Boundaries

By Diana Hume, AW2 Reserve Spouse

Diana Hume analyzes boundaries in her life to ensure they are adjusted to help her live a better life.

Editor’s Note: Diana Hume is a feature blogger for AW2 and shares her experiences as the wife of a severely wounded reservist. The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.

Boundaries are an interesting topic, especially for wounded warrior Families. As we are well aware, many times war begins because of boundary disputes. Once on the battlefield, warriors do not see boundaries, they do what is necessary in order to survive and protect. However, once war is over and the dust settles, the wounds of war dramatically begin to change our once familiar boundaries.

The pain of war’s wounds so easily takes away the familiar which is not a huge news flash for those who live with them every day. In a blink of an eye, our boundaries begin to morph into something foreign right under our noses. Our world becomes smaller and everyday normal things change and often disappear. As each day begins in this new place, all that is in our thoughts is to get through it, just make it to the next day. The unknown about what life will be the next day is many times fueled by fear and over time, reality sets in and confirms that our new boundaries stopped the healing.

As I write this, I am learning what I need to do with my new foreign boundaries. First, I need to dig inside and hope I uncover anything that reminds me of the freedom without boundaries. What it was like before the pain became part of daily life—life before the wounds. I am realizing that mine were broad, open, and a guide to live, as opposed to what they were after the wounds—concrete road blocks.

I am learning the importance of understanding how I decide to redefine and re-open my boundaries. I am beginning to accept that this is necessary and is what I need to help me grow and heal. My priorities are to do all that is in my power to help my Family thrive. There are no excuses to stop living because the new boundaries slowly become comfortable or—to state bluntly—become a protective shell. Unfortunately, when I look in the mirror my shell is very visible, but I am beginning to believe that it will be broken with hope and trust.

We seem to think that boundaries define us. I disagree. I am learning that they can guide us, strengthen us and give us hope. Our boundaries can be molded like clay as we grow and become more of an expression of ourselves and not a blunt definition. Remember, it is o.k. to continuously re-evaluate or even erase some of your defined personal boundaries. I found that when you do, you are suddenly out of your comfort zone and you push yourself to improve and heal. It is an awakening when you accept that boundaries from war do not always protect, but hinder us from living.

It all goes back to choice. As a wounded warrior spouse it took me a lot of time to realize that I need to evaluate my boundaries every single day. Taking time for just me is good because it allows me to breathe. So, I encourage spouses and caregivers to take the time to write down what your boundaries are as you see them today. Think about what you just put on paper and how they were created. Are they closed, hard, or comfortable? Do you think they will protect you from hurting again? Were they created for you or by you? Do they allow you to live or just survive? Are any of them inclusive of a something you admire in yourself? If any of them keep you afraid to live and feel again, it is time to find the strength to soften them so you can breathe, feel, and take care of yourself. Remember, you are worth it!

 

You Can’t Get Over It But You Can Get On With It

By Diana Hume, AW2 Reservist Spouse

Diana Hume believes that moving on is one of essential steps wounded warriors and their Families need to take in order to progress post-injury.

I hope that what I have to say doesn’t offend anyone, but my experience has been pointing to this topic for quite some time. War injuries, visible or invisible, are something that will forever be carried by our wounded warriors and their Families. It isn’t something that any of us can just get over and we all know the reasons why.

The past few weeks I had very interesting conversations with people who were touched by war. All of these discussions come from a very different perspective; a beautiful woman and friend who grew up in a war torn country, a friend with relatives who served and understand the effects of PTSD, and a Vietnam Veteran who rediscovered life through faith. Our conversations were intriguing and enlightening, and each shared a common thread. Undoubtedly war leaves scars, but it also poses a choice about how you decide to live the rest of your life. I will repeat the word, live. Do you decide to keep harboring the hurt or do you choose to work hard to make the best of your gift–the gift of life? There is purpose behind the reasons why you are here and we will never know what that purpose is unless we don’t give up.

So much of what is needed to move on is right in front of us. We seem to look too hard for the answers. I hear repeatedly from people that faith and friends are the ingredients to the early stages of getting out of the fox hole. Exposing our pain to others is the greatest sign of strength. Talk, touch, and feel are the steppingstones to healing. Talk about what happened. I personally believe that talking about it will not hurt any more than when you first got the call about your loved one. Sharing will touch those you love and help tear down the walls of pain, ultimately helping you feel better. After this step, I always tell myself, “feel, learn, and live.”

I know it’s not easy to move on. Getting up off the couch, my personal fox hole, is painful because sometimes reality just plain stinks. But, I truly believe that there is help available through the kindness of what you and your loved ones fought for–freedom. People in this great country choose to use their gift of freedom to give back to those who gave so much to preserve it.

