Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Year, Big Changes

I suppose this post has been a long time coming, I just didn't want to accept it.  To quote one of my favorite movies (Hope Floats, for inquiring minds): "Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most."

Endings ARE sad, and the thought of ending the blog that started it all is very, very sad to me.  But.  The simple fact of the matter is, I'm not an Army wife anymore. 

When I started this blog, I was a brand spankin' new Army wife.  I had only been married to my soldier for two months when he left for Iraq, which was the day I began writing.  And my GOD was it scary.

I poured my heart and soul into One Army Wife's Tale as you all watched me fumble through those wretched early weeks of my husband's first deployment.

I kept it real about the struggles we faced with reintegration and maintaining a long distance relationship after he came back from Iraq, but was still stationed in Texas, a good 1,200 miles from our home in Michigan.

I bared all about how wonderful (yet difficult) it was to finally have him home with us for good after he was honorably discharged from the Army in September of 2012- our battles with the VA (which are still ongoing, by the way), watching him feel conflicted over being home while his brothers in arms deployed again, adjusting to actually living under the same roof.

If it happened in my life, you heard about it.  And while I've heard from hundreds (thousands?  maybe...) of military spouses over the past few years about how cathartic my blog has been for them, it has been the best therapy in the world for me.

I honestly don't know how I would have survived my life as an Army wife without the online community that formed around me during my darkest days.

Oh, and did I mention, my silly little blog is now a mother truckin' book?!  Lifelong dream = accomplished.  The opportunities and experiences I've been blessed with in the past three years, none of which would have been possible without One Army Wife's Tale, are immeasurable.

And so it is with a very, very heavy heart that I bid you all adieu.  Why?  Well, like I said...I'm not an Army wife anymore.  My husband is a disabled veteran who will probably spend the rest of his life jumping through hoops with the VA- but our day to day life has very little to do with the military anymore.  We're more and more removed from that world every day.

I will continue to write about my everyday life on my other blog, But my days as an Army wife blogger have officially come to an end. 

The love and appreciation I have for everyone who has supported me during this journey cannot be put into words, so I'll simply say this- THANK YOU for helping me make it through "the middle."  It really is what mattered the most.  I love you all.


El fin.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

From Soldier to Civilian: A Year Later

One year ago today, my husband went from "Soldier" to "civilian," and our family embarked on a crazy new journey called  A NORMAL LIFE. 

I've never been more proud of anyone than I was of my Soldier, and I loooooved the way he looked in that uniform.  Being an Army wife was an honor, and I always treated it as such.  But the military lifestyle was never one that was for us, not long term.  When The Hubs was stationed over 1,200 miles away from home at Fort Hood, and especially during his deployment to Iraq, all I wanted was for him to come home, for us to have a normal marriage, and to finally have a "normal" family. 

For a year now, we've had exactly that, and it's been fabulous.  By fabulous, I mean, of course, that The Hubs and I only want to kill each other about 35% of the time.  See, now that we're no longer living on borrowed time like we were when he was in the Army (a couple weeks together here, a stolen few days there), we have the luxury of taking each other for granted.

Some might see taking someone for granted as a bad thing, but it doesn't have to be.  Not if you do it right.  I like just knowing that my husband is going to be right beside me in bed every night, never having to worry about things like staff duty and field exercises.  I love being able to make long term plans, without the threat of a deployment hanging over our heads constantly, knowing that at any moment, everything could change.  We have a routine, and the kids have all come to appreciate their dad/step-dad as a constant in their lives, rather than just someone who comes to visit every once in a while.

We're comfortable now.  We don't pretend to like each other's shows or all the same movies or have this incessant need to spend every waking minute together just because we're painfully aware of how quickly that time will pass.  We don't hold back our feelings to avoid arguments.  It's not that we enjoy fighting, but I think it's unhealthy for couples to never fight.  And we definitely tried to avoid them at all costs when our time together was limited.

