By Alan Morales, WTC Stratcom
It wasn’t until about 30 minutes into my conversation with AW2 Symposium delegate Crystal Ransom that something colorful caught my eye. I turned and noticed neon pink embroidery pop-up off her Army green camouflage purse. I gestured to the purse and asked her, “Does that say what, I think it does?” She grinned, plopped the purse in front of me, and proudly replied, “Yes. U.S. Army Retired Wife.”
Crystal reminded me of that kind of Southern woman who would scold you for not finishing dinner, serve you another helping, and walk out of the room with a smile. She’s a friendly soul, and follows a set of beliefs that are shaped by her life experiences. I realized that of all her challenges, living with her husband’s injuries has tested her the most as a woman, a mother, and an Army wife.
Retired SPC Matthew Ransom, Crystal’s husband, wasn’t injured by an explosion or a training exercise. Like so many of his fellow Soldiers, his injury was silent. It slowly penetrated his mind and body to manifest itself into a behavioral injury that took over his life and his Family’s. Nevertheless, Crystal was not a bystander in her marriage. She could tell the difference in her husband’s personality between his first and second deployment and was not going to let any injury continue harm him—or their Family.
“You have two choices. You either admit you have PTSD, admit you are an alcoholic, and seek help. Or I’ll leave you,” Crystal told Matthew a few years ago.
Her words struck me by surprise at first. In fact, I took a pause after she said it. But when she saw the expression on my face she explained, “Oh don’t you worry, I wasn’t going to divorce him. This is just the way we work. It got him to get the help he needed. And I can prove it. He’s two and a half years sober.”
In addition to Matthew’s post-traumatic stress disorder, he sustained degenerative disc disease (DDD) in his spine as a result of wearing heavy combat medic gear. Because the illness deteriorates the cartilage in his spine, Matthew decreased in height from six foot five to six foot two in a matter of years. To this day, he sleeps upright on his couch at home because laying on his back is too painful.
Nevertheless, Crystal faced her husband’s DDD just like she faced the other obstacles in her life. Head on.
Today, Crystal works hard to make sure that her children grow-up understanding how to accommodate their father’s injuries. From teaching them the consequences of waking “daddy” off the couch too early, to letting them know when he’s trying to get through an episode, Crystal prepares them now to avoid challenges later.
She lives and breathes her role as an Army wife. She married an active duty Soldier, and takes pride in the ability to help other Army wives adapt their marriage to military culture. “I’ve always been an Army wife. I don’t know what it’s like to be a civilian wife,” said Crystal.
Just yesterday, I witnessed her calm another spouse who was taking an emotional break from the AW2 Symposium focus groups. “You’ve got to be bigger than this. It’s about the greater goal. You’ve got to do this for all the other women out there,” Crystal said to the delegate. She proved to me once again how she motivates others to lead them to their own successes.
Crystal is a mover and a shaker. She understands the nuances of what drives people, and more importantly, what drives her Family. In that hallway yesterday, I saw determination in her eyes and saw her inspire another individual to affect change. And she did it all while letting the world know with four neon pink embroidered words who she is—a U.S. Army Retired Wife.