I see some Families struggle because some have too much pride to ask for the help they need. Not asking for help only prolongs the hurt. Listen to those that care and love you. They can offer reflection that you do need help. The stigma associated with war injuries is dissipating because we are starting to be open with our experiences. Awareness is helping many understand, but we have to be the ones to ask for the help. Helping ourselves also helps the wounded warriors and Families that will follow in our footsteps. Fight. That is what we have been taught to do; it’s our way of life.

Burdens of war are a way of life. However, you can change how they affect your life. Each day the sun comes up and a choice is made. Do you get up and choose to fall back into the hole? Or, do you choose to get up and get on with it making the day better than the last? I often look towards inspiration from other sources. For example from Deepak Chopra, “Everything that is happening at this moment is a result of the choices you’ve made in the past.”

You choose to be a Soldier and carry its honor and the gift of freedom. You choose to serve and be in harm’s way. You choose to heal or you choose to be suspended. You choose to fall victim or you choose to get on with it. Life is a choice. Faith, time, and positive choices can heal.

Editor’s Note: Diana Hume is a feature blogger for AW2 and shares her experiences as the wife of a severely wounded reservist. Please take a moment to read Diana Hume’s previous blog entries on the AW2 Blog. The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.

Holding Hands–For Life

By Diana Hume, AW2 Reserve Spouse and Guest Blogger

Diana Hume suggests ways organizations can more effectively support the wounded warrior community.

Editor’s Note: Diana Hume is a feature blogger for AW2 and shares her experiences as the wife of a severely wounded reservist. The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.

A recent image of the shooting tragedy that occurred in Arizona a few weeks ago hit home. It was of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords lying on a gurney, swiftly being taken by paramedics for medical attention. The image’s most moving detail was that her new intern was holding her hand, unknown to her, as she fought for her life. The comfort of touch radiated from the picture of chaos.

It can’t be denied that the lives of those touched by this tragedy will forever be changed. Like our Soldiers and their Families, it is something that they were not prepared for. However, there are ways we can hold hands in order to get the help we need.

As the world changes, so do the methods of warfare and the prevalence of certain war injuries. PTSD is quickly becoming the poster injury for our generation of Soldiers. We have a new found responsibility to think outside of the box and understand what needs to be done to help our wounded warriors and Families. This approach will help us define their new normal not just for the short term, but for the long haul. It will take all of us going beyond our comfort zone, just like those with PTSD do every day, to reach a successful new normal. Nevertheless, I am encouraged that it can be done.

Invisible injuries are not invisible to those who live with them every day. They are lifelong injuries just like visible ones. They are not healed and are injuries we learn to live with. People and organizations  that provide help need to get the proper training about this ghostly wound in order to make sure that their efforts in assisting those who live with PTSD and their Families can have an impact.

Throughout my new journey after my husband’s injury, I have found things that work and things that don’t. Much of what works is simple and very straight forward. My husband’s injury is very real and therefore, so is my need for helping hands to help me maintain hope. Those who were persistent to assist me, even when I didn’t ask, were the sources that helped me during my darkest times.

Organizations like the Yellow Ribbon Fund, Inc. never put the phone down until I received the help I needed. It wasn’t until they were confident that I had a plan in place, and one that worked for my Soldier and Family, that they knew they had been successful.  

The Yellow Ribbon Fund, Inc.  was like an angel on Earth. Their success stemmed from their patience and willingness to listening to me. They set aside judgment and instead offered compassionate helping hands that never seemed to let go. They knew how to take care of the details so that the healing could begin. To this day, I am forever grateful for their gifts to my Family.

To the individuals that run various organizations that help wounded warriors and their Families, you have the intent to help, but I now realize that learning from wounded warriors and their Families can help you more easily accomplish your missions.

First, don’t assume anything. Understand the people you are helping and understand that they are helpless and don’t know what they need; I sure didn’t. Remember, caretakers and those with PTSD respond with typical responses like “I am OK” and “I can do this.” As warriors, our faces on the outside look calm but the ones on the inside are lost.

Secondly, fragmented resources are abundant, but I ask that organizational leaders of Soldier and Family support groups continue to develop a strong connection with each other so that the dots can be better connected for our wounded. It’s somewhat like an old fashioned string telephone, those providing help must hold up their piece of the line to make the connections work. Each organization, non-profit, or military-sponsored program, has to step beyond their traditional methods to help in order to help the non-traditional: the invisibly wounded.

The AW2 Community Support Network is one initiative that has begun to put the pieces together. By linking organizations, holding conference calls, and sharing information, the AW2 Community Support Network is a platform that organizations can build upon. Action goes beyond the Community Support Network and calls for organizations to put information into action.

The greatest impact organizations can make is to continually reach out to those they aim to help. This takes more than just a single phone call, e-mail, or meeting. Those who are healing have so much on their plate that they truly need this type of persistent help. Just like Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s intern who held the congresswoman’s hand until help was secured, so do these organizations need to lend their hands to wounded warriors and their Families.

