By Susan Thomas, USO Vice President of Warrior and Family Care, Guest Blogger
Editor’s Note: USO is a member of the AW2 Community Support Network.
It’s impossible to come back from war, regardless of your exposure to direct combat, and not come back changed. This was not something I widely recognized when my husband, then boyfriend, first deployed to Iraq back in 2003. While he was away, I prayed every night for his return, and return he did, to only deploy again a few months later. He was a communications officer, he would be fine. I kept telling myself that.
He was fine, at least on the outside. Little fights were normal, a lack of focus on our conversation to drift into a memory, that too was normal. Locking the doors, checking the window latches, that became just routine—some would say this hyper-vigilance is just part of serving your nation in the military. As a spouse, you sign up to stand by your servicemember and to support their decision to join the military—whether it was your decision or not. You love your servicemember as a military spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, parent, or best friend. What is essential to recognize is that you are not alone, and that by connecting with others who have had similar experiences you can see yourself in them, and through their stories and courage you can yourself heal.
When I joined the USO, as the Vice President of USO Warrior and Family Care, I knew I was becoming part of an amazing organization that would not just develop programs and partnerships, but would help build hope and confidence along the recovery journey for wounded, ill and injured troops, their Families and caregivers. Little did I know when I began this journey, that I would build my own hope and confidence and help my husband to regain his own.
Post traumatic stress has been coined as a signature wound of these conflicts over the last decade, and more and more Families are being impacted. Post-traumatic stress does not impact only an individual; it impacts all their loved ones. Seeking assistance whether it is through formal or informal channels is important. My husband and I realized this was an issue, and because of that, we are in an even better position today. This would not be the case if it weren’t for acknowledging his behavior was not normal, and there is nothing wrong with that acknowledgement.
It is for that reason my husband and I participated in the USO Invisible Wounds PSA campaign entitled “Portraits”. I encourage you to check out the PSA at http://www.uso.org/warriorandfamilycare/and preview the videos that offer a more in-depth look into the lives of those living with invisible wounds, as well as caregivers like myself.