I have had a few people ask me why did I choose this title. I thought I would tell exactly why. To other wives, mothers and persons who are caring for a wounded warrior it is totally obvious. To the outsiders who have never walked in our shoes, you are confused and oblivious. Let me preface this with the fact that I am not looking for sympathy, but only understanding.
From the day you receive the call that someone you love has been injured, you are on the defense, who have no idea what is next. Some of us don't know if our soldiers are even going to survive. So the battle to survive is the first fight, next comes the battle to get to the person you love. You have to wait to find out where and when they are getting to the place that they will be treated. You find yourself making sure a phone is always close by. I remember keeping my cell phone in my hand several times. And I remember jumping every time that phone rang. The Army's Casualty Affairs office was very efficient in this process. They were truly great. They were attentive and caring and brought me a lot of comfort.
Then there's the drama battle. There are so many people who just want to be a part of the drama. They want to be able to tell people they know you just so they can have attention too. You will find out very quickly who your true friends are. The weak and selfish cannot handle the struggle and they will drop out quick. If they can't make it all about them, all the time they will just disappear, which is where you want them. They will only drag you down filling your head with constant worries and sorrow. People will say some crazy things because they just don't know what else to say. The weak will lash out at the strong because they don't know how to deal. So their way of dealing is to try to tear you down. Misery loves company. The weak are jealous because you can stand and they cannot. They allow themselves to drown in self-pity rather than rising up and saying Thank you God he is alive and coming home. They want you to share that mind set. They want to be sad. So when you smile and move forward their solution is that you are crazy, delusional, or that you are just not coping. The weak don't have the faith, hope and courage to get through the storm. They do not know how to put their trust in God. You see when God is for you, nothing can be truly be against you. The selfish can only focus on the fact that a tragedy has struck them. Not you, not the soldier, not anyone else, just them. They will make it about them too. They will strike at anyone and everyone. Their anger is their way of healing. God will help lead them out of your inner circle if you just allow it.
The anger is another battle you must face. You cannot push the anger down. You must look at it and acknowledge it's there. I tell people all the time, "Of course I'm angry. My husband is 31 years old and lost his legs in a war that I don't understand. But I can control and handle my anger because I know God has a plan for us. I find peace in trusting Him and it gets me through everyday." I get every morning and say thanks for one more day, thanks that I can see and hear and walk, thanks for my amazing husband and beautiful children. Once you start looking at what you have to be thankful for the world becomes a much better place. We have found out that people who can't control the anger show their true colors. People close to us have said some things to me and to Chaz that will take me a while to get over. Words can cut very deep and when people are going through tragedies they become so raw and so exposed you truly find out who they are. It can be heartbreaking. On the other side, some people emerge from the back ground and turn out to be more amazing then you ever knew. I am pleased to say I have only been hurt by a few people and I have been lifted up and supported by so many people that I cannot count them all. It is another thing I am thankful for.
The next battle is the medical battle. Everyday our wounded warriors battle pain, nerves, infections and diseases. You never know when any of these will strike and you have to remain ready for the attack. WRAMC has a very well trained medical staff. They have dealt with these issues time and time again and know exactly what to do and when. But you have to be able to listen and to be patient. Hiccups are going to happen. You have to just know they will. But you cannot let them ruin all the progress that has already come. You just have say this is just a hiccup and we'll be back on the road soon. You also have to know that you can countless great days and then like a bomb the pain will strike and you have to fight it with all you have. You also have to be ready for the random infection that rears it's ugly head. We have already fought e-coli, MRSA and are now fighting another staph infection. Hopefully we are done fighting after this one, but only time will tell. But regardless we are ready to fight.
Then there's the emotional battle. These guys are soldiers. They were fighting the fight and now they have been dealt a huge blow. They feel like they have deserted their boys. They know the loss of them from the battlefield hurt one or many people. They know that now their guys will have to pause and mourn their absence and wonder what could they have done differently. They know these emotions because they have already been there before. Survivor's remorse is a really hard battle to fight. We fought that battle after Iraq and luckily Chaz was the only one hurt so we didn't have to fight that fight this time.
