I read this the other day and you should as well.
For the majority of America, this is "news." For those of us living in the less than one percent with those who have deployed again and again to life-threatening situations, this is anything but news. Let me start all of this off by saying I am very grateful USA Today ran this story. America needs a wakeup call and this is a great start. I can only hope this is the first in a long series of stories about our military and their families. Our military and their families should be a part of a daily conversation and I want to say thanks to USA Today for running this story to hopefully begin an important dialog.
I really loved the video on this link, but when the doctor said he was shocked by what he learned about our vets, I will admit I laughed out loud and so did my husband. The doctor on the video is a perfect example of how out of touch the average American is with our military. Once they take an interest, they are shocked at what they learn. To be quite honest they should be shocked. Then once the shock wears off, they should be overwhelmed with pride. The average American is clueless to the sacrifices of our service members until one they know is injured. Yes, it takes an injury. I will admit even our civilian family members and friends were completely clueless to the sacrifices until Chaz was injured. But for those of us who have been carrying this weight for a very long time, we know exactly how much the men and women of the military sacrifice.
I remember Kosovo in 2000. I remember the young man I sent off to the Balkan states. I also remember how he came back quite a bit different. By far, Iraq was the worst for us. Chaz was drastically different when he came back. He returned to us grumpy with a short fuse. It took us a while to get our Chaz back that. I now know that Iraq prepared us for Afghanistan. The sacrifices Chaz endured in Iraq prepared us for him to be a wounded warrior. Helping him deal with his survivor's remorse and PTSD after Iraq helped our family heal so much faster from his injuries from the IED that changed our lives forever.
Chaz was in Iraq from September 05-06. In that time frame, his company (yes you read this correct it was his company, not battalion, or division) lost over thirty men. I stopped counting at thirty, because I couldn't handle it anymore. I also stopped watching the news that year. I learned that the news made me worry so much more about my hubby and his men. I was a big 27 years old during that time frame. I remember my first wrinkles appeared then. They showed up across my forehead. Those guys have never left. They took up permanent residency. They became more pronounced with Afghanistan and then even more once Chaz was injured.
After his tour of Iraq, we noticed that Chaz had lots of pain in his back and legs. He had wrinkles and gray hair. He had also lost a lot of his hearing. When Afghanistan orders came down years later, we were told that Chaz couldn't deploy without a hearing aid. It's funny; he just got a hearing aid a few weeks ago. So much for that you can't leave without your hearing aid thing.
My hubby is only 33 and he seems so much older. I have called him a young old man many times. We will be healing from his injuries for a very long time. For those who don't know, I am happily married to a double above the knee amputee who has also has a fused arm. He has a few other injuries thanks to that IED, but the important part he is still with us. Thanks to these injuries I now have a very long list of health problems that I have aged him prematurely.
My husband is only one. One out of thousands who have been aged by war. I am only referring to the service members. The number grows even larger when you add their family members as well. The families are the ones helping them heal. Our worries are aging us as well. I did not have one gray hair until my hubby was injured, now I can't dye them away fast enough. I had my first round with high blood pressure and have become sick because of the stress of dealing Chaz's Iraq and Afghanistan injuries.
The saddest part about all of this is that we will only know about those who are willing to discuss it. Let me assure you the number of those who have aged prematurely is very, very high. So what can we do?! We can get the dialog started. We owe it to our service members and their families to keep this dialog going.