PTSD & TBI

A friend of mine has battled the demons of war that returned with her soldier after deployment. She has been completely open and honest about all that goes on when your soldier suffers from PTSD and TBI. She doesn’t sugarcoat daily events and gives you a real look into how much life can change after a deployment ends. She has compiled amazing resources that she has had to fight to find and be able to use.

If you ever wanted to read an insider’s view or if you’re in the middle of the same hell, please reach out to her. She’s more than willing to help and can provide the resources and support that can help you and your soldier.

Living with PTSD and TBI Facebook (Uncle Sam’s Mistress)

Living with PTSD and TBI Blog

A Flight With a Soldier I Won’t Forget

Recently, I was flying from Atlanta to Columbus (Ohio) for business. As I was settling into my seat, a soldier approached in ACUs and motioned that he had the window seat. I moved to the aisle to let him in and instantly thought of a hundred questions I wanted to ask him.

You see, I’m no stranger to asking questions. I ask a lot of them. A lot. In fact, that’s really how MTTA started – because I wasn’t afraid to ask questions all the time. I wanted to ask him where he was going, where he had been, what units he’d been assigned to, when he had joined…and on and on. But I refrained.

I had to say something though. If nothing else, I had to say thank you and it seemed a little silly to blurt that out without any kind of opening.

I asked him if he was on leave and he told me he was on his way home from Iraq. I told him my husband had also served and I just wanted to say thank you. He said thanks and seemed a little uncomfortable so I pulled out my book and started reading.

As we began to land an hour or so later, I asked him if anyone was meeting him at the airport. He said his wife was. I asked him if he had kids and he said yes. Then he told me his older kids had no idea he was on his way home and he was going to their school to surprise them.

Begin waterworks.

I told him that was so awesome and then had to look away to keep from really losing it. I just couldn’t imagine the look on his kids’ faces when they looked up and saw him standing there.

As we were walking towards our rental car, I saw him reunited with his wife and infant daughter. His wife had a huge grin with tear stained cheeks and swollen eyes. Oh, how I remember those days. That amazing feeling when he was back in your arms safe. There are just no words to describe it.

I was once again trying to discreetly wipe the tears as I watched them walk away.

As much as the deployments sucked, that moment when you see them walking towards you again and the fear just fades away and overwhelming happiness surrounds you….it almost makes it all worth it. Almost.

Don’t Contact His Chain of Command

I did it. Okay, I admit it. When my husband was in basic training, I was anxiously awaiting information that was supposed to arrive on when I should pick him up for Exodus.

News flash: I have ZERO patience. And the Army only made it worse, if that’s even possible.

Every day, I went home to check the mail just knowing the paper telling me when I could have my husband for two whole weeks would be there. But it never was. And every day I got more and more anxious. I needed to plan. I HAD to plan.

So I got the bright idea to email his commander at basic and ask for the information. If I only knew then what I know now.

Luckily, by the grace of God, my husband didn’t find out I had done this until after he graduated. I was at least smart enough to only use my first name and an email address with no identifiable information….which is probably what saved my husband from being called out in formation.

But it was a mistake. And let me tell you why.

If my husband had a job at a normal civilian employer, I would never dream of calling his boss and asking him what time I could come to pick him up when his Christmas vacation started. Why would it be any different in the Army? I think the Army makes us misplace our common sense sometimes. And it makes us feel much more involved in his career than we are (or should be).

Now, the commander was very gracious in his reply. But he didn’t have to be. And he wouldn’t have been in the wrong if he hadn’t been – I would have been (and was) for sticking my nose into the middle of my husband’s job.

What I should have done was patiently awaited for the letter (which arrived the following week, by the way) or waited for my husband to relay the information to me. It wasn’t my place to contact his boss and circumvent him on it.

It’s your soldier’s job. Not yours. You really have no place contacting his commander, any more than you would contact his civilian boss. He should be the one in that communication channel, not you.

Can you relate to my mistake of contacting the commander? Do you agree it’s not your place as the spouse to be involved?

Christmas Decorations for Holiday Deployments

The deployment when my husband was deployed over the holidays was the hardest deployment for him. In fact, Christmas was not the same even after he returned for several years after spending the holidays in Afghanistan.

But you can do a few things to make Christmas during a deployment a little more like home.

1. Send a Christmas Tree

Depending on how much room he has, you may have to send a small tabletop tree. If he’s in a larger area, you may be able to send a fairly decent size tree. Just make sure you consider shipping costs and the fact that in all likelihood, he won’t be bringing it home with him.

2. He Needs Decorations Too

With a smaller tree, it means fewer decorations and lights to send over to him. The dollar stores can have some cute ornaments that won’t break the bank because as I mentioned above, it will probably be trashed after Christmas.

