Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Love Letter Campaign - Finally Free

 Finally Free...those are the words tattooed down the side of your right shoulder blade. I find those words to be so meaningful and inspiring as well as hoped for by you and I both. 

When we first met, we were in high school and introduced by friends. You were 17 and I was 16, just living life like normal high schoolers do. When you graduated in 2004, you signed up to be in the U.S. Marine Corps. Wow, that's a huge step right after getting out of school. But, you were motivated, determined to make your life count for something, and doing what your family had done for generations, be apart of the U.S. Military. I on the other hand, still had one more year of school, I was dating your friend and silently struggling through that relationship with abuse. But, I held on, staying in school, making great grades, seeing my future of being a chef in front of me. But, then, I succumbed to the pressure of my boyfriend wanting me to stay here. Not to go away to school. So I did. 

Once I graduated in 2005, I went to live with him and his mom in a horrible situation. I stayed there for 2 years. During those two years, I put up with mental abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. All under his mom's knowledge. But, according to her, I brought it on and that's what happens when I get out of line. While I was fighting to live, dealing with thoughts of suicide or dreaming of a new life away from this mess, you were fighting for your life in Iraq. You had been deployed to Iraq in mid 2006 and I remember the day you left. You had came down to see your friend and say "goodbye" to him, but in my heart, I felt as though you were also there as a comfort to me. I remember thinking to myself, I may never see this amazing man again...But low and behold, In the midst of my nightmare, one day there was a phone call to your friend. He picked up the phone and said,"Its Jason" and I burst into tears. I hadn't seen or heard from you in mon!
ths and all of a sudden, you call. I remember grabbing the phone from his hand and screaming "Oh, my God!! You're okay!!" I was so relieved to have heard from you. The hell I was going through was all made better because I had heard your voice and I knew one day, I would see you again.

Months went by and finally, April 17, 2007, you came back to America! Not too long after that, I got to see you because you came down to see your friend, but I knew after seeing you then, you also came down for me. I started to grow my own relationship with you outside of my boyfriend's friend. You were my friend as well. My light in the darkest times. You seemed to come down to visit at the most perfect times when I truly needed someone else. You brought me hope. I remember, one night in the summer of 07, my boyfriend and his mom were in the house and you and I took a walk outside and sat on the trampoline. We had a few serious moments then, and I almost slipped up when you asked me,"What do you want?" And the words that were being held back were, "I want you" But how would I say that? You were my boyfriend's friend and I couldn't do that to him. So, I sat there and said I wasn't sure.

A few more months went by but you and I kept in touch by phone. It seemed like I spoke to you more than he did. Which of course, made things so much worse for me. But, I didn't care, I had a friend! 

Two days before my 20th birthday in October 2007, things were worse than ever. I was being bullied by my boyfriend's mom, being abused by him, and I was spinning out of control. But, I knew who to come to. I called you. You met me at a park and it was like a light just came on. It all made sense. So, I got the courage to leave him and his abuse behind. And, I haven't looked back sense.
Soon after that, you and I started hanging out more and more. We went on our first date the day before your birthday. Then it became a regular thing. Before long, we realized our feelings for each other and we moved in together. 

It was apparent to me that we needed each other. I started to see that you were suffering from PTSD. The night terrors, alcohol dependency, the anger toward simple stuff...the signs were all there. But you never took it out on me. Not once. I could see that you needed someone to help you calm down, some one to take the pain away. I tried so hard to help you to realize it's okay. Not everything is a battle. I sacrificed 4th of July fireworks, because I knew it made you uneasy. We didn't go places were there were massive crowds or groups. But, it was okay, for me. Because I had you. You had helped me more than I could ever express and for that, I loved you. 

Finally in February 2009, we got married. It was an amazing wedding. We eloped and it was just perfect. Not one thing would I change...maybe I would change falling asleep on you on our wedding night, but other than that, not a thing. You had made me the happiest woman on earth. You vowed before God to be my husband and to love me and watch over me forever. And I, did the same.
In December of 2010, we had our first baby boy. We had prayed for that boy for a long time, I remember being in labor and there you were, right beside me. You never left me. You sat beside me while they performed a c-section, holding my hand and anxiously awaiting the birth of our baby boy. Once he was born, you picked up the daddy roll quite perfectly. You would help me with him, let me sleep while you took care of him, gave me assurance that everything would be okay, when I started spiraling down into Post Pardom Depression. You carried the weight of our family on your back while I got myself together.

