Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Caregivers Military Normal World For Us

Hidden Heroes of Forgotten Veterans 
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
September 28, 2016

"There are more than 5.5 million caregivers for the nation’s military wounded or ill, and they often go unrecognized." said Tom Hanks and then he called us hidden heroes.

I was reading about this early this morning waiting to clock in at work. Imagine having to do my job all day after having this in my mind.

When I hear folks talk about "caregivers" I get upset for several reasons. One is that all of this is still going on where those among us caring for a veteran are being called "hidden heroes" and then, from the flip side, older ones like me have been forgotten about.

Over three decades spent taking care of not just my husband, but other veterans everyday, and all of this following my youth with my Dad, another disabled veteran from the Korean War. My Mom was a caregiver too. She was first generation American and so was my Dad. My uncles served in WWII and so did my husband's Dad and his uncles.

With that in mind, it makes me want to cry that there seems to be this impression that only the new caregivers matter and only they have the unique issues brought on by their veterans service. It makes me angry they have to "deal" with any of this at all considering we fought for all of it for decades. Yes, that long and it has not been easy but it was necessary. 

We did all of it without the internet, or any of the social media sites because they didn't exist. We did it with social gatherings in the veterans community and we did it face to face, making phone calls and writing letters we actually had to put in a mailbox.

We learned the hard way. My Dad used the term "shell shock" after he said my then boyfriend seemed like a "nice guy" and only after he spoke about five words during a family get-together. I had to go to the library to understand what I was getting into.  Even though I learned what PTSD was and why he had it, what it was doing to him, I had nothing to help me with what I had to decide to face or not, other than a deep love for my best friend. I haven't regretted any of it because he was always worth the fight.

Wives like me had to fight the VA and fight our husbands to give them the chance to heal but first we had to make them believe there was something worth living for. It was a lot harder than most think it would be. But this was our military normal, far from what civilians have to deal with in ordinary marriages.  Sure, we had the usual arguments about taking out the trash and not spending enough time with the kids or us, but then we had to learn the rest that comes with this.

We learned how to walk away and let things calm down. How to stand and fight when it was necessary and take on even our own families when their advice was get a divorce. We had to learn how to navigate the VA system and how to fight for claims to be honored at the same time we had to fight to make sure our veteran did not give up.

We learned how to wake them up after yet one more nightmare from the foot of the bed so that we would not be in striking distance. How to calming bring them back after a flashback. How to hold them when they couldn't stop shaking and how to deal with someone passing judgement when their facial ticks, body twitches and involuntary mouth movements were out of control.

We learned how to do a lot of things but one thing came naturally. Loving them was the easy part. It was easy for us to walk away from co-workers complaining about their husbands being selfish or acting like it was the end of the world because they wanted to do something without them. We were doing things without our husbands because they were having a bad day or just not in the mood to be around people.

We learned how to look for a booth instead of a table when we finally got to go out to eat and how to get our friends to go to the movie with us because a dark theater with a bunch of strangers is the last place a veteran wants to be. They were worth all of it because whatever they could give, they gave it all to us. Just as they gave all they had to give for the country when they were putting their lives on the line, as they did for the men/women they were with, there was nothing they held back except their pain.

Sharing those emotions took a great sense of trust and that, that they learned from us. I can walk into a dark room as my husband sleeps without him jumping up or waking up because I made a noise. Think that is a small thing? Then you must not have spent much time with one of them or you'd know how hard something like that hits them.

If you really want to honor us "hidden heroes" then make a difference in a real way and not just by sharing our stories. Do something about stopping the worst from happening by making sure our elected officials do their jobs and folks running all these charities do theirs because from where I sit after 3 decades, not enough has changed for the better and far too much has changed for worst.

Tom Hanks joins call to help military caregivers
Published: September 28, 2016

There are more than 5.5 million caregivers for the nation’s military wounded or ill, and they often go unrecognized, Hanks said.
WASHINGTON — The public service announcement begins with Tom Hanks introducing himself on a black screen.

He walks over to a man in a wheelchair, who is missing both legs and is flanked by his wife and two daughters. His name is Chaz Allen – Airborne, wounded in combat. Hanks calls him a hero and thanks him for his service.

Then Hanks introduces himself to Allen’s wife, Jessica. She’s a hero too, Hanks says. Because Chaz Allen needs a lot of help, and his wife is also raising their two girls.

“Which makes me want to thank you for your service, Jessica,” Hanks says. “You are a hidden hero.” read more here

Tom Hanks talks Hidden Heroes
Stars and Stripes