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    hope that no matter what difficulties arise in family, health, or finances, a family can survive it and get to the other side. 'How' is not just one response, rather it's an evolving idea. Solutions present themselves as you go along the path. As you seek the thing it is you want to achieve, so will an idea come to you. I do not attribute it to a god or a religion, though I may have one or both of those. This is life. Hope. Live with me,... 



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    Entries in combat (19)


    My closed off, crooked, overgrown road to nowhere


    Today this is a metaphor for my marriage. What seems to be a one step forward two steps back since it's inception type of relationship is becoming a clearer overall picture: a dead end. Sometimes I linger on the outcomes of hope in our struggle and how far we've come. Sometimes I want to continue to be strong for our family and inspire others that anything is possible, because I truly believe that. And then there's that point where you have to realize, though things have improved, it still isn't good enough and it still isn't healthy enough to live through forever or build more onto. There has to be a base of pure truthfulness and decent kindness that never wavers, these things are not negotiable. And that there is how it could all be rebuilt... without a commitment to that what is the point. 



    It’s been a week now since my husband threw up out the car window on a drive home from the grocery store where we purchased our shabbat food to prepare. I ordered pizza instead.

    Our shabbat felt diviided and cold because I can’t cook for people I’m mad at, and I was so angry at him. 
    His habit of puking that week lead me to believe there was something going on I didn’t know. And there was. An agreement in our relationship to stay clean from any drug use and alcohol, broken. 

    So I lay here trying to get the motivation to visit shabbat dinner again, one Friday later. Nothing is resolved yet, but it’s not contentious either. We have help through this but I just don’t want to care. I have no idea where this is heading, or how it will turn out. I just know right now feels like yuk. 


    Then It Was All Up To Me

    One moment he is in country, the next moment he is ripped out suddenly, leaving brothers behind is not what they are trained to do. Transitioning from a war zone to a home with three small children in three days was not the best of situations for a combat experienced infantryman. He relinquished his weapon, he boarded that jet. You could say he was lucky, and nobody was prepared to deal with what would come of it all...


    And So He Went...

    Early on Shabbat morning the kids and I took daddy to work. Dressed in his desert combat uniform, hauling his packed up A-Bag, this was the final goodbye. Our children- Amariah, 6 months; Anthony Jr., 3 years; and Alexandria, 5 years old, all thought it was another regular day. I am pretty sure I was just in complete shock. We did not spend much time at the unit where all the soldiers were saying their goodbyes, it was a quick drop off and go. I admit, I drove around aimlessly for another few hours after our farewell. I kept watching where his airplane was, waiting for it to takeoff. I had to know when his actual presence was no longer on the military base. My heart sank when it lifted into the air, I was completely mortified. I took on this motherly type of despair over him having to leave to Iraq. I knew, even in all of my ignorance, that the ways we felt together, the type of father he was, his bubbly personality and outlook on life, would all change. I was not sure how it would necessarily manifest, or that he would return. But the possibility of death was not comparably as strong as the grief I felt over his impending loss of innocence. The anxiety and terror of an unknown change about to commence was deep, heavy, and still with me today as the lingering effects are still sorting themselves out. I was at that moment, and still feel to some degree now, on my own.

    During the months of February through June of 2003, we carried on with Amariah as normal. I made fusses over wonderful activities we could all do together, Alexandria started officially home schooling with a structured curriculum as a Kindergartner, and we got our first family computer *gasp.* We had great friends we did things with often that we all talk about fondly. When serious tornados came through Ft. Campbell, we slept over in their basement, we saw NASCAR, visited Opryland, and journeyed to a baseball game in Nashville. Her kids treated mine like family, they taught them things like they were their older brothers and sisters. We all love them dearly. Bonding over a serious deployment was a powerful thing. In between those moments I was glued to the media about the war. Every network had a reporter attached to a unit somewhere, and I thought somehow someone must be with my husband's. I never found one, and hearing all of the stories broadcasted was not proving to be a very healthy. Today, a lot of veterans speak of email communication and phone calls between spouses, neither of which we had. It was the good ole send a letter in the mail deal for my husband and I. Personally, I think this was better, and I also think less media coverage would have been reasonable. I continued caring for Amariah as I did my other two children during this time... but come April and May I was beginning to ask questions. Why isn't she as mobile as my other two children were? Why hasn't she learned to roll over yet? She sleeps a lot,... is everything ok? And the doctors began looking harder and started ordering developmental assesments. My husband was fighting a war, pushing through Baghdad and Mosul, and I was about to be given news I never, ever, wanted to hear in my lifetime,... 


