Sunday, April 22, 2012

The call

I got the call at 6:02 am on August 1, 2007. The phone rang and I could barely see the number because my eyes were so heavy from the little amount of sleep I had in the last few days.  It had been 3 days since I last heard from Mike. On July 17th Mike had told me that they had switched his MOS from a light wheel vehicle mechanic to EOD. We were on yahoo chat and he told me that he would not be talking to me as much anymore because he will be on missions a lot. I had not idea what EOD was but he told me to google it. When we got off the the chat, I did. Here is what I read: (I saved it)

"The army is paying bonuses of up to $20,000 for new recruits..." That is exactly what stuck in my mind. I had been around the military long enough to know that if they are willing to pay this amount of money, what you are getting yourself into is bad news. EOD...Explosive Ordinance Disposal....I went to youtube and looked at videos. Bad idea. I was terrified for my husband. I was already scared to simply know that he was going to be on base fixing vehicles in Iraq now he is going to look for bombs. Mike was proud because he was chosen due to his high scores at the range. He was now the lead gunner of truck #1 in the EOD convoy. He was the first line of defense. That meant he would be the first to endure the violence. He was proud, I was terrified. 

I worried about Mike every waking minute. I was exhausted from having a newborn and even though I should have been sleeping when he was sleeping, I cried. I cried myself to sleep every night after Mike told me his job changed. Pictures from the videos that I had watched played over in my mind as I lay down next to my son thinking about the fact that he has never seen his dad. I prayed every time I got the chance. I prayed that god would bring Mike home safe. I asked god to bring him home now, I did not care if he was kicked out of the Army, I wanted him home. 

The last time I talked to Mike before I got the call was 3 days before he was hurt. We were on yahoo chat again and I had the webcam on and showed him our son sleeping. I saw the look in my husband's eyes as he was watching his son through the computer screen and it broke my heart. I told Mike that I wanted to move from Florida back to Kentucky to be closer to my grandmother and brother. It caused a huge fight. We ended the conversation on a horrible note. He thought I was seeing someone else and that is why I wanted to move. He told me if I left Florida not to contact him again. He had totally changed since he left for Iraq. He became really angry and possessive. When I would tell him about things going on back home he would get angry and tell me that they were not real problems compared to over there. We were at each others throat when we last spoke. 

The phone rang and I tried to look at the caller id but I could not read the number because my eyes wouldn't  open all the way. When I answered I heard someone speaking but it sounded muffled and like they were speaking another language. I kept saying hello but I could not understand them so I hung up. The phone rang again and woke up my son. He was crying when I answered the second time and I heard my name. My husband said my name, he sounded so weird like something was wrong with his mouth. He asked me if someone had called me yet. I was clueless, I asked why would someone be calling me. He said, "I have be hit. I am injured. I love you. I have to go." What? I began to bawl. I was crying uncontrollably. Hurt? Like how? What was wrong with his voice? Was he going to be okay? How hurt? Where was he? WHEN CAN I SEE HIM? I wanted him home right then!!! 

That day was filled with useless phone calls. I called the FRG and they told me they were not aware that he was hurt. They told me that he was not hurt. What idiots, clearly he was hurt, he called me himself. No body knew where my husband was or what happened. I did not know what to do. I was going to Iraq to find him myself. Seriously I was that out of my mind that I went to CVS and got my picture taken for my passport. I went to the post office and tried to apply for a passport and they told me it would be 6-10 weeks. I had a breakdown right there on the floor of the post office. The lady called my dad and he came to pick me and my son up. I was a mess. He took me home and we sat by the phone all day waiting for a call since no one was providing us with any information. No body was calling so I began to call everyone on base that would answer the phone. Finally a guy told me that yes he was injured but he would be "fixed" and sent back to Iraq and that I would not be seeing him. That infuriated me. I was going to see him! I got a hold of the rear detachment commander and he told me he would call me back with information. 10 hours after the call, they told me he was in transport to Germany and would be arriving at Walter Reed in DC within a few days. I was DC bound so I could introduce my boys. :)

Oh happy days!

I have come here to share the struggles that my family has been through since our lives were changed due to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Times have been tough and many times it has been really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For the longest time I did not plan too far into the future because I was so scared that our lives would change so drastically again that planning was just a waste of time. Over the past few months I started to realize that even though I def need to have my days to be mad and upset, I need to embrace life. 

