Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Love Letter Campaign ~ Made For Each Other


My dear husband,

We had no idea, but our lives were planned out before we were even born. We were made for each other. When you were born, your dad made a joke that maybe one day we'd get married. And here we are. We had such a great and fun friendship growing up. But then my dad retired before yours, and decided to move somewhere warmer. Those 8 years we didn't really see each other, almost doesn't feel like it ever really happened. When we reunited in our early 20's, it just seemed that we picked up right where we left off. The connection was too great to ignore. We really were destined to be together.

Life was not easy for us when we started out. There were many who thought it was too much, too soon. I knew in my heart you were the man I was meant to spend the rest of my life with. 2 months into our relationship, though we had only spent a matter of a few weeks together, because you were still in AIT, and using up leave every chance you got to come see me and Logan, you proposed to me. You bought not one, but TWO engagement rings, because you were worried the one you picked out would not ship in time. The ring you chose for me, was, and is so beautiful. I see that you were trying to find something unique, so that I wouldn't see the same ring on someone else's finger. And to this day, I have not. There's no way I could have said no to you. I almost felt my heart just stop when you slipped it onto my finger, and asked me to marry you. Every time our weekend had come to an end, I just felt such strong sadness in saying goodbye, it almost physically hurt.

I've felt that hurt many times since then. But I've also felt such incredible, indescribable joy in all the times we've been able to say hello, again. When we were married, seeing your face light up is a sight I will never EVER forget. We had so little when we got married. A laundry basket for an entertainment center/table, an air mattress for a bed for months... Those were the days. We were still so very happy. Then, we found out we were expecting our first child, together. Logan was so excited to be a big brother. The look on your face when you found the surprise I had left you in the mail box, telling you that we were pregnant. You picked me up and hugged me so tight. It felt like you held me forever.

Then, only one week later I woke up feeling that something was wrong. You were gone to PT. After I got out of bed, I quickly realized what was happening. I was losing the baby that we tried so hard for, and wanted so badly. That was one of the worst days of my entire life. I felt like I failed you. I feel like I let everyone down. I blamed myself, that maybe I did something wrong, though I was eating well, and taking care of myself. It just didn't make sense. When we got home from the hospital, we just lay in bed, and held each other and cried. I'll never forget that baby, and I know you won't either. Though he/she was not growing inside me for long, that baby was loved so much. I know we will meet him/her one day. I am so thankful that I didn't go through that alone. You were there for me 100%. Yes, it was one of the worst days in my life, but I had you, and there's nothing in this world that could have made healing mentally/physically/emotionally any easier.

A few months later, SURPRISE! We were pregnant again. This pregnancy, other than Gestational Diabetes, was a healthy pregnancy. You were... You were incredible. You painted my toes, you ran out at all hours of the night to get me whatever I was craving, you talked to my belly and loved on our precious baby non-stop. I wish you were able to experience my entire pregnancy, but... Military life had really kicked in. You geared up, and shipped out on your first deployment. Nothing could have prepared me for how difficult it was going to be. To be without you, to settled into a town/state that was completely new to me, to have a baby on my own. Thankfully, you were granted emergency leave, and made it in

time to see our son into the world, this perfect, beautiful, little chunky butt. I saw that same joy on your face as the day we got married. Life was good.

And just as fast as you were there, you were gone again, and I was left to hold down the fort. Living in the apartment felt really unsafe, so you urged me to start the process of buying a home. I found a home that was perfect for us, and welcomed you home there when your deployment was over. There was that handsome face of yours again. That joy on your face that I live for. You lit up seeing me and our boys. Life was amazing.

Hey... Remember when we got that silly idea to try for another baby when our youngest son was 6 months old? Yeah, me too :) Such happy news, and then there's that gut wrenching hurt again, when you got orders right after we found out we were expecting again. Timing has never been our thing, has it? Our perfect, beautiful little girly girl was born a month after you said goodbye, again. Thankfully, you made it just in time, once more. Fast forward another 11 months, and you were FINALLY home from that deployment.

You had figured it out that you had been actually HOME for about 1/4 of our relationship. Between schools, deployments, training, etc. So, this was it. This was our happily ever after. Except it wasn't. You had experienced things that had changed you. One thing in particular, which will be with you for the rest of your life. Life since you've been home has been more than hard. My hysterectomy from pregnancy/birth complications, adding special needs into our life with one of our children, and now PTSD. Our lives are forever changed by PTSD...

