  Now you walk a road of misery and pain.  You wake every morning baring the scars of that war.  You are reminded daily of the price you paid for what you can proudly call YOUR country.  You live now with memories that haunt your waking and sleeping moments.  Your children reach for the stars knowing that their daddy built a path for them.  I love you for all of these reasons and more.  I gave birth to three wonderful images of your heart.  I spend every second of every day smiling inside because I get to continue to spend those same seconds with you by my side.  You have demons who linger around your spirit and soul.  You have a wounded soul.  Because we are soul mates I share those wounds with you.  I am now your battle buddy in this new war you fight every day.  I lay awake at night just listening to your breath; your heat beat because I can’t get enough of you in the waking hours of the day.  While you are at work during the day I imagine you being by my side at home.  I want you to know that you will never be alone as long as I walk this earth.  You will never have to suffer the pains alone.  I will be right here holding your hand, cradling you heart in my hands.  I lend you my soul and breathe to help you heal.  I slip soft kisses on your scars and wish them to fade enough that you can move on.  I will always love you, and I can say this with 100% honesty because that day that I almost lost you my soul cried.  That day I walked in, early in the morning hours to your hospital room, stood by your bed with your hand rested on our unborn child I knew that we would be okay. Our oldest boy softly slipped into your bed with him smiling up  at you with such pride.  He held your arm where your hand used to be and when you told him what had happen, he too knew that you and I were strong enough to make it all okay.  I am happy to live this unknown future because I get to live it with you.  As you worked each day to heal and recover from your fresh physical wounds I stood next to you, at times behind you to catch you when you were weak, sometimes in front of you to lead you when you were lost.  When the paged turned and we started our new chapter as wounded souls, I knew we could do it because of your strength and mine together were as solid as a marble table top.  At the birth of our last two children you stood by me and held our blessings in your arm so carefully, afraid of how the road ahead was going to be full of bumps.  When we bought our first house, you shined with pride.

I basked in your glow, drank it up like ice cold water on a summer’s day.  You took on work that would make you face the inner battle you didn’t want to fight.  Now that we begin the next chapter in this wonderful love story, I stand with you as your battle buddy.  We will reach each page together hook in hand.  You ask how I know you can do it, how I can stay on this road with you.  I know because I can see how strong your soul is, even wounded it doesn’t fail.  I love you each day.  I miss you when you are not with in my sight.  I breathe in your essence every chance I get.  I strive each moment to be everything you want, need and desire me to be.  When I am weak you are strong, when you are weak I am strong…together, our love story will always go on.  Thank you for making my life so wonderful and amazing.

Your pain, My love, Together we will heal.

Beverly Sterling



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 Momism: I Love You Tough Noodles


Dear Joshua,

Thank you for being you.  Now I know that right now that must seem kind of strange because you keep telling me you are not as good as I think you are.  But Son, you're WRONG.  And well, us moms like to be right, you know?

I remember when you were four years old and Granny got on to me for not cooking my noodles through for the macaroni and cheese.  She said they were tough.  You leaped to my defense, at all of your noodles and said “I love you tough noodles,Mommy, and that's the most you can love anyone!”  That became our family mantra.  Every day when I dropped you off at school it was “I love you tough noodles, Mom!” 

I remember the morning of 9/11 just over ten years ago.  You were sleeping and I woke you up, begging you to get out of your military contract that would be sending you to basic in just three weeks.  You looked at me and said “I have to go, Mom, for you, Jeremy and the Munchkin (your nickname for your little sister).  It's more important than ever now.  America is mine.” 

When you were set for deployment, we all drove to Louisiana and said our goodbyes.  Again, in a mom-crazed moment I said “Let's get you out of this, Son.”  You told me “Mom, you raised me better than that, now not another word.  I have to go.”

These are the reasons that I fight for your rights today.  These are the reasons that I go Mama on people who ostracize and criticize you.  When I hear a druggie or a holier-than-thou person belittle you, I say “He's got a brain injury from defending his country.  What's your excuse?”

The other day, I spent the morning playing with your son.  I looked at him and said “I love you tough noodles”  He smiled and said “I love you tough noodles, Grandma.”  The family mantra continues.

Happy Valentine's day, Son.  I love you tough noodles.

Mom

The Love Letter Campaign: The Cost of Love






Dear Ones,


My husband tells me lots of times that he loves me. His actions I have questioned, the bottom line is he does love me. I think that for some veterans who have made it home to there loves one its hard to say that.  They don't tell them that they love them enough. It must be hard to see and do what they have done.