     Step one involved seeing a counselor. I avoided this for so long because I really thought I had it together yet I began to see the changes in myself that I did not like. I was more irritable than I had ever been. I was yelling at my kids for the smallest things. I was just unhappy and I could not pinpoint the reason why. I have a great husband and two amazing little boys, why was I having so much trouble being happy? I would met people who were smiling all the time and were just plain joyful as mean as it sounds I would be angry with them. Why are they so damn happy? I see now that they are happy because they are alive. I let the changes in my life bring me down and hold me down for a long time but I am finally turning things around. I have made plans to do things I have said I was going to do for years. I planned a trip to visit my family after three years of not visiting. The best thing is that in June I will finally be graduating from college! 

      I am very excited and proud to have made it this far. Graduating college is an accomplishment in itself. It is an accomplishment that I was not sure if I was ever going to achieve. Granted it took me four years on and off  to get a two year degree, I did it with my husband stuck in bed on medications needing me nearly 24 hours a day, managing his appointments and medications, raising two boys under 5, moving four different times, and staying up until nearly 3 am every night to complete the assignments. I am proud of myself because I was not sure that I was even going to get out of bed on some days.

    I will be returning to school in the fall to get my Bachelors. I am beginning to volunteer with an organization that helps wounded warrior families which makes me very happy. We will be moving once again here in a few weeks to a much better location for our family. Life is going good. I look forward to our future with optimism that I did not have before. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

How did we get here?

     It always makes me smile when I think back to the beginning of our relationship. I met Mike by chance one summer day when I was in my junior year of high school. I was hanging out with a friend and I was supposed to meet her new boyfriend. He brought Mike along with him that day. It was not love at first sight :) I think we were both preoccupied by our everyday lives and forgot about each other after talking on the phone a few times..or at least I thought we forgot about each other. Mike began to pursue me a few months after we met and would show up at random times which I thought was cute. He wanted to catch my attention and he did. 

     We began dating in December of 2004 right before I left for Youth Challenge. Yes, I was a bit of a rebel in school and had other problems at home that lead me to leaving school early. However, I did complete Youth Challenge in August of 2005 at the top of my class being student of the cycle! :) We moved to Florida together the week after I graduated. Our first apartment seemed like the best thing in the world to us, it meant independence. We both worked full time jobs, I worked in the mornings and he went in to work right when I came home. It was hard on our relationship and then he lost his job. I thought he would just look for another job, yet he called me at work on April 12, 2006 to tell me that he joined the Army!!! 

     I was less than pleased. I grew up a military brat and I knew what it entailed. My dad was deployed nearly every year. My mom was raising us as if she was a single parent because my dad was overseas, out to the field or elsewhere. I moved schools every 3 to 4 years and had to make new friends. Although I met many great people with every journey to a new base, I never had any real stability. I did not want this. I had to decide if I was going to stick it out and be a military wife or decide this is where the road ended for us. 

     We were married in September of 2006 while he was still in training. There was so much going on and it was happening so fast. In late October of 2006 we found out that I was expecting our first child! That great news was shattered a week later when we were met with the horrible news that he would be deploying to Iraq in May of 2007, the month our baby was due! 

     We were at a loss with our emotions. I was just 19 and he was 22 when he left. I had our son nearly 3 weeks after he deployed. I was a new wife, a new mother and I was left alone to learn the ropes on my own. Just when I thought I had the handle on things, I had learned how to burp, bathe and feed my son. I felt that I was doing well and he was growing fast. Time was going by faster than I expected, Mike would be home before we knew it. 10 weeks from the day I gave birth, I got the call that Mike had been injured in an i.e.d. blast. Yep, he would be home alright. 

    That was actually the beginning. 

UBP 2012!!

Welcome to my blog! My name is Jennie and I am a 24 year old mother of two boys, 2 and 5. My husband was in the Army yet was medically retired due to injuries he received while in Iraq in 2007. My blog which I just started is basically following my life and showing how we are trying to rebuild our family with our "new" normal. We all live with the injuries my husband received as a result of an i.e.d. blast while trying to maintain a somewhat normal life. I started the blog with hopes that I could get my feelings out there and hopefully help other women and families. Feel free to comment or make suggestions. :) 

Acceptance or Denial?

About a week ago Mike and I went to the furniture store to look for new living room furniture since we've had ours since before we were married and it had pieces coming off everyday. This trip was no spur of the moment thing, it was planned as with everything in our lives that involves going outside our front door. We were up early and out the door with the kids ready and had a set schedule. We were going to look at furniture and try to go to lunch at my favorite place depending on how many people were there and how Mike was able to tolerate it. 