    *"And So He Went" is a continuation of Her Story, which can be read in it's entirety here.


    Be Encouraged

    Our G+ community wants to bring you positivity, so we created the “Be Encouraged” section. A place to find thoughts and meditations. Perhaps a place to find a new focus. We believe in Post Traumatic Growth...

    Sign in to join here


    Our Daddy Is Invincible! 

    "Our daddy is the bravest man we know. We are so glad that he is here to see us grow" 

     Our Daddy Is Invincible! is a book for children and families explaining life after a traumatic brain injury. Written by the wife of wounded veteran LtCol Tim Maxwell, USMC, author Shannon Maxwell puts together a much needed resource for our families, helping to put into words and pictures what so many of us are trying to say to our kids: Everything is going to be ok, and daddy is still daddy. Read the full digital book here.

    If you know a family dealing with combat injury, consider purchasing a copy as a gift to send to them. Parents with young children, this may be a good read to sit and share with your child. Remember, it's not about recreating what used to be, but finding the new normal. Thank you Shannon for giving all of us a tool to begin a few very important conversations. 


    Mental Health Day

    Doggies can have jobs too, which means sometimes they get tummy bugs cus they ate a cricket off the floor that may have had insecticide on it. Or maybe it's just Shabbat. Either way, I think he's enjoying his time. 


    Lessons for Heroes and Healers

    Lessons for Heroes and Healers is a Google plus community that teaches and supports. Learn tips and share ideas on how to heal from combat experiences.

    Rebuilding is a community wide event, this platform is appropriate for anyone involved in bringing about recovery from combat experience: veterans, spouses, family members, and community helpers alike. This is not a catch all group collecting everything that is out there, rather a carefully curated source to filter some of the noise, and share what is the most effective. 

    We believe in Post-Traumatic Growth.

    Some categories include: 

    Getting Organized: Foundational tools to help you set up and prepare for the journey of advocacy and recovery.

    Read, Watch, Learn: An articles section that will hold a cache of news, scientific research, opinion, and healing method ideas, all which lend toward growth and recovery.

    Gather Your Resources: This section will share organizations, companies, and foundations great to get connected with. We are not meant to do this alone, allow support from others in your life. 

    ...and more. See for yourself today, contribute to the collective voice what has truly helped you. Do join us. 


    Let Me Google That For You 

    A tip for veterans with service dogs:(and people who see them)

    It is not appropriate to ask a person why they have a service dog. Many people approach my husband, who presents very well and looks healthy to others, asking about his. I can tell you, it triggers his PTSD. Very much. If people are curious enough, they can go home and Google it.... The veteran and caregiver are not responsible for educating society one by one.

    We often joke about making business cards with the "Let me Google that for you" link on them to give people a clue, just so he doesn't have to talk. It would have a QR code and link that takes you to something like this.

    If you are a veteran with a service dog, learn to say no to others who intrude. It is healthy to keep your boundaries and privacy. Practice at home before you are faced with a public situation and rehearse how to use body language and assertive communication to let others know you are not interested in having a conversation.
    My husband was taught to put up his hand so a person will stop approaching first, then respond "I prefer not to_____" if a question is asked. 

    We have been surprised how many people do not understand how intrusive it is to inquire, but it is challenging us to attain skills of keeping our boundaries, and that is something I am grateful for.


    Shaky Ground

    I stand somewhere between comfortable abuses and freedom of voice. And I have no idea in this gray space what is right or wrong. 

    These are the moments in-between where guessing and assuming reign. Also where questioning my own actions play a one track repeat in my head over and over and over. It’s insidious. 

