I'm a Military Blogger


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lost and Forgotten in the Military

My husband's unit recently deployed. With that deployment came a barrage of emails from the FRO, along with all sorts of other questions from other wives about how things were going, if I'd heard from my husband yet, what company he deployed with, etc. Part of me wants to lie. I can make up information to tell them, so that I can feel like I belong in their club. But another part of me wants them to leave me alone. I don't want to hear about things I'm not "allowed" to be a part of.

And it's not that I'm not "allowed" to be a part of them. I'm sure if I showed up to FRO functions, they'd welcome me. But I can't "allow" myself to be a part of them because I'm still incredibly angry about the way my husband and our family were treated by his unit after his accident, and I'm still trying to deal with the immediate effects of his accident.

He will never deploy again. Ever. This may sound like a dream come true to those in the midst of deployment, and sure 2 years ago when we were smack dab in the middle of a 13 month tour I would have thought the same. Anything that keeps him from deploying is good, right? No. My husband received permanent change of assignment orders specifically so he could deploy with this unit. He wanted to go on the MEU, wanted to see other countries, wanted to do his job and be given real responsibility as the CBRN Chief for his unit.

He will probably also never walk "effrotlessly" again, and it could be years before he's able to stop taking the pain meds. Right now, his nerves are traumatized. He has no sensation in portions of his foot, and his muscles spasm and twitch on their own. He gets shooting pains down his leg, pains that cause him to scream. He'll be medically retired, most likely, which I guess is better than just EASing with no benefits. But he didn't get injured for the bennies. Those benefits are what are going to sustain our family when he gets out and is unable to hold an 8 hour job, while still requiring medical care and physical therapy. If given the choice to be shot and receive benefits, or be able to deploy with his unit, HE would much rather deploy.

That's just the physical effects. That does not include the psychological and emotional effects of being shot. From thinking you're going to die, to thinking you're going to lose your leg, to realizng you haven't bled to death yet, so maybe there's hope. Then to being dumped on your front porch with a bag of pills. Did you read that right? Yes, you did. This is where the story gets gnarly, and where I'm going to point a shit ton of fingers. His unit, aside from being 100% responsible for him being shot, has completely mismanaged his care and dropped the ball as far as support is concerned.

My husband was shot during a live-fire training exercise on a deployment work-up. An official investigation was launched, but they were unable to determine the circumstances that resulted in a group of Marines being fired on by their own brothers. Was it one rogue kid not paying attention? Was it a range officer giving the wrong directions? Who knows. All we know is, my husband was doing his job and standing with his Marines, and a bullet went through his leg. Within 7 hours of being life-flighted out and given a blood transfusion, he was rolling up to the front of our house in the back of a Corpsman's jeep. The civilian hospital discharged him into the care of his Medical Officer, and they just brought him home. He crutched his own way into the house, as a medical officer looked on. Then they handed me a bag of medications and told me to bring him to the batallion aid station the next day.

We ended up back in the ER that night when he started bleeding through his bandage. A concerned Corpsman expressed disbelief that he had been discharged already. No matter though. The ER doctor changed the dressing, put his bloody ace bandages in a bag, and gave them back to me with instructions to wash them at home so I wouldn't have to come back in. I had a 3.5 month old infant at the time, and was struggling to juggle her needs as well as a husband who could not even stand up without assistance. So many times that first week I had to leave my daughter crying so I could help him get up off the couch, and go to the bathroom. I gave him sponge baths, and had to be vigilant with keeping track of the cacaphony of medications they gave me to give him. Every morning we drove to the Batallion Aid Station so a Corpsman could change his dressing.

After several days of that, they finally referred us to the surgery unit where he was able to get actual care for his wound (though the "quality" of that care is highly debatable, since it's been almost 4 months and he has yet to receive real treatment for his severe nerve pain or his growing depression, nightmares, or inability to sleep).

