Monday, February 27, 2012

Life after War

Not all wounds from war are visible.
I wanted to sort of reflect on how much life has changed since Steve has been home. Its been 15 months since Steve came home from Afghanistan. He is an Airborne Infantryman (11Bravo1Papa). Every Deployment is different for every Military family. Some are rougher than others.
  On TV, all you see are those beautiful happy Homecomings where wives jump in to a soldiers arms after a year long Deployment. But you don't see what happens afterwards. You don't see that same soldier struggling with PTSD, never being able to sleep at night, struggling at work and trying to adjust to Garrison life. Their is no transition time, Infantry soldiers go from a Deployment of trying to stay alive to home life and going straight back in to going to work every day.
  You see a glimpse of Military life on TV shows such as Army wives and The Unit. You notice their "stress free" lives of living on a Military installation with free rent, cheap food, strong support system with the FRG (family Readiness group) and ACS (Army Community Services),  and so on. But its not all true. Military life is hard. Any Military wife will tell you what its really like. I'm not sure if I have really painted a accurate picture for you in this blog of my life while stationed in Europe, but it hasn't always been easy.

  Steve and I were High school sweethearts. If you have read this blog since the beginning, then you know we married when I was 19 and he was 20. A few days after we married, he left for his first duty stationed here in Germany. The paperwork to have me PCS (permanent Change of Station) over kept getting lost by the Army and we actually didn't see each other until after his first Deployment, two years later. Our newlywed life began in Germany at his Deployment Homecoming.  
  In this last 15 months, so much as changed. We both have changed. We are discovering each other for the first time, it seems. I mean, we spent the first two years of marriage apart. Living together, being a housewife, Steve always training, adjusting to living in Europe, Army life in general is all new to us and I think we finally see where we belong and fit in to each others worlds. It wasn't easy. But if you love someone who has been through War, you need to have extra patience. I didn't at first. I tried to stay in control of everything. I thought I was making his life easier. I wanted to be the perfect wife for him.
  We now have a bit more of a system of who does what. We fight a lot less, and appreciate each other a whole lot more. Divorce in the Military is sky rocketing, we are so blessed to have beat that. Sure, we have threatened each other with the big "D-word", but we know it was a phase that every couple goes through after a Deployment. I understand he is angered a lot more easily so I know when to drop it and let things go. He gets agitated easily over the littlest of things, and flies off the handle at the most unexpected times.
I am used to it but I do get aggravated when he yells at me like I am his daughter and thinks I need to "learn my lesson" when I don't do something the way he would have. I am 21 years old and an adult. One of his biggest fears is going back in to the civilian life and get a "normal job" and not be able to handle his short temper.
  He also never sleeps at night. He has been on sleeping pills and nothing has worked. A lot of nights, he stays up all night. He has a lot of nightmares as well. I am glad he comes to me for support and comfort. I love being the one he can open up to. He has talked with me a few times about what happened over there in Afghanistan, I can tell it hurts him. He has survivors guilt. I will keep his secrets forever.
  I have also noticed that he feels a gun is his only source of self defense. He feels vulnerable without one and planning on getting one as soon as we are in the States. He closes all the curtains when he comes home at night because he is so paranoid of people looking in. Its gotten better since he has been home. When he first got back from Deployment, he wouldn't even sit with his back to a window. He is also very jumpy to noises and big bangs really sets him off.
  I know he has PTSD, but he doesn't want to be tested for it. I know the Army has programs that will help him, but he refuses. He doesn't notice how he acts.
 I know he will make it in the civilian world, its just scary to think about after you have been through war and having the Military be the only thing you know. But he has me. I will always stay by my Hero's side.

 ETS Update: We are on the home stretch of our countdown. 26 days until we leave Germany. Tomorrow is my last FRG meeting as well. I have a few mixed emotions. Happy to get back to America and shop at big American malls, and huge grocery stores, start my internship at a Veterinary clinic, but also sad to leave the Military lifestyle behind. We don't like to think of it as a new beginning, but as a new chapter in our lives.
  We got our first house inspection done and got a good idea of what we need to clean and what we need to leave alone when the final inspection comes. Also have a HHG (household goods) pick up date, getting Army loan furniture again once our stuff is gone, and have our flight tickets. Going to be weird living out of a suitcase again. Everything that is not going on the plane with us is getting boxed up and shipped off. We are also shipping the car back to the States this week as well.
  The only snags we have came across so far is how Tubbles will be flying back to the States. We will be flying with Delta over the ocean and she had been approved to fly in the cabin with us during that flight. Then we have a layover in New York. From New York to Baltimore Maryland, we are flying with CanadAir. This joke of a airline is saying they Tubbles has to be in a way too small carrier to be in the cabin with us. We really don't want to put her under the plane but the size of carrier they want her in seems non-existent. I have looked online and at pet stores here in Germany.  Steve is going to talk to SATO today to see if we can switch airlines from New York to Baltimore. Maybe we can stay with Delta somehow or switch to a bigger plane so the kennel size requirements are a bit more laid back. well I will keep feeding you updates as we maneuver our way out of Germany. This process is all so exciting.
  Since we haven't heard from the job Steve was trying to get in Pennsylvania, we are going to be staying with my cousin Nicole in Delaware. There, we are going to maybe start looking in to apartments and maybe even have that be our new home. Philadelphia is really close to her so I am excited to live next to a big city. The largest city I have ever lived in was Spokane Washington when I lived with my Mom during Steve's deployment, which is somewhat small.  Very eager to shop at a huge mall. Never have before.  That's our plan unless some other job offer for Steve pops up.

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