I ask supporting organizations that if possible, make it a weekly routine to contact the ones you are targeting to help. I know from experience, they may not call back and therefore, in order for you to seize your chance to make a difference, you need to be persistent until they tell you they don’t need you anymore. Take on the AW2 philosophy for as long as it takes. In many cases, your hand will be needed for the rest of their lives.

To close, I thank all of those who took time to comment on my prior blog post. I know for some individuals, commenting was not easy to do; however, your comments are powerful. Your voice is so important to others who walk along your similar path. I encourage you to continue commenting. Your voice will be heard and will add to the awareness of PTSD – the war injury of our generation’s war.

The War Behind Closed Doors

By Diana Hume, AW2 Reserve Spouse and Guest Blogger

Diana Hume offers resources to help others understand the impact of living with PTSD.

Editor’s Note: Diana Hume is a feature blogger for AW2 and shares her experiences as the wife of a severely wounded reservist. The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.

The effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are just beginning to be understood. During my time at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I noticed that those with visible wounds were treated as rock stars while those with invisible wounds silently carried on without the attention the others received. These Soldiers kept trying to be the Soldier they once were pre-deployment. I found out the hard way that there is no prosthetic for invisible wounds like PTSD.

PTSD is complex because it doesn’t take the form of a body disfigurement or a lost limb. I see my husband walking, talking, and trying to function every day. But for those who live with him, they are well aware that he’s actually taking on the weight of the universe. The pain is visible in his face, his motions, and self-controlled isolation. 

Part of me feels that PTSD comes off as a buzz term in news segments. I wonder how many people actually know about the condition. How many Americans can say they understand PTSD? More importantly how many people understand what PTSD means to not just Soldiers but for their caretakers and Families?

When I first faced PTSD, I tried so hard to grasp what this injury meant to my husband. I did what most Army spouses did in this situation. I began researching and reading all I could find on the subject, but could not quench my thirst for true understanding. Although I found some short-term help for caretakers, I needed something that could help me in the long run. Here are a few good places to start:

Wounded warriors with PTSD have no idea who they are. They hurt. They climb into black holes and rarely come out. PTSD is anger that can easily become rage and when self-medicating becomes the norm, along with avoidance, the true damage takes the form of broken relationships, lost jobs, incarceration, and in some extreme cases, suicide. Because it is not visible to the eye, it is glazed over and misunderstood.

Those with PTSD and their caretakers struggle with the peaks and valleys that come with PTSD. We are told to learn to recognize the triggers, but for many of us, the triggers are still a mystery and we never know when the eruption will occur. The abrupt eruptions of anger suddenly become part of our daily life and reality. It becomes so intangible that wrapping our arms around it to alleviate the situation hurts more than it helps. It hurts even more that the public doesn’t seem to understand how PTSD has, and continues to, plagued my Family.

One example that highlights the public’s perception of PTSD was at Walter Reed Medical Center in DC when Oprah Winfrey filmed a segment on the visible wounds of war. While at the physical therapy unit, she took a moment to shake the hands of the wounded warriors. However, when my wounded warrior had a moment to shake her hand, she turned her back to him because she did not see any visible wounds and thought he was any other healthy Soldier. Needless to say, this did not sit well with me. The moment I had the opportunity, I walked up to her, looked her in the eye and told her about the men and women who were standing right in front of her and who are just as wounded as those with missing arms and legs. Although their injuries are invisible, they are suffering just as much as the men and women she featured on her segment.

To this day, I am not sure how she received my words, but I do know she eventually took action to get my point across to her audience. Just a few weeks later, she aired the segment on television and I realized that she included a journalist who had been in Iraq and ultimately was diagnosed with PTSD. She also told her audience about our interaction, telling her viewers that an Army spouse informed her about the invisible wounds of war that caused just as much suffering to wounded warriors as visible wounds cause. At that point, I knew that I at least was able to get Oprah to start a conversation.

My experience with Oprah was the first of many experiences when people asked me if my husband is wounded. After saying yes, they always follow-up with, “but what is wrong with him?” For Soldiers with invisible wounds, this can be a defeating comment that stays with them and makes them feel like they are the ones who need to get over it.

My point with this blog is to inspire a discussion about what PTSD really is and what is needed to help those living with it overcome this challenge. PTSD is never healed and it impacts the lives of not just the  Soldiers who are invisibly disfigured, but those who love them. Although hard data on PTSD’s impact on America is not yet available, I believe you can measure PTSD’s impact in the number of divorces, suicides, and extended Family therapy that people undergo.

Wounded warriors suffering from PTSD need the same level of support that Soldiers with visible wounds receive. That is why it is important to continue communicating about PTSD and how people can manage the condition. Don’t get me wrong, there are many Americans who truly care. They are listening. However, it is up to Soldiers, Veterans, and Families who are combating PTSD to inform the rest of America on how to take action. I believe that by getting the word out, America’s take on PTSD will move in a positive direction.

