Thursday, November 29, 2012

The "WHY" Behind the Caregiver Mental Health Summit



Over the last 8 weeks, my mom has been in the hospital three times, my husband is in "that" time of year where everything in our household goes south (oh... and it's also "that" time of year for a lot of the Family Of a Vet staff households), my aunt died, I've had bronchitis and pneumonia, a gigantic tree limb fell on part of our fence, and.......

Literally that list could go on for several more paragraphs.

I am a caregiver.  And honestly, my life often comes in endless, neverending waves of "HOLY CRAP" that I have to manage, juggle, fix, deal with, cope with, and try my best not to be completely overwhelmed by.

And, all of this swirls around me while I deal (or try to) with my own "mental health issues"... Secondary PTSD, Caregiver "Fatigue", depression, anxiety, insomnia, anger, sadness, blah, blah, blah.

I can't honestly name a caregiver (I know A LOT of them at this point) who lives here in PTSD/TBI/Life After Combat world with me who doesn't face a similar issue.

HOW DO WE STAY SANE (or at least as sane as possible) WHILE WE TAKE CARE OF OUR HERO, OUR FAMILY, AND ALLLLLLLL OF THE OTHER "STUFF"?

That's "why" we're having this Summit (which starts today!).  To talk.  To talk about what's working.  To talk about what isn't.  To get ideas, feedback, and new things to try.

We are a strong community.  I see proof of that every single day (and most days I see examples dozens of times).  But strong does not equal unbreakable. And, we have to make sure that we  don't break (or at least break as little as possible :) ) so that we're HERE and ABLE to keep marching forward.



So, please register.  You can attend for free, online, from anywhere.  If you can't attend the "live" Summit, register anyway so that you can be notified as soon as the free, recorded version is available.

This is a really BIG DEAL... the first of its kind... and hundreds of hours of work by dedicated volunteers and caregivers (and professionals who are donating their time!) to spend two days talking about the Mental Health Issues sometimes faced by military/veteran caregivers and to provide *ACTIONABLE* ways to cope and feel better.

Today (November 29th) is a day specifically for professionals or volunteers who work with Military/Veteran Caregivers and want to know how to better serve them.

Friday (November 30th) is a day devoted to Caregivers and information, ideas, and real-world talk about the Mental Health Issues we sometimes face when caring for and loving our heroes and *HOW* to cope.

You can attend in your PJ's... promise we'll never tell! But whatever you do (and however you dress ;) ) come take advantage of the the handiwork (and heart work!) of military/veteran caregivers (who are wonderful Family Of a Vet volunteers!) who have designed, coordinated, and worked their "sixes" off to make the Summit such an incredible event!

To sign up, or for more information, visit the official Summit site: http://fovsummits.com/

AND... if you have QUESTIONS:

Sharlene Prinsen has been kind enough to donate 10 copies of her book, "Blind Devotion: Survival On the Frontlines of PTSD & Addiction," (and cover postage!) in support of the Summit. 5 Caregivers and 5 Professionals that submit questions for the Summit will be selected at random to receive a free copy!

MILITARY / VETERAN CAREGIVERS, submit questions here: http://tinyurl.com/ctpt9yk

PROFESSIONALS / VOLUNTEERS WHO SERVE CAREGIVERS, submit questions here: http://tinyurl.com/c8vp656

For more information about Sharlene's book, visit this link: http://blinddevotionblog.com/book-information/

Come on!  Let's DO THIS!,

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 Life After Combat!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Love Letter Campaign ~ Dear Jon....I always swore I'd never write you a Dear Jon letter




Dear Jon,

The day I met you, it was totally by mistake. If I had not been so darn curious about where you went to basic training, we would not have the family we have today. I guess sometimes life throws you in the lap of the person you are meant to be with, even if you never expect it.

You were such a wonderful man, a hero in my eyes, to me and my daughter. You loved us so much and cared about us like we were family almost from day one. I knew we were meant to be a family when my then-3-1/2 yr old daughter accidentally kicked you in your crotch, but that same night you still told me that you really liked me and her and you wanted to continue seeing us.

