Monday, September 24, 2012

Loving a veteran

I flew to Albany, New York last Thursday, and spent the weekend at a retreat in the deep countryside with ten other women. The attendees were wives, mothers or daughters of veterans - from Vietnam to Afghanistan - or active duty military Afghanistan. I was the oldest by less than a year; the youngest was probably in her late 20s. It was an education for me.

My husband has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) from his time in Vietnam.   He has sought and received help for the PTSD, returned to Vietnam in 2005 as part of his psychological healing, and lives a busy life today - but neither of his diagnoses will ever go away. I can sometimes observe the impact of his war experience on him, but there's not much I can do about it except listen if he wants to talk - and leave him alone if he doesn't.

The other husbands have PTSD at least. They also have amputated limbs, scarred or mutilated body parts, and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI), which manifests in headaches, dizziness, memory loss or insomnia. And even though the men have injuries making them ineligible for deployment, most of them want to go back to the war zone - even though they may have been deployed half a dozen times or more in recent years.

The family members of these injured veterans carry much of the burden, both at home and as they do what they can do get help for their men.  For a veteran with TBI and its associated memory loss, the requirements of filling out a multitude of forms to quality for medical help are overwhelming; that duty may fall to the family member who is also keeping the family home together and may have a full-time job as well.

I felt honored to spend the weekend with these women. I wondered whether I could cope with the challenges they face. 

When I got the email describing the retreat I knew I was supposed to go, but I didn't know why. Now that I'm back home, I feel changed in some way, but I haven't identified what that change is about. Maybe it's knowing more and realizing how very lucky I am. Maybe it's a connection with other women who love veterans. Maybe it's the beginning of some new commitment on my part. I remember my commitment to say "yes" in my life and I wonder what the next "yes" will be.















14 comments:

Judy and Emma said...

It was obviously a deeply moving experience for you. Perhaps that is why you felt you had to go?

Teresa Evangeline said...

What a wonderful post, Linda. I got goosebumps as I read the last few sentences.

Linda Reeder said...

Wow. A commitment to saying yes! I'm beginning to realize how honored I am to know you.

DJan said...

I too feel honored to know someone who follows her heart like you do. And soon we will have our own bloggers' retreat and who knows what will come out of that? I am looking forward to it very much.

Retired English Teacher said...

None of your responses surprise me. I am inspired by your devotion to your husband and to gaining understanding about what he and others have gone through. Truly, we are honored to know you. Can't wait until our retreat!

Barb said...

Perhaps another boook? Following one veteran and his family?

Out on the prairie said...

Sounds like a good time. Ilove to brainstorm and often don't sleep much the first night gabbing at events like this.

Grandmother said...

And where the next "yes" will lead. Good for you for going, I'm sure your presence was appreciated by the other women just as you found time with them life changing. Women gathering with women will change the world.

Ms Sparrow said...

Beautiful post by a beautiful person.
Bless you for all you do to help veterans and their families!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I'm sure the meanings and possibilities from this retreat will continue to percolate, and I'm equally sure that you will find something deeply meaningful to do with this inspiration.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

I bet the true change you experienced by meeting these other women isn't even fully apparent to you. Maybe it never will be and is just something you have to feel, know its there, on the inside. So happy to hear your experience was a positive one. Hopefully you made some friends along the way too!

#1Nana said...

It's interesting to think about the process of figuring out what you have learned. Is it a natural process, or do you hurry yourself along somehow? I find that I often don't stop to reflect and learn from experiences. I'm looking forward to hearing more about this at our retreat.

Sandi said...

I can only imagine how powerful this experience must have been, and how having said, "yes" will change something in your life, regardless of whether you see/feel the change right now, or not. We are continually learning more about ourselves through our connections and interactions with others, often those who are strangers, or ones we may only see once in our lives.

I, too, am looking forward to hearing more, as I too am someone who loves and lives with a veteran.

marciamayo said...

I need to order the book.