Caretakers can either choose to ignore PTSD or choose to improve their wounded warrior’s life. I made a choice a long time ago to make an improvement. For those in the AW2 community, I hope I have inspired you to speak up for those who have PTSD. We have to accept PTSD for what it is and with this approach we can do something that will help wounded warriors and their Families.

Angels Become “Angel Warriors”

By Diana Hume, AW2 Reserve Spouse

Editor’s Note: Diana Hume is a feature blogger for AW2. She’ll be sharing her experiences as the wife of a severely wounded reservist. The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.

Diana Hume's (Right) son and daughter provided her strength and support during her husband's recovery.

Every day we hear so much about our Soldiers and wounded warriors. Without them we would not have this great country–America. Most people know who these warriors are and how they have served. However, many people may not be aware about the other warriors around them.

Who are these warriors? Are they the ones in uniform? It’s not so obvious; they are our children–our “angels.” They are a blessed gift that forever changed us and far too many times carried us when we least expected. I, like so many spouses, relied on my angels to keep me going when our world was turned upside down.

It was 2002, we had just built our new home and moved in a week before Christmas Day. The first thing we unpacked was our small Christmas tree. My son was 4-years-old and my daughter was only 18-months-old. During our move-in, we received my husband’s first set of Army orders for mobilization. Our babies were unaware of the changes and challenges they were about to face.

In some ways, their innocent youth was their personal gift. Unknown to them, it allowed them to have an unexplained faith that kept their hope alive. They were also given perseverance, truth, strength, and courage. The adjustment to their daddy’s absence was difficult–but their perseverance carried them each day. These attributes helped them accept the truth that life is full of challenges. It was their strength that helped them build hope that good things would be waiting for them in the future. As their courage continued to grow, they became more empowered to face the unknown that lay ahead of them.

As parents, we always tend to look back on our actions and evaluate what we did right or wrong. Believe me, I have a list that could circle the Earth a few times. My children were my Rock of Gibraltar and provided me immediate support–even as young children. At the time, it was also very easy to immerse into the 24/7 news about the war. So, my angels became immersed too, being by my side while I watched the news on the television. Looking back, it was not a good thing. Without knowing, they grew up faster than they had to. They needed to be kids longer, and it was my job to protect their innocence.

Between my two children, my son seemed to lose his innocence the quickest. He was quietly very protective of me and his little sister. He could, and still does, read my emotions like a book. For several years, he would sleep on an air mattress at the foot of my bed, in an attempt to make sure that I was protected during the night. Our daughter always showed her inner strength–an attribute that she must have been born with. She kept laughing, hid her tears, and each night, prayed to God and asked for her daddy’s safety.

Today, I ask myself what I did right. As I look back on the years, I hope that I showed my children that heart combined with character can carry them through the tough times and that even if you don’t have all the answers–that’s okay because life is full of change. I worked hard to keep their daddy near in their hearts while keeping them hopeful for better days. At night, I placed my hand over their heart and reminded them that their daddy was always with them, no matter where he was fighting.

Over and over, our angels and their warrior-strength were tested. The first deployment was not as bad; however, it was the second deployment that had the greatest impact. This was when my angels earned the true title of “angel warrior.”

It was tough to swallow and so difficult to tell them that although daddy was back in America, no one knew when he would come back home. The touching homecoming stories the children saw in news clips didn’t match my husband’s homecoming. Our homecoming was full of apprehension and saturated with unknowns. It was an experience that would prepare us for our journey to find our new clouded normal.

My angel warriors quickly learned how to navigate the halls of Walter Reed. These halls became their playground during their short visits to see their daddy. Yet, it was in these halls they would also see so much more than I could have prepared them for. If you were to ask them today what they remember about Walter Reed, they would give you a two-sided answer. They would first tell you that Walter Reed was complicated and scary. They would then tell you that it was a chance to see the men and women behind their wounds and their scars–a place filled with laughter from children listening to the humorous stories Soldiers and Veterans would share during their visits.

Over time, they no longer found a scary Walter Reed. They saw the people not their new disabilities or injuries. Seeing through the eyes of an angel warrior is always humbling. They seem to accept their new normal with so much ease.

To others with angel warriors, I ask that you take time to turn to your angel warrior for inspiration. They will become your fuel as you build your strength. Their world changed once their dad became a wounded warrior, but, they took it with the kind of grace we should all learn to embrace and follow.

Angels who become angel warriors have already seen a great deal at such an early age. A lot of these experiences may seem “scary” to them, but it is up to us, the Army spouses, to make the “scary” go away. We must give them a place where they feel safe so they can build comfort when facing their new normal. 