     At the furniture store we were rushed upon right when we entered the door. I can imagine we looked a mess, Mike on his crutches and me pushing the double stroller while trying to stop the kids from hitting each other. Still the guy felt it was necessary to follow us around the store and ask a million questions. I tried to get him to back off but he was persistent and I just began to ignore him. We had been in the store for about 20 minutes and Mike was signaling to me that it was time to go. I was disappointed because I wanted to actually purchase the couches that day but whatever. We left the store after the guy nearly walked us to the car. Then Mike began to drive past the restaurant and although I was tempted to say something, I didn't. I was not sure if he forgot that we were planning on going (tbi) or if he was mad or if he was in pain. To be honest, I did not care. As selfish as it may be that day I was mad at him. As we drove down 9A I was so angry with him I started crying. Why couldn't he walk? Why every time we plan to go out for a family day does it have to end this way? Maybe I should have gone alone with the kids as I do every other errand....I cried all the way home and we did not talk for the rest of the day...

     When I went to the Hilton Head retreat with Operation Homefront Wounded Warrior Wives I was not sure what I expected yet I still went. The thing that stuck with me was hearing everyone talking about acceptance. I felt so lost. What is acceptance? Am I supposed to accept his injury? Accept that I lost parts of my husband to the war? Accept what? I honestly felt like I had accepted everything. Here we are nearly five years later and we are still living, that is acceptance right? 

    ...That night after our failed day out as I laid in bed, I began to think of how hateful I am. What kind of woman is mad at her husband because he cannot walk and is in physical pain? What kind of person gets mad at someone for something that they cannot control? Clearly I do not have this acceptance thing down pat like I thought I did. I love my husband. I suppose I need to learn what acceptance means in our specific case. 


Thursday, April 5, 2012

God opened a door...

I know I just began blogging today, but the release from talking (errr typing) about it actually made me feel better. I find myself back here to help sort out more feelings. The kids are in bed finally and my husband is asleep as well. As I mentioned the last few days and weeks have been stressful to say the least. Tonight as I find myself in the living room alone doing homework I cannot stop my mind from running enough to concentrate on my assignments. It amazes me that I can come here and type for an hour and when I sign on for school I just stare at the screen. 

    The reason that I am brought back is because I feel the need to share that I feel like I am being heard for once. This morning started strange...very strange. I heard my oldest son around in the living room and kitchen and just as I was about to hop outta bed I heard my husband in the kitchen talking to him. This is rare. I get up with the kids in the morning, every morning. Mike does not sleep well at night and usually does not fall asleep until around 6 or so. When I heard him in the kitchen @ 8:30 I was a bit alarmed. I thought I had somehow overslept or I was dreaming. I sat up in bed and listened to my husband talk to my son about school and his brother's upcoming birthday. I decide to get out of bed and see what is happening in the world that this is taking place. I walk into the kitchen to make coffee and my son tells me that I look sick and I should go back to bed LOL Great, Good morning to you too! 

     I did not say anything to Mike about getting up with the kids but I was puzzled. After I was finally awake enough to think clearly I began doing all the things I had planned for the day. Mike went to bed (10 am) I was on the phone with the TSGLI ppl. I called the VA to set up a dental appointment for Mike. I set up an appointment at the dentist for the kids. I called my school about my pell grants that they somehow did not award me this semester. I emailed his AW2 advocate to thank her for the information on ptsd and tbi and the great business card holder she sent :) 

     Finally I called the woman who is supposed to be helping me with the caregiver program and she answered the phone which is a miracle in itself. However now I kind of wish she hadn't. I told her that Mike has an appointment this coming Monday and that she can send whatever information she needs filled out over to his doctor at the clinic. She informs me that my application will have to be denied because it has been more than 90 days since I applied and I need to start over. Really??? Really lady? Clearly she does not know that I have spent the last 4 days with very little sleep, my 2 year old putting stains on our new couches the day after we bring them home, my front bumper being cracked on the bridge from a flying piece of wood and I am running on low patience. She did not know. I tried to remain calm as my insides told me to scream and cuss at the phone. I didn't, I hung up. Then I cried.

     I went in the bathroom and sat on the counter and just cried. After I cried for a while I stopped and asked god to give me a break. I need a break. I need help. There is so much going on in my life right now that I just need a break. I asked god to give me some hope. I thanked him for everything I have in my family and although I did not want to seem ungrateful for all that I do have, I had to ask him to place something or someone in my life that can help me....and little did I know, he was listening. 