I don't wake up early every morning to take an extra long shower, making sure to meticulously shave my legs and spend the time doing my hair and makeup and picking out the perfect outfit.  Don't get me wrong, I still get cute from time to time- but there's no need for that shit every day.  Sleep is way more important.  On the flip side of that coin, The Hubs doesn't bother showering daily anymore (which- GROSS....but he IS a man, and men are gross) and I can't remember the last time he wore cologne.

For all intents and purposes, we're a normal family now.  But while my husband went from Soldier to civilian with a simple signature on a piece of paper, the transition back into "civilian life" hasn't been quite as fast....or as smooth.

It's been a year, and my husband's VA Disability claim still has not been reviewed.  I am SO THANKFUL that his income was not our main or only source of income, which I know is not the case for a lot of military families.  Because we would be SO SCREWED right now!  He puts hundreds of miles on his car every week driving back and forth from the VA Hospital for therapy appointments, consultations, re-checks, etc. 

He struggles daily with his "battle scars," as I call them- both physical and emotional.  His injuries are so debilitating some days that he can't even get out of bed in the morning.  And the PTSD/TBI issues- I think we're lucky, overall, but there are definitely still challenges.

We go through things that I feel like so many people just don't understand.  Everyone has their stuff, but military stuff tends to be pretty heavy.  I'm finding out that you can take the family out of the military, but you can never completely take the military out of the family.

It's been exactly one year since my husband took off his ACUs for the last time.  While they still hang in our closet, collecting dust, the knowledge that he will never again have to put them on brings me peace every single day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Never Forget

Always remember.  Never forget.  You’ll hear those two phrases a lot today.  How nice it must be to have to remind yourself to remember, to never forget.  How lucky are those who didn't lose a loved one in the September 11th attacks, who don't have a constant reminder of that day?  How lucky are those who have not sent a child, a sibling, a parent, a spouse off to fight in the war on terror that began that day of unspeakable horror twelve years ago today?  On September 11, 2001, I was as far removed from the situation as the luckiest of the lucky ones.  I knew nobody who was in New York, Washington D.C. or on any of those planes that day.  I didn't even know anyone in the military.  But it still changed my life.  On September 11, 2011, ten years after the attacks, my husband, a soldier, was home on leave from Iraq.  Today, on the 12th anniversary of 9/11, my husband is a war veteran, no longer active duty.  But his brothers in arms are deployed again, and are currently in Afghanistan, fighting in the twelfth year of the war on terror.  And my husband spent his day driving a bus full of military recruits to Chicago to begin basic training, an entire new generation of men and women in uniform willing to make the ultimate sacrifice   For our service members and their families, September 11th never ended.  It's still a very real danger.  Always remember that.  Never forget.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Password Is....

Recently, I had to talk a friend down "off the ledge," so to speak.  She was panicking because of some supposed evidence (or lack thereof) she found in her husband's phone that convinced her he was cheating.  What evidence?  After going through his text messages, Facebook account, emails, and internet search history, she decided that what she found was too clean.  Not one flirty text, "hey, how have you been?" Facebook message from an old girlfriend, or nudie website hit to be found.  Clearly, he was on to her snooping.  Clearly, he was deleting all of the "bad stuff" before she could see it.  Clearly, he was cheating.  Right?  Wait, what?!

Let's be honest, ladies.  Almost every single one of us has gone through our soldier's phone at least once.  I'll admit, I used to do it on occasion.  Of course, I used the fact that The Hubs and I lived over a thousand miles apart for the first two years of our relationship, and therefore he could be living a life that I knew nothing about, as justification.  It's not something I'm overly  proud of, but it's also not something I've done since my husband and I have lived under the same roof.

I think in every relationship, there is a degree of mistrust and unease, no matter how small.  Especially in military relationships, given the long lengths of time spent apart, the high stress, and the complete dysfunction that seems to surround us.  (Seriously, of my husband's Army buddies, I've seen more relationships fall apart because of cheating than stay together in fidelity.)

