Thursday, December 24, 2015

Love Letter Campaign ~ You are Loved so Much it's Bigger than the Sun




To You Mr Andrew Lloyd. 

The Hero's Hero..My Hero Your Families Hero.  My sweet face man, I live everyday with you knowing where your pain emanates from...and I love you More.  I by far am not perfect and we have our squabbles, but you my King my Fighting Soldier have met and filled every empty space in side me with you.  I was not around in the beginning, we hadn't crossed paths yet, but now i am here and I'm going to stay right next you.  Hold you the way you hold me.  We have something that people search their whole lives for the beautiful girls I love so much as my own, Our friends who believe in our love.  Our Families who know we complement each other to the T!  I love you my Lloyd I love you for everything you do.  I love you for the man you are to me and the girls.  I love you my hero.  We love you my hero. Forever.

I'll Never Not Believe in You, I'll never Not Love You!


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 21, 2015

Love Letter Campaign - 11/11/67




A Bronze Star V-necked my true love's chest,
Lodestar phantoms counsel R&R.
An attitude adjustment at a nations behest,  
Now nameless anxiety is the invisible scar. 

A Purple Heart tattooed Vengeful Psyche -
Lingering static stifles sobriety's light.  
An Orgasm is a thunder strike,
Naivety in love is an SOS, Right?

A Silver Star shines Villinously luminescent -
Lonely foolish children suck a solitary thumb.
And Love is California effervescent 
Now that Daddy daydreams in Kingdom Come.

A Medal of Honor Vivisected a soldier's neck - 
Lost on point in a rice paddy in Viet Nam
A splash down in a pungi pit -  a bitter reality check. 
Never forget is the epithet of this cryptogram.

Submitted By: Wife of a Vietnam 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.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Love Letter Campaign - Different




To My Brandon, 

              I can't believe we have been married for almost 11yrs now. We have been through so much 15 years you serving raising four children. I still close my eyes and see the man who seen something different in me. When we met I was a single mother of two kids. Raising them on my own. Their real father walked out and it was just me. I began  to believe it would always be just me. No one would ever see me as anything other than a girl with two kids. I met you thinking he will be the same as everyone else no different. I was so wrong you came into my life and really seen me for me. I remember being terrified of you I just couldn't understand the warmth of your heart and the gentleness of you. I had never met someone like you. I always knew you were different. We dated for a month and you stepped up and took my kids as your own. I just was so amazed wow is this real. You asked me to marry you on my son's birthday. Which I never saw coming after a little over a month. But I knew you were different and I said yes. I was definitely a little  scared because then we got word you would deploy but it was a chance worth taking. After your second deployment I could tell you where not yourself and it scared me. You became so angry and shielded from me and the kids. I tried to talk to you but you wouldn't let me in. But I knew who you really were so I tried to always understand. But after years of fights and you trying to take your life I knew things were not OK. You realized you needed help and got counseling for PTSD. It was not easy for either one of us but I knew we had to do this to save you and me. We have come so far together and I realize every day how much I need you in my life because without you I would be different. You are such an amazing person and have so much to give I am so great full you picked me to grow old with. I love you and honor you and will always be by your side. You have faced PTSD and not let it over come us and because of that we are so different we are stronger.

Submitted By: Proud Wife of a Veteran


This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Love Letter Campaign - Love My Husband





I love my husband with all my heart and sometimes I feel like I can't go on. He is so mean to me, and I don't understand. I  am not allowed to get sick because that is when PTSD really shows up. Like now I am having real bad headaches and pain running down behind my left ear also my neck hurts so bad at times I just want to cry. I am supposed to be resting until I can see the neurologist next week but he acts like he doesn't care, if anything gets done in the home I have to do it, he doesn't take care of paying the bills and if I don't get them done he gets so mean. I am afraid to say anything at all at times and I feel like I am walking on egg shells and they are going to crack at any time and set him off. When he is sick I take care of him but it is not that way when I am sick I take of myself. Everyone at Church thinks that he does take care of me but I don't say anything to anyone. I got real bad at Church Sunday and couldn't keep my balance and he got mad at me I think some of the members saw the way he was acting but I could not help it. It is like he is ashamed of me, but I have got to try and hold on no matter how bad it gets because I do love him and I will take care of him as long as I can.

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.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Love Letter Campaign - My Hero, My love




Dear Michael,

  I wanted to let you know just how much you have touched my life. There are no words to say just how affected my life is by your presence. I have never met anyone like you before and I can't imagine my life without you in it. My heart has been healed from past damage, I have someone to look up to, to lean on when needed. You have been there when I've needed you the most and help my hand through touch times. When my world was thrown upside down, you were the one who was there, giving me strength to even move forward. I know that you believe you don't deserve all you have but you really do. You have seen the worst in this world and I can only give you a little color and peace. I only have my heart to offer you and my time. I will always be there when you need me. I can only pray that this continues on the path we are on now. I love you more each day. The more I spend time with you the more I learn that love is patient and kind and that there is hope for true love !
after all. 