We have had so many wonderful memories made in our lives, but unfortunately, the trauma of PTSD has encouraged painful memories too. No matter what we've been through, I continue to stand by my man. It's been hard. I've doubted myself many times. I've wanted to walk away and divorce you. You already know this because I've voiced it many times. Something keeps me here though. Maybe it's the fact that we have such a beautiful family. Maybe it's the fact that we've been through so much. Maybe it's the fact that I've invested so much love and heartache into this marriage and our relationship. Or maybe...just maybe...yes, most definitely...it is because I love the man you are! Like Kelly Clarkson says in her song, "Dark Side," 'everyone has a dark side.' Well, I'm here to tell you, Jon, I love you even with your dark side. I know that dark side will always be there. It may creep its ugly head when we least expect it, but deep down inside, you are and always will be the man I fell in love with 6 years ago. That part of you will never change, no matter how much PTSD has changed you. No matter how long it takes to lift you out of the shell that PTSD has placed around you, our children and I will always be here for you.

I promised to love you through the good times and the bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer...and I don't break promises! My love for you has already been tested to the max, yet, it still remains in my heart...and only for you.

I am here, Jon, and I always will be. Just don't ever give up the fight...don't let PTSD win! You fought your way through Iraq and now you are beginning your fight through Afghanistan...if you can beat those battles, then PTSD has no chance of winning!
You have 2 amazing and beautiful children and a wife who has always been by your side...you really ARE the luckiest man in the world! And we are the luckiest family in the world...to have you...our HERO! We love you!

Submitted By: Jami VB, wife to a wonderful Veteran battling a nasty illness





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, November 24, 2012

The Love Letter Campaign ~ Dear Travis My Dearest Love




Dear my love,

I know that we came together as you were getting out of the military, swearing I would never get "involved" with anyone in the military I fell in love with you from the moment I laid eyes on you. I think we both did. Anyhow, No it hasn't been easy, I did not know what in the world I was getting me or my kiddos into. By my goodness we have pushed through on some serious hard days, weeks, months or longer. It took a bit for us both to understand where all of the arguing and pain came from but between learning to be honest, truthful, the best Dr. in the world and trust we have come to the other end. I know I wasn't there when you deployed and all the hard things, but now we are going through the toughest. I have so much faith in you Travis, I trust you with all of my heart. But my lord PTSD and TBI is not a blessing, but you are. As your VA Caregiver staying home with you daily is often tough but the love we carry is even tougher. I promise to be there for you on the days you don't want to be, to hold you when you are falling, to not leave on the hardest days. you have supported, loved, trusted, as I have you since the day we have met. The Lord has challenged us and we succeeded to work through those challenges, and I love you more now than I have ever loved any man. I know that you hurt and that you struggle and I hurt with you. Thank you for letting me in and trusting me with life and your life after all you have been through while your life was Iraq and I was not there until Iraq was behind you at least physically, You are a true hero, more than you let yourself know. Your wife, children, family-n-law, and many more love, respect, and are more than proud of the man you are and are making yourself be. Baby you are amazing even on the hardest days and I look forward to spending the rest of our long lives together, even if it isn't always easy. You are our blessing and I thank the Lord above for putting us in each others lives and Match.com ;)! Thank you Travis for loving me and the children , you will forever be appreciated .

Always, your Boo

Submitted By The 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.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Love Letter Campaign ~ Open Letter




I'm a retired Sailor who was married for 18 years of a 26 year career. I served in Grenada, Lebanon, Panama, Desert Shield/Storm, Somalia and Afghanistan. I thought I had it made because my marriage had survived the deployments. Wasn't long after I retired that my lovely bride found someone else, the family friend. Im disabled with PTSD among other things and I knew it was an issue and got the help I needed. Guess it wasn't good enough. I guess I'm writing this to please help those of us who don't have a support network of people to love us because our spouse abandoned us. My kids love me and understand I fought for this country and have seen and did bad things, but they are young and don't need to be saddled with this. I'm just asking that you remember those of us who have no one to write us a love letter.