3. Send Stockings for His Buddies

Not everyone has a family making sure they are taken care of during the holidays. I know this was the case for quite a few single soldiers that served with my husband. So when I sent him a stocking, I also sent one for each of the guys he was staying with. They weren’t filled with expensive gifts but it was enough to let them know someone cared.

4. Send a Christmas Candle

I know, I know…a candle for a guy? Um, have you smelled their clothes and bags after they return from deployment? Trust me, a scented candle is welcomed overseas. Send the scents of Christmas with a candle that smells just like a live tree or like cinnamon.

5. They Need Something To Watch

Send his favorite Christmas movie over (A Christmas Story for us) or if he really just wants to have something different to watch, try Bad Santa.

6. Add Some Snacks

What’s Christmas without some homemade treats? Try a cake in the jar recipe or vacuum seal your cookies. Packaging them with a piece of bread seems to work well too. Be sure to send enough to share.

7. An Unexpected Surprise

If you can get through doing this without your eyes being swollen shut from crying, you’re better than me. :) Have your kids record one of the Hallmark recordable storybooks for Christmas. Guaranteed to tug at his heart strings, no matter how much of a big, bad soldier he is.

What am I leaving out? What would you add to his Christmas package?

2011 Christmas Mail Dates for APO Addresses

Time to get those Christmas packages in the mail if you’re sending to an APO address. These are the absolute latest dates you can send your package overseas to “ensure” a holiday delivery in time for Christmas. I ALWAYS recommend sending priority mail through the U.S. Post Office. For me, it was always quicker and almost always cheaper too, especially if I could use the flat rate boxes.

Destination Express 1st Class Priority
APO/FPO/DPO AE 090-092 17 Dec 10 Dec 10 Dec
APO/FPO/DPO AE 093 N/A 03 Dec 03 Dec
APO/FPO/DPO AE 094-098 17 Dec 10 Dec 10 Dec
APO/FPO/DPO AA 340 17 Dec 10 Dec 10 Dec
APO/FPO/DPO AP 962-966 17 Dec 10 Dec 10 Dec

The deadline is only a few days away unless you want to really pay a fortune to send it express mail (which you can’t do for Afghanistan). Remember, if your soldier is in Iraq, the stop mail date has already come and gone as they are preparing to redeploy before the end of the year.

Finish up your last minute preparations and get those packages in the mail!

Holidays in the Army

It’s that time of year again. While many soldiers are returning from Iraq (though most not quite in time for the holidays), there are still thousands deployed to Afghanistan and other places around the globe.

The deployment when my husband was overseas for the holidays was the toughest one for me. It just completely changed the holiday season. Unlike many of you who have kids, I was able to just ignore the existence of any holiday. Or at least I tried. Now that we have a son, I know I couldn’t do that as I would need to try to maintain some sense of normal for him. But when it was just me? Christmas? What’s that?

My family wanted me to come home so I wouldn’t be on my own. But I didn’t want anything to do with being around others who were filled with the Christmas spirit when my husband was on the other side of the world. I knew his Christmas would suck so I guess in some ways I felt guilty carrying on as normal.

Which is strange – it was the only time during the deployment when I felt guilty for what I was able to do that he wasn’t. I didn’t feel that way if I went out to eat or went to a movie or to the beach. But the holidays were different. I just didn’t want to have to put on a fake smile for everyone and soldier on.

So I didn’t. I stayed at home by myself. I went to watch movies at the theater. I baked cookies for the guards at the gate and others who had to work on Christmas day. And for anyone who knows me, you know how big of a feat that was for me to cook anything!

The one thing that helped me through was knowing that because my husband was gone, it meant someone else’s husband was home. There were kids who were probably without their parent last year that were with them this year and that was partly because my husband was doing his part.

My advice – especially if it’s just you – is do whatever will make you feel better. If that means surrounding yourself with family, go for it. If it means staying in your PJs all day, crying over sappy movies and eating your weight in chocolate…well, that’s okay too in my book. If you have kids, let them know they get a special treat this year and will get to celebrate Christmas twice. ;)

What do you do to make the holidays more bearable? What advice would you share with a spouse enduring her first set of holidays alone?

14 Deployments Since 9/11

This past weekend, SFC Kristoffer B. Domeij, was killed in Afghanistan on his 14th deployment. Fourteenth. He had deployed four times to Iraq and this was his tenth deployment to Afghanistan. He joined in July of 2001 and has since spent 48 months deployed overseas — not to mention countless months away from his family while he was training.

First and foremost, my condolences and prayers go out to his family and friends, as well as his fellow brothers who are still serving.