    For years, many years even previous to my marriage and family, this has been boiling. I’ve run and protected myself from past immediate family, seeking safety. Emotional and physical. And the reasons I ran seemed minimal, but perhaps they weren’t so much. And this boiled, and my choice in a husband wasn’t their favorite, and this boiled,… and I had children met with family expressions of disappointment,.. and this boiled. And we struggled and did not do things in the proper order as they saw, and this boiled. And my husband fought a war, and came home a mess, and this boiled. And their feelings about him not being the perfect pick were validated as he fell into turmoil with combat PTSD and TBI,.. and this boiled. And they did not believe me, and those that may have believed me didn’t seem to care. And this boiled…until one day he started getting better. Then “we” started getting better, and I learned so many things about us, myself, our kids and families, as we had struggled. Yet this still boiled. I learned I deserved to be treated well, and my husband deserved the same. And what was happening was they were wanting us to meet all their social expectations without accommodating or even beginning to try understanding our disabilities. And if we did not meet those, we were shamed by them. Thought less of, and put further in a corner. 

    I finally decided I was tired of showing up to gatherings treated as the loser. The family member who married “that” guy. The ones who forgot to mail a gift or could’t drive out of town to get together. The ones who forgot to write back or make a call. Ok, fair enough. And I felt as if they thought they were doing us a favor to invite us. We were tolerated, not welcomed. Of course our kids are magical and loved, but I found I was no longer able to step into the same room with these people assuming how they felt, determining this by the energy I received from them. Hell, I am not sure I could ever do that well. The utter silence. The culture of unwelcoming was running rampant. By this time both of my siblings had ceased communication with me, citing their reason as an unreturned email that one time back a long time ago. Really? If that is all it took, there was nothing of a relationship there to hold onto anyway. And really, there wasn’t.

    I finally learned, as friends treated me with more compassion and concern than exteneded family through these difficult years, that I was thinking this through all wrong. I learned I was trying so hard to impress and show up for the wrong people. I’ve spent years silent, coping with the horrors of my husband and daughter’s disability alone, without family concern. My husband and I go through this weird PTSD thing when we have to go over to a party or holiday, and it causes us heartache and turmoil. Especially him, though I think he handles it so well, could you imagine? Always showing up somewhere people make it kinda' obvious they hate you? And willingly repeat it? I don’t want him to have to do that any longer. And I don’t want to feel the horrible way I feel after a get together, always re-realizing how much I don’t matter to them as a person. As a sister or daughter. It is all so fake. Follow the protocol of showing up, and shut up is what's expected...”We get to treat you however we want, you are lucky we let you be here. We only think your kids are ok, you suck. You’re here cus’ we want your kids here. You are lucky you are in this family.”

    Guess what, no I am not.

    I finally said NO this weekend. I won’t go to the next kid's birthday party, because I don’t want to feel the tension that builds up before I go, and the depression afterward. I don’t want to be reminded how much everyone disapproves of my spouse, and dishonors his experiences in the war and in health. I want to save my energy to be happy for my own kids and spouse. And I feel bad for my kids not going, and I’m turning this around in my head. But enough is enough. I have to stand up and say it is not ok anymore. I want to be with those who care, those who possess understanding and compassion for us. Those who are on our side, not against us. Those who have love. 

    images by Brave Girls Club


    Be Understanding of Your PTSD Family Members and Friends

    "I think Christmas is one of the most difficult times of the year for a PTSD family. The one with PTSD is forced to put him or herself into certain trigger situations, simply because it is socially expected of them. Even though most extended family will not try to accommodate their disability. The spouse is then forced to act as a bumper to anything that will trigger them and usually fail because the extended family makes it impossible for success. All the spouse wants is a happy holiday and has waited years for it. Said "failure" to control the environment causes lot of stress on the couple. Please know I'm thinking of each and everyone of you. Both sides of the partnerships. We all deserve a measure of peace." -Shannah 



    Husband's newest VA paperwork states, along with a rate increase, 
    "Determined to have been exposed to ionizing radiation while in the military" 
    This really is not getting any funner.





    What healing and self care look like for a combat soldier,...