Thank you

Submitted By Veteran of Lost Love

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 19, 2012

The hell I live

*WARNING: The language in this post is not "PG-13" (as often the language in our lives is sadly not either).  While we're normally careful to limit curse words in posts, etc., the raw nature of this one sort of calls for it.  If you're bothered or upset by curse words, please don't read.  Certainly NOT our intention to make anyone uncomfortable, but instead to share from different perspectives the hurt, anger, internal conflict, and struggles we sometimes feel.*

What hell man has created. What HELL! I tell you with urgency and unedited truth the hell I see. I want you to know my story and when you hear it and when you know my heart I want you to be as shocked as I often am. I want you to cry and be miserable and know, really know what hell man has made.

I have in the past 5 years learned so much about how man, or woman, often have absolutely no regard for eachother that they, whether knowingly or not, actually contribute and participate and perpetuate this hell I speak of.

When I say "hell" I want you to know what that means. Hell to me is a "place" a "mindset" an "existence" that is so repulsive, it breeds hate and infiltrates even the most loving heart and it breaks it and it rapes it and debases it over and over and over again. You will either continue to exist in a way that perpetuates it, feeds it, and complicates it, or you will demand of yourself to remove yourself from it, you will not be blind to it, you will not chose to be complacent, you will not feel so hopeless about changing it, and you will make a choice to stop it.

No woman should ever have to sit with her husband and tell him of this hell. No woman should ever have to become so hateful, so full of spite, so brutally honest, that she forces her husband to face this hell and make a conscience choice to either continue to participate in this hell, or leave. Remove himself. Extract himself from not only his own internal hell peppered with images of a past life, shattered by life after combat, destroyed by society and their inability to relate to any other human being other than themselves, or their fucking SUV.

Tonight I am raw and so angry, dangerously angry. Violent and hostile and not fit for society angry. Let me share with you, dear reader, my hell. Let me invite you to come and sit next to me while I recant my hell. Let me poison your sweet mind with my hell. Let my hell rape you.

I hung up the phone with a feeling of joy and childish excitement I have not felt in a very long time. Christmas WILL be good! Oh God I love that feeling, the "christmas" spirit I guess you would say... I don't remember the last time I truly felt it. I know for sure it has been gone from my sight since I met and married my husband.
Christmas was always special to me. Memories are so far gone that I only remember just a few at this moment; the big tree in the Great Hall, the giant beautiful golden birds that decorated it, the snow, the way the world looked protected and blanketed by snow, trees naked, but safe, a foreign concept to me. A beautiful type of gray. Corners of the world like the Campus of St. Johns frozen in time, no students making their tracks. Deer right in front of the pallestra. Moving right along, the only sound was the crunch of snow under my tires as I drove slowly toward the massive bells and stained glass windows. Peace. Inside these quiet buildings was an unseen force that moved you to want to learn. It did. I was never a student there, only a health care worker, but it was an environment that bred the deep desire to learn as much as you could.

Another memory was my parent's christmas tree. Always a real pine. The smell, the reprieve from tension in my dysfunctional childhood.... the smell signaled a moment of distraction. My younger brothers and I would always want to sleep under or around the tree. Children scattered like a litter of puppies, overlapping, upside down, dreaming of happy things. Warmed by the multicolour lights strung up the tree. I love their tree so much, it was not a "theme", it was true to life. It was an ornament from school, popscicle sticks painted red glued like a sled, hung by a small cut of yarn, a golden angel, a bird, a mailbox... It was the most random collection, but damn, every year, we looked around at each ornament like we had never ever seen it before.... and moved by the spirit of Christmas, we just couldn't bare to sleep anywhere but right up underneath it. Perhaps my brothers don't have such fond memories of a tree, or sleeping under it. But I did, and they were there, and I loved when Anna our cat, was right up in the melee of children sleeping tangle of limbs.
So tonight as I hung up with my girlfriend, I ran up the steps, hurried the children off to bed, and told my husband. It was going to be our first family vacation. It was going to be their first plane ride. It was going to be our first Christmas where we would have these memories, together, as a family! I told him our plans, which, I had fully committed too. He knows how much I love I christmas, sure, traveling with him and kids would be difficult, but I had it all worked out, a little benadryl for kids, fly at night, quiet air ports, I will ask his doctor for a better medicine to calm him, Valium, I thought.... There is no way any doctor would not do this, knowing what our lives would do, just one for the way there, one for the way back.... Once we get there, we would be just fine, and we could do what normal families do at a holiday....
His response was alittle anticlimactic, and he was concerned about going their. It will be hard for him, it will be be difficult for him......

