Monday, November 21, 2011

Easy Does It

In the past few months, it's been slightly overwhelming for me. I am starting to recognize the signs of serious stress and for the first time, am going to put myself first for a while. That will mean, standing my ground, and allowing myself not to feel guilt and to place a few things second. My health is also not doing very good and of course, that is my biggest fear as a mother and caregiver. My fear of, who will care for them, always strikes an uneasiness in this ol' gal. After some careful deliberation, advice from good friends, consideration of my health, upcoming surgeries, and the willingness to place myself first, there will be some changes. With the holidays coming up, I am trying to get some down time before my surgeries and of course, balancing my husband's severe issues.

In advocacy of speaking out, I will be occasionally placing guest's posts on here. I have placed a "Want Ad" on Facebook and other areas, asking for spouses, military members, family members who are dealing with PTSD, TBI or other issues that relate to guest post on this site. It will give me some down time I need, and more importantly, an opportunity for those who normally don't speak do just that. Please welcome these posts just as warmly, lovingly and respectfully as you do mine each and every time. I want to be able to extend the opportunity I have had, and give some who need a place for their voice to be heard. This is a good opportunity for them to also test the waters on the world of blogging and I am always advocating for just that.

Guest posts, will be sent in for my review and scheduled for posting. I am not taking any posts that do not have something to do with PTSD or TBI, especially those who want to submit sales, pyramid schemes, sexual exploitation, or phony online sites. Those, I will not even consider or look at. It must be military related to these subjects no matter if it was non-combative or combat related as there are some families out there, where PTSD or TBI occurred in non-combat situations like Military Sexual Trauma. If you are a military member, family (especially mothers, caregivers that aren't spouses), or a spouse, I am looking for others to write. Please submit any writings to With that said, all writings will be posted with permission and under name, created name or anonymous name for a little while to allow me some free time and recuperation.

In any writings, please remember that extremely graphic language, (some is inevitable as we are all military, ain't no going around that one!) and unnecessary hurtful things will not be accepted. I do not want to lose my reputation, integrity or tarnish Uncle Sam's Mistress in any way. I simply just want to give some who otherwise would not speak out, an opportunity to allow their voices to be heard. I will still be posting in my down time, I will be using these guest posts to fill the gaps.

If you email, it might take me some time to answer them. I always try to answer each and every one but here lately, the average is around 300 or more a week. Some weeks my family can encounter more than my email account will hold. It's not that I don't want to answer, but it would take a team of people or someone working full-time to answer each one. I appreciate each and every email and always take time to read them. However, with stress, family, surgeries and time ticking down to some big changes for my family....I may not be able to email each and every single one back all the time. Do know that every email is always read by me. Please know if I had more time, I would be able to answer them all but it has grown so much that it's impossible to answer them all.

I am very honored that my blog and that Uncle Sam's Mistress has been so readily accepted, recognized and loved by many, especially my military members. I think everyone knows I am trying to speak out as much as possible, as loudly as I can, for all of us. What is said to me is confidential (no one will have access to that) always taken with every ounce of respect and non-judgment, and I still stand by my motto of "What happens between us, stays between us".

I just think this Mistress needs a little bit of down time, time to get through necessary surgeries, and try to make it through this holiday season with out any major incidents like last year's. I would like to welcome those who have already submitted their posts and do know as I publish, I will be letting you know when they are up. For those who are interested, please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you all for pushing me on, rooting for me, and for giving me for fuel for the fight and the courage to keep going. Each and every friendship we have created, has meant the world to me. 

Counting Myself First For Once,


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Are We To Blame?

I recently read an article where a retired military member talked about the variety of services that family members could utilize and that if they didn't use them, that it was essentially their fault. In other places, I have read that spouses often don't utilize their Family Support Groups, or Family Readiness Groups which is run by their command. If they don't utilize such programs put into place, again the fault lies on us. Always, such organizations like Military One Source, is the number one "go to person" that we all should lay our heavy burdens at their door. To be honest...all this pisses me off. I don't think its as simple as some military members say it is. If it were, we wouldn't be still searching for programs,speaking out, utilizing online programs and I would be running out of things to say in this blog! 