With all my heart,

Jennifer


This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Love Letter Campaign - One last commitment March 2012 An ode to my friend





See you Again.
March 2012- Copperas Cove , Texas

As I sit on the porch of the beautiful log cabin house in which my buddy and his wife chose for its uniqueness, and in the house in which he made a permanent decision to end the pain, regret and agony from the numerous combat deployments. I find myself staring at the flag pole with the American flag waving so beautifully. It was only week ago that he was sitting here in the same chair drinking his favorite beer watching his son attempt to ride his bike for the first time. It was in this vary spot in which he and his wife would build their yard to such beauty that it truly belonged in a magazine.

But these temporary thoughts were oh so fleeting. I kept staring at that flag waving and placed my head in my hands once again and wondered how I can honor this man. This contemplation coupled with tears from a grown man crying over his friend was about to find a solution. As I leaned back in the wooden rocker chair, I glanced over at the table to my right. Standing tall and upright is one of the things that a soldier would always call his friend. Mr. Vodka, and lo and behold Mr. Cigarette. Not really the greatest choice of friends, but they will do. Mr. Vodka albeit the nasty orange flavored kind spoke to me in a way that no other inanimate object ever has spoken to me. It was as if I was Alice in Wonderland or Neo from the Matrix or pick whatever movie where the Protagonist has a decision to make that will affect the rest of their lives.

As I lit that cigarette I spun that cap off that bottle of vodka and put it to my lips. I only paused for 2 seconds and contemplated if I could polish off the rest of the bottle of vodka with about half left. I being a former soldier still had that mentality of Ill take that hill and see whats on the other side.  I knew from my prior run-ins with getting smashed into the wall by alcohol.  I calculated that I had about 6 minutes until I was fried. Now those 6 minutes I had were crucial and would lead me to make a vow and honor my friend in the process.

After downing that half a bottle of orange vodka I put the cigarette back in my mouth and stood up and made my way to the flag pole.  No sooner have I stepped foot off the porch I started to cry so uncontrollably on this inside that my guts went into violent vibration mode. I felt like throwing up. Not yet because of the vodka but because doing this final task would signify that my friend is truly gone. I had to catch myself and lean against the pole for support. With the cigarette in my mouth I unhooked that flag lowering line and brought that flag which used to stand for freedom now stood for mourning as I lowered it to half-mast.  I tied that line back to the pole and took 4 steps backward, took the cigarette out of my mouth with my left hand and raised my salute slowly and so perfectly with my right hand that my basic training drill sergeant would have been proud. I completed for the first time a perfect about face with military style and precision and went back to that !
wooden chair.

I finished that cigarette and by the time that I found my pack of them I realized I have a few minutes before the bus would hit me. I lit another cigarette up and leaned back and made a vow to myself. That vow was and is as important to me as the Hippocratic Oath is to doctors. I vowed that no matter how bad things would ever get in my head, that I would never permanently erase with a bullet the agony, pain and regret from being a soldier.

After pausing to reflect on that commitment I knew I was already on my way to alcohol intoxication. I stumbled thru the doorway and up the stairs to where my buddy shot himself and wanted to take one last look at his shrine to the good times he and I had together. There we were in Colorado, training for combat and at the same time trying to grow a completely ridiculous bushy mustache. As my last nod to my friend I placed my head against that photo and cried out loud. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you, please forgive me!  After a few moments of uncontrollable reflection I realized I couldn't stop sobbing and made my way to pray at the porcelain god we call a toilet. As I very clumsily collapsed on the floor and unintentionally banged my head on the throne, I knew I would not only purge myself of all the toxins from my physical body, I would also purge and clean out my mental bank account and declare bankruptcy  so I could start anew.

Submitted By:  A promise to my battle buddy to honor him with love and respect

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 11, 2015

Love Letter Campaign - In your Granddaughter's Eyes




Grandpa,

Throughout my life you have always been there, supportive and loving. And although I don't see you much I wanted to share what you have always meant to me and how I have come to see what you mean in my life. 

Before I was ever born or dreamed up you became a part of my life. Stepping in as a father to my mom and her brothers and as a husband to my grandma when the stresses and horrors of, I believe, the Vietnam War took its toll on my (biological) grandpa. You carried with you your own experiences and picked up the pieces of a broken family and made them whole again, giving young children a father and, eventually, this girl someone to look up to and love. 