Go to sleep tonight knowing that a tiny, yet positive, perspective on your spouse’s recovery is asleep in the room next to you. Army spouses know that the road ahead has many blind curves. If we look hard enough, our angel warriors can be the guiding light that leads us to the next bend. Believe in who they are. This belief, along with faith, can accomplish a great deal for you and your Family. It is a powerful thing that makes me feel blessed and grateful.

Navigation 101: Surviving the Impossible

By Diana Hume, AW2 Reserve Spouse

Through hard work and preserverance, Diana Hume was able to find answers to her questions about her husband's treatment and recovery

Editor’s Note: Diana Hume is a feature blogger for AW2. She’ll be sharing her experiences as the wife of a severely wounded reservist.

Surviving what seems to be the impossible is possible. We may not realize it, but spouses have been preparing for overcoming the impossible all along. Because of our Soldier’s absence, our strength grows over time. However, after we receive the call that our Soldier has been injured, we experience the fall out where, at least for me, the fog of loneliness I constantly pushed aside rolled in full force. I had to figure out how to manage the home front while simultaneously caring for my Soldier. 

As a result of my Soldier‘s med-evac out of Iraq, he was closer to home and just 1,224 miles away from Texas. He was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Also, keep in mind that this was back in April 2007, when many Soldiers were sent to Walter Reed to be treated, resulting in an over-flow of wounded warriors at the medical center. It was a time when the Army was working hard to hire more medical staff and develop new programs to handle the influx. 

I found myself alone navigating the path of finding our new normal. Daily, I called anyone at Walter Reed trying to find answers, but found little support, particularly since I was so far away. The distance and disconnect was a big change for me–and continues to be for a lot of reserve spouses. To put it bluntly, it stunk. The internet quickly became my best friend and I spent hours researching all I could to learn more about Walter Reed and the experience upon which we were about to embark.

I am confident resources are abundant, just hard to find. During this time, I prayed for some group or network to appear, but that prayer wasn’t fully answered–yet. I found that in order to be the warrior my Soldier needed, I had to make my voice be heard. So, I came up with tools to help me survive my impossible ordeal. One cherished tool was my little black book. It was in this small notebook where I would write down every name, phone number, location, unit, title or any other relevant information. In hindsight, I should have put it on a lanyard around my neck, but instead I carried it in my purse. At night, I placed it by my bed just in case a midnight thought needed to be captured.

It wasn’t until two months later in late June 2007 that I first visited my Soldier at Walter Reed. Yes, I know what you are thinking; the time it took to even just visit my Soldier was too long. The system did not see the sense of urgency because of his invisible wounds. However, once I got there it was an impressionable visit. Nevertheless, it was also a visit where my thoughts became even more complicated. Again, so many acronyms and programs, but nothing seemed to fit together. Just when I thought I had answers, 15 more questions would rear their heads!  At night, my tears got the best of me, sometimes all of me.

When tears finally dried, some clarity came. I could see a few noted valuable resources in my black book: The Soldier and Family Assistance Center, the chaplain, the Red Cross, the VA, and local charities such as the Yellow Ribbon Fund and, in Dallas, Operation Healthy Reunions. However, keep in mind that these programs and charity organizations differ by military treatment facility (MTF), so for all those who are going through their own period of transition, search for them on a local level.  Keep looking both locally and nationally for organizations and programs that meet your needs. 

I found that when I was physically at Walter Reed, things were different. It was only after I made my infrequent visits to be with my healing Soldier, that I became visible to the Army. Because of this visibility, I got help and answers to my growing list of questions. However, that did not hold true once I returned to take care of my home front. The old cliché, out of sight and out of mind became a mainstay. Remember, my Soldier was able bodied, his major injury being PTSD, so the Army assumed–without consulting me–that he was fully functional and able to manage his own care. Those who live with PTSD know that this is not the case and it is so far from reality.

Things I thought would happen and that I later asked for, such as reintegration counseling for our Family and marriage, were not being offered.  Even those at Walter Reed didn’t seem to understand the challenges reserve spouses often face. It was always assumed we were active duty and that we had access to active duty programs. This was one of the most frustrating challenges I had to navigate. 

As a result, I had to find help within my local community. However, this can be its own challenge. In a civilian environment it’s tough to find a specialist that understands the challenges faced by reserve spouses and Families who are adjusting to injuries and our new normal. I spent my time at home working to find a connection on my local level and within the Army so that our Family would be included in the healing process. 

One of these connections appeared near the end of our recovery at Walter Reed. This connection was, Robert Lipp, our Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Advocate. Upon meeting him, I asked him, “Where have you been the last two years of my life?” It was a bitter sweet meeting for me. At Walter Reed, my Soldier didn’t qualify for the program because his injuries were invisible and we had no concrete initial rating. After the MEB (medical board evaluation), we were able to qualify to be part of AW2. Ever since, I have seen the amazing support the Army and AW2 provide and how they can improve the lives of wounded warriors and their families.  

