Second Chances

Growing up I was always told that God works in mysterious ways. I realize not everyone believes this or believes in a higher power but I wanted to share a story about “coincidence” and second chances…

About every three months our church holds a giveaway to the community. We have a friend who runs a warehouse in Texas whose mission is to give back to the needs of the community and minister to them through love and compassion. He usually brings up a semi truck full of food, diapers, school supplies, toiletries, ext. We pass out flyers before hand and usually get about two hundred or better people from our small community to come out. They are always in such need and an act of kindness and compassion like this is just amazing to watch quite literally change their lives….

So the last giveaway we had a few months ago my husband and I really wanted to participate in (because of various schedule issues wed never been able to before). We signed up but come the morning of the giveaway my husband woke up after a night of relentless nightmares depressed, anxious, and in no state to be around a large crowd. He insisted I go so I reluctantly left him at home and headed that way. Of course I was running late, nearly ran out of gas, a “car won’t start I was fallin apart” kinda morning. I almost turned around and went home several times. Thank God I didn’t though because I would’ve missed out on an amazing experience.

I finally made it there in time and was assigned to the group helping carry stuff to the cars and praying with those who wanted us to. About halfway through the morning myself and a friend helped a middle-aged woman carry her bags to her truck. As we approached the truck I noticed a native american looking man approx in his mid 40’s (her husband) sitting in the driver’s seat. No big deal. I also noticed as we were loading the truck (he got out to help) a faded army sticker on the tailgate. Maybe it was just my crazy obsession and passion for anything military or maybe it was God but I just had an unexplainable urge to talk to this man.

He never said a word to us but he seemed kind. He was sort’ve distant and I easily noticed his slightly paranoid demeaner…he kept non challantly looking around watching his surroundings. His wife, a tiny woman with already greying straw like hair and skin that symbolized a lifetime if smoking, seemed nice but very private as well. One might not have noticed at first glance but her body language was not just closed off but almost protective..of him. I recognized this behavior not because I’d seen it before, but because I’d felt it. This woman was me in thirty years..

So I asked the standard “here’s your sign” question just to break the ice.. “Are you army?”

The man looked and acknowledged me for the first time and spoke with dignity and confidence, “Yes. My daughter too.”

We got to talking a little small talk. He told me he served in Desert Storm and now his daughter had served in operation Iraqi Freedom..

“Wow..my husband was over there too..he was an infantryman in he corp..Iraq 04-05. He fought in Fallujah.”

This got him talking a little more…he said he was infantry as well..a toe gunner if I’m not mistaking..

He mentioned that he needed to get down to the VFW but hadn’t gotten himself to do it yet….I was so close to getting him to trust me I thought..to open up just a little more about himself…his wife stood calmly beside him..no doubt dutifully and meticulously watching him…waiting for the moment he either opened that door or slammed it shut again and shed have to hopelessly watch him work through the haunting pain she had become so familiar with.

So I took a chance and chose to trust him first… “My husband was actually supposed to be here with me today…but he couldn’t. He had nightmares last night and just can’t be around people..he has PTSD.”

It seems like a small thing to share but if you have or are close to someone with PTSD you know it’s not so easy to tell people. The understanding in the mans eyes told me I had made the right choice though…Its hard to describe but his body and soul almost visibly relaxed and opened up to me…like walls falling down. A stranger finally finding a familiar friend..We continued to talk and both him and his wife shared with me how restricted their lives had been. He has nightmares too and his own kids knew not to come into his bedroom when he slept because he sometimes fought in his sleep and had accidently hit and choked people before. He can’t even go to Walmart with his wife and he’s been reluctant to get any help from the VA and even visit the VFW.

On top of his daily torment he was also tormented by the experiences of his daughter. She had suffered a TBI in Iraq and was now going through treatment for brain tumor caused by the incident. Imagine going through hell and then watching your baby girl walk right into the same hell just to come home still fighting for her life..

After talking for a while we decided to pray so I could get back to work. I got them to agree to stick around for the raffle. Later I actually saw him come out of the truck and join the crowd. Although he still looked stressed and anxious and left his back to no one it was a huge step few would recognize….

As we gathered to pray I felt overwhelmed with happiness that this man had shared with me and was planning on going to the VFW as soon as possible now. What happened next I never expected. His wife, who’d been mostly silent letting him speak, grabbed my hand and handed me a piece of paper with her number on it. “If you ever need someone to talk to about your husband..” She said.