    Learning and finding ways to recover from PTSD and TBI can be a journey to say the least. It just takes time. There is a long list of different methods my husband has employed to find peace and healing, all of which I believe intertwine and collaborate together to create a total outcome. And everyone's list may look different. I will talk about our experience because that's what I know, and it has worked for us. More details on the ingredients to our family healing later...

    Recently a story was put together about Marco's progress with these photos I wanted to share, it gives a great visual to some of the therapies he uses continually. I also love that this place in our journey is archived. It really gives me the photo journalist's perspective, which I appreciate immensely. Sometimes being inside the "foxhole" keeps your vision and perspective narrowed to just surviving. 

    Here is Marco and Echo posing for a photojournalism story by Que Arrington, on soldiers using alternative healing methods. Thank you Que, you did excellent work! 

    Marco at the Samaritan Center where he receives alternative and traditional treatment for PTSD/TBI


    Marco and best friend greeting acupuncture therapist.


    Marco receiving acupuncture.


    Marco relaxing on acupuncture table with very tranquil and soothing music.


    Acupuncture needles being inserted in Marco for therapy and relief of PTSD symptoms


    Marco in session with is counselor at The Samaritan Center, a non-profit non-VA treatment center that helps soldiers returning from combat.



    Marco checking to make sure all is in good working order with an air conditioner, a new job skill he recently learned to help his work atmosphere accomodate ptsd




    Paleo Power! 

    What's food got to do with it? Everything. 

    Speaking from our experience here at home, Paleo eating has helped my husband's PTSD, attention span, depression, anxiety levels, and motivation. It has helped my special needs daughter come ALIVE! She has better behaviour control, improved concentration, she is learning faster than she use to and developing at a better pace, and hopefully more to come. We are experiementing with her food and supplements to help with her epilepsy, specifically avoiding sugars (as Paleo suggests.) Our oldest daughter has lost her asthma symptoms and been relieved of seasonal allergies significantly, as well as improved her immune system ten fold! Everyone's body composition in the house changed for the better, leaning out greatly. I highly recommend looking into it. We are only 6-8 months in and all of this has occurred, I believe we are healing more each day. 


    Thank You! 

    A huge thanks to Operation Resiliant Families for our recent opportunity to learn, grow, connect, relax, and take with us many helpful ideas to survive and begin to thrive after experiencing a combat tour and injury.

    Who can participate?

    Operation Resilient Families is designed for all OEF/OIF veterans and their adult family members or close friends. Mature adolescents may also participate. While veterans and their family members are encouraged to jointly participate in ORF, this program equally welcomes veterans or family members who attend alone. It is FREE of charge. 



    A Combat Veterans Story: Regret 


    Her Story

    The Distraction of Army Service

    As we enjoyed our third daughter growing at home, news surrounded the post 9-11 scene in America. Rumors of wars and threats emanating from Iraq were increasing. It was then our family took a holiday trip back to Texas, in January of 2003. We visited Austin where my parents had recently moved. We visited the Alamo in San Antonio and enjoyed the company of relatives that were normally so far away. Having been on our own in Tennessee was marvelous, seeing close family intermittently was more appropriate and workable for us. We were growing together as a new little family so much more, and it felt healthy. This little jaunt back to Texas had come about suddenly, it was good timing according to my husband's unit command. How naive I was not to realize why. During our long drive back home he got a call on our cell phone. It was "the" call. Friends from his unit on the other end confirmed, as soon as my husband returned, they were to prepare for deployment. I don't know why as an infantryman's wife I was stunned into disbelief. I looked at him as we drove, full of fear and sadness. It was our first deployment as a couple, well at all. It was HIS first combat deployment. This was not the back forty or a training exercise, this was it, the Middle East. I had a couple more weeks left with him, and they were not as he or I would have imagined they would be. No. Pre-deployment is a horrible thing. Couples go through a cycle that is not gratifying at all...what I imagined would be some surreal time of staring longingly into each other's eyes and cherishing every moment (laugh out loud) was not so...

    "Stage 1. Pre-deployment

    The onset of this stage begins with the warning order for deployment. This stage ends when the Soldier actually departs from home station.