I believe that the impossible just means our focus needs to be ever-changing while we journey on our new path. We are now the warrior demonstrating strength, character, loyalty, and determination so we can defeat whatever crosses our path. Our medal will not come in the form of something tangible, but rather something deeper; a pride knowing you have withstood a moment in time that seemed impossible to overcome.

Most of you who are reading this may be aware of the AW2 program. However, we can still be lost during deployments and the early stages of our wounded warriors’ healing. I have searched for groups who specifically support spouses of our Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers.  Unfortunately, my findings are slim.   

Too many of us are falling through the cracks, but it is important that we never stop fighting. We, as reserve spouses, are full of experiences and stories of survival. Active duty wives have a strong network, so I ask that we work to build our own support network for reserve spouses so that together, we can navigate our impossibilities. This network could possibly be the best gift we can give to each other. Let’s keep sharing our stories. 

We can start today by commenting on AW2’s blog and sharing the helpful organization you’ve found. Start making your voice be heard. We owe it to ourselves, our Families, and our Soldiers.

The Call

By Diana Hume, AW2 Reserve Spouse

The call informing Diana Hume of her Soldier’s injury tested her strength and perseverance

Editor’s Note: Diana Hume is a feature blogger for AW2. She’ll be sharing her experiences as the wife of a severely wounded reservist. She hopes her blog will help other reservist spouses, as well as inspire and educate others about the unique challenges they face

The call. We all know what that means to us and the emotions the simple thought of it still carries. The call is delivered in many different ways, but the impact it has on us is similar. Mine was not the typical process, but it was still the call.

With that said, I am going to begin sharing more personal pieces of my journey as a reservist’s spouse. Some of these topics will be painful to share, but they are from my heart. More than anything I want to touch someone, another reserve spouse, in such a way that they understand they are unique, brave, and someone who can defy all odds. So, here is some more of my story.

My Soldier had left his Texas home for war. Up to this point, this was one of the most difficult periods we had to experience in our marriage. My new time alone soon became an understated challenge, but simultaneously an inner strength began to reveal itself. The new routine at home was beginning to find its place and adjustment began. Part of this routine was preparing the packages to send to our Soldier and anticipating the rare phone calls when we would hear his voice or e-mails to read and share our thoughts.  All of these events were ways we coped as a family while helping him feel connected and close to home.

After a few months, this new routine started to feel somewhat normal. My new inner strength told me I can do this, it will be ok. Nights were long and I found it hard to sleep with re-occurring thoughts about where he was and whether he was safe. Some nights those thoughts came with tears and emptiness. An ache sprinkled with fear. Eventually sleep arrived but the peace it brought was always too short.

As more time passed I sensed unfamiliar changes in my Soldier.  His calls home became infrequent and when they did occur, the discussions were strange and extremely unsettling. Instead of conversations about the kids, activities, and us, it changed to conversations about whether his life insurance was in order to take care of the kids and me.  Then emails from him began to slow down perpetuating the re-occurring theme of pushing home away–detaching. My new strength was being tested and my instinct told me something had happened. Something was wrong. 

Eventually, the feared call had made its way home. For me, it came in the form of a letter from my Soldier.  He told me that he was checking out of the life we had built together. He thought he was not coming home. This was the first of many of my personal 9–1–1’s. From his words in his letters to my internal fear, all of it became overpowering. My gut ached and my thoughts scrambled. Questions overwhelmed me. How can I help him? Why can’t anyone in Iraq see the pain I hear in his voice? At this point, I did not have a book or document that told me what to do, who to call, or what to expect. I had no protocol. So, I took my new, and still building, strength and found a way to be resourceful. I had no other option but to help my Soldier, my love, any way I could. 

I understood that there is a business side to military and to war, but there had to be a humanitarian side to supporting the Family as well. I was alone and lost, but realized that I had learned a boat load along the way. The Army is big and I, as a reservist’s spouse, was feeling helpless and ignorant. I wasn’t part of a Family Readiness Group and didn’t have names of anyone in the unit. I didn’t have a clue about what the rear detachment was or that it even existed.  All I had to rely on was my own intuition.

During this time I found myself digging deep trying to find a raft to climb onto. I was sinking and sinking fast.  The kids were trying to take care of me as I worked hard to take care of the Soldier I thought I had lost 6,000 miles away. With time, I remembered someone talking about the acronym FRG (Family Readiness Group). This was the fuel that kept me digging for help. To this day, I truly don’t know how I found our FRG volunteer’s number. I chalk it up to persistence and resourcefulness, attributes I believe are part of each reservist’s spouse.

With what felt like an eternity, the FRG volunteer shared with me the bits and pieces about where my Soldier was and informed me that he was indeed actually getting help. He was being sent to Germany for a medical evaluation. The doctors concluded several things were going on and that they had to send him to Walter Reed. Up to this point, I had yet to receive a phone call from anyone informing me of his status and that he was being med-evac’ed to the States. Even he wasn’t in contact with me. I felt the detachment again and again.

