My husband is six years removed from catastrophic and life changing combat injuries. He’s been out of the hospital for over three years, but life hasn’t stabilized. Much of my day feels as though I am deployed to my own war on the home front.
My husband’s battlefield was Afghanistan. The weapon that took him out of the war was an IED. My battlefield is the Department of Veterans Affairs; their weapon of choice is bureaucracy. I spend my days navigating a system that is filled with landmines of its own. The men my husband served with as an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne are his brothers. They are his lifeline, his reason to go on, and the people he loves most in this world. My sisters are my fellow caregivers. We bond as our husbands did, over shared misery and triumph, life and death, survival and departure. We laugh and cry when the VA asks us to prove that our husbands are still missing limbs. We celebrate when a nursing order comes through on time. And we console each other when critical medical care is delayed (again) for the brave heroes we are married to.
The military trains soldiers to believe that no job is too difficult, no enemy unobtainable, and to never leave a man behind. My husband and his friends have been left behind. Both my fellow military caregivers and I have been left behind.
In 2013 my husband retired from Active Duty. He endured over 100 surgeries and fought hard to return to duty as an infantryman. His report read that he could “no longer effectively evade live fire." And yet, here we are, still dodging live fire from the painful bureaucracy that grips every level of the VA. These battles are unacceptable, and we should not have to wade through them. But we do it to survive and make it through the day.
The PTSD that rips my husband awake at night consumes me too.We have watched friends that have survived the horrors of Afghanistan only to come home and die by their own hands. I will never forget the image of my husband standing and saluting a flag-draped coffin that contained a Purple Heart recipient. This hero was not only someone’s husband but was also the father of two little girls’ that cherished their Daddy. Like too many others, this hero was the victim of a failed promise by the VA to help him bear the burden of battle. This decorated soldier was a friend, father, and a husband that did not deserve to join the ranks of those that have suffered in this ongoing war on the home front.
Every day I grieve for the marriages that are unable to weather the daily battles of this ongoing war with the VA. Too many children spend their formative years in VA waiting rooms while families spend countless hours hoping and praying for hard-earned disability money to come in. My husband’s war will never be over. War has come home with us and has moved in. It is not welcome here, but until it is over, we will keep fighting to ensure that every American that has worn this nation's uniform receives the square deal they were promised.