My My My Oh My! The Mistress must have said something to touch the very core of many! I was overwhelmed at not only the support, but the MANY emails I got! Thanks to all who wrote in...currently my email is sitting at 387 emails from that blog alone. As much as I would love to...I will be unable to answer each one so going to try and figure a way I can break it down for each of you. I wish I had all the time in the world to answer each of you, but it would be weeks at my current rate of computer availability time!
I wanted to say to those who shared your stories with me...thank you. It not only was an honor to share even such hardships but it made me feel that I wasn't alone in dealing with all of this. I know from every single one, and yes...I read them all....that some of you lost your soldiers, some are separated, and some are divorced. I am overwhelmed that you all took the time to share with me and unload your burden. I hope that you know in the same way as you told me....that we are together in this. For those that wrote in on behalf of their soldiers who committed suicide, I am so very very sorry. I know my losses of my husband are not equal to that type of loss, but I hear you....I really really do. Thank you so much for sharing with me their names, who they were and what they did. They are heroes too, just sometimes go unnoticed.
Many of the emails were new readers which surprised me. I was informed today that my blog on this particular subject has most definitely flown the proverbial coop and nested in some interesting places! I appreciate all my readers old and new. What surprised me most of all...were the amount of NON-military readers! Many were either diagnosed with PTSD from cancer, car wrecks, health problems, and/or domestic violence. Many were emailing me on behalf of the general public expressing their gratitude for all that my husband endured and many of our other wounded warriors like him and the ones that physically wounded as well. The phrase of "I am one of those many bumper sticker people" echoed throughout the emails. The question of "What can I do to help you?" came to light over and over again.......
Here is Uncle Sam's Mistress's answer to that very question:
Write to Your Congressman....pass on my blog. Post this blog on their FB pages, twitter accounts...whatever! Pass on other PTSD and TBI related blogs as there are more than you think. Maybe the "higher powers" may not see it themselves, but I guarantee you that if there are a hundred people post the same thing over and over again....it will be seen. Write to your State's representatives. Demand that the VA benefits be given to those Veterans who deserve it....ask for more help to be given to the families who are the care givers of these wounded. Ask them to provide more programs for us, point out families like mine who got left behind. Ask for respite care for those caregivers who never get a break! Ask these people who are in offices because WE put them there...what are they doing to support our troops AFTER they come home? What are they doing when the battle comes home with them? Cutting our Veteran's disability benefits or SSDI/SSI benefits? WHY? Why would someone you voted in office agree to such audacity? Say something.
Pass it on to tv shows....CBS, NBC and ABC anyone and everyone. It was a sad shame to hear that Oprah's show yesterday (which I missed) didn't give the attention to Wounded Veterans like it was needed. It was told to me that Michelle Obama's appearance on stage brought on more applause than the wounded veteran. Hmmmmm......what's wrong with that picture? I would think someone who stood up and fought in a war, injured and comes forward to talk about their issues, would be worthy of a little more applause but that's my opinion. I love Oprah and matter a fact, wrote her myself on this very subject. Would hate to add another name to my list of many disappointments. She asked for people to tell her how to help support the troops...you know what? Go to her site and post this link. I will gladly tell Oprah what she can do to help us.
There is no reason for anyone to apologize but I sincerely appreciate all the emails that did. Please remember though, there are many many others out there who's story was echoed in my blog...many who are going through worse, or have lost their lives to a wound they just couldn't deal with anymore. I don't want apologies, heartfelt thank yous or "hey, right on sister keep blogging".....if you support the troops, show it. This blog was started for self-help therapy and to make me feel better...it has grown so much more than that and that's wonderful! But if you can take the time to read this....comment and send emails...send one to your Congressman. Hey, if nothing else...send them my link and let them email me! I would LOVE to talk to them! Can't take the time out to write an email or navigate the endless state pages? Print it out and drop in the mail. I totally think I am worth a stamp. I am a nobody but with a big voice and a lot of time for thinking. I am only one voice though.
Speak for all of us who are suffering and can't find their voices because of fear, shame and humiliation. If you know of spouses who are like me....listen. Sometimes we just want our voices heard. No matter by whom. We just want to vent just like any other person. Our situations are much different, so often times we may need to vent more. Often times, spouses are in desperate need to feel normal again because after combat...normalcy is no longer affiliated with us. Take us out to a lunch and just allow for a few minutes.