The issues that I have is, that yes, there are programs out there through the military and other outlets but some are flawed so badly that we don't use them for a reason. Military One Source turned us away on many occasions, and after giving it one more college try so to speak, we called again. Two hours later, their answer was "We are unable to help with Post Traumatic Stress or Traumatic Brain Injury because that is considered medical and not under our programs. Your option and our job is to refer you to the Veterans Affairs". We had been in the VA system for three years. Over the past two years, this very thing is what is leading many people to turn to online resources and internet support groups. Looking over the emails I get, sorting and filing for writing purposes; I have to wonder why so many of us are experiencing the same thing, yet they keep pushing it? I have to wonder why it is that this program or others are constantly shoved out there as our savior to all that goes wrong? We weren't even able to get family counseling and what they did offer my family, was child therapy at the other side of the state. At this time, I was barely making it to buy groceries, living off a small tiny portion of 900.00 a month that took us three years to get. So how did they think I was going to be able to utilize six free sessions on the other side of the state, which was almost six-seven hours for us?

Warrior Family Support Centers are not the haven of mercy to run to according to many many folks who write in. A common statement that I get in emails is "What do you do when the military says they will help you if you come forward, then turn you away?". Many have written in that yes, they willingly went on post to the Warrior Family Support Centers and were offered help in some shape form or fashion. However, in that same outreached hand of support the underlying threat of "If you seek help, you do understand this will be on your record and you will get a profile for mental health. If you get the help and you admit you are having issues, you will more than likely get removed from service, you will have to find a new job, you will lose your housing, your this really what you want to do?" Many find they back away because if they are career military, what else is there out there when that is your current lifestyle? 

For an already messed up Veteran, this can cause them to back off when it probably took a good length of time just to get them to admit they need the help. The second issue that I see coming from all this, is wrong information being passed out such as usage and transfer of the GI Bill to spouses or children. For many, we are now learning that once the PEB starts...your GI Bill freezes and therefore unable to use it, transfer it etc. Many spouses and soldiers are hearing "don't worry about this until after medical board is finished" only to discover the one benefit you didn't think you had to fight gone.

As one reader wrote that I thought summed it up very well was "the outreached hand of help smacks you pretty hard and it stings long after". I have to say I have wondered if we were Active component would it have been easier for us, but in truth if this was our entire life, I don't know what we would do. What if that is all we know and then suddenly PTSD took that all away? I have to wonder myself what we would have done. So is it best not to seek the help, but end up in worse shape than they already are in? It floors me why the military and the VA systems are still shocked that there are 18 suicides a day, and that's not counting the spouses who commit suicide. As of yet, that number is not being tracked.

Family Readiness Groups and Family Support are not always the best thing to say to turn to. Many are under educated, many don't want to be there but their husbands make them, have no resources and a bulk of them most spouses don't go to because many find that they are being judged. Many reported that Gossip is what keeps them from even attending the meetings, so why would they go and talk to the leaders for help? What people failed to realize is that FRG's and FSG's only can refer, not provide answers. I wish that they would make that statement more clear. I know this because I was a co-leader of our unit's Family Readiness Group and it used to make me so mad that we were not able to help our soldiers in the capacity that is needed. I was often reminded and smacked on the hand because I could not "provide help to one family or one soldier; it has to benefit the unit as a whole". This was the reason I left our Family Readiness Group. I felt too many were being turned away, and I refused to be one of them because I had been doing it on our own for a very long time. Some of these groups on post or off post are really wonderful with women or family members who are there because they want to be. Some groups are cohesive and work well together. Others do not work that way. I have to be honest to say, that before I came along in our FRG....the last place I would ever ever go to is our FRG. I believe that many good FRG/FSG leaders have found that our hands our tied when it comes to these situations by military rules. That is, of course, if they care enough about their position and their unit. I couldn't see why I had to turn away a soldier in times of need and help, but try to pacify them enough to sell them a cookie or unit t-shirt for an annual Christmas Party.

