My husband is 12 years older than me. He was born and raised in the south and has those good ole’ southern boy manners. He grew up dreaming of being in the United States military. He tried going to college right out of high school but, like many 18 year olds, wasn’t ready. Instead he had action and adventure on his mind. He joined the United States Marine Corp as an infantryman in 2000. Shortly after, as you all know, our nation suffered the great tragedy of 9/11.
My husband was a part of Scout Platoon 4th Tank Battalion 4th Marine Division out of Texas. They were one of the best of their kind and extremely dedicated to their training and missions. In 2004 they were deployed to Iraq where they took part in over taking the city of Fallujah. If you remember hearing about the captured mercenaries or seeing the photos of their burned hanging bodies in the media, that was the same place and time. This battle was called Operation Phantom Fury and is known to be one of the bloodiest battles of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom combined.
My husband returned in 2005 and was later retired from service due to a knee injury suffered while in Iraq. An injury which was somehow not considered ‘combat related’ and was not later recognized for disability by the VA (that’s military paperwork for ya). On top of learning how to reintegrate back into society and dealing with the onset of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he then had to deal with the intense heartbreak of losing his dream and his identity. He had planned on re-enlisting after his tour and had been in it for the long haul before his injury threw a wrench into his plans.
After this he worked for a bar and then a prison in central Oklahoma for a couple years. During this time he went through the arduous process of getting his VA case and benefits set up. He was diagnosed and given 60% disability along with the detested title of (PTSD) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He also suffers hearing loss (recognized by the VA) as well as restless leg syndrome and skin allergies possibly linked to the many inoculations given to him during his service. These last two things are not yet recognized by the VA. He is also believed by doctors to have a possible TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) but because he was never reported actually being hit in the head with anything the VA would not test him for it. Recently the VA has started recognizing that TBI can result from the shock wave impact of an explosion (which happened to my husband more than once in Iraq) so he may try to file another claim in the future to see if that is the case for him.
In 2008 My husband decided to go back to college for his degree in History and Sociology. We met in the Fall of 2011 when we shared an elective class called Sociology of Military Life taught by a woman who grew up a military brat and married a soldier in the Army. Her and her husband both taught at the college and had a background in counseling. They were a great help and support to my husband through his struggles while he was there and they continue to be great friends to us.
I grew up about 30 minutes south of Portland, Oregon. I was raised on a farm and in a family of mostly firefighters and healthcare personnel. My grandpa was a diver in the Navy and my cousin married a helicopter pilot in the Army but other than that I never had a whole lot of military connections. I was in 4th grade when the attacks on the World Trade Center happened and those events have always had a deep impact on me, as with many Americans. I remember hearing about Fallujah and seeing pictures of the mercenaries that were hung and burned during the time my husband was over there but of course I wasn’t really old enough to understand what really went on at the time.
My first real introduction to the military life and culture was in my late years of high school and beginnings of adulthood. I had a couple close friends in the military and I fell in love for the first time with another 0311 (infantry marine, or grunt as they call them) and learned a lot of the ins and outs of the military lifestyle. He is still a dear friend to me today. I had always loved my country very much and came from a very patriotic family, and that served as the beginning of my deep passion for the military and it’s people. After graduating high school I moved to Oklahoma to attend college (you know typical 18 year old trying to get as far away from home and as close to independence as possible).
I always took morning classes but the semester I met my husband I had to change all my classes to evening when I picked up a second job in the mornings. He wasn’t supposed to be in school that semester either as he had already graduated with his degree in history, but only being a few credits away from a second degree he decided on one more semester. It was all a big set up from God if you ask me, but I’m certainly not complaining.
As I said we met in our Soc. of Mil. Life class and a lot of it was history from there. We fell in love quickly, and he opened up to me (God only knows why) early on about his military history and PTSD. With the exception of a few trips home we have spent every day together since the first time we hung out that September. My love and passion for him and the military (and a little bias towards the Corp) only grew stronger. With it my curiosity grew as well. Becoming close to my husband and moving in with him also inevitably meant that I would experience more and more of his PTSD firsthand to the point where it has effected my life as well. My curiousity and passion began to lean even more towards that aspect of the military.
With the amazing love and support of my husband I earned my EMT license and enlisted in the US Airforce in January of 2013. We married shortly after that this past July. Like him and many people my age I have been indecisive in what to do with my life. There’s so much I’d love to do that choosing a degree seemed nearly impossible a year ago. However, with a lot of thought I have decided that after my time in the military I would like to get my degree in psychology and focus on helping veterans, military personnel, and their families.