"You know WHAT?! I was SO excited, I was so hopeful, like a naive little girl, what the FUCK was I thinking." I looked at him and wanted to go to him and start hitting him and screaming and making him bleed. He just sat..... *blink* *blink* His eyes the only thing that moved. Which infuriated me even more. I was so full of hate and repulsion, I wanted him gone. I wanted him away from him. I was so mad at HIM.

"YOU ARE SO CONCERNED ABOUT YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, do you EVER think about us? Creating memories with our children? You do not know me anymore. Or, You are so far GONE, this is not how you would have responded years ago...." He just sat..... *blink* *blink*

Nothing moved, not even a twitch in his face, no change in breathing, no nothing. I was raging, I was going for the kill. Goddamn it, if he can not save himself, and I cannot save him, and the doctors are not saving him, I WILL TELL YOU THE TRUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Out spewed the words that I will forever regret, "Get the fuck over yourself. For this one time. You have flown before, you have been to this house, you are the father. You fucking PUSSY get the fuck up and fight for yourself! Do this, for your sons." I know before the bullets had left the gun, that this might be it. I have fear that I will drive him to kill himself, either by my occasional painful "calls to action" or by the rare moments when he realizes that his pain is *killing me*. I felt him rising inside of himself, I saw the tell tale signs of the beast awakening. I braced, but only this time, not out preparation to soothe, to help, to encourage, but this, I braced, for incoming, and for the fight that was rising within me. I was ready for the fight I wanted the fight I wanted some sort of reaction out of him that if it meant screaming and bloodshed in my living room, I wanted it.

He BURST out of the chair, and standing tall over me he screamed " I am tired of this! I will NOT be called names!" I didn't flinch, but I closed my eyes, I didn't want to see what he looked like hitting me. I didn't want to know that wild eyed far away look as my husband.... I have seen a man like that before, and I refused to know my husband as such.

But the first sound I heard and the first rumble I felt was not of his fists against my body, or the whooshing and roaring of blood in your ears after being hit upside the head, it was of his angry body weight stomping away from me, his foot hitting the floor so hard the house shook. He went to the island, grabbed his cigs, and stormmed off to the door. I closed my eyes again. I didn't want the last memory of him to be leaving me, his back to me, angry and hurt. And I was aware that this very well could have been the last... He is so close to ending his pain, that I wouldn't be surprised. Infact, I am waiting for it.

I am waiting for him to kill himself. A wife, a houseful of children, she waits for it, knowing she cannot stop it, that she cannot time it, nor can she prepare, but she sits, always, knowing, that this very well could be the last. That is my hell. That is my pergatory. Knowing it will happen, but there is nothing you can do. There is no amount of love in my heart, money in the world, that can make him love himself. Right now, at this very moment, I tell you honestly and painfully, that this is not just my hell alone, but I share it with many, many, other women. Waiting in this timeless hell of anticipation. I have become good at pretending it "isn't that bad". "He would never, he just is very sad...." "I will see him through this,I will love him through this.... I am worth living for, surely he would live for me... He will live for the kids...."