In the time period between his accident and now, his unit did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Occassionally someone would text him and ask if he was alive. The chaplain corned us while we were in the car once and asked him for an update. But that was really it. I don't know what I expected. I still don't know what support I should have expected, or even where to go to get it. But something just feels really "off" about a unit that shoots their own Marine and then leaves him to the wolves. I get that they were pre-occupied with their upcoming deployment. It happens. Everyone probably thought someone else was doing something, and thus no one did anything. But if they weren't going to do anything, I feel he would be better served in a Wounded Warrior Batallion, where at least he can be given things to work up to, extracurriculars, a "unit" to be part of.

As it stands right now, he has a scattering of appointments here and there, he goes to a physical therapist MAYBE once a month, and that's if they even bother to schedule him at all. He wants to take a transition assitance class, or start some college courses. He wants to feel like he belongs to a group still, where he won't just be cast aside like yesterday's news because he's non-deployable. But where would that group be? Does the Wounded Warrior Batallion even accept those who weren't injured in combat? His injury is unique. It is, by all accounts, a "combat-related" injury. He was shot, by a gun, during simulated combat. But because they weren't engaging an actual enemy and it happened stateside, he doesn't feel like he would belong with Wounded Warriors. Men and women who were injured while engaging the enemy, doing their duty. How would they, as Marines, receive the guy who was just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time when some fuck-up decided to negligently discharge their weapon?

So we're in limbo. I don't feel like I belong to this unit. How could I, when they cared SO LITTLE about him that they dropped him off into the care of just his wife, 7 hours after being shot? They knew we had an infant. Did anyone think that maybe a guy with a gaping, bleeding wound in his leg who can't walk wasn't a good match for a stressed-out, sleep-deprived mom? Even 24 hours in the hospital would have given me the time to prepare our home. I ended up running out at 9 PM and borrowing a wheelchair from a neighbor, because he couldn't get around on crutches because of the pain. There was one guy who's wife brought us a meal, and another guy in his unit did stop by with his wife and see him, but they couldn't stay long.

So when I see the other wives in our unit starting meal trains for the momma who just had a baby, or helping pick up and drop off kiddos for the mom who suddenly had her hours changed at work, I want to cry. I want to cry because we had no one. Our bank account has been drained from all the take-out I've had to order for the days I can't manage to cook. Our car mileage has soared through the roof from all the times I had to take my husband to work only to have him be told to go back home because they didn't want him there. And it's a 1-hour drive to the Naval Hospital. That wracks up a bit of a price tag. Maybe I should have asked someone for help, but I didn't know where to turn. We've only been with this unit for a few months. He wasn't even completely checked in yet when his accident occured. Who was there to ask for help? I'm a timid person, so we simply suffered in silence.

So I do feel a lot of animosity towards them. I don't want it to be that way, but how can I relax around a bunch of women who's husband are on a deployment that mine isn't on. He's supposed to be on that deployment. Not being able to go has left him pretty depressed. He's said, on numerous occassions, that he feels abandoned, discarded, useless, that no one cares about him. He doesn't sleep well at night (sometimes not at all), and has been struggling to find a way to get back to work. A workplace that's now pretty much non-existent, since they're all deployed.

I guess all I really want is for someone to acknowledge that we're even still part of this unit at all, or that we were ever part of it to begin with.


Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry this is happening to you. I can't imagine.

I would say to call Military One Source and tell them what is going on. They can refer you to anyone you might need.

I really have a hard time with the lack of their care! I mean, I'm "just a wife" and I got better care when I fell off a horse a few months ago. Insane.

I'd go all the way up the chain and talk to everyone you can, telling them to help you and letting them know about the situation. There are people out there who care, but you have to find them. It's so hard, being so isolated. I have found during my time as a spouse, that the only way you will get what you need is to break down some doors and not shut up until someone pays attention. It sucks, but it works.

I wish I could help more.

Valerie Lusk-Waddell said...

Oh my goodness!! I just found this blog as I have become a military spouse (husband just left for AF basic training) and was looking for 'alternative' military spouse groups since I didn't think I'd fit in.

Anyways... I am appalled by how they handled everything. And I just hope by now everything is working out better for the both of you. There are so little words to express the amount of shit all that is. I'm so sorry.

Please let me know if you need someone to vent to and I'll pass on my email if Blogger doesn't already. I know I'm just someone random on the internet, but you shouldn't have to go though this alone!