Sunday, February 15, 2015

Even Through Death He Still Succeeded

We have this general and mutual feeling in the military online communities and bloggers, that if someone doesn't blog or check in; it is a sort of  unwritten rule that we worry naturally for that person and check in. Max Harris over at his blog, Combat Veterans With PTSD wrote a beautiful blog in honor of. He had already left a comment before on my last blog but, he wrote more. His first comforting words were beautiful but, none compares to this.....
In both our worlds, the family member and that of a Veteran; it is very easy to overlook and get "used" to things that it becomes the norm for us. Max, I wanted you to know there should be no regrets on your end. He would never want that from you. I always sent your blogs forwarded to his email and he would read. In those last three months prior to, I feel I should have checked on you and several others.  As I told you before, I don't feel courageous and it killed me to write that post but, I felt something tug at me to do so. I am glad though because the out pour across the world reminded me that our story helped, save, and lifted up many. Other Veterans wrote in something similar that it made them double check on how their condition truly was. We have been friends now a long time through a tapestry of carefully woven words. You are my brother, my friend and you will always have a battle in me. Thank you for these words as you will never know how much they mean to me. For yours, showed that his story and his untimely death still saved another from the cracks. You fulfilled his promise with me and I take comfort in that. Love you dear friend. I promise I will check in on you when some time has passed.To my Darling, You succeeded baby in every single way touching so many people while you were here and even after you're gone. I hope you are in peace because your mission was and is being fulfilled. I love you.......
I've been blogging for a while now - since January, 2011.  It's hard to believe it's been that long, but it has.  I've shared my struggles and my victories and I have been gladdened to see that by sharing my struggles, I've made a positive impact in the lives of my fellow service-members and in the lives of the ones who love them.

Over the course of those years, I've gotten to know quite a few bloggers sharing similar stories.  One, in particular, has always had a deep impact on me:  Living with PTSD & TBI.  The author, Uncle Sam's Mistress has a talent for clearly and emotionally depicting how difficult life is for someone deeply in love with a veteran with PTSD.

Over the past few years, we've gotten to know each other tangentially through our respective blogs and through Facebook - sharing posts, insight and a kind word.

I began to grow concerned that I hadn't seen a blog post from her in a while, as I know my readers have been for me these past few months.  One of my greatest regrets is that I couldn't see past my own challenges to check to make sure everything was OK.

When she posted her latest blog post, From A Stigma to A Statistic, I sobbed.  I sobbed for the loss of her husband, I sobbed because of the profound and heartfelt pain she expressed through her words, and I sobbed because PTSD had taken another veteran too early.  I did my best to let her know through comments how deeply distressed I was for her loss, but don't think I ever found the right words.

So that's why I'm writing this tonight.

Here Goes...
Dear Uncle Sam's Mistress,
I've been reading your blog for a long time and I've always admired the heart and humanity you pour into your posts.  When I read your latest blog post, the depth of the devastation that PTSD has brought into your life hit me like I had been punched in the gut.

Words cannot convey how deeply sorry I am for the loss of your husband.  You captured the stress, fear, despair, and heartbreak so poignantly.  I shared your post on Facebook and found out later that my mom had read your words and she started crying immediately.  We could barely talk about it because it strikes so close to home.  She knows how close I've gotten on a few occasions in the years since I came home and the thought of what you are going through breaks her heart.

What your family has gone through has been constantly on my mind since I read your post.  It's caused me to take stock of my life and how I am doing.  It made me realize that I wasn't doing as well as I would hope.

And I don't think I would have seen it as clearly if it wasn't for your latest blog post.  I have struggled mightily the past few months, despite recognizing how poorly I was handling my separation and divorce from my wife.  In the past, whenever I have gotten to the point where I was able to acknowledge that I am struggling, I have been able to somehow find the strength to reclaim what I had given up to my PTSD.

This time was different.  Until I read your blog post, I didn't realize that I hadn't improved.  Things hadn't gotten worse, but they hadn't improved either.