If you have a neighbor, swing by and ask them if there is anything that you can do. Many of you wrote that you know of neighbors that have soldiers that just came back and heard they have PTSD. Honey, if you have "heard" then why haven't you gotten to know this family? Go by and introduce yourselves to the spouse! Now, I am not saying go and stalk anyone...but if you can write me, then you can go by and take a cake or something and just say "Hello, my name is so and so and I wanted to come by and introduce myself." For those of you that have acquaintances that are in these situations, there is no excuse of why you can't be a part of their lives. Many times we lose our friends, due to the PTSD within our homes. So stand up and say, "You know what? I am your friend regardless...PTSD doesn't bother me". Stand in with it, be firm and let that spouse/mother/caregiver you care. I have an elderly gentlemen that lives down the road, and often times he will swing by from the doctor's office to see me and the kids. Now it's not often, but I tell you....it's really nice. Because for that few minutes....just for a few seconds. I am me again. I am not a soldier's wife...not a caregiver....not a mom...just me.
If it's a Veteran...often times they just want one thing. To be heard. Someone to listen to them. That's all. If you can't help them in any way...offer that. Sitting with a buddy of mine through Rolling Thunder, that is a shared sentiment many of spouses and veterans shout out. Sometimes the Veterans isolate themselves from their families, for reasons due to misunderstanding, lack of education and not being there with them, they feel they can't talk to their spouses....sometimes they just need to vent like anyone else. They hide it, it builds and before you know it...it explodes. If you have that opportunity, stop and take a little while. As long as they need. I will say this and for many other families like mine.....it could mean the difference between you being a few minutes late or that person going home and eating a '38.
Hate to put it in those terms...but it's true.
For all those who are at the VA's reading this across the United States and many I did talk to today via email...keep that in mind. Keep in mind why you chose that job. Surely it wasn't because of the benefits or the pay. Remind yourself that when you were in college, there was a particular reason why you chose what education you wanted. What put you in the path of working with Veterans of war? Reach deep inside and remind yourselves that yes, your time may stop at 4 or 5:00 p.m. but our time clocks do not. When you think "ugh...think I will just put this off til next week" that it may mean a life or death situation for another family. If you are an OIF Caseworker, our lives really do depend on you guys at the VA. You are our only lifelines....truly. Often times, the only ones we have in a world of red tape, confusion, guidelines and misdirections. We understand your swamped...and to you, it may seem we are demanding so much from you as you are overloaded....but if you say "I will call you back"...make sure you keep your word. We don't expect a return call or a miracle within 30 minutes....but don't just brush us off. If you are overloaded with cases, explain that. I promise, I would rather have you be honest with me than to never ever call me. I know our VA is overloaded, I don't know how you guys do it...but don't lose track of the ones you do have.
The BEST thing I ever had told to me was by my husband's primary care physician last week. She is married to a Combat Vet with PTSD. Heck, I think that should be a requirement! I looked at her while in conference with another person in the OIF office and said "Does it ever get any better?" She looked at me with this serious look and said "Nope. My husband drives me crazy!" and she laughed. Although she laughed and I laughed, it was the truth. I appreciated her honesty with me. She didn't take the time to sugar coat ripping that band aid off, she just went right ahead and snapped the sucker right off. I am doing the same for you now.
For all those soldiers who wrote to me yesterday, I swear you boys had me in tears. I would have never ever thought in a million years my blog would be spreading around Afghanistan and Iraq. I can't tell you how much of an honor it was to get those emails and as promised, will not reveal your names or information on my blog. I do want to say I HEAR YOU. I think on top of serving our country, and then dealing with the issues you all have...it's amazing. It really is. Some of you mentioned that you were passing my blog on to your wives, and that's great! Do know though, a blog isn't going to fix everything for some of you. It will take the very words that you wrote to me, being spoken to your spouses...."I have PTSD and I want YOUR help". Then once those words are uttered, let your spouse know how much you need her support right now. Often times, you put us on your enemy list when indeed we will fight to the death to save you.
Thank you all for your service....thank you for the emails, and the encouragement. To the one who wrote me about my "name" and the thought I was it was interesting enough to look more finding it was where you needed to be...glad you found me buddy. You said you benefited the most and want me to keep going to the top. I am trying to Sir. I really really am. For those higher ups who didn't want their ranks revealed...never fear. However, you have the opportunity to be there for your men. Talk to them and make them feel unashamed to come to you in times of need. You have the opportunity to be the first to say "my men can come and talk to me about PTSD and I am not going to tell them to shove it under the rug or take some motrin". I can't change everything on my own Sir....I need help. I need your help, all the other readers....help me change the way we think about those who fought for our freedom. Don't let another soldier think suicide is the only way out. Don't let another soldier lose his respect he earned for in theater that is out shined because of that suicide. Don't let another bullet have your name on it. I will do my part...but what will you do to help me?