Love is a heart felt thing for some, but for me its more than a heart felt. Its takes love to live with a veteran and there memories. Love to reassure them that you will be there for them any time they need you. In hard and easy times. The hard times is the hardest for some and yes even me. No my husband is not a veteran, my dad is and my brother. I love them both very much.

Love,
H. Cloudas



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.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Love Letter Campaign: Loving You, Whoever You Are


Dear Colin,

All my life, words have come as easily to me as the tide coming to the shore. To find myself speechless, or my pen a closed channel, is so rare as to be akin to having two blue moons in one month. I've struggled with this letter for months now, finding dozens of excuses. It has taken me until now to confess to myself that the true reason I've put this off is fear, fear that if I pin down how I feel for you, you will change again, and I will be left loving a ghost, as I have before.

I loved the man I met before you deployed. I loved his acceptance of me, his belief that I could pick up the pieces of a life shattered by another man's fear, mistrust and anger, and build something stronger on my own. The man you were never tried to change my cynicism, and respected my adamant assertion that I would never again"belong" to anyone. He respected my desire for independence, and determination to prove that I was the failure that my previous relationship had taught me to believe. He loved me, even as I held him at arm's length, and he waited, patient, for me to stop letting fear own me far more than any man ever had.

I loved the man who was deployed, who traded favors for an extra phone call, just so he could say "I Love You" one more time. I loved the man who came home on leave just in time to see me fall apart, who held me as I cried and accepted defeat, and then helped me stand up and walk again. I loved the man who, no questions asked, bankrolled my exodus from the town I had lived in all my life to start over again in a new town, a new state. I loved the man who stood so tall in the airport, preparing to leave me as I started on my new venture alone, and asked me to walk away because he just couldn't do it. You left that day to return to the bloodiest months of fighting you would ever know, and you showed no fear, no regret other than leaving me behind. You sent emails and IMs every day, even if all you could say was,"I Love You. I'm okay". We started every phone call by saying"I love you" never knowing if a mortar would come in and cut the call short, if I would be left hanging on to a dead receiver, terrified, waiting for you to call back and tell me that you and your men came through okay. I'll never forget coming home to my parents' house and seeing your bass in the driveway, next to boxes filled with your personal belongings, all proof that it was almost over. And, oh, I will never forget how I loved you when I saw you coming toward me in the airport, finally home, finally home.

It didn't take long to realize that you weren't really back with me, and, though it must have killed you, you let me have the space I needed to mourn the future we would never have, and you were waiting for me when I finally turned back to our new post-combat life. Neither of us wanted to accept that PTSD had come to live with us, and we tried to go on as if it wasn't a big deal. Our son was born, and I loved you as you held my hand through the nineteen bloody hours it took me to bring him into this world. The nurse tried to hand him to you first, and you said,"No. She carried him. Until she gives him to me, this is really her son." I held him to you and said,"Look what we did", and you wept with joy, not only that your child was here, but that it was a child wanted, planned for during all those months you were gone. He is the dream that we shared across oceans, and he will never understand just how the thought of him truly kept us strong and alive.

So much sorrow came to us after that, first when we lost your grandfather, the only person who ever made you feel loved and accepted while you were growing up. My heart broke for you as you placed into his casket the flag that had flown in his name over your FOB in Afghanistan, and then slowly saluted the man who inspired you to enlist. Within a few weeks, we lost my brother, and I heard the pain in your voice as we talked over the phone and you knew that you couldn't be with me, that your military duties had to come first. Not even a year passed before we lost your grandmother when she left this world to be with the only man she ever loved. Through it all, we stood side-by-side, determined that neither of us would hurt or grieve alone and, through the pain, I loved you.

Our wedding was such a mess. I hated every second of planning, but it was all worth it to hear you say to me, in the words of Ruth to her mother-in-law, that you would go where I go, that you would take on my family as your own. I loved your idea that we do a skit at our reception, writing Dr. Seuss-style vows with a military theme. I don't think more than ten people even knew what we were talking about, but you loved being in the spotlight, and I was happy to play a bit part in your moment, as always. I loved the mornings of our honeymoon, sitting on the balcony, drinking coffee, listening to you tell me stories about Germany and Qatar. I loved you for braving the close, cobble-stoned streets of St. Augustine, which I know now brought back horrible memories for you, but you kept at it for five days before admitting that you couldn't take it anymore. Unnecessary bravery, but bravery nonetheless. And I loved you.