That realization scared me to death.

Because of you, because of your unbridled courage in sharing your story, I've turned a corner.  I've started to push back against the darkness.  It made me realize that one of my strengths has always been in telling my story the way you tell yours:  unflinchingly, with courage and fortitude.

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.  Thank you for reminding me how important it is to tell my story.  Thank you for reminding me that I have the courage to live for myself.  Thank you for having always had a kind word when you could tell I was struggling.  Thank you for letting all of us into your life.

It may be small comfort, but I wanted you to know that I am here for you.  All you have to do is ask.  Message me on Facebook.  Reach out through my website. You've given thousands of readers the strength to carry on - now it's our turn lend you ours.

God Bless You and Your Family.

In Grief and Solidarity,

Max Harris, Combat Veterans with PTSD
To One in Sorrow by Grace Noll Crowell
Let me come in where you are weeping, friend,
And let me take your hand.
I, who have known a sorrow such as yours,
Can understand.

Let me come in -- I would be very still
Beside you in your grief;
I would not bid you cease your weeping, friend,
Tears can bring relief.

Let me come in -- I would only breathe a prayer,
And hold your hand,
For I have known a sorrow such as yours,
And understand.
To my family, friends, fellow bloggers, and faithful readers, I ask the following:  Show your solidarity.  Write your name (or pseudonym) in the comments along with a kind word.  Just a moment of your time would mean so much.

Monday, February 2, 2015

From A Stigma To A Statistic

I've been wanting to sit down and write for a while now. There has just been so much interference in my mind that I no longer know what is up or down. My mind is constantly free falling into blackness and nothingness. I had no way to express myself in an environment that would give me some sort of release. I feel the need to scream yet, nothing escapes me. So here I am.........

It was my husband's and my intention to share our story, our life so that others like us, possibly could learn or find some useful information. Perhaps learn a lesson, discover something new and, to educate all while providing myself a place of solitude that would let me express my feelings. Maybe just maybe someone out there would say "I don't feel so alone now" or "Holy Shit! So that's what this is!". Sometimes.....sometimes it was the only way I could reach him as he would read the draft and add something I had forgotten. Often he would see things in a different way and understood what I was trying to tell him but, in a written format. It's hard not to hear today "Youuuu writing Mommy? One day you will be on a book cover and I'll get your autograph!" which always made me laugh as he wondered if writers had "groupies" and could a husband be one of them? He was my biggest supporter in my writing and while some of it was hard to read and he would see that he behaved so badly, he would say.....he wanted the world to know that this is how it is. Sometimes beautiful and peaceful, often harsh and ugly, sometimes raw and cold but all this? All this was our life. My husband and I felt that even our own mistakes could possibly help someone out there and that just possibly....just one Veteran or family of, would be saved from the cracks of the hell we were stuck in for seven years.
Seven Years..........
2, 555 days...........
61,320 hours.........
3,679,200 minutes we shared trying to figure all this out on our own.

 Perhaps I couldn't write because all that we as a family shared with the world, suddenly seems all wrong. Imperfections, mistakes and, soooooo many corrections to be made that I didn't have it in me to write. Maybe another reason why I could not sit down and write was because I just didn't know what to say, how to explain, and even....the possibility that we would let so many of you down; because the truth is.........I feel I did let him down. Not intentionally but, I should have looked deeper and asked him to stop hiding and running.

After the midnight hour of New Year's Eve, my husband took his own life by self inflicted gunshot.

I am now drowning......
in the deepest end of the pool of confusion and sadness.
 I am so very, very  cold.
like that of a vast canyon that once held a mighty river that had gone dry.
Shattered.......with fragments that will never be put back together.
I can't breathe or feel anything but, pain.