I don't know much of anything about you're service in the Korean War but the passion and pride you have in your eyes when you have talked to me about your time in the Army makes me smile even just to think about. As time has gone on I have come to realize how much your memories, love, and support mean to me. But I what you may not realize is the passion you have inspired in me. You, as well as my other family members that have served, have left me a legacy that I want to carry on. You, all of you, have inspired me to want to serve my country. While it may not be in the Army and while it may not end up being Active Duty I know that I would have your full support and that you may even be proud of me. 

To tell you all of this and the full extent of what you mean to me in person probably wouldn't come out like this above. I would start to tear up and cry at the thought of what you mean to me and from there on it would become jumbled mess of words that probably wouldn't make much sense, hence the letter that doesn't even convey how much you mean to me and how much I love you.

I know that I have could easily just thanked you for your service to our beloved country and left this letter at that but that just doesn't do justice to what I wanted to say. Being the only grandpa in my life you have had an enormous impact and I don't know how different my life would have been without you (and, quite frankly, I don't want to know). I am so blessed and lucky to have a grandpa as great as you. So in your granddaughter's eyes you are one in a billion. You are brave, courageous, inspiring, loving, and so much more. In my eyes you have inspired me to be my best always and you have been one of my biggest motivators all of my life, even though you don't know it. 

Maybe I have written this in the wrong place, as this is supposed to be a love letter but I do love you, grandpa, and I wanted to share what you have meant to me. So to close, in your granddaughter's eyes you are all I could want to be in many aspects. I hope one day I am as brave and strong as you were in service to your country and still are through your health problems. I hope to be as loving and understanding in all situations I encounter in my life. I hope to be as supportive as you have been for me and I hope that the passions you have inspired in me show through and inspire those around me.

I love you and thank you for your service,

Your granddaughter


*I write this letter anonymously as I wish the focus to be on the feelings and emotions that the brave people in my life have created.


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, September 29, 2015

The War of PTSD vs Till Death Do Us Part

I have always described my marriage as a fairy tale come true. I believed that my prince valiantly rescued me and made me his bride. We would live happily ever after. Simple, easy, right out of a fictional book. The problem was the fairy tale was mine but the story was not over. In this open book of genre filled titles, I am the narrator and reality became the author.   

My prince was my high school sweetheart. We married from one day to another. I just celebrated 23 years of marriage in 2015. My husband retired in 2012 after 23 years of service to the Army. I looked forward to making some great intimate new memories with my babe. Sadly, life after retirement, seemed harder than when he was on active duty.

My fairy tale marriage would succumb to an invisible entity that slowly conjured its way into my world. It would change every aspect of happiness into a nightmare. It was clear that it was not going away. My soldier had no reason to believe it would overtake him. Little did he know that he was already under its control. It was a poison that produced anger and hatred feelings. It transformed his thoughts of worth to thoughts of despair engulfed in a darkness that had no escape. I tried to comfort him, hold him, encourage him; it was hopeless, I was losing him. I knew in my heart that my babe was still there but he was slowing fading away from me. I recalled everything I ever learned as his wife. He taught me to be independent, to be a leader, and to be soldier. My first instinct was to fight. I had to fight to get him back. How do I fight and what am I fighting?

I observed my husband, I monitored his ups and downs, I felt like a spy in search of in tell. My mind set became a field full of strategies. My defenses were on alert since I feared the enemy had infiltrated his mind. I was not going to allow it to destroy what I built as my family.
My fairy tale was under attack by something unknown but extremely powerful. I had to find out what it was that was holding my soldier captive. What was I dealing with? I had to find out what name does my enemy go by? I knew I had to get to know this poison, this monster, this disease.

My enemy is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, aka PTSD. The saying goes, "Keep your friends close but your enemies closer." I was angry knowing I needed to have a relationship with PTSD to get my soldier back. My anger surfaced with questions of, why fight? Is he worth it? Can’t you survive without him? I am capable of surviving without him, it wouldn't be worth my time to fight. I have a life to live.

As soon as I was ready to throw the towel in, an overwhelming sense to fight stopped me. I am not a quitter. PTSD is not a quitter, either. PTSD and I had something in common beside not quitting, it was who gets to be the undeniable influence on this soldier's mind. The winner would be who wants it more? Do I? Sure, I still have MY life. I still have MY children. 

My thoughts took me back to an overcast day, when I cried. I spoke my vows to my soldier, in front of my family and the Lord above witnessing this holy matrimony. I do, I do, I DO, I DO! I do want it more. Since that day it was no longer MY life, it was OUR life. We made OUR children. It was not my husband's fault that PTSD was a part of him. It was also not his fight. It was to be OUR fight. PTSD has been a very cocky, selfish, backstabbing, ungrateful pain in the @$$!