My husband was also in Ranger BN so I understand the deployment schedule this unit endures but it still always amazes me to see the number of deployments that some soldiers have dealt with in a relatively short amount of time. I remember seeing my husband off on what turned out to be his last deployment before medical retirement. I was talking to one of the other guys in his unit who joined prior to 9/11 and he was already in double digits as far as the number of deployments — and that was four years ago.

Dealing with multiple deployments, even if they are shorter ones, is so hard on the family. We were constantly on countdown. As soon as he returned, we couldn’t do anything more than count down until he was leaving again because it was never that far away. Until he was medically retired, we were never truly just able to enjoy him being home without the dread of knowing he was leaving again soon.

As my husband always says, it takes a special person to deal with that kind of deployment schedule and still absolutely love his job and what he does. But he did and I’m sure SFC Domeij did as well.

All of our soldiers are brave men and women who have that special quality that allows them to put country above self.  As more and more time goes by, I feel like our country as a whole becomes more and more complacent. We forget about the sacrifices that are being made every day by those who serve and the families they leave behind. We take for granted that we are walking around freely because of those who serve today and those who served before them.

We need to remember. We need to respect. We need to say thank you.

SFC Domeij, your sacrifice will not be forgotten. RLTW.

 

 

I’m A Bad Army Wife

Over the years, I’ve read numerous stories from the “perfect” Army wife about getting up with her soldier at o’dark thirty to fix his breakfast, lay out his clothes (freshly ironed, of course) and pack his lunch. She then sends him off on his day while standing by the window smiling and waving.

Even as I write this, I feel like I’m making it up. But I so am not. I know people who do this every day. And my question is…WHY?

I married an adult. If he can be expected to go to a foreign land and fight for our country, I’m fairly certain he can get himself out of bed, fix his breakfast and find his own clothes to put on. I’m not babying him and doing it for him.

First, I’m not a morning person. You don’t want me interacting with you when it’s still dark outside and I haven’t yet gotten in my 12. Promise.

Second, is he up fixing breakfast for me? Is he laying out my clothes for the day? Packing my lunch? Um, the answer to that would be no.

Third, I have a job too. Just because he has to get up in the middle of the night to go to work doesn’t mean I have to.

I’ve always been perplexed by the people who do this for their spouse. Maybe I am a bad Army wife but I’ll live with that title not to wait on my husband hand and foot. When he deploys overseas, will his battle buddy do all these things for him? No! He’ll suddenly become self sufficient and able to take care of himself. If he can do it under those conditions, he can certainly do it at home when his job is somewhat “normal” (by Army standards, anyway).

Agree? Disagree?

 

Obama Bringing Home All Troops For The Holidays

The title of this post is what I read online yesterday across numerous platforms including Facebook. This kind of general lack of understanding about our military and where we are in the world drives me up a wall.

First, Obama said we will be pulling MOST troops out of Iraq by December 31st. So let’s break this down.

1. MOST is not ALL. While there may be a considerable amount less in Iraq, they will not all be home.

2. December 31st is not home in time for the holidays. Close, but no.

3. We have thousands of troops in harm’s way in Afghanistan, not to mention several other countries. I can see not knowing about the other countries. But how do you forget about Afghanistan?! It’s where it all started after 9/11 and we sadly have mounting casualties there among our troops every week.

4. We have thousands of troops that are stationed permanently overseas in Germany, Japan and Korea just to name a few. Not to mention all of those who live their life on aircraft carriers and various other military ships at sea.

Don’t let this PR headline fool you. All of our troops will not be home. Military families who are at home without their loved one still need support. Military organizations that send packages and other morale boosters overseas still need your support. Our troops who are serving at home and abroad should be remembered and thanked EVERY SINGLE DAY regardless of where they are serving.

Just because we are mostly going to be out of Iraq by the end of the year does not mean that we no longer need to keep the military at the forefront of our thoughts and in our hearts.

They still need our support!!

Just Being Nice

Whatever happened to that concept? First, let me start by saying that I know I’m not without fault myself. I have made rude comments or said things I shouldn’t have as well but I try to catch myself when I do it (not always successful).

It just seems that the internet gives people a way to be overly rude and say things they normally wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face. Why cut people down? What have you actually gained by that? Do you brag to others that you ruined someone’s day or made someone feel like crap? Is that really what you want to be known for?

I see comments being made and things being said about others and it just makes me sad. Even if that other person is being annoying/stupid/irritating/degrading/any other negative term, maybe what they need is just a kind word from someone else. Perhaps if you were nice to them, it would change their outlook at least for a bit. Wouldn’t you rather know you had a positive impact on someone than a negative one?

Why don’t you go around bragging about that?