There's something about being kept on your toes and not getting too comfortable in a relationship that's healthy, to a degree.  But not when it's driving you to madness.  Not when you're grabbing his phone or his laptop any chance you get, scouring his email, his text messages, his call history, his Facebook account, his search history, and anything else you can find for information.  And definitely not when you're so paranoid that you see a lack of evidence as proof that your husband is cheating.

When it gets to that point, there's a problem.  Whether it's that you can't trust your husband or just that you don't (there's a difference- one's his fault, one's yours), constant stalking and snooping is not normal, and it's definitely not healthy.  You either need marriage counseling or a divorce.  It really is that simple.

What's funny to me about the situation with my friend and her husband (which really isn't funny at all, it's quite sad) is the part that stuck with me, even after she hopped off the crazy train.  As she was detailing to me all the different accounts and histories she'd hacked into, I asked, "How did you get into his email and his Facebook accounts?"  Her answer was simple.  "I have all his passwords."  I asked, "You do?"  She said, "Well, yeah, don't you and your husband have each other's passwords?"  My answer was short.  "No."  No, we don't.

The more I thought about it, the more that bothered me.  I started thinking about how, even though this was the first time I'd had a friend come to me upset because she didn't find any evidence of cheating, it wasn't the first time I'd consoled someone who was upset over information she found in her husband's personal accounts; accounts that she had access to because she had his passwords.  

There are lots of couples that share Facebook accounts and have each other's passwords and use the same cell phone.  And while there are sometimes completely logical reasons for the lack of privacy, most of the time it boils down to one thing: a lack of trust.

Now, I'm not saying that The Hubs and I haven't had our trust issues.  We definitely have, especially in our early days when he lived in Texas and I lived in Michigan.  I've gone through his phone a few times, and I know (even though he'd probably never admit it) that he's gone through mine.  But we don't have each other's email and Facebook passwords.  (To be honest, I don't even remember his email address half the time.)  

We have boundaries.  We have privacy.  There are certain things we keep separate.  I always thought that was a good thing.  But my friend's reaction when I told her we didn't have each other's passwords got me rethinking that.  After I stewed over it for a few hours, The Hubs and I had the following conversation:

Me: "So, apparently, we're the only couple in the history of couples that doesn't have each other's passwords."
Him: "Oh, really?"
Me: "Yup."
Him: "Does that bother you?"
Me: "It kind of does, now."
Him: "Well, do you want my passwords?"
Me: "Maybe."

So he gave them to me.  I didn't write them down or anything, and I probably wouldn't get them right if I tried, but I don't know because I haven't used them to stalk his accounts, and I have no intention of doing so.  While there was a part of me that was initially relieved that he felt confident enough to give his passwords to me, that feeling almost immediately gave way to intense guilt.  

He didn't ask for my passwords.  He doesn't seem concerned that he can't cyber stalk me whenever he feels like it.  I still have my privacy.  Why shouldn't he have his?  I almost feel like I need to have him change his passwords, just so he can have his privacy back.  

I still have my moments of insecurity every now and then.  I'm not even saying that I'll never, at any point in the future, pick up my husband's phone and look through it again.  I'm human.  I'm flawed.  But I'd also like to think that I'm capable of learning from my mistakes.  And it was a mistake for me to feel entitled to take away my husband's privacy just so I could feel reassured about things I have no reason to worry about in the first place.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On the Homefront

SSG Maldonado receiving a plaque for outstanding leadership from his platoon before their deployment.

