Before I tell you about my life with a combat vet…
I have to tell you our story…
My husband, Mike and I first met on the first day of 7th grade, we were 12 years old. His mother will tell you that for him, I was his at hello. I wish I could say the same, it would have saved us both a lot of heartache. Then again.. Maybe we wouldn’t be where we are today had it been.
We did become great friends though. The best of friends. While he was an immature, adolescent boy, he was also a loyal, kind and genuine friend. We were creating an impenetrable foundation for our future, a future we didn’t know existed. A future that would be so full of love and loss, laughter and tears (
mostly mine okay, all mine), joy and sorrow that without that impenetrable foundation, we would surely crumble.
When things changed.
During our Senior year, we were in class talking about what we were doing after graduation. He told me he had already signed up for the delayed entry program for the Marines Corps. I nearly vomited. You know that sinking feeling you get in your stomach when something horrible has just happened? That’s how a felt and it was in that very moment that there was a shift in the way I looked at him. I couldn’t go without seeing him or talking to him everyday, I couldn’t lose him. I also didn’t act on it.
We graduated and he went off to war.
At 19 years old he was right in the middle of the worst firefight since Hue City in Vietnam. The bloodiest battle in the Iraq War. He was in the most life or death situation he’ll ever face in his life and he was a boy. A child.
He was trained by
arguably the greatest branch of Military in the world to go against everything he’d been taught as a child: to channel his anger and use it to kill, defend and protect. While this is what he signed up for, he was not anticipating the forever life changes taking a life would bring. What surviving combat unharmed when so many of his brothers did not would bring. Guilt, frustration, nightmares, rage.. the list is endless.
The first time I laid eyes on him after returning from war I knew..
He was changed. For better and for worse, words I knew on our wedding day would have an entirely different meaning to us than to others.. The first 3-4 years after his discharge were the most trying we’d ever face together. So trying that without that foundation of friendship we’d build since the age of 12, it would not have survived.
Returning to civilian life was difficult for him. He had just endured the largest adrenaline rush he’ll ever know and he liked it. As a result, he had no fear or regard for his own safety. He would put himself into situations most people would run from for the sake of thrill. He was addicted to the thrill of war and he’d never see it again.
There wasn’t one single person around him that could relate or understand. While I tried and wanted to so badly, I knew he didn’t want me to. I think he was afraid that if I really knew what he’d done or worse, that he liked it, I would think of him as some type of monster. This could not be further from reality. I know him, I know his soul and it is beautiful. Nothing would tarnish my view of him.
Drugs and Alcohol became a constant in our lives. I remember speaking to one of the guys he served with a few years after their discharge and he said, It is so good to hear your voice. To be honest, I thought you’d both be dead by now. This is a sad reality of the aftermath of war for so many. According the VA, in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 1 in 10 returning soldiers seen in the VA have a problem with alcohol or other drugs. Guess what? Mike’s never been to the VA.. and I guarantee there are others who haven’t been either. This means that number is higher. Again.. a sad reality for so many.
“He was changed. For better and for worse, words I knew on our wedding day would have an entirely different meaning to us than to others”
A Turning point
It was summer, we were out on Lake Raystown, just sitting in the middle floating around on Jet Ski’s. We were quiet, enjoying the moment when he turned around and said, I’m tired, I don’t want to do this anymore.
This was a turning point.
We stopped partying which ultimately meant we stopped seeing a lot of our friends. This was a good thing.
We worked on us. We got to know each other again. We went on vacations and did fun, active and productive things with our time. We healed: Mind, Body and Soul. Together.
In 2010, we welcomed our first child. A little girl named Khloe.
In 2012, we welcomed our second child. A little boy named Ronin.
My Life with a Combat Vet..
Is joyful and happy, filled with laughter and love and an unbreakable bond.
He is an amazing father. He is patient and kind with our children and hard when necessary. He is present for every moment of their lives. We are a team and our children are the very best parts of us.
There are moments when I know his thoughts take him back there. Like when I get dove on in the middle of the night like he’s shielding me from some attack I’m not privy to. Or in the middle of a combat type movie and his breathing gets heavier. Some movie’s, like the American Sniper stick with him a while longer.. He’s less patient and more prone to go from 0-60 quickly in terms of irritation. I know in those times he is somewhere else in his mind, fighting demons he’s become so good at subduing. I also know, he’ll be back…
Lots of Luv,
** It is my intent to bring awareness to Veterans and their Families that there is help out there. If you are still close to your fellow combat brothers, reach out, even if you aren’t still close, reach out. The chances of them going through the same thing are very high.
Luckily, I had formed a bond with a lot of Mike’s combat buddies and one in particular, Matthew Brown, has been my saving grace. He is always there for me when I’m worried about Mike and he’s the only one I can talk to without feeling like I’m betraying my husband. Matt fought along side my husband in Fallujah. He was a Machine Gunner with 1/8 and was shot by a sniper, nearly losing his life. As a result, he has suffered greatly with PTSD but has come leaps and bounds. He’s since become a major advocate for post combat veterans. His love of writing has reached many when he co-authored The Triumph Program: Military Addition. He continues to use creativity as an outlet with his love of photography and writing.
If you’d like to see some of Matt’s work, you can find his Photography Page here. 🙂
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