The other day, I was reminded, not so gently, that I am NOT worth living for. It is NOT ME who must want to live, it is NOT ME who will keep him alive.... He must find within himself, he must find it Beyond himself, it is him, not me, who will be enough to encourage him to carry on. He has emotionally flat lined. It is painful to see. His affect is so flat, and stone cold. It makes me rage. I often incite a riot within himself just to see some sort of response, some sign of life.....

After he came back in, he sat down. He stared forward, I stared at the computer screen. I was still very mad at him. We sat in silence, for several minutes... I wanted him away. I was like an abused child, just HIT me already, get it over with.... But, true to the nature of my husband, he just sat quietly. He would never hit me, and this time, I wish he would have. I deserved it.

I turned to him and I said we will not sit in silence and end this day like this. You tell me and you tell me right now, do you want to die? Did you think of killing yourself tonight? He admitted he did. Just outside, he thought of ending it. I raged, inside and out.

"If you kill yourself I want you to know I will hate you and I will hate you forever and ever and ever, and I will fucking spit on your grave and WILL SCREAM AT YOU and I WILL HATE YOU. GOD DAMN YOU I LOVE YOU and I have spent the last 6 years of my life fighting and endlessly working and fixing and mending and creating and lving for you, if you kill yourself, I WILL FOREVER FUCKING HATE YOU." I was shaking, and I was serious. But he just sat and sat and sat. Flat. Dead. A few minutes passed us just sitting in the middle of this hell together. Together....

"Please, I'm sorry, listen to me when I say that I can not fix this for you, I can make you want to live, I clearly am not enough to make you WANT to live, nor are the boys, but, I promise, I will never stop fixing this WITH you, fighting WITH you, but I have for a while now, been fighting for you by myself.... I know you are very very very down and circling the bottom, but please, you are scaring me. And if you went to the hospital tonight, there would be nothing they could do for you, but if you stayed there, I would feel relief, like we were taking action, like I could breathe and not have to worry just one minute about you...."

It was then, when our 5 year old came out into the living room and demanded comfort. "I'm scared." No you aren't, go to bed. "I'm scared." Of what? "I don't know I just am I need you to come and lay by me." There is nothing to be scared of, go lay down, and daddy will come lay by you but we have to finish our talk first. He would not move. He refused to go. I stood up. You will either go by yourself back to bed, and wait so we can finish our mommy and daddy talk, or you will be carried, and you will wait there until we are ready. He fell to his knees and kneeled over as if he was in a modified childs pose, or someone praying to Mecca.

GET. UP. But this child, as stubborn as he is sweet, wasn't going anywear. I picked him up and put him in my bed and told him he will wait.

I came out in to the living room. My husband in the SAME position in the chair, a leg thrown over the arm.... Flat. I asked him to just go lay by our son, that I just had nothing more to say. That I needed him to sleep and know that I will call his doctor and we will get this taken care of, and it will get better, and once again, I am fighting for him come morning.

WIthing minutes, I hear him snoring in the bedroom. I wanted to crawl into him and cry and urge him to be happy, but, knowing this is beyond me, I came here instead. As he snores, I get to relive a little hell to share with you.

So at this point, I am again, exhausted just from having to think about it and write it out to you, but, I am not the only woman who waits for his end, planning for the worse, it will hurt less then, I will bounce back faster, for the boys.....

I have met women who have lost sons, who have lost husbands, who left behind children..... Women who have lost their loved one in more ways than just death.... Being victimized by a broken system, being poisoned by medications that do not work so they add and increase and add again, yet when a wife screams that the medications tasked to help, are actually making things gravely worse, she is dismissed, ignored, and actually bashed and painted as an adversary in the medical record..... This is true. I testify. Not only have I experienced just this, but so has so many others.... to the demise of the Veteran.

Now. That. That was our night. That is, unfortunately more often than not, a typical night in combat household. Its an unfortunate thing that we have to have these conversations, but, they are incredibly important.

