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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Happy Birthday, 'Merica!

The days are drawing closer. Ten days to be exact, until the biggest day in our beautiful country. Independence Day just happens to be my most favorite holiday of all time.

I come from an extremely patriotic family with a long line of Military service members. One of my Grandfather's retired from the U.S. Army after serving in more than one war, as a Lt. Col. Another Grandfather was a Tech Sgt in the USMC and another served in Korea with the U.S. Army. I have many uncles, and cousins as well who have proudly serve or are currently serving. From a wee child, love and pride for my country has been instilled in me. I have cried through the Star Spangled Banner for as long as my memory takes me.

When my husband enlisted in the U.S. Army, 8 years ago, that pride welled even more. Each time I saw him off to an ugly war in a foreign land and every time our children and I welcomed him home, the pride and love for this great country swelled yet even more as my pride in my husband's selfless service overwhelmed me.

How lucky am I? I can't count the times I thought that. My very own husband was one of the few American's who willingly signed their lives away by writing a blank check to the United States Government for an amount up to their own lives. They live with the mission of protecting American's from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

It wasn't until 2009 that I realized what this War on Terrorism had done (and taken) from my husband. I had heard of post traumatic stress disorder, however, I didn't think or expect MY husband would have it. I was naive to it, too ignorant to understand how serious it was. The Army nor the FRG had prepared me for this. No one told me that it was probable that my husband would come home different. See, the man I knew and loved never made it home from his first deployment, he's still mostly stuck in Afghanistan. Six years later and I'm still not ready to share our whole story with the entire world, yet. But I can say that my husband nearly didn't survive his PTSD...twice. Our marriage BARELY made it through the worst of it. We've had a long and hard battle the last six years. We're finally in a place where we are able to easily recognize his triggers. We know what situations to avoid and what we need to do to prepare for certain events so that we can enjoy them should we decide he is up for it. We work TOGETHER now, rather than against each other. The D word is never uttered anymore, nor is it thought. We have good days, bad days and even ugly days. However, the ugly days are fewer and fewer than ever now. PTSD HAS NO CURE!! It is something that will forever haunt my husband. But with regulated meds (finally, after 5 years) and therapy, he has been able to make leaps and bounds in his progress and coping skills.

My husband is NOT afraid. He'd take the devil himself on in a hot second. He'd be the first in line to volunteer to fight ISIS. He is NOT afraid! But he lives every day of his life with the memories and nightmares of a war that has never left him. That does not make him weak. Quite the contrary, he's the strongest and most brave man I know. To have been through and to have seen all that he has, and to still face every day with optimism, to still be an amazing father, husband, and provider, blows my mind. I admire his strength more than he'll ever know. As his wife, lover, and best friend, I will do everything I can to stand up for him and protect him from those who try to attack and shame him, from those who do not understand. It's not their fault but I will not let ignorance put another nail in a coffin. I will spread awareness and help to educate others on PTSD and the symptoms.


So as the 4th of July draws closer, I'll anticipate my favorite holiday of all time. I will gently remind others to be courteous with their fireworks.
                 -This raises another questions. What does it mean, exactly, to be courteous with fireworks? It basically means, please don't shoot them off in the middle of the night. Please don't shoot them off every day leading up for an entire week or afterwards. Please don't shoot them off in the yard of a combat veteran.

It's not asking others to refrain from enjoying themselves and celebrating the best day of the year. See, with PTSD, fireworks sound like bombs and mortars going off. It can trigger flashbacks that can affect them severely for weeks following. A combat vet suffering with PTSD can make proper arrangements for the 4th of July, whether that be secluding themselves or taking their "as needed" anxiety meds which are a little stronger. There's a small difference between knowing something is coming-and being able to brace yourself for it and being taken by surprise. There's a difference between being in control of your situation and environment and not being in control.

As my husband and I plan to make the 4th of July the most pleasant experience for our family as possible, we want to wish you and your family a very, very happy Independence Day! I hope you take the time to thank your nearby Veteran's and Active Duty Service Members who, if it wasn't for them, have ensured our beautiful country remain the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.

