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Marriage in the Military: Helping Returning Combat Veterans
Marriage in the Military: Helping Returning Combat Veterans

 

About the Author

Gene Thomas Gomulka is a retired Navy Chaplain with over 30 years of pastoral and military experience. Having received the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award from the Secretary of the Navy "for literary achievement and inspirational leadership," his goal is to promote better military marriages. To learn more about his recent works, The Survival Guide for Marriage in the Military, and his Marriage and Military Life inventory for dating and married couples, visit the Survival Guide for Marriage in the Military Website.

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By Captain Gene Thomas Gomulka

[Have an opinion about this article? Visit the deployment discussion forum.]

Dear Gene-Thomas, My husband was wounded in combat and will soon be returning home to me and our daughter. I want to help him heal not only physically, but also emotionally. Is there anything I need to know to help aid his healing?

Jennifer

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Dear Jennifer,

The challenge of helping your husband will depend in part on the extent of his injuries. Obviously, people who have lost limbs or witnessed close friends die will need more help than those whose wounds are superficial or had limited exposure to intense combat. Many counselors, chaplains and medical personnel today are trained in post combat recovery and reintegration to help them assist returning combat veterans and spouses like yourself in dealing with a variety of psychological and physical difficulties.

In light of the fact that some combat veterans suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that requires professional treatment, it's helpful to be able to identify the following three types of symptoms: 1) "Intrusive" that includes flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive emotions and memories; 2) "Avoidant" that can involve avoiding relationships, emotions, responsibility for others and situations that are reminiscent of traumatic events; and 3) "Hyperarousal" often exhibited in explosive outbursts, irritability, extreme vigilance, panic symptoms and sleep disturbance.

Complications stemming from PTSD can include alcohol and drug abuse or dependence; depression and increased risk for suicide; divorce and separation; guilt; low self-esteem; chronic anxiety; phobias; and unemployment. In so far as some veterans suffer from PTSD and other problems as a result of their combat experiences, it's important to be alert for some of the above symptoms and complications that, in some cases, may not surface until six months following their return.

Catastrophically disabled veterans can receive care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) whose primary mission is to provide them with medical and rehabilitative care. Organizations like the Disabled American Veterans are also available and engaged in helping wounded personnel transition into veteran status and, in many cases, from one health care system to the other.



While some family support counselors and chaplains have complained that insufficient funds have been provided for them to purchase materials that can help reduce divorce, abuse and even suicides experienced by families of returning war veterans, Congress has at least allocated funding to cover the costs of treating returning wounded veterans, many who need prosthetics and very lengthy specialized care for their injuries.

Support groups are available at some commands to help combat veterans and their families deal with post combat recovery and reintegration issues. I recommend that you contact your command chaplain or military family support agency for information about what specific services are available in your area.

While you are not expected to provide the professional care that is offered by psychiatrists and physical therapists, you can be the loving, affectionate and supportive wife that your husband needs regardless of the extent of his physical and emotional injuries. Also, let your daughter know that daddy needs her love and affection as he becomes reintegrated into the rhythm of family life.

In appreciation for your participation in my weekly column, I will send you a copy of The Survival Guide for Marriage in the Military that can make an excellent Father's Day Gift for your husband. Designed to enhance your love for one another, it has helped countless military couples, including many returning combat veterans.

[Have an opinion about this article? Visit the deployment discussion forum.]

Have a question? Write Gene Gomulka at letters@plaintec.net


2005 Gene Thomas Gomulka. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.


 



 



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