There's one thing that hasn't changed, my love for you. My love for you will only grow stronger with each day. Sometimes I'll fall to my knees, and ask why this has all happened to us. But I'll quickly get back up, and keep soldiering on, just as you have done in your military career. You are my oldest, dearest friend. You are the love of my life. You are the father of my children. You are, to me, the most incredible man that has ever lived. My love for you will not lessen with all of these trials and tribulations. For better, or for worse, in sickness, and in health, you are the man I gave my heart to, and I will never give up on you, or our family.

Thank you for choosing me to give your heart to. Out of all the women on this earth, you chose me. To say I am honored to be your wife is an understatement. I love you, babe, with everything I have.

Submitted By: The wife of a hero

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, January 28, 2013

5 Things I Learned on Hiatus - aka Why Going a Bit Crazy is Good For You

So, as many of you know (and some may have just noticed), I've been on a bit of a hiatus... finding my feet and my spirit again... doing lots of praying, letting myself "be", and honestly being a bit crazy (in the "hiding from the world, oh crap can't really deal with this" way... not in the good "let's get crazy and have some fun" kind of way)




Here are some things I've learned while on hiatus -

#1 - When life gangs up on you all at once, you discover quickly people (often not who you would expect, and at other times exactly who you would expect) that are going to just keep at you until you find your feet.  Sometimes, kindly and gently, sometimes in a "kick your six" kind of way - but nevertheless, you quickly KNOW who is not going to run.

#2 - You also, sadly, find people who are at a place in their own life that you're brokenness isn't something they can handle.  You'll be grateful for the first set, and hopefully be able to love, forgive, and recognize the struggles of this set.  Maybe next time around, they'll be different, or maybe next time around you'll be part of their #1 group.  Whichever way it works out, compassion always wins.

#3 - The place you're supposed to be in life (and the work you're supposed to be doing) will ALWAYS call you back to it.  You can't escape it, run from it, or hide.  We're each built for a purpose.  It's easier just to nod your head in agreement, dust yourself off, and get back on the path again.

#4 - I'm at a point in my life (and even a year or two ago, this wouldn't have been the case), where I'm perfectly okay saying, "Hey, I'm going down here... give me a bit, I'll figure it out, but right now I suck".  There's a freedom in that - and a peace in that.  AND, it allows people to step up (see #1) and hold you up while you find your feet.  I don't see any shame in that... matter of fact, I find the other way quite foolish.

#5 - I'm not quite ready to kick "grass", but I'm getting there.  AND, I'm okay with that.  I'm okay with baby steps.  I'm okay with still being a bit off.  I'm okay.  Why?  Because life may knock me around a bit, but God never, ever fails to teach me something along the way.  And, those lessons are powerful.  I just have to choose to listen. 

((HUGS)),
Brannan


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!

Bossing the Therapist


This evening, on a Monday, a usual *bleh* day for, I spent with my therapist. I  like him.  Fiesty little New Yorkah with an office reminiscint of a pub.  My kind of fellow, really, if I have to work on my demons, then I most prefer it with a no nonsense kind of guy.

So, Monday's with the New Yorkah, I've done it a few times now.  Feel pretty good about it.  Had his office memorized, it was a safe zone.  But tonight I walk in, and to my left is a loud mouthed man cocked back in the reception desk with a stalking cap on, on the cell phone.  Talking about snow removal. He was new, he didn't belong. Senses tingling.  He didn't move so I kept walking back to the office.  Hoping the New Yorkah would intercept me in the hall.  Which to his credit he did.

Out side his office he switches on his noise machine and we proceed. 

However, EVERYTHING in me says, NO.  He rearranged.  Really.  There was absolutely NO reason for the spring turn around, I laughed at myself as I razzed him about it, except deep down, I was kind of pissed.  Why dude? I swear he was messing with me.  He asked if it was okay, I think I rolled my eyes. I took my spot.  A new spot.  A spot that felt wrong, and sharp, and irritating.

So now that I was aware enough to note that I was uncomfortable, I tried so hard to be a good patient.  Be the observer, feel what you feel, and let it go, type stuff.  I was not my normal self tonight. I could tell.  I'm sure he could he could tell.  45 minutes into it, I couldn't see him anymore, the tears were hot and obscuring my vision.  I looked at him and he saw me shift.

I was extrememly embarassed when I had to explain to him my little melt down about to ensue had NOTHING to do with what we were talking about, but about "Why? Why did you change your office?"

He politely pointed I was right next to the door. 

