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.