    This stage is characterized alternately by denial and anticipation of loss. As the departure date gets closer, spouses often ask: "You don't really have to go, do you?" Eventually, the increased field training, preparation, and long hours away from home herald the extended separation that is to come. Soldiers energetically talk more and more about the upcoming mission and their unit. This "bonding" to fellow Soldiers is essential to unit cohesion that is necessary for a safe and successful deployment. Yet, it also creates an increasing sense of emotional and physical distance for military spouses. In their frustration, many spouses complain: "I wish you were gone already." It is as if their loved ones are already "psychologically deployed." 

    As the reality of the deployment finally sinks in, the Soldier and Family try to get their affairs in order. Long "honey-do" lists are generated dealing with all manner of issues. At the same time, many couples strive for increased intimacy. Plans are made for the "best" Christmas, the "perfect" vacation, or the "most" romantic anniversary. In contrast, there may be some ambivalence about sexual relations: "this is it for a year, but I do not want to be that close." Fears about fidelity or marital integrity are raised or may go unspoken. Other frequently voiced concerns may include: "How will the children handle the separation? Can I cope without him/her? Will my marriage survive?" In this very busy and tumultuous time, resolving all these issues, completing the multitude of tasks or fulfilling high expectations often falls short. 

    A common occurrence, just prior to deployment, is for Soldiers and their spouses to have a significant argument. For younger couples, especially those experiencing an extended separation for the first time, such an argument can take on "catastrophic" proportions. Fears that the relationship is over can lead to tremendous anxiety for both Soldier and spouse. In retrospect, these arguments are most likely caused by the stress of the pending separation. From a psychological perspective, it is easier to be angry than confront the pain and loss of saying goodbye.

    However, the impact of unresolved Family concerns can have potentially devastating consequences. From a command perspective, a worried, preoccupied Soldier is easily distracted and unable to focus on essential tasks during the critical movement of heavy military equipment. In the worst-case scenario, this can lead to a serious accident or the development of a Soldier stress casualty who is mission ineffective. On the home front, significant spousal distress interferes with completing basic routines, concentrating at work, and attending to the needs of children. At worst, this can exacerbate children's fears that the parents are unable to adequately care for them or even that the Soldier will not return. Adverse reactions by children can include inconsolable crying, apathy, tantrums, and other regressive behaviors. In response, a downward spiral can develop in which both Soldier and spouse become even more upset at the prospect of separating."

    My husband was home and I wanted it to stay that way. I realize we were in the wrong profession for that to be a realistic expectation, but I was an idealist. I had hoped after he joined it would be the years our country wasn't going to get into any war. Rewind to the year he enlisted, February 2001. Three months after his jump training ended and our arrival to the first duty station, September 11 occurred. The beginning of my little idealistic bubble, bursting. Back to January 2003, three kids and a close call on a scary delivery, I was preparing to say goodbye indefinitely to the man who endured with me and the love of my life. 


    *This entry is a continuation from the complete story of our daughter's life. See the entire 'Her Story' here


    Pre-Deployment information from: 'The Emotional Cycle of Deployment: A Military Family Perspective' By:  LTC Simon H. Pincus, USA, MC, COL Robert House, USAR, MC, LTC Joseph Christenson, USA, MC, and CAPT Lawrence E. Adler, MC, USNR-R


    Sporadic Compassion

    It was being discussed recently, " What are the parenting differences you and the husband have that cause struggles?" One of my answers would be his lack empathy and compassion at times. Perhaps it's a military training thing, a combat thing, a PTSD thing,... I don't know. But it is a definite thing. I don't understand why when a child of ours gets hurt he'd say "go cry to your mom" at one moment and another instance he would give comfort and kisses. When we met, the man taught ME that kind of love and concern. As we search for equilibrium and parenting harmony in our family,.. here's one theory to ponder: 

    Escaping the Pull of Psychology’s Dark Triad

    Mark Brady

    "Somewhere along the way I managed to get the empathy and compassion circuits in my brain activated and hardwired into the network. I distinctly recall the moment those circuits went online...Compassion and empathy apparently super-charged my dopamine receptors and have guided my life’s direction ever since. Caring for others – and deliberately including myself in that circle of caring – has grown to feel increasingly good in my body and brain. For the most part...." more