Since then, so much has changed. August came and I found you half-dead on our living room floor, only to spend two days waiting for you to be coherent enough to understand what I knew I had to say: We couldn't pretend anymore. Your war was not over, it had come home and spilled throughout our house, and we had to stem the tide NOW, before you became a casualty of a conflict that was years in the past. We had been thinking that because you didn't get violent or loud, everything must be okay, but the numbness and emptiness was just as bad, maybe worse in some ways. As I took you to treatment and left you to battle your demons alone, I was in misery. I had spent the year of your deployment having to sit on the sidelines while you fought, but at least then you had your fellow Guardsmen with you. This time, you had to fight alone, and I felt like a traitor, even though I knew I was doing the right thing. While you were gone, I faced my own war, and began the process of fighting to get you every appointment, every treatment, every medicine, and every dollar you deserved. In the end, we came together again, stronger, and ready to fight as a team. As I write this, your second child is kicking me in the ribs, as if to remind me of this tiny symbol of our renewed commitment to one another. We are forever joined, you and I, though the lives of our children and scars of our war.

During these months, I have found something I never thought to find: I find that the ghosts were no more than my fears, for the man I loved before, and the man I love now, are actually one and the same. The man you were before deployment, the man you were in Afghanistan, is not gone. You are still here, believing in me, accepting me for everything I am, appreciating me for everything I do, holding me when I cry and helping me to my feet when I fall. You are still everything I ever dreamed of, and everything I wish I could be, and I am so very, very sorry for not seeing it before. My fears were unfounded; The reasons that I love you are inviolate, and not even death and war can take them away because, in the end, it all boils down to this: I love you because God made us for one another. When one of us changes something about ourselves, the other adapts to better support the changes in our dynamic. Through it all, we accept, we forgive, we stand together, always believing that!
  the other is as close to perfection as possible. We see one another clearly, that we are both vain, selfish, willful, and jaded. We get the joke, see the humor in hell. We are on this Purple Heart Highway together, for always, and as long as we stand together, there is nothing in the world we cannot accomplish. PTSD, bipolar disorder, physical injuries... There is nothing stronger than us.

I'm so glad I was wrong, and gladder still that I know it. I'm glad you came home, however you came home, and blessed to have you with me every day of this world. I will love you all the days of my life, and I am grateful to live that life with your love as mine.

You are now, and always will be, my Clyde.
  
Submitted By: Danielle



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.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Love Letter Campaign: To My Loving Soldier


My love,

I have been trying for days to figure out what all to say to you. There really are no words to say. But I do know that I can say I love you. I do know I can say that I will stay by your side no matter what. In the past few weeks I have realized how lucky I am to have you as my husband (like I didn't already know). You are a wonderful man, and you are going to be a wonderful father. There really is no more to say other than


All my Love,
The Proud Wife of a 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.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Love Letter Campaign: To My Dearest Husband


To My Dearest Husband Duane,

I promise to be faithful, open, and steadfast in our daily journey together.
Each day I promise to work through our life challenges side by side with you until we reach the solution.
I promise to challenge you to become all that you are meant to be and to support you tenderly when disappointments come.
I promise to make our home a safe, nurturing place for you and our children and to continue to learn, adapt and grow so this is possible.
I promise to make our marriage a spiritually meaningful celebration of living and sharing by opening my soul to you, to God and to the miracle of creation.
Each day I promise to choose again to love, cherish and respect you as we journey together for all the days that God allows us.
~Our Vows

We have not had our fairy tale have we honey? It has been so hard, so very hard, for us to find any space of happiness or peace.  Sometimes I wonder how we have come so far down this road and work so hard and are still so stuck. I know that I am not always the perky, rah-rah girl you need and that I used to be. It’s hard to sustain 10 years of war, trauma, loss and battling bureaucracy. The reason I wanted to write to you though honey is that the constant questions in the back of your mind, “How much longer will she stay?” and “Why does she stay?” have almost become an expectation that I will abandon you. That expectation sometimes leads to much unhappiness between us when you withdraw, expecting the worst—a worst that others strongly suggest we explore and which my heart cannot conceive.   So why do I stay and why do I love you?


Honey I remember you the way you really are. When I look at you I see the boy in my homeroom class or Ms. Lilienthal’s Pre-Algebra---shy, kind, very smart, idealistic, WONDERFUL.  You were the first boy I ever gave a Valentine’s Day card too.  I loved those lunch time talks while you worked on Mr. Dort’s computer and we talked about making the world a better place—about the army for you and teaching for me.  I think, Mr. Dort knew he was hosting a lunch time date for a boy and a girl whose families would never have allowed them to date anybody.  There were stars in my eyes for you then honey though you were too shy to look at them.  I guess I always had regret that you left for the Army so quickly and I never got to say good-bye. I never forgot your birthday, ever, in the intervening 15 years.