And in the words of a very wise friend and mentor, Sweet Dreams or None at all. ~

** And I realize that the words I spoke to my husband were upsetting to you, but, I realize, that what words that come out of mouth, will anger God, but that because of Grace, I was forgiven before I even spit them out... That what makes Him happy, instead, would have been to use words that lifted my husband up, rather than put him down. It was only until this minute, that I came across this:

(Eph 4:29-32 NASB) Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Written by Kateri P. Wife and Caregiver of a Veteran with PTSD/TBI, and other war related illnesses, who hopes that her candid and often jarring accounts of random moments in this Life After Combat, will either move the reader to action and become informed, or, be a source of comfort in realizing, You are not alone. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Love Letter Campaign ~ My Best Friend




You said "I love you" to me today and it was sincere. There are times when all I hear you say is "I don't know how to love anymore, I am not even sure that I love myself". I was asked why I stayed with you even when times got hard for us. I thought about it and i think I am ready to express myself to you. When I first met you, I was a country girl who had just lost her mother and it felt like I was losing my life! You did not judge or mistreat me, you became my best friend. You grew on me and I grew on you. You gave me purpose and helped me to pick up the pieces of my life. As we grew, I noticed a change in you, that I was not expecting. You found out you had PTSD and TBI in the early stages. As things got worse so many times, I wanted to leave, but my heart would not let go. We have had good and bad days and it seems like at times, the bad out weighs the good. Then I look at you and I realize that my love for you looks past the PTSD and it gets past the TBI. I did not marry those conditions. I married a man who is kind-hearted, loving, and funny just to name a few. No matter what we have been though on this journey, we have done it together. I am honored that you chose me to be your wife. Just like you have always been my best friend, I will always be yours. You always have told me that you would do anything to protect me and never let anything happen to me. To this day, that is a promise that you have kept for me. As I look into your eyes each day, I fall in love all over again. You are the owner of my heart. I cherish each moment that we have together, because of God, you and so many others that helped to make it possible for our freedom. No matter how much I hear you say that you love me, I know that you do, because you show me through the little things that you do for me. Just remember, when you wonder why I stay, its because, you are my hero, my lover, and my best friend.

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.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Momism: When a Song's Meaning Changes


Yesterday, my husband and I got together with two other couples and played dominoes at one of the couple's house. Ever hear of Chicken Foot? It's a pretty fun game. As we played, the husband part of that awesome couple got up and put on some classic Country music through the cable company they use. I'm talking the real deal here: Patsy Cline, Conway Twitty, Charley Pride, and many others.  It was also the moment when I realized that when a song's meaning changes, it's because of a deeper understanding based on personal experience. 

As songs such as Johnny Cash's “Ballad of Ira Hayes” and Merle Haggard's “Fighting Side of Me” came on, the memories of listening to an 8-track in the back seat of my mom's car blended with the very real feeling of having a loved one, in my case, my son, in a war zone. It wasn't just a song a little girl was listening to, it was a very real reminder that what I was experiencing now, family members of other veterans from other wars were going through and had dealt with similar issues.

As a young girl, I just thought Ruby and the soldier were fighting and breaking up. It sounded like she was cheating on him. That was wrong, especially since it seemed he was in a wheelchair. As the mother of a combat vet, I now hear and understand what the verse about not being the man he used to be is all about. Just as hearing Alan Jackson's song literally brought me to my knees and in tears on the award show the first night it was heard, I now “get” the double meanings...the hidden meanings...the REAL meanings behind so many of those patriotic classic country songs.

PTSD and TBIs are in many of our songs. We can have PTSD as jurors in a trial where someone is brutally murdered. We can have it when we are raped. We can have it when we have to go to the morgue and identify our son or daughter who was killed by a horrible person. No veteran would deny a civilian having PTSD or a brain injury because of something that person went through. Yet many people stigmatize veterans who have served in war and that can cause worse damage for that veteran and his or her family because it makes a veteran hesitate to seek help.

Twenty-five years ago, when Lee Greenwood's song “God Bless the USA” came out, I was seeing him for the second time at a concert. The first had been five years earlier when I was pregnant. I showed him the photo from that first concert. Pregnant me with Lee Greenwood. I also showed him a picture of my little boy and said “God blessed ME with my son.” He said “God blessed the USA, too.” I never forgot that, especially when he grew up and joined the Army, went to Iraq, helped save lives and risked his own every day.