Yes, but I need to SEE the door.  I was alittle irritated, so I asked him to ask the next combat vet who comes in how HE thinks of the new arrangement.  (That was me being lashy). 

I need to see the door. I need to see the door.  Holy Crap.  I need to see the door.

So we swapped spots.  His big black chair sitting facing the door, inviting.  But, sulking like a spoiled little brat with secondary, I drug over a wooden chair.  The one that SHOULD have been there in the first place.

It felt so, so RIGHT. The second I could see the door, tears, gone. Anxiety, gone. In fact, I do believe I took a big deep breath, and blew it out.  Smiled. 

Poor New Yorkah.  Bet he's never seen secondary like me before.

The Love Letter Campaign ~ ...And This One Time At Camp Taji



In Nov.2007,I had enlisted into the PAARNG.I came out of BCT/AIT in 2008 and deployed to Iraq. A fresh face not knowing anything but what I was taught in basic training. A start for a new life for me. I was assigned to A trp 2/104th cavalry through most of my deployment. We were an elite squad called TAC-B. Our daily mission was to carry 'brass' to meet with the Iraqi leaders,IP,IA, and such. Our main goals were to bring everyone home safely,and 360 security for the meetings. Our missions were an absolute success on a daily basis.

I was ate up like a soup sandwich when i arrived with TAC-B. I had just made E-3 the week before. I was left behind at the TAC office for the first 2 weeks of my entry doing details and odd jobs. My first mission outside the wire proved to be the most exciting thing I have ever done. Adrenalin pumped through every inch of my body, i was restless. I could not sit still at all and I was very edgy. Paranoia swept over me, I watched every person that looked at me. Day after day, I trusted nobody. I didn't even really trust my team, not that they gave me a reason not to. I performed my duty and performed well above what I feel that I have done. I really felt no accomplishment.

By the end of the first few months I was well adapted. Later I was told that I would be leaving the TAC and placed with my home unit until the end of it. I was told to switch housing units just before Easter. It was not far but just far enough. Saturday night I could not sleep at all. I was awake til daybreak. It was time for the mission, and we went and executed it perfectly. As soon as we got back in and geared down we had another order. I was empty I had no strength to pull through it. I asked my COC if I could go back and rest to be ready for the next mission. I got the go ahead and I went to my now relocated housing unit. That evening i was startled awake by the unit shaking, a loud boom, and a lot of people outside. I grabbed up my rifle and magazine and proceeded to load it as I was exiting my house.

Just as I pulled the charging handle back to go red, somebody stopped me and explained that a rocket exploded above us. I was somewhat relieved, I didn't know what was going on. I thought that our base was being taken over. Now that i was clear on the incident, I went to check on my 'battles' just a short distance away. I knocked on every door. Nobody was back from the second mission yet. I started getting nervous and worried that they were not back before dark. I went to the 1SGT to do accountability and broke into the TAC to wait. Around 0100 is when the PLT SGT came in. Everyone was back safe.It wasn't until a few days later that I had found out that shrapnel came through the roof of one of the neighboring houses and shredded the pillow of another soldier. We carried on the rest of the time in country. With 2 weeks left, I had been sent to my home unit in the EOD compound.

The return home was bitter sweet. I had returned to a hopeless situation I found myself to be more reclusive and depressed and I didn't want to drink. I was more aggressive and severe agitation. My anger had boiled over and threatened to tear me down. With debt, and no one to really turn to, also to find I had a daughter that was 3. To top it all off, my car had been wrecked the day before i got back to the States. I had just given up on it all. F** IT !!

I had NOTHING. One night I decided to take a trip that changed my life. During my last weeks I was chatting up with some people online, and the one in particular, was Katrina. I decided on taking a road trip to meet her in her mountain town apartment, and never looked back. Last year we were married. We have been struggling on and off for a while, but we are surviving as a family. BARELY

Submitted By: Spc. Carter

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, January 21, 2013

Monday Momism: Taking Time 4 You

Time gets away from us.  It's been two weeks since I posted a Monday Momism.  Between work, family and a touch of the flu, I have been a wee bit negligent of my blogging time.  Which actually makes this...a perfect blog post for not only myself, but all of us.  It's time to...Take Time for Ourselves...WITHOUT feeling guilty about it.  Don't you agree?


