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