I knew PTSD and what it was doing to my husband right in front of me. The advantage was that PTSD had no idea who I was. PTSD had no in tell on my mindset, my beliefs, my values, and my capabilities. Oh, there was going to be a fight. There was going to be casualties. There was also an answer to the questions. The answer was love. I fight because I LOVE him, he is worth all my LOVE, it was his LOVE that won me over and it is his LOVE for me and our children that is the center of my life with him.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever; believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life

Through all of our obstacles, deployments, vices, disagreements, arguments, issues, heartaches, drama and mistakes, it is love that allows the crying, the healing, the forgiveness, the sacrifices to maintain and never forget the reason we fell in love.

PTSD is not going to leave my family. PTSD will be a familiar uninvited guest in our family. PTSD cannot be cured but it can be contained. I love my husband, I cherish our moments together, I stand by him and support his dreams. Every second of every minute that I quote scripture and acknowledge the love I have for my babe, I win. My fight with PTSD will have battles, they will be short lived because in the end, love conquers all, and love is what will ultimately win the war of ME vs PTSD 2001- till death do us part.

By
Mrs. Soldier for Life

Monday, June 1, 2015

Mother of A Vet

Brennan Vines, your are a remarkable woman!  I just read your story in the March 2015 issue of Guideposts.
 
Our son was deployed multiple times but it was Iraq that affected him.  He is now retired from active duty and Army Reserves but he has PTSD.  This is his story.
 
He had worked in the family business but PTSD made it difficult for him to handle details.  He managed.  His dad, brother and wife all worked with him never complaining.  Then he was sought out to work for the Veteran's Administration.  He is now working to help other vets get their benefits. This work helps him.  He can smile again!
 
His wife is a vet, also.  I thank God for her.  I know it is not easy for her to deal with the PTSD of her husband.
 
I remember the nights during his deployment when I would wake up feeling startled and afraid that something bad was happening to our son.  I thought God was telling me to pray for him and I did.  My prayers were answered and he came home.  Family members, suffer with their vets as you very well know.
 
Our daughter started a non-profit organization that sews clothing for infants of needy families.  We give some of these "bundles" to military families.   We try to put all red, white and blue items in these "bundles".  Each "bundle" is a diaper bag containing baby supplies and a layette of clothing and blankets along with a thank you for the sacrifices military personnel and families make.  We know the needs are emotional and also may be financial.
 
May our son's story give hope to other vets.  May you find something to do that will give you peace.  Our son feels better helping others.


With love and prayers,


Joanne
Mother of a Vet

Monday, April 27, 2015

Betrayal

I’m in great need of guidance. I have never blogged about my issues or even talked to anyone about this until now and that is because I just really don’t know how to deal with this. A little bit us -  My husband and I have been married for almost 10 years. In 2008, my husband was Med Discharged from the Marines after serving almost 11 years and he was also diagnosed with PTSD.

We have been dealing with his PTSD issues for the past 8 years; there are more good days than bad. He really doesn’t talk to me about what goes on in his head and I don’t pressure him to do so. He does see his therapists every month which I hope it’s helping and he does not take any type of medication. He does have mood swings and they are a lot of things that make him  see red. During an argument he can be verbally abusive and says quite a lot of hurtful things. At the beginning it was tough on me but I think I have developed some type of coping mechanism. Now it does not really face me as much. 

We had a baby last April and when I was pregnant one day I happen to be check his text messages, I really don’t know what prompt me to do that but I did. There were text messages between him and this woman about “how attracted they are to each other and how they are meant to me” well to say the least I mentally lost it. There I was pregnant with his son and him doing that. The woman lives in another State and it was just a “platonic relationship” I confronted him and we were able to work things out. He said that his mind was not right and that the reality of becoming a father scared him because he did not if he was fit to be one that was his explanation.    To me it made no sense, it was not a logical explanation and quite a messed up way of dealing with life. Eventually, we were able to work things out and things had been going pretty good.

With the baby now part of the equation, I think mothers like to be on top of things and sometimes we just want it done our way. Not because it’s the only way but because it’s the way we like it done. Well, my husband feels like I under mind him and that I make him feel incompetent.  ***I’m working on that***  He is a fantastic father and wants to spend as much time as possible with his son, which I love very much. 

Now with that being said on March 26, I went home early because daddy had to pick him the baby up from day care because he was not feeling well and he had to get really to go to work. While he was in the shower, my intuition told me to check his Facebook messenger and here we are again. He had reached out to this same woman again and there were exchanging photos (nothing explicit) and saying  how attracted they are to each other and all these ridiculous stuff. I tried to gain my composure and just breath because I really thought I was about to have a panic attack. When he got out of the shower I guess he had the feeling something was up. At first, I said everything was fine but he pushed again so I confronted him. His answer was that “his mind is not right and he was bored and he also wanted to see if he feels the same for me and that he likes to get into people’s head to see how far he can go” WHAT??? How messed up is that?? How can he risk everything for nothing? 