Fast forward a couple of years and we enjoyed birthdays, Christmases,  Easter, and all the small days with each other. Here we are today with our almost 3 year old son, and a baby girl on the way due in a few months and I am so excited about our new life together. Everyday is a new experience and I couldn't imagine doing this with anyone but you. But, we are struggling still. Your PTSD has recently flared its ugly head again and now, my being a mom, I have more responsibilities than ever. I am trying to raise our son properly, take care of a household, make sure we have food on the table, and most importantly making sure you, my husband, my rock, my love, are okay day to day. Its a challenge, that doesn't seem to stop. Some days are better than others, but most importantly, we are doing this together.  We haven't split up or talked about divorce. We are handling this the best we can. 

So, the words that I read on your back everyday, "Finally Free" they mean more to me now than ever. You got that tattoo when you came back from Iraq, because you were "free" But who knew you would be held down by the constant nag of Combat PTSD, so really freedom hasn't came yet, though I'm sure its close, we're still waiting. As for me, "Finally Free" meant getting out of my horrible relationship, starting a new life, being happy. However, with having suffered PPD myself, I still struggle daily to let go of my anger and have to remind myself that I am no longer in that place anymore. I am trying to stay strong for my husband and my children. I am also realizing that "Finally Free" isn't a reality. But, it will be soon. We both also have a love and peace with our God and I know that once we let go of our difficult pasts, we both will be "Finally Free".

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, visithttp://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Love Letter Campaign - To My Daughter and Son-in-Law

Sean and Melissa, 

I hardly have words to tell you how much I honor you, and how humbled I am by your courage, your faith, and your unfailing love for each other.  Your life together is a gift to all veterans and their families who are struggling.  Your example shows what is possible.  You have done so much through Family Of A Vet, touched so many lives - many of which you will never know.  The ripple effect of your courage, love, and determination will go on long after you are done, helping veterans for all the years to come.  Because of your hard work and loving example so many more have hope.

Jim and I honor and love you so much.

Mom and Jim

Submitted By: Linda Cameron

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, visithttp://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

David’s House from My Eyes

For Joe and I, Davids House was a concept without a name.

It was a concept that began as a vacation area in the mountains of Virginia specifically for Veterans, because honestly who is going to understand a Veteran better than another Veteran. Joe was still deployed while these ideas were surfacing. I would get emails from 8,000 miles away asking me to check on how to do this or that. So being the research nerd that I am by the time that Joe returned from deployment I had a binder full of information for him to review.

By the time he returned and settled into life at home (as best he could) the property had sold.

A new search began for a better piece of property. Found one that was about 700 +/- acres in the mountains of Washington State. This had been an old Dude Ranch decades ago. With a change in property came a slight change in focus.

The new focus was about Veterans and families struggling with homelessness. The statistics blew me away  these homeless Veterans with their families were not Vietnam Era like everyone believes, these were current war Veterans with young families. They cant make ends meet, let alone keep a roof over their heads.

The one thing Joe and I discovered in our journey is that we cannot do this alone. We were only 2 people in a very large playing arena and while others loved our idea, getting support for such a project as 2 unknown people was next to impossible.

It was a chance conversation with Brannan Vines about “Davids House” being a place for Veterans to feel at home. I then knew I was with the right group of people. I told her that we had a similar vision. I shared my research and power points with her.

I cannot begin to describe how it feels to know that someone else has a similar vision to help Veterans for the long term goals in life.

Little did I know Brannan had already talked with 2 other couples with a similar vision?

Similar visions with like-minded people, only God could bring those people together, created The Davids House Project.

Davids House is designed to create hope for Veterans & their Families to create sustainable living once they leave Davids House.

For more information on this project, ways you can help, or to donate, please visithttp://haven.familyofavet.com or email haven@familyofavet.com.

Thank you

Pam Busenius

Davids House Project Manager

Thursday, December 5, 2013

DIY Christmas Gift Ideas

With the holidays fast approaching, I know it sends alot of people into a panic- "How am I ever going to afford to buy for all the people on my list?" I can relate to this panic, which is why I went on a mission to create a list of nice Christmas gifts that are DIY (Do It Yourself.) In my honest opinion, no store bought gift could ever compare to a homemade gift that someone put their time and love into. Christmas doesn't need to break the bank and better yet, almost all of the supplies can be found at your nearest Dollar Store! *Keep calm and craft on!*

How about this for a festive gift? This is a $1.50 lantern that can be found at Lowe's. Just toss in some inexpensive Christmas bulbs and tie a decoration of your choosing to the handle using ribbon!