The most important lesson I have learned during all of this is that you have to listen to your heart and your body. If you are tired, then sleep. You need to scream, then scream. If you need a beer, go get one. Your body will tell you want you need and your heart will guide down the right path. You have to trust your heart to lead you. If you have enough faith, then your heart is directly connected to God and you will not be lead wrong.
Once your get to discharge your soldier from the hospital the real war begins. It's the war with policies and procedures of the Army, VA and government. Soldiers are trained to listen and obey. I am so thankful I never joined the Army because I can see how ridiculous this all is. These guys have just been through hell and then they discharge from the hospital and the Army has it in their head that since they are still soldiers they can do everything soldiers can do. This is where I like to point out the obvious and say things like, "Hey, don't know if you go the memo, but he has no legs and a fused arm and you want him to do what?" One thing is for sure some Army people are severely lacking in the common sense department. The WTB here expects these guys to show up for formations and to in-process as if they were regular soldiers at a regular duty station. Luckily Chaz has set appointments at 9 and 10 everyday so he doesn't have to report to formation, but he has to call in everyday at 7:30am for accountability. It is one of the most asinine things I have ever witness first hand. Then these devoted soldiers like my hubby say ok and push themselves to do what they are told even though they were just discharged from the hospital. This is the dedication of our American soldiers. Sure we've lost our legs and arms, but let's go line up for formation, it's no big deal. Oh we need to go take a class, ok. Our Army would not be the great Army it is without these incredible men and women. But these men and women need to concentrate on healing, not on staying compliant with regulations and procedures.
My favorite battle is the fight of the NMA. We have to be the advocate of care and reason for these soldiers. I met a wife one time who had been bullied. She said a person from the WTB told her he didn't care if she was tired. She signed on to be her hubby's NMA and she had to step up and do her job and quit whining. I asked her "What did you say back." She said, "Nothing." I said. "Want to know what I would have said?" She said, "Yes." I told her, "I would have told him to bite me and I'd like to see him do a fourth of what we do everyday." She said she didn't think she could do that. I said "Why, because it's the Army?!" She says yes. I said, "Well you are a human being and what we are doing and giving up is a lot. We are being asked to do something that not everyone can handle doing. We do not need any added stress and how dare he speak to you like that. Next time tell him just what I told you to say and see what happens." I bumped into her again weeks later and sure enough she had another conflict and she stood up to them. I told her I was proud of her and she said her life has become so much easier since she stood up and confronted that guy.
The saddest part is why did she have to do that. Why does the WTB (not the Army) feel like they have to act like bullies on the playground? As if we need another battle. I have talked to dozens of warriors and NMAs who are battling the same battle. It has become a constant war for us all. A war that I am ready to fight regardless of the consequences. What's the worst they can do? They can't take away my birthday and therefore I have nothing to fear. My favorite is these guys think they can beat us down. They think they can bark orders at us and we'll do whatever they tell us. But I simply lie low and take notes for the next battle. You see I am a double threat. I am college educated and I've been dealing with the Army for over a decade. They just don't know what to do with a girl like me.
The Army has taken very good care of us our the years and I will never fault the Army as an institution. I fault the individuals who have been given a smidge of power and now think they call all the shots. I do believe the Army needs to examine WRAMC's WTB. I cannot speak for the other WTBs across the nation, but I would like to see how they operate. Ours here has a total lack of communication and that carries terrible consequences. I can only hope that with time and some great people coming in it will get better. I know it will get better it just stinks right now.
We will win our war because we have God on our side. We will win because we know what is right and fair. We will win because because we are Army wives and we have been through hell and back already. I will win because everything I have ever gone through before God put me through it so I could be strong and handle this now. God put me through the fire many times so today I can be the rock for my husband and kids and so I can lead us through. I am thankful for every disappointment, every heart break, every confrontation I have suffered through. Because of all of these adversities I can fight everyday for my family.
I look forward to the day that we can just look back at this as just a memory. Some days it is just so hard to keep fighting to remind people that these guys deserve their care and compassion. I am so thankful for our teams of doctors who do not require convincing. I am thankful for the non-profits out there who recognize the need for comfort and go above and beyond. Having so many things to be thankful for makes the really crappy days not so crappy. But I will continue to fight because it a necessary fight that will yield very important results.