I had never though before then about how lonely it was having no one to talk to about my husband and what we go through together. No one else who understood my position. She was the first person to encourage me to start talking and to start this blog. Before that event I was closed off and never thought I deserved help too. I had already written off the rest of he world as separate from me, that they could never understand our lives.

I’m sharing this story because I don’t believe God is a complacent God that doesn’t care. I believe he is an active loving God and he can use anyone for good if we let him. I believe everything happens for a reason and healing can be found through his love and compassion carried out through us. This Saterday we are having another giveaway. My husband will be there this time…and I can’t wait.

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“Oh yeah, he hits me all the time!”

Recently I was working with a couple fellow airman tasked with the wonderful duty of moving a bunch of medical equipment across town to another base where our unit has a storage compartment. I’m fairly new to the squadron and the other girl and I were making small talk on the way over…somehow or another the subject came up and I told her my husband is a Marine vet..the rest of the conversation went like this..

 

Her – “Oh wow..so does he treat you right?”

Me – “Oh yeah of course..better than I deserve even.”

Her – “That’s great!..that’s pretty rare I know majority of Marines are wife beaters and such ya know.”

(yes, she said she KNOWS this…it was almost comical)

…she then went on to talk about how they’re brainwashed and trained to kill so of course they would seem and be dangerous..I mean how on earth could you possibly tell the difference between a terrorist in a combat zone and your 120lb wife right? And gosh that PTSD stuff must affect the Marines worse or something since the Army Infantryman aren’t inherently wife beaters… Sorry, I have to make a joke of these kinda things in order to keep from telling people they’re ignorant asses to their face..But in light of this I figured I could use it for the better on my blog. A comment like this is simply not as unheard of as one might hope. So I decided to make a little list of myths and truths about all those big bad wife-beating Marines out there…please hold all giggles for the end..

 

Myth – all Marines are wife beaters

truth – players? sometimes. rough in bed? sure. But majority of Marines don’t need to                    beat women to get what they want….just walk into a San Diego bar on a night the                boys are wearing their blues if you don’t believe me..

Myth – all Marines have bodies that resemble body building icons like Hulk Hogan and The   Rock

truth – with the exception of your occasional moto-pog who actually has the time to drink               creatine 24/7 and go to the gym every night most Marines drink way too much                     booze, eat way too much pizza, and run way too far with way too much equipment             to ever have the ability to resemble anything close to that. And besides…bigger                   bodies make bigger targets.

Myth – all Marines marry fat Mexican chicks or fat white trash (I don’t mean to offend anyone that’s just how the myth goes..)

truth – while many a marine do love good food, and these women make GOOD food…not             ALL marine’s need more “cushin for the pushin”

Myth – all Marines are brainwashed in boot camp

truth – the Marine Corp is too poor to do such things. If any branch was going to have the               funding and ability to experiment with mass brainwashing it would be the                             Airforce…just sayin…oorah

Myth – all Marines are stupid

truth – Walter Cunningham, John Glenn (astronauts…not the first either), Drew Carrey,                 Jerry Coleman, Keith Jackson, Jamey Johnson, Howard Johnson, George Jones,               Robert Kiyosaki (author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad and expert in financial freedom),                 Hugh McColl (former CEO of Bank of America)…I could go on…

Myth – all Marines have moto tattoos and a tattoo of their dog tags on their side

truth – I think I know at least one that doesn’t….

 

 

 

 

 

“Call it (post-traumatic stress disorder), call it whatever you want. But it’s still a war.”

article http://m.utsandiego.com/news/2014/mar/28/farrell-gilliam-marine-suicide-amputee/

 

He rarely spoke of it. Not to his family or best buddies, fellow Marines or medical staff watching over him.

But Cpl. Farrell Gilliam had endured far more by the time he died this year at age 25 than most people could comprehend.

The Camp Pendleton infantryman survived three months of combat in 2010 with the “Darkhorse” 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Sangin, Afghanistan — one of the deadliest battlegrounds of the war.

Amid firefights and insurgents’ bombs, Gilliam saw limbs strewn across the ground. He loaded broken, bleeding bodies for medical evacuation, and grieved for the friends they could not save.

Gilliam’s tour ended early when his legs were blown off by an improvised explosive device, or IED. “Farrell’s Fight,” his struggle on the homefront that his big brother helped him chronicle online, included more than 30 surgeries and three years of rehabilitation.

It was a story of triumph over wounds that would have been fatal in earlier conflicts. A story that was coming to an end, but not how anyone who knew him expected.