Taking Time 4 You

    1. Quiet Time: Are you an early riser? Do you like to stay up late? I became an exceptionally early riser when my son first went to Iraq in 2003. We're talking 3 a.m. a lot of times. I had a fear of a knock at the door waking my two younger kids up and I didn't want that to happen. I sat on my front porch and wrote. I wrote in my journal, wrote short stories, even a little play called “Jacob's Letters”. I prayed, talking to God like He was next to me having a cup of coffee. I rested in the quiet of the early morning, knowing my younger two children were sleeping safe in their beds and that I had not received a call or visit attesting to harm or injury (at that time) to my oldest.

We have a PTSD/TBI combat veteran in our home. I still see the need for quiet time and I still get it in the mornings when he is finally sleeping after being up half the night. I understand what he is going through from the angle of being a family member. I spent most of my nights watching the news and writing, begging God to keep him safe. I know it is different if the veteran is your spouse, or even if it is you yourself, but still, find a quiet time and take it just for you.

    1. Hobby Time: What is your passion outside of your family? Do you like to write? Scrapbook? Draw/paint? Sew? Cook? Working on your passion, making it come to life, gives you a sense of fulfillment. It can go as slow or as fast as you want/need it to. I like to write and my passion helped me when my son was overseas. It helps me still today by getting my frustrations out on paper through fictional characters. My passion has led me to a dream come true, being a contributor to a magazine.

Besides writing, I also like playing games, scrapbooking, reading and spending time with my cats. Yes, I'm that cat lady you often hear about. Spending time with your passion relieves your brain of some of the stress that has built up and that can help you tremendously healthwise. I am also making a scrap “book” about my son for my grandson.. It is a way of letting him know who his daddy was as a little boy and a teenager and how our lives were changed by 9/11 and Iraq.

  1. Social Time: Okay, if your first instinct is “But I can't go out and leave him alone, it's part of the problem!” relax. With the internet, you have Facebook and support groups through there. You can play cards, dominoes, chess/checkers, and all those “Ville” games. You can catch up with family who don't live close by.

That hobby? Join a group! There are scrapbooking groups, bridge/canasta/pinochle groups. There's the 50 Zone. Our own support group had a Christmas get together at Logan's that I still feel the love and caring from three weeks later. Our Chinese Christmas game was fun. More importantly, I left that night feeling like I had connected with all of you on a friendship level as well as a shared experience one. For those with Christian views, there are wonderful life groups through churches. Bowling is fun, as well as just getting together for coffee.

  1. Volunteer Time: Even while my son was in Iraq, I was already volunteering, though I didn't realize it. I let a girl call and vent to me several times because she was mad at her boyfriend's mother and I didn't want her sharing that with him while he was a combat zone. I can't count the times I heard both through the media and in person about someone ending their life over there or not being fully alert because a fight with a loved one on the phone was still on their minds and hearts. We have it rough, true, but during combat, they have it even harder in my opinion. She and I are still friends to this day. When a friend in a support group said she gets upset at her son sometimes and then remembers “he came home”, I understood perfectly. When another friend shared one evening her own survivors' guilt feelings about how some died over there and for their families there was closure but we still have PTSD and TBI occurrences in our daily lives, I got it. Knowing there are others out there like us and volunteering as a certified peer specialist or as a family member who can help others find resources has helped me to better understand my chosen journey in life.

I love kids. I never grew up in spite of the fact that I am about to turn 50. I still play soccer and video games and tag. My body doesn't always appreciate it, but it makes me feel young in other ways.
I have volunteered in the Adult Literacy program, Habitat for Humanity and the food pantry at church. Volunteering really does help us see the blessings that are sometimes clouded by our own stressful situations and we end up doubly blessed when we help someone else.


These four ways of making time happen and having it set aside ends up helping you to feel energetic, confident, stronger and happier. By following these four guidelines, you can help yourself as well as your family situation. All you have to do is tell yourself:”I'm going to

Take
Time
4
Me”


The Love Letter Campaign ~ Ten Year Milestone


Sean,

We are about to reach the ten year mile stone in our marriage. A feat that seems more difficult to find in couples these days, especially couples in our same situation. I know I wrote you a letter for the first year of this Campaign, but I felt that since we are so close to such an important time in our marriage, that another letter was deserved.


Back on that April day in 2003, when I made the choice to remain home from school so that I could marry you before you left the next day to return to Germany, I knew that this was the step I wanted to take. I know some thought us too young, but I knew what I wanted and that of course was a life with you. I was ready and it made me ever so happy that you were ready too.