We both tried to live our dreams, far from where we started and far from each other. Do you have any idea what a miracle it was to find each other again? I do and I guess it is the foundation of why I cherish you.  We have both been told we were loved and then abandoned in cruelty.  We know what it means to be the one who stands steadfast. Neither one of us is a ”leaver.”  In the end though our dream, the dream on which our marriage was built, the dream of making a beautiful life for each other around the crater of hurts we have lived—well let’s just say it hasn’t really happened the way we hoped. I was thinking about this though and I realized Honey, it has happened though even when you didn’t realize it.


Each day as we struggle to hold on to your memories and health, as we scrounge to cover bills and food, in each of those days as we fight together to survive, we become stronger and more sure of the others love and steadfastness.  Each time a baby is born into your hands or you hold my back as I do the work, there is the love that you question. When we team up to feed or teach or work with our children, each in our place, that is love.  As we work so hard to make our babies well and help them overcome their special needs, there is love. Through each exhausted stressed out day that passes we have more certain knowledge that we will not back down, that we will not give up, and that we are there for each other.     Each 16 hour work day is my gift of love.  Each night when I poke you in the ribs to go check why another kid is up—that’s love. These may not seem like love but in the truest sense the fact, the very fact, that we are still here, still functioning, still beating the odds stacked against us is concrete proof of the depth of our love and friendship.


There is no one else who knows the exact agony of holding our beautiful, precious son Sam as he struggled and died.There is no one else who knows how we have struggled to and anguished over making the right choices and facing our demons of fear, anxiety and sadness.  I fight for you and with you because, at the end of the day honey, there is no one I would rather be with or cuddle close to in the coldness of night, than the man I have loved since he was a boy.

 Even if I was forced to start over and please hear this, IF I was FORCED to start over, my heart would always ache for you and would only be waiting until I could see you again. Nothing compares to the reality of being a couple who has shared the depths of pain, the glory of new life, the agony of illness, the adventure of the unknown, the torment of unfair emotional and physical torture from others and still rises from the ashes each day. 

In the recent traumas when you have been away physically against your will or hospitalized or
psychologically and mentally gone because of TBI/PTSD, I have had to fight to hold onto the love that I feel. In the end, what I know is that we are not and must not be defined by these experiences.  You are not defined by your financial status, your illnesses or your injuries and their symptoms. You are the man who set out to protect America, the man who can/does deny your every need for others, the most gentle person, who never wants to hurt anyone or make any mistakes.  Your soul is still you. I see YOU.  It is the “you” that I know and believe to be in you that I love. I don’t love lost, angry, PTSD man and I don’t for one minute believe that is you—that is just the symptom.  I don’t love mixed up, I forgot man, who messes up (and I don’t hate him either by the way) and I definitely do not love angry, warrior man, raging at everything—I know these are symptoms in a person I love deeply.  For me, this is where love and commitment and doing the right thing covers the distance. I believe that God gave you to me in answer to my prayers made so long ago. I believe he spared your life as you died four times so that you would be able to receive the children and I as His gift to you.  I believe truly that God’s presence is in our marriage and that it perfects our love when we are short of covering the distance because of hurt, frustration, and sadness. I believe that there is a plan for us and that it does not include forever suffering. That belief lets me love you and keep trying with a fresh start every day

You don’t know this but I think of us as Tommy and Gina –Bon Jovi’s favorite couple.  This is our life and as tough as we have to be to make it, at the core of my heart there is absolute love and acceptance of you.  Yes, I am sometimes confused about how to meet your needs and our children’s special needs at the same time.  I never ever stop loving you, wanting you in my life, desiring you and even celebrating the fact that you are alive.  Of course no one wants to live in constant crisis and fear. That way of living needs to change right away. I believe that our love is stronger than TBI/PTSD, MKE and trichloroethylene, poly-trauma, loss, grief, and victimization. Our love and the wonderful family that we have grown in spite of all of that is our miracle.

Your smile, your efforts, your sacrifices, your positive energy is so important and so appreciated. It gets me through the darker days. It is the sunshine in our life.  I live for you to show that real part of your nature. I am proud to be your wife--a warrior wife.  I am proud that we stand tall and do not back down. I love that after all the beatings you do stand tall and that we have each others backs.  That to me is real, abiding, and steadfast love.

So honey when you feel discouraged or very sure that I won’t love you forever, please remember this
note, read it again and remember that no matter what happens or where the twists and turns of fate
take us, deep down, hones,t and true, I love you and have always loved you and always will.

Impossible is not a word—at least not in our house—look together with me at faith, hope and love
because that is our TRUTH!


With All My Love,
Rebecca



  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.