Utilizing the Commanders of units is also very difficult because you are plainly stating "Yep, I am not able to do my job under the guidelines you think I should be". In the last two years, I can't even count how many emails that Veterans have reported in that they went to their Command, and were either turned away, told that they would be removed from service, or their promotions would be turned down.  I honestly think that the smoke screen the military put up here recently is just that....a covering. In my hopeful heart, I would like to think that the higher ups who are supposed to be training, setting forth new programs and trying to make changes, are actually doing it. However, sometimes the hardest hurdles are having to jump the higher ranks in your units. Once you get past that, you must then utilize the military doctors. 

One reader made a powerful comment I felt was the Hallmark statement of how hard it is to get help. She said, "There is help, but who is the help serving? Even now I find myself questioning what the real intent is behind the "help".  "If it is to dot the i's and cross the t' is gonna fall short, if it is to look good for political reasons - that is just wrong, if it is to prevent liability....shame on the system that created this monster. I know each case is different, but in our family's situation I do feel and continue to feel that the liability concern comes first and the humanity comes second. I have a very, very, very, very hard time dealing with this."

She also commented further, "In our case, the Army docs had one agenda: are you deployable or not. Remove that agenda, and the opportunity for treatment changes". When she wrote that, I sat back in my chair and chewed on that for a minute. I was like wow, that is the truth in our lives. It all comes down to being usable or not. Our military members have become expendable with very little disregard to what becomes of them after they are deemed unworthy.For all those who root on the family who stayed behind and kept the home fires burning.....they don't remember us at all.

Some readers felt their best choices for any resources were through Army Community Services. Some reported that a Federal Recovery Coordinator, Army Wounded Transition Unit Caseworker, or Reserve Recovery Coordinators were as close as they could get. However, getting those is not the easiest especially for those of us whose issues did not appear until after they had been home. I know for us, it took four years for someone to decide a Reserve and Federal Recovery Coordinators would be beneficial for us. Then you have to play Russian Roulette because you do have some who is only there to collect a paycheck. One reader felt that the Army Community Services worked fairly well for them and the issues of PTSD. However, as she cautioned, not all of them are going to be that way and there is always the concern of information disclosed because it is Active Duty. She stated  in her experience that they had Counselors that didn't require appointments or even have to disclose your name. She felt in her experience, it was unusual but at least they were trying to work on breaking down the barriers and stigmas for families who were worried that their unit's Commanders would find out. 

Other than that, a bulk of emails state they have no one to depend on or to get help from anyone but themselves. I can relate to the point of doing it alone strongly, because for the past four years? I have had to depend on no one but ourselves. My issue is that if the military is going to spend all this time and tax dollars putting people into place to help, or create programs...why not stay on top of them to ensure that the job is done? Why not spend just a little more and ensure that our Veterans are getting the "all" that they gave them during their service? Why not go one step ahead and prepare those who are Commanding units? This Mistress wonders why they simply can't take the time they are using to make it look like they are doing something....and actually do something. I can say that our Commander, always sort of looked like the proverbial deer caught in a headlight, because I don't think he understood what we were going through.