Of course neither one of us could have ever planned you getting injured, but that is life for you, putting wrenches in gears and such. We barely got to spend our first years of marriage together before you were injured and thus I have spent most of our marriage learning about this new "you" and what a journey it has been.

I know the man I married is not the same man, but even without your injuries I kind of expected us both to grow up in some ways and change. I was looking forward to us growing up together, but we were forced to grow up so fast. From the moment you came home from your deployment, I could tell you were different, but ignored it. I was just glad to have you back, especially after two injuries, I didn't want to lose you. So, I spent the first several months living with blinders.



I saw the changes in you and would make excuses to myself that it wasn't a big deal as you were just adapting back to being home. When you would see the Army doctors and get prescriptions, I figured that would make things better and we could continue on as we planned. When you ETS'd out of the Army and we went back to the States, I realized very quickly those blinders needed to come off and I had to face the truth.

I was married to a different man.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take the time to process this as we found out right away that we were going to be parents. Life for us became very chaotic, between adjusting to parenthood and facing the reality of your injuries. The next few years were a whirlwind of VA appointments, Doctor's appointments, home jumping, job searching, child rearing, and so much more.

We fought so much. I cried a great deal. You slept at great lengths to avoid the pain. I felt so alone and had no idea what would happen next. I was so worried it was the end.

That was when it happened.

That day where you finally reached out to me when I felt sure I couldn't take anymore. You reached out and told me you needed me. I knew then, despite the changes in you, that I didn't want to abandon you. I knew that you needed me to help you find your way back from the darkness and not leave you there alone.
The next part of our journey was a roller coaster ride, so many ups and downs, but I strived to keep us going. We went through doctor changes at the VA, medication changes, job changes so I could be home with you more, home changes again, and constant daily life changes.

Then came along a second child.

Life became more chaotic than before, but I stuck with you. I left my job completely knowing home was where I was needed. Money was tight, but I made it work. It was then you went through some difficult therapies. I did my best to keep you encouraged, to keep you from falling.

Life became alright for a bit. We worked out ways to make life flow a little less crazy. The children were getting older and everything seemed like it would be alright for us as a family.

The thing is, it will never be like it was before. You still struggle daily, even with your medications and therapies. Our lives still have to be handled differently from others. I know this troubles you. I know how much you don't like not being able to do more for us. I know that the daily pain fills you with bitterness. I know that you feel we all deserve someone better. I know you see how much of a toll it is on me sometimes to be your Caregiver while also taking care of the children. I know you wish you could give back as much as you get from us.

Here is what I want you to know.

I love you. I always have. I always will. Sure you have changed. Sure you are disabled. Sure we have to handle things differently. Sure it might mean we will all go crazy. What is important though that we do all of this together!

So, ten years ago when we made our vows we ended up with more, "For the Worse" than we expected. I think though that it is okay, because it has helped us become stronger. It has taught us a great many things we would have never learned if life had always been easy for us and I am grateful for the lessons.

We were never like traditional couples from the get go and I don't see that as a bad thing. We have come this far and I am planning for us to go even further together and you know how I am with my plans! I just want you to know I am here for you, that you still mean so very much to me. You always call me your, "shining star" and I want you to know I want to always be that for you! Yes, even when I am losing my mind and acting like the one who went to war, I still want to be with you.

Though in a way I have been to war. No, not the same kind of war you have and my own war could never compare, never. I just mean, I have been in the war of keeping our marriage whole. I fight to keep us together through every struggle from the normal battles like money to the more difficult battles like whether you are going to make it outside of the house today. I think I'm winning though, so I continue to stand on the field of combat because I feel my war is worth it.

Who knows what the next ten years will bring us or even the next twenty, but I feel confident that we will make it through.

You are my soul.

You are my hero.

You are my warrior.

Ich liebe dich.