I don’t trust him. I don’t know why he would do that again. I don’t get that thrill seeking type of activity. He said there is nothing going on but then why do it. I know his mind is not right and I feel numb, then angry, then I cry a little then I have no choice but to put on a happy face so no one knows what we are going through because not everybody understand what is like to live with someone whose mind is not 100% there. I really need some advice -  because I do not know if I can do this again.

Submitted By: Marine Wife

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Moments Of Impact

Hello. I'm Melissa, my husband and I have been married for 22 years. He served 16 Active Duty Army years. His last deployment was in 2007-2008. I remember doing the same thing then that I had done each time he was about to return/redeploy. You know, made sure the house was in tip top shape, did all the grocery shopping, bought all of his favorite things, and made plans for all the things we talked about doing when he returned. Little did I know, this return would be the one that would change everything. The defining moment. Prior to this deployment, we had a PCS move to the lovely Fort Polk, La. If you have ever been stationed there then you detected a hint of sarcasm behind that last sentence. We have three children. Two of them were Elementary age children at the time, one was a middle school student. Fort Polk has a DOD school on post for Elementary age children but it falls under the Vernon Parish school district guidelines, etc. The first time I walked into that school I had an uneasy feeling. It didn't feel warm, it wasn't welcoming, it was just cold. It didn't look like a place where children spent most of their days. It looked cold, dark, and felt like an institution. Not that I know what that feels like but they way I would imagine it was right there in front  of me. My oldest daughter attended Leesville Middle School. I don't even want to talk about our experiences with that school.  Needless to say, this was not the environment that my children were accustomed to. Maybe we had been one of the lucky ones. We had been to Schweinfurt, Germany, Fort Benning, Ga and had great experiences. Sometimes, comparing one situation to the next is the hardest thing to stop doing. Which brings me to this. Unfortunately I couldn't stop doing that. I couldn't just "suck it up" I had to move on. After being in Ft Polk for a few short months, my husband's unit was about to deploy. We decided during that time that I would return to our home state of Alabama where all of our family lived, my children had friends there, etc. So the move began. Everything was fine. It was the beginning of summer so the children were out of school and etc. I just ran into one problem that I had not considered.....my children and I had no one to relate to. This town wasn't a military town, these people had no idea what that was like, and the children in the town certainly had no idea what the word deploy meant.  I reflect on that word quite often and how it had a dark presence in my home. Deployment is a large word and it was like D day in my home. You can prepare yourself all you want to and you can make plans, you can hope for the best, but nothing can prepare you for what comes after.  This was the longest deployment we had ever been through, 15 months. That is a long time. That was the longest time we had ever been apart at one time. So towards the end when I knew of dates that things would happen like when he would return, when block leave would be, etc. I started to make plans. My Mother was taking the children and myself to Panama City Beach, Florida for 5 days. Block leave was to start the day after that 5 day vacation so I made preparations to rent a condo to stay an additional week and then my husband would make the drive from Fort Polk, La to PCB, Florida to join us. What I didn't do was prepare for what would happen. In my mind I visualized us sitting on the beach, sipping some sort of fruity drink with an umbrella and etc. You get it....we've all had that moment. After all this was our time, nobody could take that away. Iraq was a world away, that was over, we were just going to have the best vacation ever ! That's what I told myself anyway. The time came, he drove down and we immediately got down to the beach, toes in the sand, just talking. My children are quite adventurous and they wanted us in the ocean at that very moment. My husband doesn't exactly enjoy the water. He loves looking at it, walking alongside it, but if he gets in...not so much. Water up to his knees/waste is enough and he has his thrill and he's over it. Well. the children and I were in the water, enjoying the waves, made our way to the sandbar, etc. I looked back and I saw my husband pacing in the sand. I watched him walk back and forth for what seemed like forever but it was actually only a couple of minutes. I felt it, I knew something wasn't right. I got the children together and we made our way out of the water. He was gone, didn't see him, there were quite a few people on the beach and I started to feel this overwhelming sense of panic. I can't describe it but as I type this, I can feel it and smell it as if I am still there in that moment. The children and I raced up to the condo and there he stood, in the breezeway on his cell phone with one hand on the phone and one on his head, he was still pacing. I said "what's wrong? what happened?" He didn't answer, he just kept talking and pacing. He handed the phone to me and I grabbed that phone with a great sense of fear and I said "hello" It was Military One Source and the woman said "Mrs Saint, I understand that you are away from his duty station, but I need you to do this for me, for him" I didn't know how to respond to that. Tears began to flow and I don't even know what I said to her. I just knew that I had an address , a name of a counselor, and I had to get him there as soon as possible. I got him there and I would like to say that the story stopped here and that we lived happily ever after but that only happens in fairy tales. This isn't a fairy tale, this is real life and it was forever changed in that moment. We left the beach, we returned to Alabama. We packed all of our things into a U-Haul and we headed back to Fort Polk, La. Block leave continued and he would continue as if nothing had ever happened. In my mind I knew what had happened, it haunted me but what was I to do? I didn't understand. I had been told over and over that this is the way things could be, but I didn't absorb it because I didn't understand it.  