SSG Lupe Maldonado knows how to fight for his life.  With ten years of service in the United States Army and three overseas tours under his belt, it’s what he’s used to doing.  And it’s what he spent all of 2012 training for as he prepared for an upcoming deployment.  After countless hours of live fire and gunnery exercises at ranges all over the country, Maldonado and his soldiers were in the final stages of preparation for their deployment earlier this year when everything changed.
On April 1, 2013, Lupe was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.  Surgery to remove the cancer was scheduled for April 12th, a week and a half later.  That’s when things went from bad to worse.  Lupe’s cancer had spread, and was inoperable.  Recalls his wife, Yery: "He woke up from surgery and said, 'Am I okay?  When can I go back to work?"  And then he felt the ileostomy bag doctors had attached during the surgery, and he knew something was wrong.  "He said, 'I’m not going to deploy, am I?"  Yery was faced with the heartbreaking task of confirming her husband’s worst fear- that he would spend the next several months fighting for his life, but not in the way he'd been planning.
Since that horrible, life-altering day just a few months ago, Lupe has completed a very aggressive course of chemotherapy, and is currently awaiting the results of a scan done to determine if the cancer has shrunk enough for surgery.  But what of his soldiers- the ones he trained, taught, mentored, and bonded with?  By all accounts, SSG Maldonado is well respected by his men, and his leadership has been greatly missed.  But the show, as they say, must go on.  Lupe's squad got a new leader and deployment preparations continued, leaving Lupe feeling disappointed and left out.
Lupe watching his battalion's final formation before deployment, wishing he could go with them.

Before they left, Lupe's platoon presented him with a plaque for outstanding leadership to show their appreciation for everything he did to help them prepare for the deployment.  And Lupe took time out of his full schedule of doctor appointments and treatments to see his soldiers off the day they deployed.  While they are halfway around the world fighting for their country, Lupe will be here on the homefront, fighting for his life.
He'll also be facing a new battle, one that Yery's all too familiar with, but is new to Lupe- holding down the fort at home while his heart is overseas.  Lupe hopes that his soldiers continue to learn even though he's not there to keep them in line, and that they remember everything he taught them about protecting themselves, so that they can make it home safely to begin training for their next deployment, which Lupe fully intends to be well enough to go on with them.
Lupe giving his guys a final pep talk.

To his soldiers overseas, Lupe says: "Stay strong and believe God will protect you.  I wish I could be with you, but I have my own war to fight.  I will see you when you come back to start training for whatever comes next.  Hooah!" 
Lupe's company getting ready to roll out as he leaves the company area for the final time before the deployment.

UPDATE: On February 1, 2014, Lupe Maldonado lost his battle against colon cancer.

Monday, July 1, 2013

'Til They All Come Home

It’s been just a little over two years since I sat at my desk, bawling my eyes out while my husband was 1,200 miles away in Texas, getting ready to begin his year-long deployment to Iraq.  Today, I found myself  once again sitting at my desk, a ball of jumbled nerves with a heavy heart, as my husband’s unit said goodbye to their families in preparation for another deployment.

This time, however, there’s a difference.  This time my husband isn’t going with them.  This time he’s at home with me, over a thousand miles away from where his battle buddies are preparing for battle, their bags packed, their goodbyes said.  Neither of us slept last night.  He’s worried about his friends, and I’m worried about mine.  I feel like we’re all still settling back in from the last deployment, and yet here they go again.  It’s so soon.  Too soon, if you ask me.

I know that my husband is happy to be home, and we’re so thankful that he didn’t have to deploy again.  But I know a part of him feels, maybe, a little bit guilty; a little bit left behind.  And I know that while he’s here with me, safe in his civilian life, a part of him will always be a soldier.  And that part of him left me today to head overseas with his friends, his brothers, his family.   It’s not easy to send someone you love off to war, let alone a lot of someones.  I know that.  And now my husband is learning it the hard way.

As for me, I’ll be praying for our Army family every day.  I’ll be praying for the soldiers to stay safe, for their wives, my sisters, to stay strong, and for the days to pass quickly.  ‘Til they all come home…..

The infamous photo of a little girl who refused to let go of her daddy's
hand during formation as his unit prepared to deploy to Iraq for a year.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Cure For PTSD? Beer, Of Course.....