I get so tired and frustrated when the blame goes back on the family members. They don't give you a PTSD 101 for Dummies, an Army Manual for Idiots on TBI, or even warn you about the problems our Veterans could experience later on. They kind of sugar coat it and make it sound not so bad. We are much better off than our brothers and sisters before us in Vietnam,Gulf War and, all those in between like Somalia. I sincerely believe its because we are all standing up now and talking about it. I for one, do not think the family members should carry the blame from any of the military or VA because it's not our fault. We can only do so much and we aren't trained professionals or doctors. The military says well you should have done this or that. Ok, so then what? You boot them out maybe with a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress (if not a diagnosis of Personality Disorder) or if they are lucky, a Traumatic Brain Injury but then merely pass the buck to the VA. Once there, its here are some meds, and then let's send them right back to the families. We take them back and its "here is another pill". We are already carrying much of the blame because as family, we never stop wondering what we could have done, changed and always wondering what wrongs we could have righted. Is it really fair to have someone say that it's our fault?

I know for one I am not in the wrong. I have spent the last four years fighting like hell to just get treatment, ensure that its the right treatment and trying to get the Army to fix their mistakes that caused all this hell we have been living in since he came home in 2007. I have been spending the last four years of screaming when no one heard me because they were deafened by others all while being enclosed in a box with very high walls. To go through all this, read all of your emails and hear your stories...then hear people who have the nerve to say "well, if you can't get help, you have no one to blame but yourself" really makes this woman mad. 

Personally, I got four years all in a notebook that states otherwise. Four years of scars, mental exhaustion, nails bore down to the quick from clawing my way out of the cracks we fell through and not much ahead of where we were four years ago. I wonder if those that make those comments of warning to our families and soldiers, clock out and go home and sleep peacefully at night. If they do, it must be nice....because I can guarantee for all of us? There is no such thing as clocking out. 

We didn't fail. They failed us.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Copper Plate That Spoke

I recently returned to New York City as previously before in June with the Wounded Warrior Project's Writer's Workshop for Caregivers. I couldn't wait til the plane touched down and get with my beautiful friends made of steel amongst the skyscrapers and lights. Although I am small town and being in such a city as New York is daunting and scary, the excitement of what I might find kept my nerves wound tight. I don't know what was wrong with me this past weekend, but due to my health, lack of decompression time, things that had been up, down and sideways; caused my mood to be a bit melancholy. I felt fragmented and really unsure how to put back my pieces.

As promised, I rushed late Friday night down to the Catholic Charities on 7th Avenue to see if I could locate my Dunkin Doughnut coffee buddies only to find no one had seen Mike in a while. I wanted so badly to see him just one more time and perhaps explain to him that he made me really think about a lot of things. I think he was the closest talk with God I had ever had in my life. Maybe I needed to see his face, hear his voice one more time, and perhaps selfishly...I wanted to draw in the simple, quiet strength that radiated from him. Our hotel had changed, but the direction didn't bother me because early in the wee hours, I still had silent coffee talks with several homeless men who walked past me while pushing their grocery carts that held their lives. I admired their strength to keep walking, their never fail smiles they gave me, and wondered what I would put into my cart had I been in their shoes.

During this writer's guild workshop I attended, we were given the opportunity to visit the World Trade Tribute Center. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, walking through bits and pieces of sorrow, lost love, last breaths, and reminders of what used to be. Emotionally drained, physically sick and tired, and unsure of my mental stability in that time...I walked ahead of my group, around the corner of Ladder 10 to see a beautifully engraved, copper memorial plate that glowed with the evening sun. Amongst the melancholy, and my fighting the tears, there stood a middle aged man who was rambling and speaking out to the crowds of people as they rushed by in a hurry. I stopped to recognize the firemen emblazoned forever amongst the copper, hitting home the details of each face, name and remembering the memory of that horrible day of 9/11.

I stopped to get photos of this wall because I knew my husband would want pictures of this marker and no matter where I stood, this man would place himself in front of my camera's eye. I don't know what made me stop, and listen to his rapid, machine gun fire of words that he was filling the already loud air, but I listened. I watched. I made a mental note of his clothing, his choice of words, and more importantly...his actions. In between shouting out, "Know your history. Know the names. Know they aren't all there. Know your history my friends. Know it. I want you to know", he scrubbed at that copper plate with a small, wired bristle brush ferociously while polishing with a dirty rag held in the other hand. I listened as he kept scrubbing, hanging on to every word he said, and wondering if copper could be simply wiped away due to such intense attention.

