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.