Wednesday, September 26, 2012

That time we went to a Republican awards ceremony.

Let me first explain how the events office works here: There are fliers with some info on an event, such as what it is, where it is, time, place, and who is hosting. So when I saw a sheet for Center for Security Policy's "Keeper of the Flame" award, I thought about the Ordnance spouse award I received last month when Aaron was awarded the Samuel Sharpe down at Fort Lee. I figured it was at the Center for Security Policy because there wasn't any other information provided. We have been to several formal events through the events office and all of them were military-affiliated, whether it was The Military Order of the Caribou Annual Wash or AmVets Silver Helmet Awards. We haven't experienced any politicking up here, and it never crossed my mind that we would at any point.

But oh, what say you? It's election year? Yeah. Hindsight. In my defense, it's not really my job to research these things because why would I think we would be headed into the land of partisan politics? What would need to be researched? Also, the event was held last year and was apparently a huge success.

This was not last year's event.

I should have suspected something wonky when the hospital liaison told us there weren't to be any pictures. See, the soliders attend these events in their uniforms. Most don't have formal enough suits and plus, they're still active duty. They can wear that uniform as any soldier can. Then these two older ladies were openly gushing about President Reagan and their concern for this election (one of them alluded that an Obama win wouldn't be consider an election, so I am not sure what she really knows). Usually people don't speak so openly on their personal, very divided politics. It was weird but they were nice enough.

But then we sat down and looked at our programs and saw that New York's Peter King was the recipient of the award.  Other speakers included Jeff SessionsJon KylGus Bilirakis, and well just click here for a summary of the event and who said what, as the CSP site.

Obama bashing? Check. People not knowing wounded warriors were going to be sitting with them? Check. Usually the table is expecting us and knows we are coming from Walter Reed and are recovering, etc. Every single person we talked to asked where we were stationed. It was embarrassing. A home state senator (Sessions) not knowing that 4th Alabama NG was deployed to Afghanistan right now (that includes Aaron's brother)? Check. Same guy not knowing who we were? Check. Multiple people had no idea what Walter Reed-Bethesda even looked like, where we lived, or how things worked here. Not even a rudimentary knowledge on it. It felt like we were in a foreign land and they had never heard of us. People were nice, yes. We had a decent conversation with Sessions outside of his clear lapses of personal knowledge on the defenders of his own state. But that event wasn't even remotely bi-partisan, no matter what the CSP site says. There was not painting that horse a different color. Or elephant, rather.

Look, these guys wore their uniforms to this event uninformed that it was going to be really, really Republican, full of criticisms of the current president. Wounded warriors are still active duty. There are strict rules on wearing the uniform and showing any type of party line isn't allowed. I don't blame the events office, nor do I think CSP was intentionally deceitful. I bet they are the type of people to just assume all service members are Republicans, though.

Oh and even better- this was the same day that the vet job bill was voted down by Republicans, even ones who helped author it. Sessions was one of those who voted it down (I don't know if he co-authored, but I don't think so).

Basically, I quit listening about twenty minutes in and drank a bottle of wine. Aaron laughed at me and it was a wonder my eyeballs didn't get stuck in the back of my head. The only person I gave a standing applause for was the sister of a pilot on AA 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. I didn't agree with what she said, but I respect her pain and journey enough to realize that she probably has her reasons for her beliefs and I will not judge another person who has been through real grief. I would've hugged her if I had had the chance.

I am not really sure why tickets were offered to the hospital. It wasn't appropriate but hey, what can you do? Dinner was good. The event was actually held at Union Station, which was beautiful. I definitely would not have gone had I known what it was really about, but that's my mistake. I will be doing my own research from now on. To say the least, I did not watch the "documentary" that was in the gift bag nor did I eat the chocolates. I don't want to catch their... malaise. ;)

So there you go folks. DC is full of people and things who say one thing but are in fact saying another and claim to be something else totally different. WHO KNEW?!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Would You Do?

I don't know a single spouse who hasn't done it. I know I did, to some extent. It didn't help me when it happened because I couldn't have known what it was like.

Before shit gets real and someone gets hurt or worse, we all wonder what we would do. And sometimes this boils over into expectations on what should be done when a deployment turns horrific. Other spouses and even service members will openly judge the wounded, family of the wounded, or survivors of a deceased war fighter. I don't think people intend to be judgmental or totally batshit crazy rude but they are and they do. And it's fine if it's all kept inside, where it belongs. Or only talked about with people who will still like you afterwards. But actually saying ugly, nasty things to people living an actual nightmare isn't excused. Ever. I have experienced this kind of judgment myself. I don't know a single widow (and unfortunately, I know more than one) who hasn't been judged for how she handled her husband's death. Frankly, grief is a monster and makes you, temporarily (I hope), a crazy person. I would know.

