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What about the Milspouses? When the Wounded Come Home

September 14, 2011

Sad, scary news came through my circle of milpeeps this past week. Yet another severe injury means yet another milspouse racing to get to her husband’s side as he begins a long, difficult recovery period. We hear about injuries and worse all the time, but it’s rare to see the media follow up on families of injured warriors. In fact, it’s rare to see the media follow up on injured warriors unless it’s to sensationalize their struggles or injuries (or the shit-tastic hot mess that the VA is finally trying not to be) or to give the civilian masses a little feel-good moment because a warrior has recovered well and is thriving with his or her new life.

That’s pretty sad. Because if you pause to think about what life is like for the injured, you know it’s at best a real challenge. And if you pause to consider what the whole process, from notification of the injury to starting a new life outside of the military, is like for the spouse of the injured, it’s terrifying.

What programs exist to help the spouses? There have to be some out there, but how easy are they to find? And, like MyCAA, do they disregard the sources of real need the spouses have?

Here’s what I imagine: A wife has given up her career and her local ties to be married to a service member. Maybe she’s struggling without the counseling resources and local help she needs to deal with her new reality. Or maybe she’s taking the opportunity to dig in and get her career moving again. Maybe she’s got new goals and plans and desires and dreams, and she’s going to use the unfortunate semi-independence she now has to pursue those.

Then BAM. The phone rings. Her husband is gravely injured and might or might not survive. They might or might not know which stateside hospital they’re sending him to. They might or might not be able to tell her much of anything, but one thing is now perfectly clear: her priorities are completely changed. Her whole life is turned upside down. If she was struggling before, the pressure on her now won’t help. If she was getting her success on, she’s now dropping everything to be with her husband (we hope that’s her priority, at least).

Milspouses already sacrifice so much for their warrior spouses to serve our country. They sacrifice even more when their spouses are injured. Their lives become a seemingly never-ending procession of hospital visits, surgery, physical therapy, psychiatric appointments. Oftentimes, their spouses can’t drive much or at all, so they become chauffeur and possibly even nurse, aide, assistant, maid, etc. So much needs to be done to care for those who have suffered massive injuries like those seen in a war zone. Meanwhile, where are their careers? What’s happened to the local ties they’d just begun to forge before having to move quickly to the vicinity of a hospital? What can they look forward to now that their entire existence revolves around the health, well-being, and recovery of their loved one?

And what programs exist to help them? Are there maid services to help keep the house clean? Does the VA pay for daily or weekly home nursing visits to address issues? Are their grocery delivery services set up so any “away time” the milspouse gets is something less frustrating than navigating the commissary throngs? Are there grants or scholarships that spouses can use to cover the extra cost of classes that didn’t transfer from their last school? Are there programs that suck less than MyCAA that help these spouses redefine or jump-start the careers they sacrificed to the nth degree? Are there babysitting services to take on any sprogs during the hours and hours of various appointments?

Step back again and look at the spouses of those whose injuries are not obvious, the warriors who return home with TBI, PTSD, anxiety, depression, or liver and lung diseases that seem to manifest later in huge chunks of populations stationed around burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq. The less clear the injuries, the less support the warrior gets. Extrapolate that out to the milspouse, and what can we assume? Zero support. Zero assistance. Zero acknowledgment.

The milspouse life is challenging enough. It wouldn’t be so surprising to learn the military expects the family members (namely, spouses) to step up and take care of all the intricacies of the long and very difficult recovery process.

To those women and men who have received that awful news and who have stepped up: you are all amazeballs. I bow down to your sauce of awesome.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 14, 2011 7:46 am

    I have been wondering the same thing. I wrote about what I consider the homecomings that American’s should be thinking about.

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