First and foremost, I give the utmost respect to those who have sacrificed their lives, who have nearly lost their lives, and those who suffer daily with the demons of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am a very proud wife of an Army veteran who has multiple deployments and plenty of garrison duty (on post or constantly called back to post) under his belt. To say that my husband is my hero just may be an understatement of the century. We both loved being within the Military community, my husband was meant to be a soldier and was very good at being a soldier. When he went into basic training, he was waiting to be broken down, beaten down to the point that he was the Army’s blank slate. He believed and still believes in defending the nation and stops when the Star Spangled Banner is playing, when the Pledge of Allegiance is being recited, and makes sure to remove old flags so they can be retired with dignity. Yes, my husband loved being a soldier. To this day he is willing to talk about his service when asked, doesn’t have adverse reactions to loud noises despite a barrage of mortar music while overseas, and doesn't have scars attributed to war time. So, with all this under consideration, why did we struggle as we have? We recently celebrated ten years of marriage, sometimes a surprise thinking back to the strain in our relationship that really started to escalate when my husband separated from the Army. Sure, he had a military sternness about him when our two oldest children we young. After all, he was familiar with training and managing soldiers, so why should handling two toddlers be any different? Our real issues began after my husband left the Army. He struggled with drinking, which was a problem in service but was confounded by the fact that he no longer was bound by the Army’s constant beckoning. He left the Army because he no longer wanted to be separated from his family, but he was often times out drinking, returning home well into the morning. Little by little, he became easily agitated, and the direction of his aggravation was quite often his wife. I felt, more often than not, that I had to walk on egg shells. To keep a peaceful house, I had to regulate my emotions. I would cry and this made him confused and irritated. He would think in black and white terms, the gray area of life was elusive to him. He drank and chose that particular time to begin to nit pick on my flaws, and when I became defense in return this made him more angry and blind to his own behavior.
When we were active duty, he and I once got into an argument on his willingness to put himself in harms way. I didn’t understand why he would give up the chance to return back to his family, and he didn’t understand why it didn’t make sense for him to take the place of a less experienced soldier.
After his discharge from the Army, he was regretful. He felt that since his service did not compare to that of his WWII grandfather’s service that he was not good enough. He is a man that would put himself in harms way to save his fellow man, but this was and has remained never enough. He is the man that when the country is under attack, you want him in your corner, but this was and is not good enough.
So, here is what my heart has to say. Thank God, I still have my husband with me that his service to our country and unwavering devotion to this country did not take him from me. However, here is where the proud wife of a veteran begins to feel her chest tighten up. There are numerous times that I fell to the floor of our bedroom in tears. I was breathless as I fought to understand who the man was that I married. I couldn’t understand his cruel nature or why he was breaking my heart. I was angry when he’d come home from drinking. There were times when I prayed for God to take him because my unwavering devotion to him meant that I would never leave him. I was beginning to feel numb to our marriage. It was only due to an act of God that he began to understand how much he had broken my heart throughout our ten years of marriage. He began to understand how to communicate to me. He began to understand that when I cried, I just needed his touch and that he did not need to fix me, but be there for me. I believe this is what life is like with a veteran when it is not PTSD or at least, this is what our life looked like after his service. I am still learning and trying to piece together the puzzle of our life together. I am still working to separate what is genetics, what is his personality, and what is the soldier, but now I am able to appreciate the muddy road we have been traveling together. I am working to deal with my own anger, frustration, and sadness over my broken heart, so that I can continue to appreciate where we have been and where we are going. Please know that each and every veteran and their spouse have their own story, and that service affects everyone differently. Our life has not been without its trials. We have fought and torn each other down, but through God have finally reached a point of peace, and now we live our lives to keep it. Only now I am able to say that we are blessed through our brokenness.
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