While walking back and forth, he scrubbed. He scrubbed as if in his mind, there was something dirty he couldn't simply just polish with a rag. It suddenly dawned on me where I had seen this type of obsessive manic movements. I had seen it in the nightmares and sleep walking of my husband. It was different, but the same haunting movements could only come from someone who still sees the ghosts of war. He scrubbed that copper plate with the same intensity as my husband tried to get whatever off he had on him in his nightmare. My heart jumped a little as I recognized so much in him, that I have seen in other Veterans. The same haunted eyes, the hollowness, the far away look, and the urgency in his cries out for someone to listen to what he had to say. I had to say that this was a day I was ashamed of many. Many who rushed past him, the many who stood behind him and called him names. I was ashamed that tourists were taking pictures of him as if he was some sort of freak show and all the while, I wondered why it didn't seem to bother him. All those people assaulting him with their verbal stones that to anyone, would hurt to the quick...but he never missed a beat.

"They are there...they are there. Their names aren't on the wall. The wall. Not on the wall. Know your history, know it's not all there. It's gone, they're gone. We didn't get them home." he said over and over again.

I knew what he was saying because when 9/11 happened, I asked my mother "what happened to all the homeless people that were there?" She said in a soft, sorrowful voice "I don't know honey. I hope they got out. They are people too". Yes. Yes they are and I didn't forget. I remembered that conversation while he was scrubbing. I don't know why I did it, but I walked up to him as he faced the copper marker and was scouring with his worn down brush. He never looked at me, he just scrubbed as if that wire brush and copper plate held some type of secret penance for him. He never acknowledged that I was there. Just kept on scrubbing and muttering while he rubbed whatever sin he was trying to correct.

Time stood still. There were no loud noises echoing off the buildings, no sounds of traffic, and not even the loud rhythmic drumming coming from the sit in, Occupy Wall Street, which filled any gaps of silence the city of New York could have possibly had left. I made sure, due to uncertainty, to give him personal space because I didn't know him. I leaned over and placed a few bills in his bucket around his neck. I told him softly, "I didn't forget them Sir. I know there were many who died here that didn't make the wall. I know they are here and I didn't forget." As my words whispered in to his ear, he suddenly stopped. His wire brush hung midair on the copper he scrubbed and looking straight ahead at one of the firemen on the plate he said,

"Are you a Veteran?"

"No Sir, my husband is. Iraq, in 2006."

"Do you know what is important about the number seven?"

"Yes Sir, there were more than just the towers destroyed. There were seven others here".

"You understand. You know. You know your history. You know. They just left them there lady. There wasn't a place for their names. They mattered, they were my friends. They were there. I was there. I saw it fall and I screamed for them. I screamed and screamed. I was told to get out of the way. It was the same in Vietnam. No bodies, no tags, just leave 'em. There is nothing there now." as he pointed to the barriers blocking off the WTC Memorial. "There is a beautiful building but when I look the spirits are there. I see them. I see them and they tell me their names are not on the wall. Seven. Why can no one remember that there were seven? The Church. Gone. Church that held God is gone. It's just gone."

Such desperation and urgency for me to listen rang in my ears, and in the background I heard "that is one crazy mother-fucker." and "what the hell is she talking to him for?" Anger surged through my body like an electrical volt but I stood my ground and I never let my eyes stray away from his. I heard nothing and no one. I saw the same emptiness of a man that once was and just wanted his words to be heard. I looked at him, grabbed his hand and said, " I understand. I see and hear them too".

Tears welled up and he said, "your husband ok?"

"No Sir, he isn't. He just gets worse as the days go by. He sees the same ghosts, I think, as you."