He had been doing really good although there were just little things that we as a family and his friends couldn't quite put our fingers on. We had bounced around this year after retirement which was bittersweet. In my last blog, we both weren't really sure what to do now. We used to be a military family, a Wounded Warrior's family, a Disabled Veteran, a Veteran and an Advocate; "The Expendable and the Collateral Damages of War" then suddenly mid Spring he no longer wanted to be known as a Veteran period. We shuffled that damn deck so many times that we became weary of playing the game and we agreed we were "Just Mr. and Mrs. Used To Be". It wasn't names or titles, just the identities that we were used to and wore with absolutely no shame and then it hit us both......what do we do and where do we go now? We decided to start putting our focus on something we weren't sure we could find; purpose. The fight was done except a few minor things that the Army didn't and failed to complete but, we made it through and, without pomp and circumstance, without a handshake or even a person in real life giving it to him.....we quietly exited the service.The car wreck and frontal damage done changed everything we had learned about Traumatic Brain injuries on multiple scales. I was warned that no one knew exactly how this new hit would impact him; gently suggested that it would be best to make a long term plan. However, I would look at him and he always joked about his indented forehead but, little things were new and different. So much so, we as a family had to learn all over again a new way of thinking, behavior issues, impulses and manic times vs down times.

We had a rough year in which I had hoped would smooth out on it's own all while he kept pushing us further away. Yet at the same time, put me in the middle of so much like family drama, making excuses for his behavior and taking care of everything that I just became weary. I kept his bubble intact, I was the sounding board for all the anger and resentment and there was nothing that I wouldn't do.........except hurt someone because of what he wanted nor could I repeat the things he said for me to say. It is not in my nature to be an unkind, cruel individual and he resented me for not saying these things. I never understood this part of him. One who had no filter, could be so unkind and hurtful to friends and family but, made me the fall guy and put me in some precarious positions that left me stressed; a scapegoat for both sides and always to blame. I have been stuck in the middle since he came home from Iraq and it became a heavy burden that was sometimes just too damn much to deal with. I have and would have done anything to see that man smile but, I just couldn't hurt family "for" him. He had his reasons but, we had no other family and I felt like I was taking punches on both sides.
So while protecting him from the outside world, wrapping my family in peace from all of it; I was also protecting the other person and they never had any inclination nor could they understand this was how it was.  His feelings, his hurt and pain needed to be something he had to deal with. No matter how I tried, no matter what I would say; it just wasn't enough....for either sides. One would be educated enough to know what is online through researching but, just never got over hurt feelings. I was the board for that hurt, and their pain. The other too angry to even express what he felt so another thing to blame me for to match so many others. I was literally the ball in between a massive tennis court,  being passed back and forth and it never stopped. I don't think anyone thought for a minute how hard it was to try to hold everyone together when I was falling apart.That was my job though. That's what we do as Caregivers.

He became dark; his face distorting like nothing we had seen before. The shadow would change his face faster this time around.  Pain from both mentally and physically, exhausted him and aged him so much that he didn't even look the same way.  His OCD behavior switched around to new attention and increased agitation like piling newspapers from 2012, hoarding pop tabs, magazines. He wouldn't talk to the family much and no matter how hard we tried to overlook the vicious temper of the beast that stayed......we still were here waiting for him to return. I look back and wonder where the hell I was able to pull the strength it took just to carry him through. Be that torch to light his way home when he got confused. The words of callousness changed and I told him mid December that after a while, the words began to cut deeply and some things you just can't take back. He would say something so very hurtful but like always, he would come back and say he was sorry and that he didn't mean to say it. That tragic night, he simply looked at me and said "I am so very very sorry mommy. I tried to hide it all so you wouldn't hurt anymore". I can't remember it all but, I do remember those words.
 I told him it would be OK, I would protect him. He had become so wrapped up in his lies that I couldn't help him sort out his messes and he was in a tail spin. Lies that were so intertwined in his mind that he would simply just not know the truth anymore, confuse what was real and what was not and he would get even angrier. He was weary from masking it all from the public, his friends and all in the effort to try to be "normal". He told me out of the stillness of the night in bed "do you know how hard it is to hide it all just to have something, anything that was taken from me?" Yes. Yes, I do I had told him. If I'd only known that was the most honest thing he would last say, I would have spent every night encouraging him not to hide anything anymore. We always joked about the word "normal". What the hell is normal anyway in our worlds? Friends who knew, understood he just wasn't right after coming back from Iraq and then definitely not right after that car wreck. Others just thought he was an asshole and he was okay with that because he felt like that was something normal. I didn't know exactly what he was fighting against but, I did understand the very thing he spoke of because I felt the same just on the opposing side of the team. I did understand losses, the urge to feel something normal, to feel adrenaline as he needed that to function. There is a song by Frank Sinatra that had a line in the song "My Way" that said "For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he is not. To say the things, he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels. the record shows, I took the blows and did it, my way." His way was different than most but, as long as he felt safe and secure....he did the best he could do.