I started pushing him into therapy, etc. He went, he continued to go each and every week. With each passing week more medication poured into our home. The cabinet that once held spices, cooking and baking supplies was now "his cabinet" His medication cabinet. I watched the person that had once been so vibrant, so full of life, etc. slowly morph into a person that I no longer knew. Things we had once done together, I was now doing alone. I became lonely, withdrawn and in a dark place. I would suddenly get chills, start to sweat, feel like terrible things were going to happen out of nowhere. I had to seek help for myself. This was out of the ordinary for me. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. My entire life had changed. His "problems" had become my problems. I began to fall into this dark place where nothing was enjoyable anymore. One day I decided, that's it, I have children. I can not do this another day. I applied for a job with Youth Sports in Fort Polk and my life changed. I would spend hours working outside in the swampy Louisiana heat. I loved it. The children and families I worked with changed my life. I could relate to people, they could relate to me. My children started a different school system in Louisiana, they loved it. Everything felt normal again. A year and a half went by and to me and the children life was great, we were happy, content. We were continuing on with life. My husband was in therapy. He was doing great, or at least I thought he was. Then things became different. He started pacing the sidewalks at night, blasting his music through his ipad. I started to notice that he was texting a lot. One day his phone went off, I picked it up to hand it to him and you know Iphones, if you receive a text it displays it on the screen. The text said "I Love you" the sender was "Jason" I thought, Jason?So Jason loves you? I've always been rather curious so I picked the phone up and hit contact info and got the number. I went to my phone, blocked my number and called it. Did Jason answer? of course not, it was a female. I said excuse me, who is this? She said "ummm this is Wendy, who is this?" I replied....Melissa. To make a long story short, Wendy was a high school sweetheart, his first real relationship, etc. I was furious. What did I do? I went into a fit of rage and everything I had been feeling since I stood right there in that condo breezeway in PCB came out, if I felt it, I said it. I didn't care. I was done. All of the things I had felt, all the things I had been through with him....I was done, it was out in the open" Well he rushed out of the house. Later I would find out he went to behavioral health. He had been doing many things that I classified as "STUPID" just straight stupid in my mind and I was done! A couple of weeks went by, he went to a lot of appointments. I continued working, we didn't talk a lot. I was still very angry.  He had more medication and a new diagnosis.....Bipolar, and PTSD and the term TBI was thrown around in casual conversation. Getting past this for a moment and kind of taking it all in and trying to research the "diagnosis" on my own came the next blow. He had been contacting DA without my knowledge to try to PCS. He came down on orders for Ft Campbell and just didn't think he needed to tell me this until the last minute. I didn't understand. Our children were happy, I was happy, but that didn't matter to him. That was my thought. We moved. My oldest daughter had the hardest time of all. She was to be a Junior and here she was leaving a school and friends she loved to finish somewhere strange and new once again. We made the move, things progressively got worse with my husband. He ruined my credit, he ruined his credit. He had highs and lows and struggled with himself all the time. The first year at Campbell I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer. I was to have surgery at Vanderbilt in January, he was to deploy to Afghanistan. His Commander suggested that he stay back. He said you've deployed enough, you need to sit this out and take care of your family and yourself. I went through surgery, everything was fine. He was on rear D, he was home a lot and went to therapy weekly. Well, his  unit returned 9 months later and my husband was sent to WTU. They decided that it was time for his career to end. After being in WTU for almost a year his VA ratings  came back. He had a date that he would get out of the Army. We made arrangements to stay in Clarksville. My job on post and my children liking the area were part of that decision. During this time I had 2 soldiers come to my door one day and tell me that they needed some clothes and personal hygiene products for my husband, he had been hospitalized and was suicidal and was in a mental hospital in the area and that I would hear from him "soon" Two days passed and I was told I could come visit him. I went to this cold, dark, institution. It was full of soldiers, walking around with no strings in their clothes, shoes, etc. In that moment I knew that things were bad, they were really bad and I didn't know how to handle it. I "sucked it up" I put on my brave face, I held his hand, and I listened. I actually stopped every thought in my own head and I listened. All this time I had heard him talk. I had listened but this was different. I knew that this was a man who had hit rock bottom, he needed help. That was 2 years ago. He is medically retired. Things have changed, I am his caregiver now, appointments at the VA are part of the "normal" now. I am so thankful for the Nashville VA. I am extremely thankful for Mrs. Elbrink, from the caregiver support program who actually listened to me talk and knew exactly where I was coming from and made me feel "normal" This is my new "normal" I work part time, I manage the household and I take care of my children and most importantly,I take care of him. One of the things that I miss the most is that no one takes care of me and I long for those moments. I look back at that moment in PCB, Florida and I often define that as "The Defining Moment"  If you google the term defining moment this is what you will find : 

noun1.a point at which the essential nature or character of a person, group, etc., is revealed or identified.