But until you know, no one has a single right to judge someone going through a nightmare. I find it pretty disgusting when people go around talking about "sensitive widows" or warrior caregivers like they are talking about a high school classmate. We are people. We are freaking sensitive. This hurts. It's always going to hurt. And while I have worked really hard over the past year to bring myself down from my high-strung, anxiety-attack-having, blind-raging self I am not even close to being decent. Grief works on its own schedule. Grief is a nasty, mean bitch.

Do I sometimes look at people and think that what they're doing is weird? Duh. We all do. I am sure I have stunned other warrior caregivers with some of my words and actions. I've been stunned myself. But I don't judge a single one. Why? Because- and say it with me now- grief is a a greedy, stingy, moody monster and will destroy your ability to be reasonable for a very long time. I don't know what each wounded warrior/widow journey is like so therefore I can't possibly judge. I might not want to be around people who handle their grief in a certain way that I find is unhealthy for me- but that is self-preservation, not judgment. I'm not saying that people are entitled to rant like loons at all times, but it does happen. And you know what? No one can do anything about it. You can't hurry grief along. And certainly, as long as people live at a hospital (or literally, across the street from one and your housing is a building full of people going through the same terrible thing as you are), emotions and thought processes aren't going to be normal. They just aren't and that is how it is. If you don't believe me, I can't explain it further to you. About the only person I would listen debate this would be another warrior and/or the caregiver. Anyone else who hasn't done this just doesn't know.

I wrote all this down because I came across some widow judgment that left me pretty speechless. I think it's a terrible, no-good, karma-gonna-get-you thing to lash out at someone who has lost his or her spouse. I would pretty much think that these ugly people are in fact, real-life shitty people. I don't have a much better opinion of people who lash out at those like me and my husband(but they can redeem themselves, I guess, after further education). Even if a caregiver is inflammatory, even if he or she says something loony or acts completely nuts, no one can judge this. It doesn't excuse being a crazy bitch but I am telling you that reality becomes relative in this situation. It's akin to falling through the rabbit hole, and even the darkest rendition of "wonderland" can't compare to what this is like, especially in the early days of life-threatening injury. I still tear up and shiver at the thought of Aaron's first few weeks in the hospital. I never want to go through anything like that ever again. Ever.

So why don't we all just realize that yes, that outfit is horrible, and yes, that person just said something really outrageous, but we don't know what it's like so let's just all keep our mouths shut and hearts open? Sound fair?

I hope you all continue to have a great end to the week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Glutton for punishment.

So I just wandered over to SpouseBuzz, for whatever reason, only to be disgusted. About a week ago a blog post was posted by the wife of a double amputee about IVF and VA coverage and whatnot. She apparently was working off of months' old information because the VA will cover IVF for soldiers suffering from fertility-threatening wounds. So it was a little irritating, because you would think the post was a year old. I wish more hospitals would get with the program and distribute accurate information. Her husband recovered elsewhere, so I guess urology there isn't as up-to-date as it is here. I digress. I won't get into the blog post itself because SpouseBuzz isn't about facts and posts what people write. The title is "I Want To Have A Baby But The VA Won't Pay", which is incredibly misleading and already implies that the author feel entitled- which isn't the case. No matter how the post was written, there is no reason for the pounds upon pounds of ignorance displayed in the comments. I had no idea SpouseBuzz was so popular with trolls.

So many people seemed to think that having children only pertained to the wife, and since it didn't benefit the soldier then the VA shouldn't cover a dependent in this regard. You can't touch this kind of stupid. Others went on about taxpayer money and more than a few decided that soldiers get what they deserve because they volunteer for the military. This was said by not crazy liberal people who think war only exists because people fight and soldiers are murderers (I've never met these people but I am aware they do exist), but by the kind of backwoods "patriot" that thinks soldiers are great but aren't entitled to anything, either. One repeated point was about Vietnam vets' benefits versus today's benefits; you can see where that's going. Someone else pointed out that the wife asked for a medical test, not the husband so... I don't know? She overstepped her bounds? People have no idea what it means to be a caregiver and advocate for someone severely wounded unless they have been there.

