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.