He looked at me so clearly as if suddenly someone suddenly turned the light on and said, "All those people little lady. All those people. No one mattered unless they had a home, or money. Why could they not place a marker for them? That's all they want. I want people to know the truth. I want them to understand their history and learn from it. They call me crazy, I hear 'em. I guess I am crazy but they ain't got to see them every day. I come and scrub because I remembered. They stand there and remind me over and over again that they are all lost. I scrub and scrub. 2,976 is not the right number. No, no its not. Not all the names. 2...9...7...6 no it wasn't all. They stopped counting. I scrub away it all."

"I understand, Sir. My husband still scrubs too." I whispered with understanding. God, did I get it.

He said softly, "Thank you. Thank you for listening to my words. I just wanted them to hear me."

"I hear you, Sir. Tell them, I hear them too. I didn't forget."

He leaned over and said "May I shake your hand and kiss your cheek?"

I looked at him for a second and said "I would be honored to have you give me such a gift".

His hand was large, strong and warm. His kiss was scruffy that engraved a place on my cheek gently and soft. So much so, that his kiss still lingers five days later. There was no need to say goodbye, no need to formally shut the conversation down, it was with mutual understanding that the light was gone and he looked at me and nodded.  He then said "Little lady? They hear you too."

I walked back to meet my group and as I looked over my shoulder, I saw him pack up his things as quick as he scrubbed that wall previously. For a split second, he stopped and looked over at the large, blue barriers and nodded in silence as if he was agreeing with someone that just wasn't there. My heart was so sad, heavy with guilt that all those people just passed him up. Someone told me I must be crazy to talk to "these people". Another told me that I shouldn't have let him touch me as if our childhood "cooties" he did indeed have, were contagious. Maybe I am crazy. Maybe I shouldn't have waltzed right up to him. However, I think the most profound wisdom you can receive as a human being, comes from the most unlikely of places and people. He didn't ask for anything more than just someone to listen to him. To simply acknowledge that yes, all the names of those who were lost that terrible day in our placement of history were not on the wall, was all he wanted.

For those who don't know, there were seven in addition to the two twin towers that were destroyed or badly damaged. These were 7 World Trade Center, 6 World Trade Center, 5 World Trade Center, 4 World Trade Center, the Marriott World Trade Center (3 WTC), and the World Financial Center complex and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. Seven was the number he so desperately asked me if I knew the meaning behind. "Seven" he said, "held the lives of many and homes to many who aren't on the wall".

His voice and his face, etched a permanent place in the vast caverns of my mind. I wondered what his story was? Who his friends were? What past did this remarkable man have? My heart ached because just as I reminded someone else who said I was nuts, that could be our husbands. Our brothers. Our sisters. Our mothers. There were only a few differences between him and our families. Our soldiers and Veterans have us. It could have been my husband, or your husband. Would we have turned a blind eye and deaf ear to them the same way?  No one stopped to look carefully at him as his Army background did indeed give him away to someone who knows.

I left New York but I don't think this moo-cow town girl will ever have New York leave me. In the loud city with the busy rush of people passing by in a blur, there are some who sit, calling out to those who won't listen. There are still those who linger behind silently in people's minds, begging to be put to rest. I think sometimes you just have to stop long enough to hear the truth. If you ever want to hear a story, stop at NYFD Ladder 10 and see how that copper plate, does indeed speak. Question is....will you really hear it's voice?

All of them Remembered, 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Question From a Reader "Do you Feel........"

This question came in my email last week and after thinking long and hard about it, decided to see if I could print this and to my surprise she said yes. 

"USM, I am taking your suggestion and teaching myself to blog. When I sat down yesterday to start, I had to delete, omit, then take out some more because of family and friends. How do you do it without feeling guilty? Do you ever worry about putting it all out there, or sometimes bad mouthing your husband to the world? How do you deal with the comments and emails? I LOVE your blog, but often wonder how do you not get into trouble by saying some of the things you do? How do you do it all without feeling guilt at all? Do you beat yourself up later for the things you said? I also get scared that it will backlash on me. From a HUGE fan in Snowmass, CO."