Alan Jackson's song “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” is my favorite country patriotic song. It also defines PTSD if you let the words sink in. That moment in history changed my family's life just as it did so many others. That day was even confirmed to cause PTSD in many survivors of those attacks, as well as thought possible if people sat and watched the footage over and over and over sitting at home hundreds and thousands of miles away.

There are many other songs that affect me because my family is living them. “Letters from Home” by John Michael Montgomery inspired a contest in my hometown and I was one of the three winners and the only parent of a soldier winner. I'm not sure if they even had any other parents enter the way they acted when they gave me my prizes. Tim McGraw's “If You're Reading This” reminds me of that special letter so many get when the soldier wants to write that “just in case” letter. I got one from my son. Thankfully, he came home but I still hold that letter dear to my heart and it's in a special hiding place in my room.

There are other songs and other talented musicians out there who are expressing an appreciation for our veterans and our active military just as these wonderful ones named above do. Maybe they don't touch some people as deeply as they do those who are dealing with war and its aftermath. But just as I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the songs I heard about war while growing up, I know that it literally takes someone who has “been there” to understand. If you are there, dealing with PTSD and/or a TBI, we want you to know that here at FOV we understand because we are living with it, too. If you're reading this, you're not alone. 



Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Momism: Veteran's Day Thoughts


Sunday is Veteran's Day. This past Saturday, we held a parade in honor of Veteran's Day in my community. There were several organizations that came together to march in gratitude and appreciation for those who have served in our Armed forces.

I marched with a Veteran Outreach group I volunteer with here in Texas called BEITZ, which, along with this awesome non-profit group, Family of a Vet, has opened its arms to include me, the mom of a combat veteran suffering from PTSD and a TBI. As I walked along helping to hold up our banner, I felt a multitude of emotions: pride, thankfulness, companionship, acceptance, and yes, a bittersweet sense of “if only”.

I felt pride in our troops, just as I have from the time I was a little girl taking pictures with our family friend, “Uncle Willie”, a Vietnam soldier home on leave and later on, as a military spouse. I felt thankfulness for being able to live in a land where I can be free to worship, free to vote, free to be female and live out my dreams thanks to those who have stood and defended this country for over 200 years and those who still do so today.

I felt companionship because I was walking with a group of family members and veterans who understood my roller coaster days living with a loved one who has PTSD and a brain injury from combat. Being understood is something we all hope to find in our daily lives among our friends and yes, strangers we come in contact with. Being supported and encouraged by others who walk or have walked in your shoes is a wonderful light in a tunnel where you are unsure of which way to go. I feel accepted by FOV and my local group because we truly are a team of fighters and spirited people ready to go the distance for our loved ones and each other.

Still, there is that “if only” feeling. If only my son hadn't joined the Army just weeks before 9/11. If only I had never had a special fondness for the military, if my kids had not been raised as military brats, maybe he would not have shown the interest he did. If only I had hog-tied him and kept him home and refused to let him go to basic three weeks after that fateful September day. If only.

I am PROUD of my son. I miss the part of him that PTSD has taken over but I am still very much proud of who he was and, most of the time, who he is today. He and so many others are part of why we have the freedoms we have, the the pride we have, the uniting as a family we have when things like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 happen.

As we walked along, I saw some women on the sidewalk holding pictures of loved ones in uniform. While holding up my end of the banner with my left hand, I saluted them with my right. One started tearing up and said “Thank you!” I don't know if their loved ones were away on active duty, at work, had passed or, like my son and many other veterans, staying home because their PTSD makes them uncomfortable being recognized and around crowds.

If you feel any or all of these feelings, please know that FOV is a family that understands. Email us if you would be interested in our organization or if you need help finding local resources. We are here for each other and we would like to be here for you.

Happy Veteran's Day.