XOXO,
Laura






Thursday, March 26, 2015

Feelings of Nostalgia

My husband enlisted in the Army nearly 8 years ago. Honestly, that doesn't seem like a very long time but in the Military community, it's a lifetime. I've grown a lot over the last (near) decade. I've learned a lot about who I am and who I want to be, the type of people I want to surround myself with, what I want out of life, what expectations I have, the type of mother and wife I want to be and so much more. I've experienced self discovery, heartache, tragedy, loss, overwhelming joy, pride, humbleness, burdens, trust, compassion, empathy, and growth.

To date, my husband has served two combat tours in effort of Operation Enduring Freedom. He's seen things I couldn't begin to imagine and as a result, is forever a different person. My family has been put through the wringers of PTSD and TBI, all of which are stories for another day. But I will say that it has taught me so much and made me a better person and wife. I've learned so much about what is important to me in life.

About a year and a half ago we made our most recent PCS to an Army post in the South. I've dreamed of living in the South since I was a little girl. I have roots down here and I've always felt a calling to the South. When my husband came down on orders for here I was over the moon filled with excitement and wonder like a small child. I've always been a country girl. Little did I know that a country girl from the West is so much different than a country girl from the South.

I respect the South and I do feel my southern roots down here, but there's one thing I've become to accept and love. I am a Northwest girl and I always will be. I belong in the West. I'd rather go to the rodeo than a high school football game any day. I'd rather go up to the mountains and have a midnight bonfire with family, friends and beer than hit up the Broadway strip in Nashville, concert or hockey game.

You see, in the Pacific Northwest we have a history unlike any other. We have so many things to boast about. We're about so much more than hippies, grunge, and rain. We're misunderstood by the rest of the country east of the Mississippi and north of the Great Divide. If you ever have the chance to visit, do it! We have some of the most spectacular and breathtaking mountain peaks in the world. We have hot springs, a rain forest, beaches, wild flower fields, mountains, gorges, pike place market, COFFEE, wine, countless vineyards, cowboys, car shows, boat shows, rodeos, ferry rides, orca watching, beaches, the freshest air, evergreens for miles, the largest apple industry in the world, endless beauty, countless beautiful hiking trails, state fairs, and a rich Native American culture. We offer a blend of all cultures and a diverse history of our own.

My love for my home state has grown intensely over the last decade. There's so much you take for granted when you live somewhere, I know this more than most. It's hard, in the moment, to focus on anything other than the negative. You see, my home town gets a bad rap. Yes, the crime rates have risen (they have EVERYWHERE!). However, when you can look beyond that to the beauty that is my home, you realize that there truly is no other like it. Where else can you get 4 seasons, hot summers, cold winters, 300+ days of sunshine per year, a days drive to a number of amazing state parks, minutes from the mountains, hop festivals and more!

I miss home so much. I miss how much simpler our lives were before the Army pulled us away. I miss family. I miss small town Yakima and having the freshest produce. Life in the Army has put such distance between us and the friends we used to have and family. I've never felt so lonely in my entire life. I often day dream of our future when the Army is a memory I can reflect on. I can't wait until the day that my husband and I can root our family, purchase our forever home and watch my children make life long friendships. Home is comfort. Home is where our family is. Even with all the drama and day to day none sense, family is the only thing you have at the end of the day.

If there's one thing the Army life has taught us, it's to live in the moment and to never take anything for granted. I see so many from my home town gripe about this and that and complain over petty things. But those are things that I yearn to experience again. "There's nothing to do here", yeah...I used to say that too. But trust me, all you have to do is get out! Take a step outside yourself and see everything there is surrounding you and the beauty of it all. The grass is not greener on the other side.

I just hope and pray that by the time we get to say goodbye to this lifestyle and re-enter the civilian world, and move back home, that we will no longer feel lost and forgotten. I pray that my children will still be young enough to remember their childhood growing up with the same family memories I grew up with. I yearn for the big family get together's and BBQ's and trips up to the mountains. I pray that we transition well from the chaotic and stressful life we currently live.

For now, I will continue to day dream...
...there's no place like home...