     I got myself together and came out of the bathroom and made lunch for the kids. We ate lunch and then I had them clean up the living room they had somehow destroyed while I took my bathroom break to cry. My brother showed up with my niece and I almost did not answer the door. I am having a mental break down and now I will add a sassy 6 year old to the mix. (I love my niece btw) The kids played for a while longer and kept coming back to me to ask for candy, to ask to color, candy now? , ice cream? time for dinner?  I gave in and began to cook dinner because their questions were never going to stop. While cooking dinner they came in the kitchen with every question in the book and drove me nuts. I walked to my bedroom and opened the door. I looked at my husband and I was ready to scream. I was ready to tell him that I need another parent here to help me with the kids WE created. I was ready to go crazy and for some reason I just turned around, took a breath and walked away. After dinner was baths and then bed for the kids. 

     I sat down and called my mom. I wanted to tell her of my problems and how I needed help because I am so overwhelmed yet after a minute or so of talking to her, I hear my husband call my name. I hang up with my mom and go into our room. I stood in the door way and asked him what he wanted and he held his arms out to me. I was ready to fight, I was mad and ready to scream and then...he held his arms out to me. I laid on the bed next to him and he asked me what was wrong. I just shook my head and tried not to cry. I could not even talk. He asked again and I was still quiet. I knew that I could not talk without crying. After another minute or so I told him that I am completely overwhelmed. I told him about the lady at the caregiver program denying my application and telling me to reapply. I told him that after all I do for him and our kids, for me to get denied for this just broke me. I told him that I have lost my motivation and I am ready to leave. I told him that I wanted to walk out the front door and get in the truck and leave but I was not sure that the kids would be okay and that is why I stayed. I just broke down. After nearly five years of being strong (for the most part) all of the things that I deal with on a daily basis have completely overwhelmed me. I am not happy. I am mean to the kids and find myself yelling at them for the smallest things. When I see my husband in the bed sleeping or just laying there while I am doing laundry, picking up the house, chasing after the kids, carrying the groceries inside, cooking meals and every other thing I do in life without him...I want to scream. 

     Then....for the first time ever, he told me thank you. He told me that everything is going to be alright. He said that our future is bright and we have great things coming to us. He told me that he realizes that his friend died in Iraq so he did not have to and although he was injured he is realizing that he needs to live his life. He told me that I am an amazing mom and he knows that I need a break because I do so much. Probably the best thing he told me was that he does not think that I am crazy, he knows that I am overwhelmed and stressed and he understands. He said he wants to help. HELP? 
    No one can convince me that god did not listen to my prayer in the bathroom earlier today. My husband has not said anything comparable to what he said to me tonight since his injury. He told me that he was going to take his sleeping meds so he will go right back to sleep so he can be up tomorrow because he wants to spend time with the family. I have to give him credit, he took the first step. I am not going to concentrate on all the things that are going wrong right now, I am going to bed to look forward to tomorrow. I cannot wait to spend the day with all three of my boys. :) 

The pain of war...

    These last few weeks have been more stressful for me than the last 5 years have been. Everything is beginning to hit me and it is coming down hard! Daily life can be a struggle and it seems like no one understands. Ever since the day I arrived at Walter Reed I have been taking care of Mike 24/7. After I got over the initial shock of his injury, I thought we would resume our "normal" life. Boy was I wrong!! Nothing about our life is normal anymore. Sometimes I hate that I too lost my innocent view of the world. Mike has changed dramatically since his injury and not just physically. He has a gun within reach every place he is or will be. He is super sensitive to any loud noises or sudden movements. Our house is now a fort and he will protect it at all cost. I can say I am more scared FOR the person who does try to come inside our "perimeter" than I am scare OF them. 
    The biggest problem I am facing lately is that our boys are growing up so fast and they are realizing that our "daddy" is not like other dads and that our family is not normal. As we sat down for dinner last night, my oldest son asks me if daddy was coming to eat his favorite dinner and although I already knew the answer in my heart I told him to go into the bedroom and ask him. The look on my son's face when he came back into the kitchen hurt my heart as he says, "daddy isn't coming". Of course I change the subject and tell him that we should make cookies after dinner to cheer him up. Mike will not eat in the kitchen because in his mind it is not secure. There is a large window right next to the table and he will not put himself in a position where he does not have the upper hand. The same goes for the living room. There have been times where I have brought the entire family into the bedroom and ate on the bed so we could be a family, but I cannot put my kids in that type of routine often. I feel like the road we are traveling is splitting and Mike is stuck on the side of the road as we travel by him. Oh how I wish I could refuel him and have him join us again. I miss my family. I miss my husband. My kids miss their dad...and I thought it was getting better