Gilliam was months away from a medical discharge from the Marine Corps and a new life as civilian college student. Physically, he had one surgery left to remove hardware in an arm. Psychologically, he was suffering from invisible wounds he hid behind smiles and upbeat banter.

Or so his family discovered on Jan. 9, when Gilliam committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in his barracks room in San Antonio.

Gilliam finally succumbed to his battle wounds, said Sgt. James Finney, his former squad leader in Afghanistan. It doesn’t matter who pulled the trigger — to him Gilliam was killed in action just like the other 25 from their battalion.

“It was an 8,000-mile sniper shot,” said Finney, 27, now an infantry instructor. “His passing was directly due to a situation because of his wounds received in Afghanistan. I don’t care what anyone else thinks.”

The suicide rate for active-duty troops spiked in 2012 to nearly one a day, a record during this era of warfare and twice as high as a decade before. At least 350 took their lives that year, more than the number of service members killed in combat. (Final numbers for 2012 and a year-end tally for 2013 are pending, a Pentagon official said.)

Last year, 45 Marines committed suicide and 234 tried to. It was by far the highest number of suicide attempts for the service since at least 2003.

Among veterans of all the armed forces, at least 22 commit suicide daily, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Gilliam’s death blindsided his family and friends. Amid their raw first waves of grief, anger and irrational guilt, they pray that sharing his story might inspire others to stop suffering silently. Or spur a family to intervene. Or close a gap in support or education.

“I want no family to have to go through the pain that we are going through. If there’s just one person who gets that help that saves them … then it’s worth it,” said Gilliam’s brother, Daniel Lorente, 30, of Palo Alto, who cared for him full time as his non-medical assistant early in his rehabilitation.

“My little brother would be next to me right now if it wasn’t for what happened to him in Afghanistan,” Lorente said. “It’s all a tragedy of this war. Call it (post-traumatic stress disorder), call it whatever you want. But it’s still a war. It’s still going on. It’s on our own soil, with our own soldiers.”

 

 

Read the rest of the article here… http://m.utsandiego.com/news/2014/mar/28/farrell-gilliam-marine-suicide-amputee/

 

 

 

The glass is always half full over here..

First off I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! Like many of you I probably won’t be “blogging” for the next couple days…

It’s recently come to my attention through a couple different conversations with people that some may be concerned for my husband and/or I. Because of the nature of my blog I realize it may portray my husband’s and my life as very negative and harsh. Since none of you know us personally and I’ve not really posted anything involving “good days” I can completely understand how our life may come across and I truly appreciate the concern!

I want to put the record straight real quick that while there are some “symptoms” that are daily and constant, the more intense things that happen in the stories about my husband are not typically a daily occurrence. In fact “good days” occur far more often than “bad days” for us personally. Most of the time my husband is completely functional, and if you didn’t spend as much time as I do with him you would never even know he had these struggles. (This goes hand in hand with ‘Why Heroes Hide‘).

Heightened awareness, needing to sit/stand facing the whole room, and needing to be woken gently and not startled awake are some of the constant daily things that will never change. While sometimes frustrating, really nothing debilitating. Nightmares, severe depression, and panic attacks are some of the things that can sometimes happen often and can be triggered on “good days”, but are not constant.

One other thing I want to set straight real quick, and I appreciate that none of my followers have ever judged us like this, but I want to say that PTSD is not scary. Or rather, people with PTSD are not scary. PTSD is very serious, but my husband and those like him are not “dangerous” and I for that matter am never in danger nor “scared” of him.

I want to apologize if my writings have made either of us come off as being in search of pitty, angry, bitter, or that we are not happy or positive people. I want to assure everyone who has expressed care that my husband has sought and used counseling in the past and he is not opposed to it in any way.

This blog is meant to help some people see into a world they may not know or understand and to be a safe and supportive place for those who do understand. If anyone ever has any questions pertaining to anything related to this blog, including my husband’s or my life personally I want you to feel free to ask and I would be glad to answer the best I can 🙂

On a side note, it’s been a wonderful holiday vacation here in Oregon 🙂 and I truly appreciate all my followers! You’ve made this a very humble blogging experience. God bless you all!

