Friday, December 1, 2017

Best Battle Buddy Wears Wedding Band

Combat PTSD Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
December 1, 2017

They were willing to die for each other, but too many of the families they come home to discover just how hard it is for them to want to live for us.

We see the sadness in their eyes, hear them talk in their sleep, (when they do manage to sleep) and deal with the mood swings, never sure what we'll say wrong, or someone, manage to get right.

It is all so easy to feel lost but all more common to feel lonely. Sure, we read all the news reports about how many veterans have PTSD, but that gives us little comfort when we don't read enough about anything where we are the subject.

We sit on the side of the street if they march in a parade. We sit in the VA waiting room waiting for them to be seen, and then waiting for them to come out. We see other wives there, but we don't say a word to them. We are too focused on what the ride back home in tense silence will be like.

Either they will snap at us, or have absolutely nothing they want to say.

When our parents were dealing with their the wars of their generation, their parents told them to do their duty as a wife. When we were faced with problems, our parents told us to get divorced. Some of us did, but most of us, contrary to all the rumors, became their best battle buddy. 

If you thought that our hubbies did all the managed to do when the rest of the country wanted nothing to do with them, you are missing the most powerful weapon you have. That is the courage to stand up to the bully called PTSD because our love is a lot stronger than she is.

If you already walked away, do not blame yourself. If no one told you anything, and you didn't even think there was anything to learn on your own, it isn't your fault. It wasn't his either. Most of them have no clue what PTSD is, what it does or the simple fact that PTSD hits survivors with a very strong emotional core. 

Had it not been for two veterans in my life, the rest of my life would have been just like everyone else's. I would have not imagined doing anything other than being a "normal wife" like my husband used to wish I was, a Mom and going to work everyday for a paycheck. Oh, for the days when I could just go home, catch up with friends and actually watch a TV show that was on instead of having a lousy hour to watch something he recorded for me.

But that life was not meant to be for me. 

My Dad was a Korean War veteran. When I brought my at-the-time Vietnam veteran boyfriend home to meet him, Dad used the words "shell shock" without being able to explain what it meant. He sent me to the library to find the answers.

I knew what trauma did to a person. I had been through it enough times by the time I was 23 and wanted to know what I was getting into, so I sat at the table in the library with a stack of clinical books, and a dictionary to look up most of the words. I lost count how many books (and weeks) I had to go through before I saw the words that made it all click.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
I ended up with a pamphlet from a Vets Center that was based on Vietnam veterans coming home, and it explained most of what I did not learn at the library, or living with my husband.
It was based on the Forgotten Warrior Project and as you will see from the link, there were 500,000 Vietnam veterans with PTSD back then while it was also predicted that those numbers would rise. They did. So when you hear the famous commercial saying that "today it is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" on the radio with "1 out of 5" remember that it was called that because Vietnam veterans came home with it and a rate of "1 out of 3."

Something else no one told us was that even after being home for over 40 years, Vietnam could still end up with one more casualty. Our husbands.

What most people still don't talk about is the fact that our generation is the largest group losing our husbands to suicide. 65% of the veterans committing suicide are over the age of 50, but no one wants to help us. 

I've tried for over 3 decades, to not just help the younger families learn a lot easier than I did, but to get our generation to pay attention to what they never expected would happen.

We're in this alone. None of the new groups even want to talk to us. It just took an act of Congress to actually manage to decide that our generation should also be included in as Caregivers, since we've done it all without any one helping us.

The first thing to do is learn all you can what PTSD is, especially if your husband/wife is retiring. They get slammed with what they kept trapped in their mind and never saw it coming. They think they're going crazy.

If you see changes in them, you need to respond to make sure they understand what it is and then support them just before you put on your battle armor and fight for them.

If we do not change what has been happening, it will be even worse when the generation everyone is talking about gets older. What will we as their parents tell them when they begin to see while they survived combat, coming home is harder without a battle buddy by their side? 

Are you going to let anything stop you from fighting for them now?

UPDATE December 3, 2017 Here is yet one more reason to explain how a spouse is the best battle buddy.
Widow Barbara Rodgick has attended two coffees and plans to attend more. She’s made it her mission to try to teach others about the benefits available to veterans, widows and dependents, both from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the state.
She has a website called Stand Up for Bill. “This is how I try to make sense of my husband’s death, my way of honoring him,” Rodgick said.
Her 27-year marriage to Bill Meehan ended when he died from his exposure to Agent Orange. Her husband joined the Army in 1962 and was honorably discharged in 1966. In March 2015, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and he died 15 months later at age 72. 
He was reluctant to apply for benefits through the VA, but she was not. He thought it would probably take too long. “He thought other vets deserved it more,” she said, choking with emotion.