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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Our Current Battle: PTSD



Husband and I deliberately went into that Military Recruiter's office. We didn't stumble upon it, we knew what we were doing.

If someone CAN know what they are doing when signing their life away to the U.S. Military.
Which they can't.

We were 20 (me) and 18 (him), and we had tried about 12 different minimum-wage jobs between the two of us to support our little "family".
Husband, me, and my little 2-year-old Joshua lived in a little apartment we adored, but we couldn't pay the bills, afford a car, daycare, or even a bus pass.

When I found myself vomiting on the rock outside the apartment complex at 9 am, it hit me that our little family was about to get a little bigger... and these failure jobs weren't going to cut it.

Outside the local telemarketer-type jobsite, Husband and I stood in the snow, waiting for a bus that never came. It had been the longest, most humiliating day of work we had ever experienced, and I was sick and cold. Seeing me start to cry, he touched my cheek and whispered, "This is not what the mother of my child should be doing. I will join the military if I have to; you will never have to do this again."

I don't remember how we got home that night. The 30 miles to our house certainly wasn't walked... but all I remember about that night was the look in his eyes when he said he was going to take care of us. He meant it, and all my fear melted away.

...until it was replaced by a new fear: Military life.
But that's another story.

Today's story is about our battle we fight now. We (well, technically HE) joined the Army with the understanding that he would probably face combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, he may have to witness or even perform unspeakable acts, and it was all for a roof over our heads and health care for our new little baby. 

What we didn't understand:
...that they would never even send him into combat
...that basic training was the equivalent to rigorous emotional and physical abuse
...that we would spend the entire four years of his contract sitting in the middle of nowhere
...that most of the "perks" they promised didn't actually exist
and most of all,
...that he would spend years afterward dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Once you are done with the military, the military is done with you. They will help you with the gov't-enforced benefits you were promised (how Husband is achieving his education), and anything else you might need is no longer their concern.

Tomorrow we start our trek through the many, many hoops of the Veteran's Association. The research I've done tells me we are embarking on a nearly-impossible journey, as the Military/Gov't/VA still doesn't recognize non-deployed soldiers as candidates for PTSD.

Husband was a loyal soldier who spent many months training troops who were being deployed to Iraq/Afghanistan...
Showing them what they could expect to find when they got there...
Living on constant call in case of deployment.

We knew at all times that any day might be THE day.
I knew each day as I walked past those green duffel bags in my bedroom,
Today could be the day.
Today he could tell me he's leaving for a year...
...and he may never come back alive.

What, exactly, are they responsible for?
To what extent can they brush us off, with the excuse that he never actually "saw" combat?
Oh, he saw combat alright. He taught those men what they would find when they got there...
And he saw things he never should have seen.

Now, Military, where are you when our family suffers the consequences of his service?
I guess we're about to see.

Some links that might help others in this situation:

What is PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder)?

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person’s daily life.
(Click the link above this paragraph for more on this.)

(Print results and take with you to your doctor or local VA)

...for when help doesn't come fast enough.




If you are a Veteran or have cared for one in a similar situation, I would LOVE to hear your story.
It's time for us all to stand up together and ask for the help we deserve, from the country we willingly served.

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