The Heartbreak of "Not Fit for Duty"


We've been living with my husband's (who I’ll call Doc to protect his identity) TBI for three years now. We spent more time than we should have hoping he would just get better. He sought out treatment whenever he could, he was even turned away from one on post TBI clinic because the doctor there had "seen worse". Years passed before he was finally able to get some real answers from people wanting the best for him. This past fall he spent a month at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) center at Walter Reed where got amazing care … but also got their recommendation:

Not fit for duty.

Those words were like a dagger to the heart. Now what? My husband who was once one of the elite, a medic with 2nd Ranger Battalion, was now being told that he couldn't even go back to his current job of covering drop zones for the Free Fall School.

In the next 45 days or so we expect to hear the army's first offer on Doc’s disability rating. At least that's what we think -- this process is crazy confusing.

I say "first offer" because this process seems a lot like a negotiation. "What can you do, how well can you do it, are you sure you can't do that...?" Perhaps it's the brain injury talking, but he feels like people are talking in circles around him waiting for him to slip up. I have been left out of most of the process because he has to drive 5.5 hours, each way, for every meeting and doctor's appointment. Our local station does not have the medical resources to handle the med-board process. I hate that my brain injured insomniac husband has to drive so much alone, but having two girls under three at home makes joining him impossible.

From here we move home, back home. And that has always been the plan, but it wasn't supposed to happen until at least 2025, after his 20 years. We were supposed to be settled and old.

Moving home is terrifying. Doc and my family haven't always seen eye to eye, and after seven years of marriage my family doesn't really know him. We've appreciated not having family around to butt into our marriage. We miss them but we have enjoyed the distance.

When we get home, then what?  Doc can't work, at least not right now. He was told that he will need to spend most of his days in different therapies: occupational, physical, emotional.

In my past life I worked in marketing but I haven't work since January 2010, this is not the economy to have a big resume gap. And the girls? Daycare is expensive and they have never been away from me.

This was not the plan. He was supposed to get his 20 years to do his thing, then I would get my 20 to do mine. But he got injured and now the rest of our lives are going to revolve around him. It's a hard pill to swallow.

These are the things that I am not supposed to say out loud, I know how selfish it sounds.

The most heartbreaking thing is that our girls, three and one-years-old, will never know their father as he once was.He is a good father, but he's not the father he would have been.  He calls himself broken. And that is all they will ever know -- a broken father.

These days he's lucky to get four hours of sleep a night. I am doing the parenting alone for the most part. I joke that he's my third kid. Somedays I can ask for help but for the most part if he spends an hour playing with them I feel lucky.

Our 3-year-old, TC, is starting to notice that things aren't always right. When Doc and I are tense, she is tense. You always hear that a little girl wants to marry a guy like their father, and that really scares me. I love Doc but if this is how he was when we started dating we wouldn't have lasted long. I want the girls to find partners in life, I don't want them to have to struggle the way I do. How do I tell them this?

There are a lot of unknowns in our future. But now we wait. We wait, wait, wait. I am about to burst. I want to get out of this place. I just want to get on with it. This was not the plan. And now all we can do is wait for a new plan to arrive.

Editor's note: Can you suggest some resources that may help Amber with her struggle?


Amber is a 32 year old mother of two and has been an army wife for seven years. A New England girl and avid sports fan, she has genuinely loved her time as an Army wife and is looking forward to getting back home to see what life has to offer back in the civilian world (and some Fenway Franks). You can read about her journey with Doc's TBI, her girls, and whatever else pops in her head over at Random Rants of an Army Wife.

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