Life is all about moments of impact and how they change our lives forever. This was MY impact, MY defining moment. I am forever changed.
Thanks for reading, 
Melissa 

Monday, April 20, 2015

I've Been Thinking A Lot About...

I've been thinking a lot about what kind of blog I could write. There are so many different situations we are faced with each and ever day. Some of them are easier then others.First I thought about the struggles with fireworks, the struggles with the kids and a Veteran who fights the inner fight of PTSD each and every day, then I thought about the struggles with medication or the simple things but then it hit me yesterday. Amazingly enough, my husband helped with this blog idea without even knowing. Its about the struggles of substance abuse, the struggles of addiction in more ways then we ever think about.

When we first met, 12 years ago, he was the most loving ,caring, most affectionate man you can imagine.I had never met a man like him before and I was so blown away and so in love. It all changed 10 years ago, with his return from Iraq. He was a different man. A quiet one, a "pulled back" one in a way.He wasn't affectionate , caring, nor loving anymore. Even so he told me he loved me , something was off, something was missing. The VA put him on medication and diagnosed him with "Major Depression" . The first round of medications made it worse. He was always sleeping or in a fog like state. He hated it and stopped his meds, turned to "self medication" , first alcohol, later Marijuana. I hated when he drank because he became even more depressed, even more unpredictable. He decided to stop drinking and did and I was proud of him. Then he started to smoke Marijuana. I hated that too because I was always worried about my children but he never smoked it around me or the kids and he slept without night terrors, he ate. For the first time in a year he ate more then a toddler would. In a way I accepted it and thought if it makes things just a little better and as long as he doesn't do it around us then maybe , just maybe we can pull through it. This lasted for a little while until he decided again, he needed to stop it. I was proud , am even still proud of him today for stopping. It came back with a vengeance. He stopped eating again and the night terrors returned but his goal was to be "free" of medication, "free" of alcohol and drugs. He wanted a job, wanted to work, support his family and he knew deep inside he couldn't do it while on drugs and alcohol. He found a job he loved and wanted to make it a courier and for many years after this was his "new addiction". Work , work , work, 60,70 and even 80 hrs a week he would work. He was never around and often I felt like being a single Mom since all he did was work. It being a salary position, it didn't make a difference how many hours he spend there. I hated it , I missed him. He was never around. I always was faced with struggles by myself. I missed him so much but again, I thought if it makes things easier, if we fight less, if he can function this way then I should be grateful and happy. For a while , he switched between companies. 3 different companies, always the same job but he seemed "ok", functioning. 3 years ago, he lost his job due to cuts and he fell in a whole. The one thing that kept his mind going , that kept him functioning, that kept the nightmares, the struggles at bay, returned - the evil beast was back. 

At first I thought we could use this time to grow back together as a family, get to know one another again but oh was I wrong. By now we learned he didn't have just  "major depression"but also severe PTSD . PTSD settled over us like a dark cloud. He started "living in" his computer. Everything and anything was about that computer. He would talk to strangers more then he would talk to us. He never got into computer games but got caught into network marketing. Talking to people all over the world, signing up to sell products no one really wanted. We fought all the time over money that was spend for these products, the time he spend on the computer, the time he spend talking to strangers instead to me. It was the worst time. He was here but he was so so far away. The daily basics,such as showers, eating, drinking, brushing teeth, etc. became unnecessary to him. I tried so hard to get him to the VA, get him help, get us help but he blocked everything. He swore he can do it on his own.He kept telling me how there are guys out there who are worse off then him and how they need help from the VA but how he doesn't need it. About a year and a half went by before he started a "normal" job and started working for the post office as a mail carrier. I thought it would make things better, get him away from the computer, away from network marketing , away from all these strangers who became closer to him then I was , then the children were. I was wrong, things got worse.While out on the street each and every day, different things started triggering his PTSD even more. He turned into the person textbooks on PTSD must have been written on. Everything you ever have read about PTSD - it was him. From Anxiety and panic attacks to the return of the night terrors , the screaming , the hiding in the closets and under tables , it was all there. It got as far as him calling me one day to scream at me to help him get through one of his anxiety / panic attacks , screaming how he was ready to kill someone because of a gesture they made , another time he called and said they are blowing me up. At the end of 2013 , I finally had him convinced to see our doctor. Not a VA doctor but a private doctor to get some help. Another round of medications were started then and it seemed to help some. Having a doctor who also is a Veteran, served in Afghanistan finally opened my husband up. Not completely but enough to understand it wasn't his fault, it wasn't him doing this but the beast finally officially had the name of PTSD. For over 10 years , we battled, fought, learned through online information that it was PTSD but now we had a official diagnosis. Finally he got help. Anti depressant medication, sleep aid and counseling with the VA , I thought  we are on the up. However , he kept on living in his computer. 8 month later, we are ones again faced with unemployment. By now the count is 7 years, 6 different jobs. I would love to tell you more about how and why he lost his last position but at the current time I can't . I may at a later time when a variety of things are settled there.