Aren't these adorable?! Dip Mix Ornaments. Buy cheap clear Christmas bulbs and fill with either premade dip mixes, or use one of the recipes from the site!  


Got a baker in the family? How about making a cake stand using dollar store glasses and plates. Probably would need Gorilla Glue to keep it together.

Frame filled with jingle bells, scrapbook paper as background, and sticker letters!


Got a collection of empty wine bottles? Recycle them and make these cute Santa Clause wine bottle decorations. Just paint and rhinestones!

Know someone who loves wine? How about bedazzled wine glasses?!


There's nothing like a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter day. Could do all kinds of variations and give with a dollar store coffee mug.

Know a candle lover? Get a vanilla candle and hot glue peppermint candies all around it. Will smell like peppermint and vanilla as it burns!

If you can paint, how about these American Flag mason jars? Would make great vases!


Get a dollar store frame, some stickers, and the possibilites are endless!

Fabric bleach art. Could do tea towels, shirts, anything really!


Glitter mason jars. Add tea lights, and voila! Pretty candle holder.


Jewelry lover on your list? How about these earrings made of buttons? Can make some seriously unique earrings no one else will have!


Got a food nut or someone who loves to cook on your list? Make this awesome kitchen decor using dollar store frames and silverware.


Dollar store or thrift store vases get a makeover by painting them on the inside!


Bow tie paper clip book marks. Perfect for the reader on your list!


Submitted By: Chelsea

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Love Letter Campaign ~ You Are My Universe

 I can't believe I am the lucky one that gets to spend my life with you.  I knew you were someone special from the first moment I saw you.  You were so shy, you couldn't even look me in the eye.  I thought that was impossibly adorable.  I'm so glad I took the lead and went out to sit with you while you let your dogs run in the yard.  We started talking then, just a little bit, and I'm sure it was very awkward for you.  But later, when you chose to spend 5 hours at the lake talking with me, we got to know each other quite well.  We were inseparable after that.  Everyone said it was too fast, and how could we trust each other, and what if thus and such happened.  But I knew I had found the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, and you did too.  We were married 2 months later, and it was the happiest day of my life.  When you looked in my eyes and teared up as you said "I do" I just wanted that moment to last forever.  

We've been through quite a lot in our first year.  Traveling an hour one way for all your VA appointments, getting to explore the city with you by my side, window shopping, moving, spending a month without you while you tied up the loose ends with your schooling, snowmobiling in and out from the house to get to appointments and to run errands, dealing with a dog that is getting older, adding a new furry baby to our little family, and dealing with VA claims and doctors and living 5 hours from the nearest medical center.....
I don't regret a single moment of any of it.  As long as I share my life with you, I am ready to face any adventure and any hardship.

I remember right after I met you when you told me matter-of-factly that you did not have PTSD.  I questioned this statement, but didn't say anything to you at the time.  After living with you for a couple months, and hearing from you about things your therapist had said or done, I didn't care for her very much and I felt like she was misleading you.  I'll never forget the morning when you had such an early appointment that we stopped for breakfast on the way back home.  I remember you confiding in me about the PTSD you had experienced when you first got home from your tour, as we enjoyed our meal.  This gave me even more question marks about what you had been told regarding this diagnosis and claims.  After we moved and you had to switch all your VA care, you asked me again if I thought you had PTSD, and showed me some of the paperwork you had from several years ago.  After reading it and based on what I had noticed, I told you that I was pretty sure you did.  You decided to try to file a claim for it.  I remember how nervous you were, and how you thought they would summarily dismiss the claim, since your therapist had told you that you did not have "enough" to claim it.  I remember how little time it took for the doctor to talk to you, and the long drive back home.  Then we waited for the letter.  When we received it, you had me open it because you were so anxious about what it would say.  When I read that they had approved your claim and you now had a rating for PTSD, you were so surprised.  

I remember later that day when you admitted you had cried during the evaluation.  I was so proud of you for standing up for yourself! And I was so thankful that you have finally been able to get what you deserve instead of continuing to be minimized by someone who could not do their job correctly. 

You are my hero.  I am so proud of who you are, and I love you endlessly.  I can't wait to share many more years with you as my partner in this adventure we call life.  I hope that I will be able to always be there for you, as you are always there for me.  

I love you, J.

Submitted By: Your Wife, Sarah

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, visithttp://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.