Daily Prompt – Random Act of Kindness

A little over a year ago, in my husband’s and my college town, a man was involved in a confrontation at one of the local bars, and upon leaving the man he was in confrontation with attacked and ran him over with a large truck in the parking lot of this bar. The man that got run over was a Marine, just back from Afghanistan and out of the corp only a couple months earlier. He ended up making a full recover to my knowledge but was in very critical condition for quite a while. The 18 year old boy who attacked him was easily caught and is in prison now.  When my husband and I found out about the incident we, like most of the community, were absolutely outraged. At this point (and for several following weeks) it did not look like this man was going to survive. My husband’s angered response to the news was “He just survived hell for his country only to come back and lose it all because of some piece of shit 18 year old BOY!” The story broke many people’s hearts including our own. The man had a wife, two kids, and a baby on the way at the time. This was right around Christmas and the Collegiate Veterans Association (a club my husband helped start at the local college while we were there) had been collecting money and helping the family since the incident occurred. When it got closer to Christmas my husband and I decided to send the family a Toys R Us gift card for the kids and a spa gift certificate for the mother (I’m sure she could’ve used a little stress relief whenever she finally got the chance to use it). We didn’t put a return address or our names. We only knew them through mutual friends and peers, we’ve never actually met them. Sometimes I really wish I could’ve seen if it helped at all or how it made them feel, but I have never cared if they ever knew that we were the ones who did it. I was really proud of our community for how they responded to the incident. I am always so humbled by how much people can come together to help others during times of crisis, loving others without expecting anything in return is what humanity is meant to be about.

Out of Place, Out of Culture – My Holiday Season

For those who follow you may have noticed I haven’t posted much in the last several weeks and I apologize for that! I have been pretty busy with the holidays and traveling but admittedly I have actually started several posts but ended up deleting them. I don’t feel I’m really suffering from “writer’s block” per say as I have many ideas and things I want to write about and discuss, but I’ve been having a hard time putting them into words. I have also been struggling a little bit personally with something I’m not sure how to describe; confidence maybe?

This pretty much started when I left Oklahoma to spend this month in Oregon with my family, the first two weeks of which my husband wasn’t with me. I didn’t realize it at first but this has been the first time in a little over two years that I have ever been completely without any military culture surrounding me. Now my husband is a veteran, and I am in the Guard so we don’t live actively on a base. One may not think at first glance that I am really surrounded by the military culture. However, I am with my husband on a daily basis, and all but one of our close friends are either current military or veterans, the only one who isn’t grew up an army BRAT. We have many coworkers, friends, and family that aren’t military of course but the friends we see on a daily basis and would consider our closest pretty much are. Our church consists of a lot of veterans as well, and Oklahoma is also a very military friendly state.

When I came to Oregon I was suddenly surrounded by my family which consists of no military or veterans (save for my Grandpa in Washington and my cousin’s husband who lives 4 hours away from my family in the Portland area), I had no friends that could relate, and was in a state that literally has no military presence save for a couple small Oregon National Gaurd posts.

This doesn’t seem like a huge deal but I started feeling very out of place and basically lonely. No one could relate to me in any way here. No one understands my culture. The jokes I make, the sides I take on issues, the reasons for my opinions and views, or even just the way I talk and think. I felt like I was in another country almost. (Well, the Southern/Midwest culture and the West Coast practically are two different countries…but I grew up in Oregon so that shouldn’t have mattered ha).

One of the first times I felt this was during a very heated argument I got into with my father in the first few days of my trip. Because of his experiences (or lack there of) his outlook on PTSD and issues of military were a far cry from my viewpoint. He wouldn’t believe that the military would or could ever mess up on the level that they do. Screwing up pay for months, CO’s abusing their authority against personnel they don’t like, or the endless cases of paperwork screw ups that can result in anything from promotion rejections to combat award rejection are some of the things he can not even believe to be possible.

He, like many, doesn’t think bureaucracies like the military or VA could ever do any wrong, or even see the harm the government can and has done to veterans. Because he was surrounded by a different culture, he simply could not understand or relate.

Another time was while shopping with my cousin. She asked me how much someone gets for the GI Bill because she saw an old high school classmate post on Facebook after getting out of the army that he was choosing from a couple Ivy League schools to get his degree. While she believes military deserves something she was worried the government was “paying all this money for them to go to ANY school they want…if you think about how many military people there are and how much top schools like that costs then that’s TONS of money being handed out if they just pay for anything and everything.” I kindly told her that there were a few different types of GI Bills, but that none of them simply allowed you to go to just ANY school in the country at no cost. She thought that was quite a relief.

The feeling of how out of touch and frankly uninterested my own family is to the military and it’s people was overwhelmingly strong.