We were used to the coming of September as each year flew by. We planned each mode of possible attack with the skills of warriors themselves. We had the summer months to build up the strength, gather our armor and our strengths to fight back the coming of the beast. September came but, not with the same battles. He had been actually "good" at the VA which we all were surprised and I am sure the VA was relieved! He was usually up to his tenth or more incidents there but, he had only one minor issue for a year. I thought we were blessed but, in all that? The Beast was smarter than I and just attacked quickly; ferociously from behind. I became the enemy, the kids were doing things against him, neighbors were stealing, paranoia set in harder, drinking I suspected but, never could prove. Compulsive spending began to appear again but, not in the way that we had seen before. There was an onset of more confusion on where he put things and so much more that I am too ashamed to speak of but this? This. This was our normal. It wasn't something out of the normal eighth month hell that we haven't already trekked through each year. The spiral downward wasn't the first in our lengthy war at home and he would be honest and tell me that it wasn't anything more than just to keep from hurting me. It was easier to hurt others or himself. It was a way he could play the normal guy, easy to play along as everything was so bad at home and in reality? There was nothing here but, love. I couldn't get him to understand that he was hurting us while hurting himself. Hurting others intentionally or faking it, was not the right thing to do. I still do not know if he understood that there was nothing he had done that would make me turn his back on him. I don't know everything that he did as we have uncovered many lies after lies and still finding more. Financially, he left us in a massive devastation after the storm hit.
I can only know that he came home and none of this mattered because often in the nights he would lay his head in my lap and just cry. There were moments when the demons released him and the most beautiful smile appeared. There were many nights where he would come home and just start picking and tearing me down because in the apology something happened that day and he was afraid to show his demons. While it wasn't right to lay it all on me, it was my job to keep him going and encourage him that even the strongest have their own weaknesses. I was the caregiver, protector and the one who always had an ace up my sleeve. I started noticing he would disappear for hours on end and not returning phone calls from his friends. He would make excuses that his friends either stopped calling him, or they pissed him off when in all reality? There was never such a thing because so many stopped by or called and the most repetitive sentence was "I kept calling him and he wouldn't answer or call back". Two weeks after his death, I sat and heard this and so much more. In my heart? I now see how bad he had slipped but, kept it covered and hidden so well on his own.