Ahhhh I wondered when someone would ask me about 'Guilt'. First off Snowmass, I am thrilled to see that you are taking on blogging. I once read a quote that was always my favorite from Will Rogers, "Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there". Means, you need to always do something even when it all feels ok. I find that blogging, using a journal and such things, are therapeutic, accessible and feasible for those of us who need to find some type of outlet when we are facing challenges of the standard outlets such as group therapy, support groups etc. I had to really think about this because your email stumped me! I rarely get asked direct questions to me. I thought long and hard and the answer is.....sometimes. I am starting therapy via telephone, believe it or not, and during that I discovered that Guilt is my biggest downfall. 

When I started blogging, sometimes my husband would read and sometimes not. Most times, he gives me ideas on the topics I choose or something he says he wants me to mention. He without knowing it, creates the subjects I write about. Often times, my children say something or most of the time personal experience builds my decision on what to talk about. While some of you might think "shame on her" because of what I said about my husband, it is nothing we haven't discussed or anything behind his back. Although silence is an issue at times, we do have conversations and of course, arguments and often these things come up. Is it too personal and am I sharing too much? Possibly. However, when this blog began to pick up with readers and the amount of hits it was receiving, my husband said the most powerful thing he ever has to me and that was "If you are going to do this, don't do it half-ass. If you can help but just one person you did something important.". I had a comment the other day on my Facebook page for this blog, asking if my husband could sometimes comment or write his point of view. What you all don't realize is, he is here in my writing just the same as I am. I have my days, and that reflects in my writing of course...but I don't think I continuously "bad mouth" my husband and often put his point of view in there, such as thinking I am the enemy or how he feels. His words, not mine. This blog is a combination of both of us; its a part of my whole family. We have walked this road alone for so long that we don't want to see another one of you do it on your own. If that means telling it all, well then we must. We both decided that we would stand up, and say you know what? This IS what is real. These are our feelings, all that we are and all that we will be.

Now, guilt from it all? Of course. I am human. I feel anger, bitterness, frustration, love, happiness, sadness and emptiness but, all of those I can compartmentalize, shove back and try not to let it run rabid. Guilt though is harder to push back and often does eat at me. Is it because of my husband or my family? Not often but sometimes I wonder if we did the right thing by blogging about everything. For the rest such as the VA, the military, etc? Most definitely. I will admit that when I hit "Publish Post" I realize that there are dozens of VA's ,, and addresses across the United States/world jumping on each and every post and staying for a while. I worry that when someone reads my posts, and knows who I am in real life they will be angry or pissed at me. However, the ones who eventually do find out they are rather surprised rather than upset with me. I have been nicely told to stop, casually mentioned not to bring up certain subjects, told I really didn't need to post this or that, and I often wonder if some just get scared of me because I am blogging. The biggest thing that bothers me is I don't want people to help me because they are afraid I will blog. I want them to help because that's their job, and that they do their job because it IS a wounded soldier. 

There is a reason why I write under a pen name. I really don't like people knowing who I am and there are only a trusted handful that do know who I am, other than our local VA etc. Anonymity is a wonderful thing, and after a long talk with a spouse the other day, she mentioned that I did a good job keeping my identity safe as she didn't even know who I was. I am a book lover and history buff, and I knew that many past historical authors like Dr. Seuss, Mark Twain were all created names. Many women of the 19th Century wrote under a man's name because that was the only way they could be published and since this is a long way from the 19th Century, J.K. Rowling of the Harry Potter series is also considered to have a pseudonym. I created my pen name to write under because it was easier, to be honest, to write behind that smoke screen. It gave me strength if that makes sense and the cajones to talk about tougher subjects. 