I actually ended up leaving a dinner early one night and visiting my ex boyfriend (still a close friend) a few times simply because he was the ONLY person, being fresh out of the military, I could find that I could feel comfortable around. We didn’t have to talk about anything related to military, in fact I mostly played card games with his young niece and mom when I was at their house. But simply being around someone who understood where I was coming from in all directions, felt like finding another American in the midst of a foreign country.

Thank God my husband is here now. The past two weeks experiences have made me second guess myself a lot. I’ve thought that I may not be able to be the “bridge” between military culture and civilian culture that I thought I could try to be for some people. I’ve started second guessing my ability to help and my ability to open any minds to the people I am passionate about. I guess I never realized how ingrained and comfortable I have become in my own environment surrounded by so much military culture. I raised the doubt in my mind that I could ever convey the struggles and this culture to others who have no relation to it.

Anyway, I apologize for being so self deprecating on here. I know that this experience is meant to teach me something, and it already has taught me a lot, but I just wanted to share why I haven’t posted much and what’s been going on. Don’t think I forgot about the blog! I am so thankful for all of my followers and I truly appreciate you! Any words of encouragement would not go unappreciated either! I hope everyone has been having a wonderful holiday season and I hope you all have a Merry Christmas! God bless!

DAILY PROMPT: You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch – Catch .22

The quality in others that bugs me the most has to be ignorance and lack of care for others. On a more biased note it REALLY bugs me when people do not even attempt to understand, tolerate, and/or genuinely care about veterans, military, and their families. Being that I am surrounded by the military culture everyday these peoples have not only become my family (quite literally) but have also become my passion. So it is only natural that I be a bit biased towards everything pertaining to them. Ironically one of my least favorite characteristics in people may also be one of the least desirable characteristics in myself. While I try my best (but can always do better) to be understanding and caring of others I too am not always great at this. There are many things I am ignorant about myself. I have actually thought quite a bit about this contradiction and how to solve it in myself as it both frustrates and confounds me. 

It can be really difficult, especially if you’re an over thinker like me, to both be passionate about something and unbiased about it at the same time. In fact, I’d venture to say that it’s basically impossible. One can surely work to understand and listen to opposing sides of something, but by human nature we are biased. Period. It’s also pretty impossible as humans to know and care deeply about any and every cause out there. We can support all the causes we find “good”..cancer, veterans, abused children, AIDS awareness, ext….however being active and genuinely passionate (in the word’s deepest form of meaning) of so many things is simply impossible. And what I’ve learned over time is that is OK. In fact, this kind of biased can be a GOOD thing.

If we were all passionate about everything we thought worthy of our passion then we would never get anything done (as funny as that sounds). It’s the same idea that if EVERYONE was an amazing football player, then essentially NO ONE would be a great football player because we would all be equal. Or the fact (yes I said it, FACT) that not EVERYONE can be a winner, otherwise NO ONE would win. 

We are all good at certain things because if we were all good at the same thing we would never accomplish anything. Society and life requires that we all be better at different things. We all have our unique gifts and likewise we all have our unique passions. If everyone was passionate about fighting cancer, then who would be left to stand up for abused children? If we were all passionate about teaching, then who would there be to invent advancing technology?

In realizing this I have also formed the opinion that I believe counseling would be so much more productive and helpful if we didn’t have just “general psychologist/counselors/ext” but if each psychologist/counselor worked specifically with the issues they were most passionate about. Of course a theory like this requires a perfect world where we would never be short of counselors for every kind of issue/peoples. But hear me out. If I am most passionate about military, veterans, and other service workers such as police and firefighters then I am naturally going to be much better at helping them and listening to them than I would be at listening to someone, who say, suffers from multiple personality disorder. However someone who is very passionate about families and children and keeping them together are going to be much better at marriage, family, and child counseling. 

This is not to say that I don’t care deeply about all kinds of people and issues, but we all have specific passions. And even as someone whose passion is to help people through counseling, generally speaking they will also have a more specific passion for certain types of issues. I think by focusing on our passions this would not only make for better counseling and help, but also less burnout for counselors and psychologists/psychiatrists.

So I guess to get back to the point of this whole rant. While we all have our pet peeves and dislikes, we are all just as guilty of distasteful characteristics to others. However I think that, like our differences in passions, our differences in personality go hand in hand. We are all different, and we cannot expect to like everyone around us, but through our differences comes the success and beauty of mankind.