He would often apologize for nothing at all and I never could understand what he was doing that he needed to apologize for. For many of us, the signs of a suicide are all written out. "If they seem depressed. If they withdraw. Call the suicide hotline number". However, what happens when you have no signs that are the norm for our families? He had made so many plans for the Spring, for the future, made fishing trips with others, helping feed the cattle of our neighbors, working on redoing our main bathroom but, those little things? They were not signs that said "Hey, I am planning". I have sat here for hours looking out through the back of our home and thinking of every little thing that could have possibly been changed or something that he eluded to. There was absolutely nothing that wasn't in our repertoire of been there and done that. We had a small Christmas this year but, he went overboard on me. So many gifts and I broke down and cried wondering how much had he charged or what did he do? He said "Mommy, don't cry. I wanted to give you the most beautiful Christmas ever. I hope those are tears of happiness." They were and yet, fear weaved itself throughout. The thoughtfulness in each item was so deep and full of love, of things that I had said and forgotten. That's how much thought was put into them all. It was the first Christmas with my husband since he came home eight years ago; not the angry pod person Uncle Sam sent home to us. It wasn't haphazardly put together, it wasn't just picked or had no thought put in to it.  He would call and say "I got you something spiiiiiiiiffffffyyyyyy mommy!"; giddy as a school child he was! He went all over the place looking for a particular item for each child and so excited that he even wrapped everything himself which was most definitely the first! Most of us are used to the ups and downs of finances with our PTSD and/or TBI spouses. I figured we would figure it out as the New Year approached and I would once again fix the damage that had been done. I didn't know the aftermath that he had spent on so many items.

The evening before New Year's Eve, he came home and smelled of alcohol. He was late for dinner and then angry that one noodle of his spaghetti plate had gotten dried out. Not wanting to fight, I said let me get that out but, you were also very late past dinner time; I held it as long as I could. As I was cleaning up the kitchen and getting the boys ready for bed, he found every little thing he could think of to hurt me. It began and kept going for two hours. He followed me and no matter where I went, he found a way to yell through the door, or outside or in my face. Whether it be my being sick, house not perfect, the fact we had family coming for a late gathering for the holiday, down to missing his favorite shows because he was gone or would come in late, absolutely sure that his laundry didn't smell right. (sense of smell had been messed up since the wreck) One thing led to another and I broke. I had been taking care of myself since April, pretty much been alone save a few good days where he would help, and I was raising three boys as a single parent. He had pushed me to the point of exhaustion. I couldn't hear one more word about how ugly I was, how stupid I was, and all while in my mind I knew it wasn't him.....those words cut so very deeply. Then he said "I wish you would just hurry up and die so I can be normal. I want to be normal again. I've had everything taken from me". Knowing him, the nature of the beast, I knew an apology would follow soon and the same line of "I didn't mean what I said" would be casted. I was broken and stunned. I told him let's walk away until you can calm down and we will talk but, I can't do that or help you if you are going to beat me down with words and not tell me what's going on. Stressers would always be the cause of most of his meltdowns. There was always an underlying cause for his Kaboom! phase. Then something happened that we had never seen before. He began looking at all of us and began to count repetitively "One, two, three and four" and it was over and over again. We knew then something was seriously wrong.

My oldest son had in this process been cued to implement the safety plan that I had taught all three of my kids. I turned around and said "I love you but, you were not the only one that has had everything taken from them. Our children can hear every single word you are yelling and they lost too. Every time you start, we all, including you have something taken away from us. If you feel that we are holding you back and taking things from you.......then I will let you go. I am too tired to keep going this way". He completely lost it and honestly? After that it was a blur that our close family friend and I are still trying to piece together. He had gone from weaving in and out of that soldier facing the false enemies to crying because he was so angry and then laughing. It was not him at all....he was just no longer here period. All I can remember thinking was why could I have not kept that one damn noodle from being dried out?

Our children safely tucked away, our friend called the sheriff's department for help as there were several deputies that served as Veterans and we thought we could talk him down. He became outraged and began to attack us both of which my memory is very cloudy. From then on.....I can't remember everything. Our close friend and I have sat for hours trying to talk to each other and completing what the hell had gone wrong so fast. Tiny things that have gone black. He had hit us both with the butt of his gun and speaking in what we thought was Arabic. I didn't know that he knew any other language besides some German I had taught him. She feels she is to blame. I feel I let him down. She feels I saved her life that night twice. I would have gone with him if it meant saving her. It has placed our friendship in an awkward spot. All we remember is the face.....the distortion, the blackness that fully took whatever was left in my husband. He was no longer home, he was in the middle of a battle in Iraq. I remember saying "please are home baby. Listen to me! You are home. Our children will see you do this. Please don't hurt us. It's going to be ok."

