[Sarah liveblogging here] This post keeps growing, so check back and make sure you get all the info!
Andi introduces panel. This will be a difficult panel. We are all aware about combat stress, wounded soldiers. Perhaps you can remember this panel if you ever find yourself in this situation.
Andi's dog didn't recognize her husband when he came home. And the look on her husband's face broke her heart. Life changes when they get home, in ways we can't predict.
Joan D'Arc uses this handle because her husband is Armor. Her husband was wounded in Iraq. We all have a story, things that have brought us to where we are, things that have brought us here. Had her husband not been wounded, she wouldn't be sitting here. She started blogging on her husband's blog when he was wounded to let his readers know what was going on, and it opened a whole world to her and gave her a new blog family. People often say that their life is not as hard as her life with a wounded soldier. But she thinks that you can't compare your life to hers and say that she trumps everything. She's been to Walter Reed and met phenomenal people and families, and she knows people who have been wounded worse than her husband. You can't compare it. We all go through things, even just "funks". You deal with your own life. So while she will talk about her husband's story, everyone here at SpouseBUZZ has his/her own story to tell. We are not alone.
A guest in audience: Her husband was injured by an IED but stayed in Iraq. She's pregnant and he's deployed again now, and her family's home was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. And after her as injured, they were able to have a talk about what would happen if something more serious happened to him on this deployment, but they just take it one day at a time.
GBear: It's not well known in the general public what we go through. She's an Air Force wife and military brat, but she didn't really have a clue. Her son was diagnosed with a rare cancer at age three and is the only survivor of this type of cancer. All of our stories are so valuable to share because we give others hope and education and courage to go on. Her son has to have leg surgeries often, so she had to learn to sew him special clothing for her son while he had his leg brace on. At Walter Reed, her son met the wounded servicemembers and said that his mom needed to sew for them. GBear can't sew very well! But after she saw the look on the first recipient's face, she was hooked. They've made 15,000 items since then. She gets to see how much America loves and supports the military community because everything in Sew Much Comfort is on a volunteer and donation basis.
Martin Bonner, Family Advocacy: Was a tanker for 12 years and was in Desert Shield/Desert Storm. His wife stayed in Germany, and they didn't have email or phones. They were fortunate that no one in the unit was injured. But working here for the past 8 years at Hood, they've developed reintegration services and casualty assistance. He's not an expert in any field, but he can give information in classes they provide at Family Advocacy for anyone who needs it. Fort Hood is really set up to help families. There is one phone number you can call so they can direct you to the right office to help you with your needs, so you don't have to trek back and forth across post! And it's so important for you to register your children with Child and Youth Services (CYS).
On with the panel...
Milblogging.com is a place to check out blogs if you're not familiar with the blog world! And let's talk about reintegration...
ArmyWifeToddlerMom: They waited until the perfect moment to have a baby, and she was pregnant when 9/11 happened. And her mother was in the hospital with cancer. She knew this would be a financial strain on her family, so she stayed and helped her mom since she's a nurse. Her husband came home, she had the baby, and her mother died. She had gained 70 lbs over the pregnancy. She had image issues and had just lost her mom while she was a new mom herself. She was getting over this stuff and got pregnant again...and another deployment popped up! She was stressed as a new mother with screaming babies, and she was a mess because her husband was gone. He came home from deployment surrounded by put-together wives who had gotten their hair done and made signs. And she felt like a mess and had anxiety attacks that she hadn't painted the walls or cleaned the carpets. And she hadn't lost 20 lbs! All the other wives were so happy, and she was scared to death. She knew her husband would be different -- the unit had lost 39 soldiers -- but he had a good support system there to take care of him. She started calling every soldier she knew asking why she was so terrified, and they told her she was normal. So she loaded up the new babies and went to the hotel room where he was redeploying, and nothing was perfect. But he didn't care. He didn't want the house cleaned, he didn't want fancy lingerie, he just wanted them to be OK. And she had created a monster that didn't exist. And we shouldn't either. The house will look sterile compared to Iraq! They just want you to be OK. We may worry about ourselves, but there is certainly a wife down the street with unpainted walls and dirty carpets and condiments in the fridge that were there before he left! Cry if you need to, but all that matters is that he's home.
Joan D'Arc: Her husband went to Kuwait, and she didn't do anything fancy for his arrival. He went to Kosovo a few years later, and this time she made a huge banner to try to wow him. She spent three days making a banner in the colors of his battalion. She went to the gym, and they were delayed, so she went home and the banner had fallen. She taped it up and went back to the gym. They got hubby and went home to find the banner crumpled on the driveway, which her husband kicked out of the way and said, "What's this junk in the driveway?" She was crushed, but she realized it didn't really matter. So make a little banner just to stick to the door, one that will stay up!
Andi asks Joan D'Arc to talk about her husband's injury...
Joan D'Arc: Got a phone call late at night, not from the normal channels. It wasn't her husband. In 30 seconds she went through every thought possible, and she had no details. She knew he was hurt and in surgery, but she didn't know what to do other than go to sleep. The next day she got a call from another wife who had heard from her husband and knew about the injury, and this wife called before Rear-D even! So never call someone if you hear about an injury!
She had no idea where her husband would be sent, but it ended up being Walter Reed. She had to tell the children, which was easy for the 2 year old but was hard on the 5 year old. She didn't cry at all because she was in shock for weeks. She made it to Walter Reed and made it to the ICU. And it was serious: both arms completely bandaged, shrapnel wounds to his face, and completely medicated and in pain. She kissed him, and tears started rolling down his face. And they were tears of "I'm finally with you." And all of the stress of not being together evaporated.
They're still traveling this road. Her husband is still on active duty and has permanent injuries to his hand, but he's OK. And she thinks, "How far we've come..." This taught her a lot about herself, her husband, and them as a couple. She had to act as her husband's advocate since he was so heavily medicated. She learned a lot about her husband's medications, side effects, and her husband's reactions to them because she was in the room with him constantly. She found herself toe-to-toe with the commanding general of the hospital, telling him what she thought needed to be done! She made some people unhappy, but she was taking care of her husband. If you're ever in this situation, learn about the situation. If your spouse can't do it for himself, you need to do it for him!