~Aimee

Submitted By: Aimee L. Taylor

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, January 18, 2013

The Love Letter Campaign ~ Missing You/Remembering the Good Times


Dearest Codybear,

I still remember the night I met you, maybe not the exact date, but what happened that night. I had driven to Hinesville with a HUGE pot of Chili and a German Chocolate cake because all of my friends didn't have enough gas money to get everyone to my apartment in Savannah so I decided to drive down instead. When I got there, I couldn't find anyone but Brad and I wasn't going to cart all that food back home. I walked over to Dave's room to invite him over for dinner and while I’m talking to him you come to his door. I didn't think anything of it and invite you too even though you're holding a pizza box. So we finally get everyone together and enjoy chili and cake and beer and whatever else we were drinking. I go outside with Dave to have a cigarette and you follow us out and we start talking. We sat on that picnic table for hours just talking. When we finally realize how late it is I've been locked out of where I was going to stay that night and I was about to go sleep in my truck, but realized I didn't have my keys, they were still in Brad’s room. You said I could sleep in your room. I felt such a connection with you that night; we talked about anything and everything. I loved your goofy grin from that first moment. (Though I didn't find out till later that you followed me to Dave's room.) We decided to get married rather quickly, you never actually proposing to me. And we both made some mistakes early on. And I knew nothing of PTSD, but looking back, I see what I now know as big RED Flags. I wish I had known what I do today about it. Though I know I couldn't make you get help. You wouldn't get help, I know the VA is of no help, but we could have/should have found a way. We moved back to Virginia after you got out, close to my family, which I know caused a lot of our problems because they don't like you. When you got in trouble, when everyone was telling me to leave you, I stood by. I still loved you, I believed you. I still do. I know that is not who you are.
I was so glad when we decided to move to Missouri to be closer to your family, even though it was too late to be close to Mom and Grandma. Though I didn't know them very well I love them as if they were my own. I needed to get away from my family, I love them dearly but they were putting a strain on our relationship.

I miss seeing your goofy grin, your stupid sayings; I even miss your fidgety leg. I enjoyed going on walks with you, and even fishing if you would stay close to me. What I miss most is just lying in the bed or cuddling on the couch, me reading and you watching those darned fishing or hunting shows. I miss the way you looked at me in that first 2 years of our marriage. Then in the last couple, I forgot what I promised 8 years, 1 month and 3 days ago. That I would honor and cherish you in sickness and in health till death do us part. Yes, you did cheat on me and I told you I couldn't live with you at the time because it didn't seem like you wanted to come back to me that you wanted her more. So a year ago you left, I was so hurt and angry, but at the same time I was angry at myself for not nurturing that love and by resenting you for the things we couldn't afford.

I had pushed you away because I didn't know how to deal with you, or your flashbacks, and your relentless need to go fishing. Yes, I know that was how you dealt with your symptoms, shut it out and went fishing. I knew you loved to fish when I first met you, I think that's all we did when we were dating was go fishing, or you did and I watched or read.

Six months after you left you called and told me you were moving up north to live with your dad, I wanted to see you. That night was so special to me. When you held me in your arms I felt safer than I had in months if not years. I loved you that night, truly loved you like I hadn't in a long time, we sat up and talked for hours, just like the night we met. That night I saw the man I married, sweet, caring, funny, (even though we were talking about some really heavy things you made me laugh) you could always make me laugh. You said you would keep in touch, work on our relationship long distance, but you disappeared, I had no way to contact you I didn't have your dad's number. I was pregnant, I had a positive test in early August, and I was terrified, and excited, and sad. I wanted to call and tell you so bad. You had dropped off the face of the earth; your brothers hadn't heard from you and didn't have your dad's number. I didn't tell a soul about the baby, because I didn't know what to do. I was alone, living back with my parents, didn't have a job, and didn't think I could raise a child alone. But then, a few days after the positive test I lost the baby, and I needed you then more than I ever have in my life before but you were nowhere to be found. I still couldn't tell anyone, it hurt too much, so I bore it in silence and tears. I survived, and started moving on after that, I tried so hard to forget you, still haven’t even spoken to a lawyer about a divorce even though I’m being pressured to. I started dating again, and feeling awful about it, and guilty.

I still LOVE YOU.

Our Anniversary was miserable. I cried almost all day I went out like we used to; I ate Chinese by myself thinking about you and remembering the good times. And Christmas was almost unbearable; I kept thinking about you, where you were, were you all right and remembering all our happy memories. I prayed that you were still alive and somewhere warm. Then a few days ago, when I log onto Facebook what do I see? A message from my husband. Just a simple Happy New Year, I want to talk to you." My HEART JUMPED out of my chest, "does he mean it?? Do I really want to risk opening myself up to him, is he just going lie to me? I still don’t know what to think. I just know that I love you and that I never really wanted you to leave, I just needed to get over the being mad; which I did a long time ago. But now, with so much time going by, I need you to do the HARD things, and finally get started working on making you better so maybe, just maybe, we can work things out, but before I can do that I need you to be on the road to recovery.

I love you so very much, you will never know just how worried I was, and checking the newspapers/news in Missouri every week to make sure you weren't dead or in jail. I will always love you and I hope I will be able to truly be your wife again. Even if we don't I will always be there for you to help you through this.