Army Wives: Holly Truman inspects the
bruises husband Tim left on her neck
after nearly choking her to death during
a PTSD-induced rage.
 Every now and then, I google the term “ARMY WIFE,” just for shits and giggles.  I find some new blogs and helpful information and current news stories here and there, but primarily what I find is websites and articles related to the show Army Wives (which I love….so don’t hate.)

One particular story that caught my eye today was this one: "Army Wives"- Tim Nearly Kills His Wife While Suffering Through PTSD  , about Tim Truman’s PTSD-related breakdown that almost resulted in his wife Holly's death.  The scene where he was choking her in his sleep was one of the most shocking, upsetting moments of the season.  And it really hit home for me, because I sat up many a night after my husband first returned from Iraq, watching him toss and turn and talk “shop” in his sleep.  Because I’m a bit dramatic (surprising, I know), I kept having these visions in my head of him waking up thinking he was still in Iraq and that I was the  enemy, and subsequently freaking out on me and trying to kill me.

PTSD is no joke.  We’re still struggling with it in the C Family household, over two years after The Hubs’ (mostly) uneventful deployment.  But ohhhhhh, Huffington Post, did you get it wrong.  The article said, and I quote: “this storyline sends the message that 18-year-olds may not be ready to fight our wars.  We’re essentially saying you’re old enough to protect your country, but not relieve your stress with a beer.”   

Um.  No.  That is not AT ALL the message they were trying to send.  (I don’t think, anyway.)  First of all, “18-year-olds may not be ready to fight our wars?”  Since when is sending young men and women to battle in the name of protecting our country a new thing?  Since the beginning of time, our nation's youth have been answering the call to duty.  In fact, almost half of the soldiers who fought in the Civil War were age 18 or under, the youngest just eight years old.  (Yes.  I said eight.)  

As the wife of an Infantryman who was no spring chicken when he deployed, I can tell you that a lot of the work our troops do is best suited for “young folk.”  (Not eight year olds.  18 and up, most definitely.)  Is an 18-year-old emotionally equipped to handle the ugliness of war?  As the mother of a boy who's getting dangerously close to the magical age of official adulthood, I'd have to say no.  But.  I don't know that my husband, a loving father of four boys who is just a big kid at heart, was "emotionally equipped" to handle it, either.  Honestly, who is?  

Secondly, a beer?  Did an article intending to highlight the seriousness of PTSD seriously suggest that one might simply "relieve their stress with a beer?"  Well.  Okay.  I just....okay.  If the person writing the article had actually seen the episode of Army Wives in question, they would know that "a beer" didn't help Tim.  Nor did several of them.  In fact, he was in a drunken stupor when he attacked his wife.  So one might assume that he was in need of more than just "a beer" to manage his "stress."

Love or hate the show, Army Wives does bring attention to important issues facing our military today, such as PTSD and the lack of proper screening and treatment soldiers get when they return from overseas, as well as the stigma attached to a soldier or spouse who asks for help.  I believe THAT is what the show was attempting to shed light on.

I appreciate any article/blog post/story that attempts to raise PTSD Awareness.  (Did you know that June is PTSD Awareness month?  Well, it is.)  But to speak of its seriousness and then offer simple suggestions as to its cause, such as immaturity and one's lack of access to alcohol to numb the  It's ignorant, and it's insulting to anyone who's ever suffered from PTSD or watched someone they love suffer through it.

There is nothing simple about PTSD- nothing that explains why it affects people so differently, or why certain treatments work for some and not for others.  And there is no quick fix- no magic pill, no amount of beer that can just make it go away.  

PTSD is a very complex, very real illness that plagues far too many service members today.  It deserves attention.  It needs attention.  Because the more attention it gets, the more chance there is that PTSD treatment for our military will improve.  But please, for the love of all that is holy, if you're going to write a feature about PTSD, educate yourself first.  Know what you're talking about.  It's the right thing to do.

To read more about a very creative movement started by spouses of military members fighting PTSD, visit here: Battling Bare.