Often times, confrontation and I do not agree. I don't think of myself as a fighter, a leader, or any of that so its easier for "Uncle Sam's Mistress" to get the credit than me, myself and I. I don't give our location, our doctor's names, anything that says HERE I AM COME GET ME. I don't think I have talked about anything that is going to cause some men in black to show up at my front door. However, in all of this, I did get help and that meant telling some who I am in real life so we could get that help. Did it bite me in the ass in the long run? I am not sure. That is a debate that I am still trying to figure out and counting the steps I am taking. Have I been chastised for blogging? Of course, but you know what? I figure this is my right, my husband and many many others fought for that right and not one single time, have I never NOT spoken the truth. If you failed me, I am going to say something about it. I also say, if its the truth and people get mad? That means they are worried

I will admit, its easier to throw on the superwoman cape, write under the elusive Uncle Sam's Mistress, and way much easier for me to answer each and every email. I think looking back on it all, the most thing I feel guilty not having all the answers for many. I am not a professional, never claimed to be, and only share our personal experiences, victories and failures. However, some find that I am an easy person to write to, especially  my Veterans and soldiers. I sometimes am the confessional priest, but I don't know how to answer or what to say. Some stories are harder to read than others, some make me cry at night when I am trying to wipe my own day of worries away and sometimes...some stories make it all worth while getting into trouble, or having people treat me differently because I wrote something online. I sometimes feel guilty because I wish I had someone to confess to, and I really don't accept to all you out "there". 

Back lashing from comments, I rarely get. On a daily basis, I get more good than bad. I get more emails than comments, and that's ok because I understand the need for people to email and feel that cover too. However, because it is an email sometimes the anti-war people can get more carried away, weirdos get loonier and sometimes the conversations can become quite graphic on their part. I thank the good Lord for patience, forgiveness and the will to hit delete when I really want to respond back. I can say ouch, yeah that hurt! Hit delete and try to move on from that without stooping to their level. Some comments are kind of hateful, but everyone has their own opinion. Some think I am a martyr because I stay with my husband, some think I am doesn't really matter what people think. It's what I think about me is the most important thing.

As a blogger, my suggestion to you is if you feel fear, retribution, insecurity...create a pen name and just leave it at that. There is no reason to state your name, your residence etc. You can be whoever you want to be and maybe that will find you the strength you are seeking. If you feel worried that your family will see it, or you don't everyone knowing ALL your business...then do it that way. A good friend late last night asked me if I was willing to walk the line, and I said yes. So ask yourself Snowmass, are you willing to walk the line? If you choose put it out there, it is done. You can delete all you want, but you can't erase a person's memory or knowledge. However, in the same late night conversation, we bloggers are probably the safer majority because we DO put it out there. I kind of feel that if we don't though, we won't ever get the help and we damned sure didn't learn anything from our past wars. You have to decide what you are most comfortable with doing. You must in the end, choose of what you write and how much you put out there. In the words of my husband again, I tell you "If you are going to do this, don't do it half-ass. If you can help but just one person you did something important". 

I hope this answers all your questions Snowmass. I sincerely wish you well on your endeavor and your decisions to blog. I will be rooting all the way from down here in Moo-Cow Town USA if you choose to do it. It is a good outlet, but in the ultimately have to decide the consequences, the guilt and how to write it all out. If you should choose to use your name, and feel you have to omit some things...well, I kind of think it's a waste of time if you feel so censored. I just wouldn't say anything to my family or like some, just leave that out all together. There are many many bloggers out there who feel like you and some who censor themselves while others let it all hang out. It can be a wonderful thing, and sometimes it can be a hard thing. It's all about your level of comfort-ability, because if you are comfortable writing....your words will flow and be comfortable to read and that my dear, is your ultimate goal. To get it all out, to take the burden off of you, to let it all out and then let it go. Just ask yourself as I did....How much do you want to let go of?

Thank you for the email and making ME stop to think for a while,