Finally, a true call was made. To my surprise, it was from my Soldier telling me he had already been at Walter Reed for a few days.  His words were unfamiliar and his voice was changed and distant. I was confused and broken. He was able-bodied, but he was wounded.  No missing arms or legs, no injuries from direct IEDs. It was assumed that he could take care of himself, when in reality he couldn’t. And to top it all, the Army had forgotten his Family–no one called.

I know that my story is familiar. When we, the spouse, receive the call that our Soldier is injured, we are tested again. Our emotions run high, but our new strength takes charge and carries us when we least suspect. We look back and wonder how did I get through the call?  I believe that as a reservist’s spouse, we somehow find our own way to meet the objectives of our mission by being steadfast and strong.  All calls are unique, personal, and undoubtedly full of emotion and unimaginable challenges. One thing in common is that they change us forever and in ways we can’t always explain.

Even if we do not have the answers, we have to find them. We cannot sit and wait, even if it is just a gut feeling we are operating from. Our voice is our friend, sometimes the only one we may have at certain points along the way. That is why we have to learn to use our voice. Dig deep and let’s find answers to build the network we need in order to support each other. 

I know that work is underway on improving how reserve Families receive information during their Soldiers’ deployments.  It is a start, but we must share our experiences so that more can be done. We have to let those working to help us know what’s working and what’s not. I am sure I am not alone when I say this, but I don’t want someone to go through the same experience I did.  That’s why I want our words to be heard. We are important and our stories and experiences will make a difference.

Nothing Is What I Thought It Would Be: A Reservist Wife’s Perspective

Diana Hume, pictured here with her dog Otto, volunteered to begin a series of posts on the AW2 Blog to share her lessons learned with other spouses.

By Diana Hume, Reservist Spouse Blogger

Editor’s Note: Diana Hume is a new feature blogger for AW2. She’ll be sharing her experiences as the wife of a severely wounded reservist. She hopes her blog will help other reservist spouses, as well as inspire and educate others about the unique challenges they face.  

When was it again that I signed the contract? This has been a recurring question that I have come to accept and stopped asking myself because I signed the contract 18 years ago when I married an amazing man, the love of my life. Our story, however, began 24 years ago. We met January 1987 while attending college north of Dallas. He was handsome, still is, challenging, outgoing, inspirational, and mysterious. We had so much fun together and within time I learned that part of the mystery was that he was a Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserves.

In the early stages of our relationship, I learned that he had already been serving for six years. For him it was a way of life, but for me the idea of a “reservist” was as foreign to me as another language. I am not from a military family and Dallas is not a military city. I quickly understood that he drilled once a month by making the trek from Dallas to Oklahoma City per his commitment to the Corps and his country. This all changed when Desert Storm hit.

At this point we weren’t even truly dating yet, we were great friends. With that said, he called one night to share the news that he received orders to go to Kuwait in support of Dessert Storm. We all remember how that war went. First the air strikes, then the Americans threw a few rounds of ammo and just as quickly as they arrived, they were home. It was a blip on the radar compared to what we are experiencing today particularly since practically everyone came home.

Before I knew it, he was back home as quickly has he had left. By now, our relationship had grown and we decided to officially become a couple. Our official courtship was short because we already knew so much about each other. So, a little over five years after we met I signed the contract, our Marriage License in the great state of Texas.

At this point in our marriage we were both full of dreams and plans for our future, much like the future of other civilian couples since in fact, we were a civilian couple. That is the community we lived in and identified with. Our lives were growing and were centered around starting careers and building a family together. We both were working hard to make smart life choices alongside our civilian friends.  Our life, so I thought, was our own. We could work and live where we wanted. After all, I was not a military wife, never had a military I.D., and had yet to set foot on a base.

With many years of hard work, both of our careers grew and so did our family. I was at a point where I had an upper level management role within a company I loved working for while my Soldier pursued his path to become an electrical engineer for a great company in North Texas. At the same time, he was still doing his monthly drill obligations, annual training and making the drive to the drill center. In fact, his monthly drills had also become my monthly “me” time!  We had it in our routine like clockwork.

Years of living the normal American life became my life, our life. Again, I still did not see myself as a military spouse. I had yet to meet someone who self identified as one. Don’t get me wrong, by this time I had met other reserve spouses, but they were like me. They had careers, kids, and many had not been on a base. We were like peas in a pod.  We would talk about our kids and careers and life none of which related to the military up to that point. We would meet annually at the formal birthday balls which were usually held in a hotel ballroom close to the drill center. Each time it was a night away from home and was like a mini-vacation where we could interact with other Reservist families.

Time passed and life was still moving along. After about six years into our marriage in 2000, he made a decision to transfer to the Army Reserves because of the available Warrant Officer opportunities. Even at this point, there were little changes affecting me minus the fact that his drill center would change to a more reasonable 3 ½ hour drive from home. We didn’t have to move and I didn’t have to leave my great career. Life was normal and as far as I was concerned, I wasn’t a military spouse, or so I thought.