Love always,
Your Jujubean

Submitted By: "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.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Love Letter Campaign ~ My Journey With You


I write this letter to the man who stole my heart almost 23 years ago. Jim. The first night our paths crossed, I couldn't help myself to check you out! You caught me! It was that hot summer night I knew you were the man I was going to marry. From that moment on my days and nights were filled with thoughts of you. You were a young hunk, smart, spirited, full of surprises, ambitious, sensitive, motivated, educated, and had your life already planned out upon graduation from the Academy.

Our relationship continued to grow despite the distance between us during our last years of college. I’m sure there is a well-worn tire path on that road. Marrying you was one of the happiest days of my life. We were full of hopes and dreams for our future together. We accomplished 4 years of medical school, 2 residencies, 11 moves, an overseas duty station, a fury of typhoons and hurricanes, multiple secret squirrel missions, 5 combat tours and more scheduled deployments than I can count. We have raised 2 exceptionally wonderful children who have brought us so much love and laughter to our home. We've kept our sanity with our family trials and tribulations. Without winning the lotto, we have made ends meet. What do these all have in common, us, you and me, but most of all, love. We have taken these journeys together.

In 2008, an Afghanistan deployment with the 2/7, sent us on a trip down an untraveled road, one that included no directions, no map to follow. This deployment was like no other, it put up two roadblocks, TBI/PTS (D) and a broken back, bringing our life as we knew it to a screeching halt. We were unprepared for the road we were about to travel. These roadblocks tested the strength in our marriage, challenged the spirit and love in our hearts, disrupted our family values and faded our future dreams. For quite sometime we let those two buggers steer our lives. With realization and accepting those two roadblocks as just bumps in the road were we able to take back the wheel and steer. We have found new energy, a new way of thinking, a renewed spirit, and a new direction to our lives. We cannot change the past, but we can learn from it and use the experience to choose the direction of the road that stretches out ahead of us.

While we may not do or think about things the way we've done in the past, we are still doing and thinking, just in a new and different way. My love for you has not wavered, even through stormy days. We have had so many great moments and great days that the worst ones become a blur. You and I are a team. We are not traveling this road alone, we are hand in hand and taking it one turn at a time. Together, with faith, hope and love, we can ride through even the darkest storms along our journey. There isn’t anything we can’t do together babe. Where there is a will there is a way. I am proud to be your partner, your best friend, your lover, your military spouse, and I am most proud to be your wife.

I love you because you are the man I can’t take my eyes off of. I love you because you are my rock. I love you because you are wind in my sails. I love you because you are every breath that I breathe. I love you because you love me back. I love you because you’re my best friend. I love you because you’re my soul mate. I love you because you are my hero and my sailor. I love you because I can’t stop loving you.
I love you always and forever.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY Jim!

Your wife,
Karen

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, January 6, 2013

Love Letter Campaign Submission

To my sweetest husband,

You are off snoring and I'm plotting the course of our day while the children sleep.  You and I have a steadfast and true love that I know is unbreakable. 

But I hate when it bends.

I hate when we find ourselves, plagued by either baggage from your war, or my sexual assault.  These demons circle like vultures....swooping at the first sign of weakness.

We are vulnerable. 

Our life is often hanging in the balance.  Threatened by overwhelming stress, selfish indiscretions, and fire from those around us.

We are ALWAYS vulnerable.  Especially families like ours.  Does that make me worry? Sometimes.  Does that make me want to push you away?  No.

Whatever happens in the world around us, whatever is inflicted upon us, I will always love you. 

You have been a perfect example of stregnth.  YOU ask for  help, YOU keep yourself accountable, YOU continue to forgive me, YOU continue to be sensitive to my needs. I will always be wishing you to forgive yourself, to be sensitive to YOUR needs.....

I see you struggle, and I see you try to pretend like everything is fine.  I see you break, from trying to be so strong for so long.

I am your soft landing James, but I promise I will always be your number one a@@ kicker.

We will always learn to bend and twist and shape to what is happening, but we will never break.  I adore you, I am incredibly proud of you, and I am always in your corner.