We both know and saw that he flickered for just a moment and after three rounds had already been placed into the wall that had missed our best friend.....he was home again for just that split second. He put the safety on. He calmly walked away talking to himself which allowed one of us to get out. I let our friend go still trying to talk him down. When the military and VA says "Try to redirect them" I often wonder have they ever faced this situation??? Redirect? There was no redirection at all. 911 operator called and I had told them I was able to get him calmed down and he wanted to talk to my husband via speaker phone. My husband was calm but, he was crying and hurting so badly. I picked up casings and hid the bullet holes in my wall by placing a jacket over it. I was so scared of the police and so was he but, he was calm. I do not blame our friend as she was able to get away and had she not? I am not sure we all would have made it through. He was so lost in a war that nothing made sense.

The rest was just gone. I don't know where in my mind that everything was locked up but, I do remember them making myself and the kids come out of the house with our hands up. I remember the ones who were Veterans themselves, friends of his, and others who were a Veteran's family member being so nice to us and promising me they would bring him back safely as he apparently slipped out the garage door and was gone. There were other deputies and officers who berated me, acting as if our family were criminals and then it hit me.......Stigma. The very same stigma we are all fighting against. Suddenly he was a criminal and his family was harboring him. We, as a family who never shied away from the truth whether it be good or bad; suddenly were dangerous criminals. There was no help for him and I felt sick and to be blamed because we should have sent him to a friends house when he began to act out. He just wouldn't listen. When one deputy who was so hateful asked me" So what the fuck is wrong with him!!" I went into protective mode and stood high and said "He is a  multiple head trauma brain injury patient,a Veteran of the Iraq war and he suffers with PTSD. He can go into flashbacks and please, please don't hurt him!". I'll never forget him looking at me deadpan and saying "So?". Everything in me that had fought for eight years, embracing the way things were, all the let downs, all the wins and losses, his sacrifices, his service, his wounds seen and unseen.....didn't matter to those who didn't know what it was like. I became enraged because suddenly we had gone straight out of  a news story that we all have read and feared. They really didn't care about him at all save but a few.

A simple word yet, such a strong and hurtful statement in the way of "So!". The ones who were Veterans and family members of, looked at him with looks to kill. They went as fast as they could to every spot they could think of, any hiding spot in the house upturned, and those that were his friends, fellow battles......raced faster to get him before the others; hoping. It was hours, and as each hour passed on New Year's Eve a little piece of me died. God, those hours took forever as time stood still. They moved us inside, outside and then back in. I stood in the backdoor facing the pastures where he loved to work with the cows; hoping that he would come over that ridge any minute that day. I just felt like that back door was tugging me to the core of my heart and, I was helpless as we weren't allowed to leave.

Around almost fivish that News Year's evening that was supposed to be full of hope and brought a promise of a new start on a clean slate; his battle buddy and close friend in the Sheriff's department came to the door. Tears streaming down his face, hat held in hand and behind him so many others with hats in hands.  The ones who were Vets or family of, deep pain and tears etched their faces and is an image that I can't clear from my mind. He cleared his throat, sobbing he sputtered out "He's gone honey, he's gone".  I just remember standing at the door, kicking in the advocate mode and mentally checking off a list of VA paperwork, lawyers, court and I must have said something to them as I went to grab my purse. He just kept hold of me and said "He is gone honey and he's no longer in pain. Honey, he is gone home".

For my entire life, death has been a friend who has visited me quite frequently. I have been knocked down quite a bit, especially over these last eight years but never had I fallen to my knees so hard than I did that evening. I remember through deployment putting mirrors up along the side of our front door on days that I saw news that was so horrifying that I knew he was near or in. There was a hidden alcove that you couldn't see the "death" car clearly coming around. I was scared that car with military members would pull up. I never planned for this. There was suddenly no mirrors, promises broken, confusion and my world just shattered. I was an EMT's wife, a volunteer firefighter spouse and much more.....I know the dangers on both sides of the fence because I have sat many nights waiting on him to call. Right now, I just can't get that "So?!" out of my head.Forgiveness? Maybe when I fully realize he isn't coming back over that ridge. I have sat up many nights by the back door searching the ridge line (where he also took his life) waiting.....and I will still wait until he comes back.

