Tina Atherall and Tricia Winklosky, two Hope For The Warriors® staff members, will be on Debbie's podcast tonight. The show will be on at 7:30 p.m. EST. Listeners will also have the opportunity to call in and ask questions. If you miss the show, you will also be able to download the podcast later. Find the podcast here.
|Author's husband, 1969 in Danang, Vietnam|
When group ended, two Vietnam Veterans wives remained. The teary one began sobbing, "If only I had of known when I was her age. I could have helped him. I would have stayed. Why did no one help us to understand? I loved him. PTSD destroyed my child’s life."
The other spouses face was red with anger. "Why did we have to go through this alone? Why didn’t we get the help that these kids are getting? I have spent 40 years caring for a man whose body and mind was destroyed in Vietnam, and now I have PTSD as well! This group is the first place that I have been able to get support. Why did it take so long when there are so many other women living in the same world that I was? "
Later I asked Kim, the widow of a Korean and Vietnam veteran about her many years of caring for her husband throughout his battle with his PTSD and cancer. She had always radiated love, joy and happiness to all those around her. She worked tirelessly in our community on veteran’s issues, and projects. Her advice was to have compassion, patience, and understanding and just keep loving them.
What advice and wisdom can the spouses of the previous generations of war pass on to today’s spouses and families? How can our experiences help this generation be protected from the contagious effects of PTSD, and from becoming a victim of caregiver overwhelm? And from the high divorce rate suffered by our Vietnam veterans with PTSD, who are three times more likely than veterans without PTSD to divorce two or more times, according to the Vietnam Veteran Readjustment Study.
In 2000, I became the fourth wife of one of those Vietnam Veterans. I had no idea that Vietnam or PTSD had anything to do with his failed marriages. I knew nothing about PTSD, there was no need, I had married the man of my dreams. He was wonderful and perfectly normal. As far as I knew, the war had ended for him the day he got on a plane in Vietnam after his second tour of duty. He arrived at the bus station in his hometown with no “welcome homes” for the young soldier, only his father there to greet him. Within days, it was time to look for a job and get on with his life, and that’s what he did.
In 2004, our dreams ended. Vietnam returned with a vengeance 35 years later and threatened to ruin our lives. He was no longer able to work; he had health complications from exposure to Agent Orange, and was diagnosed with PTSD. We struggled, our marriage was in crisis. I became angry, resentful, and depressed… just like him. I was diagnosed with PTSD, and was advised to divorce him.
But I was determined to stay. I learned; I sought support. I fought to get my mental, emotional, and physical health back. I reached out to help other spouses. We survived. PTSD will be a constant in our lives, and his health problems will only get worse with time, but our love, marriage and commitment is stronger today than it has ever been.
I would like to share with today’s spouses that there is hope for a bright future with your wounded warrior. It’s not an easy journey; it takes hard work and commitment. Understanding, compassion, and patience for yourself and your veteran are essential. When you use the information and support available to you today, honor your commitment to your veteran, and value your need to maintain your own health and happiness you can create a life for works for you. It may not be a life that looks “normal” to the outside world but it can be a life richer and better than you ever dreamed possible.