SpouseBuzz has never really grabbed me anything other than the occasional "WTF. OMG." because the writing has never floored me, nor do the articles tend to pertain to me. Definitely don't now. Things don't seem to get too crazy over there, so it stuns me that it took a woman writing about how she and her husband can't have kids because of war injuries to make the crazies come out. Nearly 300 comments and the majority are rude, nasty, and ignorant. Or ignant, as they say back home.

I don't know why I still visit spouse support sites. I'm not a military spouse anymore. Yes, technically I am but it just doesn't fit who I am. I am definitely a caregiver, and I like the name "warrior wife" because I am right beside him, ready to help him fight any obstacle in the way of recovery, or even advocate for him. But that's us. And in less than a year, the Army will be behind us. Enough crazy happens on the regular for me to know that we'll get along just fine out there in the regular world.

Monday, September 17, 2012


I keep saying that, don't I? September 11th came and went. I felt Alex's presence and loss all day. It was also the day last year I and Aaron's parents traveled to Germany to be with him, so I think that was more difficult to swallow than the anniversary of the day he was injured. On the 12th, the injured Aaron became a part of our lives and on the 13th we arrived here.

It's been harder lately. I feel some mad anger coming on. We have been lapped in so many ways by so many other warriors who have come months after Aaron. I think I've talked about this before, so skip if you've already heard it. It's not that I am not thrilled for everyone- jeez, that's easy. Why wouldn't I be? This sucks for every single family that has to come here and recover from amputations. It's a real bitch, you know?! I'm ecstatic for anyone who makes another big step in getting closer to their new normal. It's not jealousy, either. It is very clearly frustration with our own situation. I feel like we must be doing something wrong to not be farther along. I want to "fix" it but that's not how it's done here. And it seems like not too many leaps and bounds will be made until after the new year, so the frustration level has definitely peaked. At least, I hope so.

I do remind myself everyday not to focus on what we don't have but what we do. I have an incredible marriage and honestly, that's all I really need. We're having a good time. I just want more for Aaron. We're so far behind. We aren't young. Who ever plans to not settle down, have kids, until they're nearly 40? The Army is a nomadic existence but most people still progress as a family. We aren't anywhere close to being able to call a home ours and worrying about babies. It'd be easier if we were 23, but that's just not the case. I am concerned about our late start in life.

But it's not all bad. School is coming along nicely and we recently got a membership to a gun range. I really enjoy shooting and am excited to share in the experience with Aaron. He's a pretty good teacher- when we aren't bickering the way married people inevitably do when one spouse tries to teach the other spouse something. But as always, we move past it pretty quickly and mostly laugh.

I hope everyone has great weeks! It's all gonna work out in the end, and after all- this is all temporary.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This sucks.

I can hardly handle the 9/11 remembering going on everywhere. I feel that all the suffering from war comes from this day eleven years ago. The worst thing used to be a deployment and the awful possibilities as a consequence; now I live one of those terrible consequences. It's fine, as Aaron is incredible and we're slowly moving on. It'll be more than okay in due time.

But a year ago I was traveling to Germany to see him at Landstuhl. And then after I got there, saw him, and went to dinner I came home to one of the worst messages of my life. One-third of a trio of best friends had died in a car accident.

Today sucks. I'm not unhappy to be feeling the pains of a rough first day of my "cycle" because it gives me a legitimate excuse to be anti-social and stay inside today.

Miss you, friend. Always.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Alive Day Weekend Success!

Aaron's Alive Day weekend was fantastic. The younger brother and wife, Adam and Renee, and older brother's wife and daughter, Alison and Catey, arrived Thursday. Aaron's parents, Jack and Brenda, came in on Friday.

Friday night I had reserved some space at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Bethesda. Other wounded warriors and three members of Aaron's medical team made it out. We had a party of about 25 to honor Aaron! My family here came too (they did so much for us I can't ever thank them enough). The wait service, food, and company couldn't have been better. The downer is that apparently private dining is one-check only, which I never intimated and she never said. It's not even in the contract. I didn't receive any help at all from the manager or wait staff trying to figure out all the food and drink. No one with us seemed to mind (thank God) and it all came out in the wash, but I'm considering writing the management. It was kind of a nightmare to be two drinks in and have to play accountant like that. I should have figured something like that was going to happen when the prices weren't on the menu. Lesson learned.

The rest of the weekend was spent hanging out with the fam. We went to the National Zoo and back to the restaurant where we had our first meal here, The Tastee Diner. It really was a perfect weekend. Last month I had my family up for my birthday, and now we've seen Aaron's. I feel spoiled!