~Kateri

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hello FOV friends, family, and blog visitors, I pray that you will be gentle with my posts, as they are in fact, very real and very raw.  I often write so quickly that I do not fully understand damages done until after the fact.  But, here is the deal.  HEAR ME when I say, I no longer work for the government, I NO LONGER have to fear you.  HEAR ME when I say I take damn good care of my husband and if you don't believe so, come, check his pulse....he's alive.... that is better than what his care providers often have done.... waiting til the flat line and steady beep of heart tones that incite ACTION.  I don't wait til the last minute caring for my combat injured husband.  Quite the opposite.  I fight until I am broken.  I fight till I am giving in to the rage.  I fight for YOU to do what is right, so that YOU can save face and blame it on yet another "maniacal caregiver/mother/wife".

Call me what you will.  Labels no longer concern me.  I prevented one suicide where I used to work, for SURE.  And quite possibly, 3 others.  I gave peace to a dying man, when everyone else thought he was behavioral.  Want to know how?  I sang to him.  I sang every damn 60 and 70s rock I could think of, and guess what folks, I brought a smile to him with my air guitar and voice.... all the while balancing cocktails of pills that were to HELP, not hurt.

I was a good ace in the hole, but many viewed me as a threat.  I am no threat.  If you are here to fight this epidemic of suicides then welcome, I fight beside you.  If you are here to gather things for other purposes, I implore you to be gone.  You are not welcome here.  To read our hearts is to know a combat veteran.

Read on. 

But first, here is a video I put together on Secondary.  Its the whole thing.  Its me.  It really is me.  How I talk, how I look, how I cry, how I laugh....how I distract over the tiniest things....

I want you to know me.  It's okay, watch it.  It will be good for you, because I am not aware of many other women who are less concernced about reputation and more concnerned about Veterans than myself.

I am who I am.  You may love me, hate me, beat me, but I will always be me.  So, folks, here, is me :) Enjoy and leave your thoughts at the bottom, nothing I hate worse is seeing all these people have been looking at my posts, but NO ONE has anything to say???? NOTHING? Surely you have one word, one sentiment good or bad.  C'mon stop being creeper and leave a note.  Or, email me at winwinkateri@gmail.com

Another disclaimer:

I swear.  Kind of a lot.  And it drives Miss Brannan the most perfect woman EVER crazy.  She has even prefaced posts as a warning.  But when I blog, I blog for real, and I WILL not censor myself.  I'll live that to my beloved Brannan.  Here.  Here I am.  Where are YOU?  Will you show yourself to me and prove I am NOT alone?  Are you strong enough to show the world that you are human and are dealing with very human things?  Go on.  No one.  NO ONE HERE JUDGES ever. 

So, caregiver skin, here I am.  Its late, I'm tired, and its almost xmas.  But, the point is, I am COMFORTABLE IN MY OWN SKIN.  And I KNOW I am the most beautiful when I am being me.
Caregiving for a combat vet is freaking hard.   Its tiring and relentless and makes me sometimes borderline nuts.  BUT its my HUSBAND! Have you met him?  You should see him laugh sometimes, it makes me cry.  When you can get him to laugh, you are in like flynt in my book.  You are aces.  He has the deepest most genuine laugh ever.  And he lights up like xmas tree.  Thats few and far between.  So I remind myself why I love him, and I resolve to love him harder every day.  Loving a combat vet that you care for is often very very VERY ungratifying, so don't join us for the glamour.  Ain't no glamour here folks.  Its ugly, messy, sad, angry, confusing.....but also, it is the MOST rewarding knowledge base you will ever be privy too.  I have learned more about myself in 2 years, than ever in my 32 years of life.  I have become a better mom, not perfect, but better, I am a better wife who is more capable of self sustainment than I ever thought possible.  YES I still need friends, yes I still need help.  But the smaller more personal needs I now know are inconsequential and non essential, and if I need something, I go get it myself.

The VA has a funny way of saying, "You are enabling this" "you are making him dependent on you" "You are treating him like a baby...." Well, dears, I don't know how you raised YOUR babies, but I do NOT treat 2 year olds like I treat my husband.  My baby is still learning, my HUSBAND is being REMINDED.  

My husband is being protected, and kept physically safe.  Take a hike VA.  You almost killed him with your lacky care for his rotten feet.  Only after I begged cried and moaned did we EVER start getting treated for these infections.  I digress.... Watch the vid, and welcome loves, to my world.

This is me, and I. Am. Small.

~~~~~Written/recorded by K. Peterson, a combat Veteran caregiver, proud wife of an army Veteran messed right up in good old Iraq.  TBI, PTSD, and you name it.  Never give up women.  Never never never never give up.  Fight for what is right, and continue to speak your truth.