The next year our world and specifically our nation were rocked. September 11, 2001. Need I say more? What I didn’t know was how much my own world was about to change. Yet, life kept moving along.

December 2002, we moved into a new beautiful home that we had built, located in a great neighborhood with great schools. Both of us were excited about this new stepping stone in our life. We both had careers and were involved in the community. Kids sports were entering our world and our oldest started kindergarten the next year and our youngest was now 18 months old. After a month of adjusting to our new surroundings and routine, orders came. He was being mobilized to Ft. Hood GSU for the next two years. The news wasn’t great, but it was something we could work through. The plan was that he would get home as often as he could.

I continued to work and take care of the kids, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I was now a single parent. For me, holding it all together was quickly different than my neighbors whose husbands traveled frequently. I never had a break. Work demands changed and I realized my role as a spouse was changing. My love, life partner, support was gone. I lived and planned without him.

I did all I could to keep life normal, but it was no longer normal. I wasn’t like my civilian friends anymore. I didn’t have a group I identified with. With the change to the Army Reserve, I had never met any of the other spouses or even knew their names because we were all scattered across Texas. Now, we all know Texas is its own country – it is big. So, my new world became an abstract blob with a lot of acronyms.

Before 2003 was over, and after struggling to hold it all together, I made the choice to resign from my career so I could be a full time parent. I realized I never saw our children, and wasn’t fully sure I actually knew them because of the demands of my job. This was the right choice for our family, but it was also a new challenge and brought some obstacles I never thought I would have to deal with.

January 2005 came and we had survived. He was home. Back to his career, back to normal, the new normal. Up to this point I had still not met another self identified reserve spouse, ever. Remember, we were scattered. However, I did finally have a military ID and had been on a base.

Our new normal lasted for about a year. I learned he had volunteered to serve in Iraq without consulting me.  Needless to say, I was not thrilled with that piece of information, but I understood serving was part of who he is. He was to run the ammunition supply point (ASP) at Q-West for all of northwest Iraq.  This was a day I have embedded in my memory. I was truly scared and I knew that our new normal was going away. This was probably the day I first began to understand what it truly meant to be a reserve spouse. It was, and still is a tough day for me to swallow.

What many civilians don’t understand is that for reserves, they begin getting battle ready while still at home (battle ready was a term I had to learn – again never received a manual!) For us, he was being cross leveled from Ft. Hood, TX to a unit out of Billings, MT, which was deployed from Ft. McCoy, WI. Remember, we live in North Dallas. Now I really knew no one in the unit, I was totally alone.

From January 2006 until June, he was coming and going to training while working on getting the unit ready to go. With one foot in the Army and one foot still in his civilian career, there was no time for me. It was at this point that I began my transition from my previous normal to an even more challenging one. A normal where I had to learn what a reserve spouse is supposed to do–keep it all together. Nevertheless, June came fast. The day the kids and I took him to the airport for his departure to Ft. McCoy, WI was traumatic. My heart hurt, tears fell down my cheeks, and I tried so hard to remain together and strong.  

Since then, so much more than I ever thought has happened. Our new normal is so far from normal. Our children are now 12 and 9 compared to when they were 4 and 18 months when we received our first set of orders. It’s been a ride. All the missed birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, births and deaths. The stress on our family, our relationship, and careers… these issues were only part of the struggle we dealt with. And when he did come home early from Iraq, it wasn’t to me or the family –it was to Walter Reed where he stayed for two years after being med-evaced out of Iraq. It was just last year when he was finally home in Texas. The rebuilding has finally begun and we are being introduced to our new normal

The road for someone married to a reservist is nothing I thought it would be. Although I may have been blind to the true significance of what our Reserve and National Guard Soldiers truly do to protect our freedom, I still have learned a ton and want to share. Looking back, I was a young spouse to an incredible man, but I truly had no concept of what I signed up for. It’s never explained or truly discussed with us. It’s not like we receive our orders for training. It has been a ride and I wouldn’t change one thing about it because I have learned so much. Nevertheless, life is still happening and I can still look back and realize that time combined with much personal growth has shown me the true meaning of who I am. I am a proud spouse of an Army Reserve soldier. And I say that with all my heart.

I have recently realized that part of my new normal is to share my knowledge and experience. My road of learning what a reserve and wounded warrior spouse is has inspired me to help make the road a little easier for other wounded warrior spouses. This entry is just an eagle’s point of view and an introduction to my story. I invite you to return and share more detail on specific topics. Know you are not alone, we are not alone. I am here to listen, answer questions and help. This is part of my new normal.

Write a blog for WTC

Warriors in Transition can submit a blog by e-mailing WarriorCareCommunications [at] conus.army.mil.