And now it's back to the daily grind, with a little school thrown in the mix and keeping up with election news. I've thought about writing about my own views but I am not sure how well-received it will be. I want it to be just an explanation of what's important to me, not a debate on what's important for this country because we're all going to differ in opinion on that. But somehow, I feel like it's pivotal to talk about it, especially considering how I've been affected by this war. It'd be nice to at least make people think but I don't believe I can change anyone- and nor should I. It's not my business (although I will probably be all judge-y in my mind).

I hope you all had great weekends. Mine was definitely in the top five for the year.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Just a quick note about kids.

1. I yelled today, in the general direction of a large crowd of people huddled in the sea lion cave, waiting out the rain. A group of kids 8 and up were running around wildly, throwing a full water bottle (even at the exhibit glass), screeching, and just overall being terrible. The first time is when the water bottle hit the glass. I loudly asked if someone would tell those kids not to do that. The second time was after I was kicked as the group of kids tumbled around on the floor. I didn't cuss, I didn't yell at them, but I did say that people needed to control their kids because things were out of hand. Trust me, I was with my sister-in-law, who is a mother to two (including the busiest toddler boy ever known), and she was just as stunned.

2. I have decided, and practiced, telling people the truth about our kid situation. When asked if we have any I say, "Nope, and we might not." It's not because I think the question is rude (it's not, really). I don't know. I just feel better about telling the truth. War has deep, unintended consequences and people should know about it. I don't have to go into detail about how and why, the specifics of the situations, but I know I feel better having said it.

3. Sometimes I feel like people don't think we should have kids within the next couple of years. It doesn't matter that we probably won't by our own planning and all the crap we will have to do to get one should we choose to impregnate me so the point is irrelevant. It just feels odd knowing that most people who know us think it's a bad idea. Everyone else our age is doing it (and most have done it a few times by the early 30s) and the absence of kid talk for us is noticeable.

4. All of this is fine with me. Aaron and I will make excellent parents one day, whenever that happens. I mean that. It's just a few thoughts I have. We love kids. My four-year-old niece has been in town and it's been awesome. Kids are great.*

*Just seriously, teach them manners so Point 1 doesn't have to happen again. It. Was. Ridiculous.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Day 365: Alive Day!

Well, it was exactly one year ago (right now)  two strangers were in the process of telling me my husband had been badly hurt in Afghanistan. This is Aaron's Alive Day. So what does one do for the anniversary of the day life truly started over, as opposed to ending?

You celebrate it. You don't focus on all the awful, you bathe in the light of the glorious success and recovery that has happened since then. A year ago, he was nearly dead. But not once has he been angry, bitter, or given up. Not once has this family (his and mine) lost sight of what's important. We have all forged wonderful bonds that I'm not sure can ever be broken.

I can look back and remember the friends who surrounded me in the immediate hours. I can be thankful that the 760th's commander was the one who ultimately told me Aaron had lost his legs, instead of a stranger to my face or on the phone. I can recall all the wonderful people who made sure that we were going to be okay. My sister-in-law was there that night, and my mom early the next morning. Meals were cooked for us. My dogs were taken care of by a great family. Friends visited Aaron in Germany before I and his parents could get there. I couldn't begin to name everyone who is responsible for making sure I and my family were cared for. We have everything to be grateful for and nothing to regret.

Aaron, oh Aaron. You make this so easy. You make this so real. We bicker and move on. We cuddle every day, much of it at your insistence. We play like children. We have serious conversations punctuated with nudity and inappropriate jokes. You support me going back to school, and do your best to help me out around the house. It's not the act that means so much- it's that you know we are ultimately, still us, and we're going to be normal. We're just another couple, living the dream. The real dream. We might not have been soul mates when we met, but we are certainly stitched together now in a way I doubt a lot of other people understand. Crudely, hurriedly, but wholly our souls are two pieces threaded to one other. There have been as many steps back as there have been forward. You still struggle, there's still more adjustments to be made- but with you, it's all going to be okay. It'll be better than okay. We're going to live a perfectly normal life designed for us and only lived by us. Thank you, so much, for making this day last year the beginning and not a horrible alternative. You're mine, forever and forever, until we're all used up and just our love remains. I love you, I adore you, and I am happier than hell that today is here. Happy Alive Day, Husband. You're the best that's ever been, and the best that'll ever be. Love you always.