I will never be the same again.
We had become the very thing we all feared. 
I broke the promise that he would never become a statistic in any VA drawer; forgotten. 
We had gone from a Stigma to a Statistic in less than a couple of hours. 
My best friend and husband left this world in the only way that he knew how.
All our hidden secrets and things swept under the carpet suddenly buried us.
Our world literally has fallen apart and I still sit here looking out over the ridge,
Waiting for him to come over that ridge with "Hey Mommy!" and with that sheepish grin. 

I wanted to give up this blog a long time ago. Kill the "Mistress" off and begin a new life with both of us having a purpose that fit our changes and of our moving forward. Starting New Year's, it seemed the blog pushed forward and soooo many emails from new families; asking questions as they embarked on the world I have lived in the last eight years. Please forgive me when I say I just. could. not. reply as we were going through our own version of hell too that night. How could I give you life experiences and what we did when here our ending was a suicide. I always was honest to say that there were things he did and I did wrong, things done right, lessons learned and, that I never truly had the answers for anyone; just our experiences. Looking back now, I see that he never could move forward with that many demons on his back. In my heart and mind, I had made up my mind that I would never blog again. I didn't want to write this but, there suddenly was a need that has haunted me in the wee hours of around 1:30 a.m. that I could not explain. Every morning I wake on exactly 1:30 a.m. and the strong tug to reach for my laptop and write it out. My Ipod has punished me severely playing his favorite songs sometimes back to back no matter how we shuffle, switch etc. I can't feel him or hear him answer me when I talk to him but, one of my best friends and soul sister said maybe just maybe, the reason the songs were playing was his way of reaching me and the tug? Was to let me know to keep writing as he was so very proud of me.  I don't know what it is but, am trying.

So I dug out the laptop, dusted it off and it has sat here while I am crying or asking him "What do I do without you? What do you want me to do?". When I allowed myself to let my soul sisters and brothers know, his story suddenly became known not just here or there but, everywhere. He was a man of his convictions, a big old bear with a growl so deep but, arms that could make everything just seem better. Yes, the demons within him became so great that one can almost overlook the good things about him. All he wanted was something so little but, so great. Those days brought an outpouring of readers who reached out to me and said "His story changed my life " or "His story and your family's saved mine". That was all he ever wanted.....just to save one. He pushed me to write, pushed me some days to my limit but, said when you write again you tell them. Oh, how I wished he could have seen the outpour and the messages, statements of how his story helped so many of you. He thought no one cared.....he was expendable just like so many others yet, he wasn't. Neither of us realized the impact of my writing it all out but God, I hope he knows somehow.

I don't know if I am crazy with grief, blame and regrets? Just somehow,'s him telling me to tell this story. I still will keep my promise that he won't be a forgotten statistic but, right now? I am just too weary to fight anymore. I still haven't "gotten it" that he is gone. I just can't seem to break down as I need to and as the days tick by? I am becoming fearful of that breakdown. The only comfort that is given to me is to know he is with his beloved grandparents, our beloved "Sam" (first dog together) and, with those fallen brothers he just couldn't save and bring them back to their families. I hope they met him at the gate and the pain, guilt, the demons of war and punishment that he forever gone. That is the only thing that brings any comfort to me now. We learned a great deal from this; much more than just going through a death. Once I gain my wits about me, I will pass these lessons on in hopes that it may save just one. Maybe just maybe.....
 our tragedy can help someone and that be passed on to save one more. 22 a day is real and somehow we have got to fix this. I will hold his service in Spring because he loved the coolness, the flowers starting to bloom and the fishing.

The Widow of PTSD/TBI,