He found work again and I am proud of him and oh so happy for him because it was the one job after his military time that he loved and enjoyed. The one he used o work 60-80 hrs a week in but this time it came with a restriction. 48 hrs per week and so much more happened just in the last few weeks since he started this job. He is FINALLY home again. He doesn't live in the computer no more, he works his 48 hrs per week , he is happy, he interacts with the kids, he talks to me.After a long close to 11 years since he left for Iraq, I feel like my loving , caring and affectionate husband who I have loved and fought for, for all these years, the man I missed and mourned the loss of , finally returned. He takes time to sit and talk, is being the most affectionate, most loving and caring man again.

However, even while writing this , I am afraid. I am so afraid to lose this again. I am afraid that it is just going to be a small time , a opening in our dark clouds to let the sunshine in and the dark clouds will return. PTSD " THE BEAST" is  luring in the back ground , waiting to strike again. In my opinion that is one of the worst things about PTSD, you can have really good days , great days even but in a split second, everything can be gone. I am grateful for each great day but always on the look out and always have my guards up for the beast to return. 

= never give up fighting, always will love him = 

Monday, March 2, 2015

#DearVA I'm A Combat Wounded Infantryman...

#DearVA,

I'm a combat wounded infantryman and a disabled veteran. I am also a fat and grumpy father of two and the husband of a woman with an indomitable spirit. When I was injured in Iraq, my dreams of continuing my Army career went away. Yes, I know there are guys out there who lose legs or arms and stay in. That's wonderful, and I wish I could be like them, but that's not the point of my letter to you.  

I'm writing this to share with you what has been going through my mind when my doctor told me that I would soon be weened off of my narcotic pain medication. Due to the nature of my injuries, multiple parts of my body hurt, and at different intensities and frequencies. I use the narcotic pain medicine to help me stave off some of the more intense pain so that I may be the best father and husband I can for my family. I understand that there are risks involved with medicine, especially narcotic types. I understand that there is a chance for addiction, overdose, and other physical ailments down the road. Recognizing these risks, and in sound mind I say to you that I do not care. Doctors take an oath to do no harm, and I can appreciate that, however I am not interested in a long, healthy life. I want to manage the pain associated with my injuries as best I can so that I can continue to be a part of my family. I want to live with a little pain as possible - not for as long as possible.

Now you might have read those last few sentences and thought that I might be suicidal. I am not. Suicide is counter-productive to my mission. You also might have gotten the wrong impression, and figured all I want is my drugs. I am more than willing to try other things. I would be willing to be prescribed fewer pills. I've been prescribed a TENS unit and an Alpha Stim, and they get used regularly. I've also gone through physical therapy, and I'll be doing it again very soon. Considering all of that, I still feel that the narcotic pain medication provides relief, and without it I would be totally useless to my family. I wouldn't be able to complete my mission, which would leave me in a bind. Do I admit defeat (not going to happen)? Do I become a criminal? Thoughts like this have been keeping me awake for the past week now.  

Another thing that I found interesting: I'm not the only guy out there who thinks the same. Here's an article ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/veterans-struggle-to-renew-their-prescriptions-amid-new-opioid-rules/2015/02/18/4d42d63a-acb3-11e4-9c91-e9d2f9fde644_story.html ) full of other veterans who depend on opioids to cope with their pain. Also, like the veterans in the article, my wife is my biggest supporter. She is the fail-safe between me and an overdose. She spends her days managing my medications, appointments, the budget, the house and the children. It truly is a wonder this woman hasn't lost her mind and exploded like the exhausted celestial body that she is.

VA, I know you won't see this. If you do see it, I know you won't care. I understand that, as sad as that is. I just hope you know one thing: we are your junkyard dogs. At a young age, I learned a powerful life lesson that I fear you haven't: those who snatch from junkyard dogs get bit.

-Disabled Combat Veteran